This week our attempts to launch a deep field traverse onto the sea-ice have continued to be frustrated by the weather, but we make the most of time indoors to take a penguin painting class!

Penguins (on canvas) and Frustrating Weather

This week certainly started out with a lot of promise. As mentioned in last week’s update, our Station Mechanical Supervisor, Ben, had his 40th birthday on Friday and to celebrate such a momentous occasion, the chef, Nick, produced yet another fabulous cake. Ben’s description of what type of cake he would like for his birthday was ‘just plain is fine’; however, I don’t think Nick actually has the ability to make ‘just plain’ food of any type. The resulting cake was, therefore, resplendent in as many colours as possible and almost half a metre high. (Okay, perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but not by much – see the picture for proof!)

The weekend then provided an opportunity for a few of the team to get off station for some recreation once again. A few headed over to Béchervaise Island to relax and play board games, and then on Sunday, a group of four headed out to the Auster emperor penguin colony, where the chicks are starting to get out from under their parents and socialise a little on their own. Sunday’s weather was almost good enough to relax outside and enjoy the sun. I did actually try this, but I have to admit to only lasting about fifteen minutes until the chill of −10°C got to me despite my acclimatisation.

The weekend’s highlight was the chance to learn how to paint! Nine of the team gathered in the mess on Sunday afternoon and John, a professional painter from Sussex in the United Kingdom, joined us via Zoom to take us through how to paint an emperor penguin (to clarify – that is making a painting of an emperor penguin, not putting paint onto an emperor penguin which would be an incredibly wrong thing to do). Over the course of nearly two hours, we put paintbrush to canvas and with only some of the paint making it onto the table, floor or ourselves, we finished with nine amazing works of art. The variety of the paintings produced was astonishing, given we all received the same instruction. However, we all enjoyed the experience immensely and are more than happy with the finished products.

It was Monday when the weather decided enough good times had been had. Six of the team were set to depart on a week-long, deep-field traverse over the sea ice to the Fold Island emperor penguin colony. This colony is almost 150 km to our west, and we check in yearly to monitor how the colony is going. Unfortunately, however, Sunday night and Monday saw a significant amount of snowfall, and quite unusually for Mawson, it fell straight down and lay on top of everything. To some, this may sound like what would typically happen; however, here at Mawson, we usually only get snow thrown into our faces by the wind, so it was quite an experience to see the station under a blanket of snow. Due to snow falling, the trip could not depart Monday as planned, as we need good visibility to safely travel over the sea ice. Then, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, our regular windy weather pattern returned, picking up all the snow that had fallen on the plateau to our south and throwing it through the station and out over the ice. While the wind was only in the 80 to 100 km/h range, it was still enough to bring visibility down below 100 m most of the time, preventing the team’s departure. Each morning, we would wake with hope, hear the roar of the wind, and know there would be no movement. The team remains on standby, though; once the weather clears, they will be off!

Cat (Mawson Station Leader)

Blizzard Day