This week Dave explains some of the intricacies of language and coffee on station, while we get more chances to visit the emperor penguins and enjoy a social afternoon hosted by the Communications section.

The Language of Coffee and Station Life

Well, we’re past the halfway point now, and while staring into my morning coffee, I’ve started to wonder what’s next. There are some here on station that are using the time down here to learn French and Spanish, but “Oui non” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Yeah nah”. However, there is another language spoken on station, and it’s called Jack Russell. It is only used to communicate first thing in the morning, before the effects of caffeine kick in. The translation of a reciprocated stiff tilt of the chin and thrust of the jaw says, “Yeah, I see ya, maybe sniff you later,” without uttering a single word.

There’s a Certificate IV course book on station for a barista that goes with our coffee machine – an Expobar Megacrem. For those on station reading this, it is not possible to have a relationship with an inanimate object regardless of what comes out of it and no matter how sleek and shiny it is. Anyway, I’ve been giving the barista book a bit of a read in preparation for the next chapter. There’s a whole section on how to heat, stretch (they really mean froth), and pour the milk. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t cover how to stretch powdered milk. Which kind of explains why, when I’ve been trying to nail the fern leaf thing on the presentation, it usually comes out looking like a cane toad.

This could be considered a failure or a new opportunity. So instead of reading tea leaves, I now have on offer a milk froth reading service, and having a crack at being a clairvoyant. To those who have sought out this service, there have been very clear visions and interpretations. There was the screaming goat – goat curry tonight (except the chef says we’re out of goat, and we’ll have to do with lamb - close). The wheel of life – it’s going to be cold again tomorrow. The smiley face – going to be a good day (and cold). Then there’s entering the vortex, or is it a butterfly? Sigmund and Carl (and Maree back in Kingston) would have fun analysing this one!

Dave (Mawson Senior FIeld Training Officer)

Emperor Penguins and Fun with Electronics

For another week in a row, we have been so fortunate with the weather! While temperatures have certainly remained chilly, down in the -20°C to -30°C range, the skies have remained mostly clear and the winds below 20 knots. Therefore, with much delight, three of us planned an overnight trip out to Macey Island and two visits to the Auster emperor penguin colony nearby.

Macey Island, part of the Auster Island Group, lies about 45 km to the east of Mawson over the sea ice. Even though we have proven the route and closely follow the GPS waypoints, it still takes us about two hours to make the trip as we ensure our safety by rechecking any tide cracks that may have shifted over the previous week or two. We first head straight out to the emperor penguin colony to spend some time watching these amazing birds. With cold temperatures and a reasonable amount of wind, many of the penguins were closely huddled, protecting their little chicks in the warmth generated by thousands of adult penguins. A few of the adults without chicks still came out to check on us though, particularly as we set up a camera about 100m from the colony that would be left overnight to take a series of time-lapse images.

It was with a slight sense of disappointment that we had to admit to ourselves that we were starting to feel the cold, and so we headed to Macey Island to set up the hut and settle in for the night. Having sorted out some niggles with keeping generators operating throughout a minus 30°C night, the hut soon approached a toasty 12 degrees inside (it is incredible how much you get used to lower temperatures and think them warm!). After a few hours of playing Blokus and Monopoly Deal, we braved the cold to refuel the generator. We were so glad we did! The sky was alight with the Aurora Australis, and – being so far away from any light pollution – the field of stars was breathtaking. We happily spent nearly an hour just watching the show that nature provided (and capturing a few photographs as well of course). There may have also been some small 'happy dances' performed in appreciation for the spectacular conditions.

The next day, with less wind and slightly warmer conditions (about -22°C), the penguins were much more spread out and active. We saw many adults heading away from and back towards the colony - collecting food for themselves and the chicks that were now clearly visible on their parents’ feet. Jess’ camera was also safely recovered, having collected more than 5,000 shots over the night. We then happily returned to station late in the afternoon with yet another haul of beautiful memories and in anticipation of the next visit to check on the chicks as they grow.

Another highlight during the week for the team was the third in our sequence of afternoon social events hosted by one of the sections. It was the Communications section’s turn this week, and they certainly did not disappoint. Living up to their reputation as technical wizards, Andrew and Allan had set up an electric race car track, a computer bowling game, and a mock ‘mind control’ simulation room. Everyone certainly enjoyed the chance to unwind from work and the opportunity for some light-hearted competition!

Cat (Mawson Station Leader)

Emperor Penguins at Auster