Dr David describes a typical week at Mawson

Settling into a routine (and discovering new things every day)

Friends and family back home always had weird notions of what Antarctic living is like. No, Mum, we don’t live in tents for the entire 12 months (we are not that heroic). Yes, we do have reliable internet (otherwise most of us would have turned around and gone home). No, we still can’t escape spiders even here (hint: don’t Google Antarctic sea spiders before bedtime).

It’s hard to describe what a typical day here at Mawson station is like, and not just because we’ve only been here for two weeks. We do have normal work hours from 7:30am to 4pm, with smoko (morning tea) and lunch in between. Saturdays are often spent with a few hours work in the morning, then community ‘Saturday Duties’ whereby we all chip in and help clean up our living quarters and split communal tasks. There are always key personnel on call 24/7 on a rotating roster – you always want someone available to keep the heating on!

Apart from our day-to-day work duties there is always someone on Slushy duty in the kitchen to help our amazing chef keep fattening us up (fat is the first layer of defence against the cold… which is a handy excuse if someone raises an eyebrow at your second helping of dessert). There is someone in charge of our hydroponics shed, hobby hut, gym, library, social calendars, and more. Despite what people back home think, there’s always something to do to keep us busy!

In other news, this week saw the formation of sea ice in Horseshoe Harbour. Intrepid penguins have braved the winds to start the long slow process of waddling out across the ice to reach the southern seas for winter. Less intrepid expeditioners have opted to stay indoors and feast on the chef’s delectable Pandan Chiffon cake.

David Tian, Station Doctor

Living the dream already

Week three on station and we have made significant inroads into ensuring our Emergency Response Teams are operational. More fire drills and musters, and a hugely informative desk-top exercise to test our Incident Management Team and we are now quietly confident we can respond to any emergencies that may occur. With that work complete, we are now authorised to proceed out into the field. All on station have been waiting on this with great expectations… for what is time in Antarctica without the opportunity to get out into the field and experience the extraordinary landscapes, time in the field huts, and the wildlife.

This is not to say, that we aren’t greeted with extraordinary landscapes and wildlife while on station. We have been blessed this week with multiple whale sightings, they enter East Bay in the early evening and circle into the open water at the base of the newly calved iceberg, which recently broke off from the ice plateau. All of this is viewed from the comfort of the Red Shed’s large windows – so we eat delicious dinners while discussing the fin shape of the parading whales and attempting to work out what that night’s species might be – we believe Fin and Minke whales have been our recent visitors. We really are living in a David Attenborough documentary!

As to stunning landscapes – we are currently engrossed in an intense field study of ice. With clear nights and cold temperatures, what was open water just two weeks ago is now solidifying. From its birth as grease ice, to a short childhood as pancake ice, the ice is now in its adolescence… a full solid sheet in the sheltered bays but still thin and liable to ‘break out’ at the sign of any strong winds. Each night it grows a little thicker and little more solid, and then before one can blink an eye we have ice that the penguins traverse – I’m not sure they’re impressed, waddling (although comical and of great joy to us) takes longer and a lot more energy than swimming. We now wait for the ice to reach adulthood; heralding the expansion of our small sphere of influence in East Antarctica to include the sea-ice travel areas... and not too long thereafter the arrival of the emperor penguins.

As to the colours of the ice… well that’s a topic for a whole ‘nother story; but the photographs go some way towards showing what we are experiencing.

Rebecca Jeffcoat, SL