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.