A mix of art, elections and buildings

Artists in Residence

You get to do all sorts of new things down south. Sleeping in a chip packet under an aurora, tending to the plants in hydroponics, or supporting science for projects as diverse as the formation of sea ice, population of penguins, or the wonders of cosmic rays and things that my little brain can’t comprehend fully. But it’s not all work!

Last weekend we tapped into our creative side, with an online art class. Now whilst I have an appreciation of fine art, I certainly don’t have any skills in this area. The last time I spooged paint around in an artistic sense was probably primary school. (Thanks Mum for continuing to display our terrible creations on your fridge.)

But with an open mind and a glass of red, the blank ‘canvas’ was soon transformed into a wonderous creation. Mind you it took the patient and inspired guidance and teaching of Donna Lita, our wonderful artist in Texas, a few rewinds as we struggled to keep up, and the odd exclamation of ‘damn, how did she make that look so simple?!’. But eventually everyone had their own work of art. Some were careful to follow the instructions and try terribly hard to paint within the lines. Others took on a more free-form approach. One master painter dispensed with the penguin theme entirely and rendered a station scene, complete with whale hole.

They are on display in the wallow, and I must say, I quite enjoy seeing what we created. We’re unlikely to win any competitions, but I don’t think that was the point. It was a chance to try something new, to explore our creative sides, and to share the laughs with each other and Donna. It was an evening well spent.


And in other news...

We, like all other Australians, were kept busy placing our all-important votes for Saturday’s federal election at the start of this reporting period. Here on station we could undertake phone voting. While not quite as interesting as being able to go to the local school and partake of a democracy sausage or two and peruse the cake stalls, we still count ourselves lucky to be able to contribute.

Some have asked what our political leanings are on station, but really with a population with such different backgrounds, there are many and varied leanings. All of which have made for interesting discussions around the dinner table – but no arguments.

Then, as for many other Australians, we spent much of Saturday afternoon watching Antony Green’s analysis as the votes were counted. It seems an Australian election day tradition as much as the democracy sausage.

You have already been updated about our great painting event on Saturday night. One of the few advantages of the last two years of COVID lockdowns is the expansion of virtual training and entertainment options - giving us the opportunity to do something now that once would not have been possible in Antarctica before the pandemic. There’s always a bright side.

Sea-ice travel continues, weekly measurements and the random recreational trip. This weekend a group made the first excursion to Béchervaise Island which sits just off station, approximately 2 km away. This is the key location for the sea-bird biologist over the summer, as they study the Béchervaise Adéle penguin colony. However, the Mawson winterers are lucky enough to be able to use the biologist’s base camp as a weekender when they want to get away from the Mawson metropolis. The Béchervaise camp is different from the other field huts in the Mawson Operating Area, which are more like ‘huts’, while these are a ‘melon’ and a ‘zucchini’, making it look a bit like a scene from a lunar base camp. Nice to have variety and such a quaint little getaway so close to home.

As I wander around the station I still discover a new perspective of the buildings that make up our station, whether it’s just that we have time to take everything in, or it’s the changing light as we lose the sun. Mawson is the oldest constantly operating station south of the Antarctic Circle, so it’s only to be expected that we have a number of heritage buildings on station.

The building photographed this week is Biscoe Hut, erected during the first winter spent at Mawson in 1954. Biscoe is the only timber frame and timber board clad structure to be erected on an Australian station. It was manufactured in Norway for the Norwegian-Swedish-British Antarctic Expedition. However, when it was not able to be transported to Maudheim it was left in Cape Town and eventually purchased for use at Mawson. Biscoe, originally the living quarters (sleeping 10 men and also containing kitchen and mess), has had many uses over the years, including drying room, brewery, workshop, store, dog hospital, sewing room, laundry, and carpenters' shop. It is now in use as our band room (and sometimes the Biscoe Disco).

It’s extraordinary to look at the aged veneers and similarly aged building techniques, and to contemplate the history of which these buildings have been a part - oh the stories they could tell.