Reflections upon the first few months at Mawson and enjoying a rare spell of mild winds to fully open the sea ice around station

Scott, one of our electricians reflects on his first months at Mawson

I finally made it to Mawson station, Antarctica. I have been applying to go south for many years, and I finally made it. What an amazing place, the scenery, the people, the night sky, and the icy cold winds.

I’m wintering here as an electrician, one of three electricians tasked with keeping the lights burning bright and the wind turbine spinning; it’s an electrifying job and an awesome place to work.

But what do we get up to in our spare time everyone asks; well, we can be as busy or as quiet as we want in our spare time. I choose to keep busy.

My favourite indoor place to hang out is Hydroponics; it is green and warm and has more daylight than we are currently getting. In winter our day is short with the sun up at 10:45 and back down at 2:45. It is always exciting and rewarding watching the plants grow, I am often building expanding and modifying the setup to maximise the output of fresh greens. We are currently growing tomatoes lettuces, cucumbers, capsicums, chillies, celery, kale and lots of herbs.

But we didn’t come to Antarctica to stay indoors. We came to Antarctica to get out and explore and experience this place.

The sea ice has been opened in Horseshoe Harbour, and it’s a great place to get out and get some exercise in. I ride around the harbour on the fat bikes, and hopefully when the rest of the sea ice is opened up for travel, we can take the bikes further afield.

I have also built and slept in a snow igloo built on station!

We can go for walks around station and out to West Arm and check out the views, the wildlife which has all left now that the sea ice has formed, and also check out the old station and imagine how it was to live here back in the day.

I have been on field trips to the Rumdoodle hut in the Masson ranges and its a great place for a field trip and to get off station. Last time I ventured out there, we visited the frozen Fern Lake and the mountainside was filled with nesting snow petrels.

The green store has plenty to keep us fit, including a climbing wall and gym. Wednesday is either volleyball or badminton and then sweat some more in the sauna.

Mawson is awesome! The station, the history, the 76th team, the wildlife and the scenery and the icy cold climate, I’m so grateful I am able to spend a winter down here.

Scott (Mawson Electrician)

Sea ice season opens

I know it will be hard for anyone that knows Mawson to believe, however this week has been almost completely clear of wind! A couple of gusts off the plateau up to around 70 km/h sure, but otherwise it has sat around 20 km/h all week, which has given us the perfect opportunity to undertake practical sea-ice training for our whole team and also expand our testing out beyond Horseshoe Harbour. We also took the chance to conduct important maintenance on our wind turbine to bring it back into operation and repair some of the antennas on our buildings that have been damaged by our regular strong winds.

When starting to use the sea ice for travel – whether that be for operational, scientific, or even recreational purposes – we work outwards from the station, making sure that the ice is thick enough to support our proposed methods of travel. Needing at least 20cm thick for foot movement through to at least 60cm for our large Hägglunds vehicles, safety is paramount and the more testing we can do, the more confident we are with the ice.

Our Field Training Officer, Dave, has now expertly instructed all our expeditioners on how to move safely across the ice, how to drill the ice and check the thickness, how to put in ice anchors, and even how to ‘dab’ like all the cool people! We were then able to test the ice all the way across to Béchervaise Island and then to the East and West of Kista Strait to ensure that the entire recreational area of sea ice that surrounds the station is safe for use. As an additional training outcome of this process, a couple of the team now realise that leaving your lunch in the top of your pack instead of inside your jacket is not a great idea unless you like snap frozen sandwiches.

Further training on vehicle recovery will be conducted over the coming week before we are able to finally strike out towards the Emperor penguin colonies to our East and West. As part of the scientific program here at Mawson, we need to check on the population and conditions of these colonies so that we can assess any changes that may be occurring due to changes in the climate. To be honest though, we also just can’t wait to finally see them!

Cat (Mawson SL)

Nick and Jess drilling and testing the sea-ice thickness