This week on and around station, we have seen the temperature dip into new lows – dropping below -30°C. The upside of such weather is that it has been accompanied by crystal clear skies and virtually no wind! For Mawson, this is fantastic, as it allows us the opportunity to get out and off station – something that unfortunately is not at all possible when the wind picks up and produces blizzard conditions.
With satellite pictures also giving us promising indications that the sea ice around us is becoming more robust, we set into motion our plan to travel to the east and confirm the location of our closest emperor penguin colony at Auster. This colony was first discovered in 1957 by Flying Officer D. Johnston of the Royal Australian Air Force and was named for the Auster aircraft that he was flying at the time. Like most emperor penguin colonies, it is located on sea ice and moves slightly each year as the penguins seek out shelter in the lee of the grounded icebergs.
The team of six, led by our Senior Field Training Officer, Dave, set out early in two Hägglunds vehicles. Once clear of the station operating area, they took their time – stopping every kilometre to check the condition of the ice. The first day took some time, and upon arriving at our hut on Macey Island, they discovered that the winds had removed one of the doors, and therefore, they had to dig out a considerable amount of snow that had built up in and around the hut! After braving their way through a chilly night, they set out towards where the colony was last year with their fingers crossed.
Thankfully the colony had only moved a few hundred metres since last year, and the team took the opportunity to spend some time watching the penguins, taking photos, and quietly sitting while a few of the adults that didn’t have eggs came over to find out what these brightly coloured things were! After about an hour, it was time to head home, achieving a successful mission and allowing future trips to proceed safely to keep an eye on the penguins over the coming months. Many more photos to come!
For those on station who were not lucky enough to head out to the colony, there was still the chance to escape the station confines on the weekend. Two keen groups took the opportunity to head out to Welch Island for a walk up to the peak. Such exertion was rewarded with breathtaking (it was still close to -30° remember) views out over the ice and back towards the station. Others took the chance to spend a night out on Béchervaise Island, enjoying a tightly fought game of Blokus.
However, the highlight of the week – almost up there with the penguins – lay in the installation of our new kitchen dishwasher! Mitch and Neil did a fantastic job of installation over the weekend while the kitchen was quiet. The sheer joy of being able to put more than one tray into the dishwasher at a time can not be overstated.
Cat (Mawson Station Leader)