Working in Antarctica - A challenge worth taking

Keeping an eye on the weather - Bureau Technician, Albert Petersen

Mawson is the BOM! Whoops, I mean Mawson is the Bureau! Haha.

What an incredible place. Filled with incredible people and surrounded by incredible wildlife and scenery. Incredible. The word loses meaning with the number of times I've thought it to myself, looking out the window at the blizzard or crunching through the icy snow to photograph weddell seals on the way home from work.

It doesn't lose meaning though. After a few weeks, I anticipated the excitement dying down and for routine to mollify the experience somewhat, but the opposite seems to be true. With more things learned each day, the wonder and awe for this place are braced and built upon. I can't see when or even if my amazements keen edge will be dulled. Before I came, I spoke with past expeditioners who always seemed to yearn to return to the ice. Now I understand.

I've wanted to go to Antarctica since 2015, when I noticed that the Weather Bureau had positions advertised, with training included. I remember the feedback from the hiring manager at the time, "I don't think you could do the job". For me, that was a "challenge accepted!" moment. From that moment, I directed my entire career toward gaining the skills and experience needed to go South. I eventually joined the Bureau and focused all of my training goals toward Antarctic specific skills. After stints at two of the Bureau's other remote sites, Giles in the Gibson Desert and Willis Island in the Coral Sea, and roughly two years solid of various in-house and external training courses, I was ready.

And by golly, it was worth it.

Albert (Mawson BoM Tech)

Finding routine in an extraordinary workplace

It feels like it was only a short time ago that we arrived here at Mawson, yet a month has already passed. With so many new things to comprehend and absorb, finding a routine for our weekly schedules has been challenging. Not to mention the ongoing craziness that is the weather here. We have just this Monday chalked up our fifth official blizz day, which is defined as a period of at least an hour (it lasted all day!) where we have high winds and reduced visibility. This is in addition to the ‘normal’ daily winds of 15-25kts that we almost do not notice anymore. Indeed, a few of us even managed to relax and chat around the picnic table outside without being too bothered by the cold – amazing what you can acclimatise to so quickly!

Our survival and field training has continued, with two more groups of three heading out to the ice plateau and the huts at Fang and Rumdoodle. Temperatures for these nights in the survival bivvy bags are still around the -5 to -10 degrees; however, this will quickly drop over the coming weeks. Perhaps I should not have put myself in the last group when we may be closer to -20 degrees overnight.

Despite this, the team are finding a routine, and maintenance and infrastructure checks are well underway to make sure the station is operating efficiently and reliably. Our meal times are now settled, with a combined smoko/lunch to help minimise the amount of food we are tempted by from our chef Nick. And in the evenings, expeditioners have settled into regular TV shows, games of darts and pool, jigsaw puzzles, or simply relaxing by the windows gazing out at the landscape – and rapidly advancing sunsets. Getting here and then finding our rhythm has undoubtedly been a challenge, especially for those new to Antarctica. That challenge is definitely worth it to have the privilege to experience this fantastic place.

Cat (Mawson SL)