This week get to know our communications officer Andrew and why he sought out a job in Antarctica; the team enjoys the Easter weekend; we reflect upon the past; and the sea ice finally begins to take hold around us

The Quest South

Considering that within the audience there might be someone thinking of applying to work, or just generally interested, in Antarctica I’ll share my journey and maybe reveal a bit about my psyche as, from the tales I’ve heard so far, everyone here has forged their own unique path.

My life:

  • I started in NZ; stayed for 13 years; primary education; rode my bike to school in the snow; mostly peaceful.
  • Then to PNG for 5 years; secondary education; changed accent. Missed 2 exams in year 10 from being in lockdown due to rampaging students. Got caught in the middle of 2 warring tribes in the New Guinea highlands. Etc.
  • Then settled in Oz. Tertiary education; mostly peaceful.
  • Now in Antarctica. I wouldn’t exactly call it peaceful, where just getting to the office can be an effort.

So all this gave me itchy feet, no not the ringworm from PNG but the desire to get out there and see the world. So for work I sought out opportunities to do just that. I also don’t make a good tourist; I like having a reason to be there. Work like a local and then play like a local. You see quite a different aspect that way.


  • Changchun, right up the north of China. Installed a x8 phone line expander after a village wrote to us. Now instead of just the mayor being the only one to have a phone, the fire chief and 6 payphones in the town square were also available. And I made time to look around the town; see the pic of me on market day.
  • Brazil. Longest flight around the world, 5 hops, 42 hours just to Rio, then another to Salvador. Debugging issues interfacing to their telephone exchange, under threat of having a contract cancelled and installing in the favela (slum), not the safest place. Then after hours, squashed into a pub to watch the world cup soccer.
  • South Africa. Submitting a tender to SA Telecom, then hiring a car to driving from Joburg to Sun City, getting lost and ending up in a township.
  • Norway. Writing software for Ericson’s telephone exchange, then fabulous skiing on the weekend. Mostly peaceful.

All this varied experience taught me to be flexible. I initially applied for a role at Davis station (a 12-month process) and made it onto the reserve list. Cruising into Xmas but still half mentally preparing. Then a role at Mawson suddenly came up. 2 weeks from initial talks to being offered the role. 1.5 weeks to ask for a sabbatical from work, pack up my life and fly to Hobart. Load up on some training, then on a boat south and before I had time to catch my breath I’m stepping onto continent No. 7.

I don’t believe in bucket lists, but I’ve always wanted to complete the 7 continents. Now, not only have I visited all 7, but I’ve lived and worked on all 7.

I didn’t want to be just a tourist in Antarctica either, I wanted this to be my backyard. Survival training last week was work, but there was also time to appreciate the vastness of the never-ending ice. Unlike Oz, where if you find some, you’re aware that you’re on a small patch surrounded by brown Australia.

Maybe it’s FOMO that drives me. Well, fear is not the right word. It’s more a regret I know I’d have if I didn’t at least try. I collect experiences, something to tell my grandchildren. And on that note, my firstborn’s firstborn was born 2 days ago. Another new experience to enjoy.

Andrew (Mawson CTO)

The Team Enjoys the Easter Weekend

With all of the team at Mawson now having their survival training completed, a small crew took the opportunity of the extra-long weekend to explore and enjoy the surroundings of this unique place on the first recreational trip of the season. There were some late changes in the schedule to ensure we took full advantage of the best weather the weekend could offer. As the weekend began, the crew of four set off organising everything we needed and carrying out last-minute communications checks before heading up the hill onto the plateau.

The trip is made quick by the use of one of the station’s new Hägglunds, and before we knew it, we were taking in the views on short walks across frozen lakes and surroundings before setting our sights on our shelter for the night, Rumdoodle hut. As we arrived and returned the Lord Mayer of Rumdoodle (often identified by his shiny gold suit) to his home - the first action was to get the heater on before setting up the items needed for the night. The crew quickly settled in for a bit of relaxation, food and drinks.

The following day we had a brief sightseeing trip out to Mt Henderson hut. With the wind picking up and snow hitting us head-on, we jumped back into our chariot and made our way down the hill to station. For the remainder of the weekend, it was a good chance for the whole team to sleep in, relax, and explore within the station limits. To conclude the weekend, we celebrated Jimmy Rae’s achievement of another trip around the sun.

With winter starting to set in and the temperatures dropping, the sights around station are quickly changing; the sea ice is building up and getting thicker, wildlife is getting sparse, and nights are growing longer. It was only a couple of weeks ago when the sun would be coming through the windows whilst grabbing a morning coffee, but now you would struggle to see one side of the mess from the other without the lights on. Although on the plus side, we are surrounded by some spectacular colours from the sunsets and multiple nights of auroras.

Alan Thompson (Mawson Station Supply Officer)

Sombre reflections on the past as the station enters winter

With winter finally starting to impact Mawson and temperatures dropping to minus 20 degrees C, we are beginning to see the exodus of the seals and penguins that have kept us company this last month and a half. They realise that with the fall in temperature, the sea will rapidly begin to freeze over, and they will need to move out towards the edges to keep fed (and avoid having to trudge over up to hundreds of kilometres of ice!). It is incredible to see the changes in the water. In only a few days, lines of grease ice stretched across the harbour, Kista Strait and the islands surrounding us. As the weather cools further, particularly during nights and days of lower winds, the ice thickens and is compacted against itself into pancake shapes.

By no means is this a smooth transition, though! Our renowned katabatic winds push the ice out from the harbour quite regularly, and a recent blizzard (along with some balmy days where it warmed back up to minus 4 degrees C) has almost cleared the harbour of ice. With a clear spell forecast for the next week, however, we are looking forward to seeing the ice make a triumphant return.

With nearly seventy years of continual operation, there are many stories of those that have lived and worked here at Mawson before us. Some are sadly more sombre to recall, and the presence of the graves on West Arm, serene in their overwatch of the station, serve as reminders to us that some have lost their lives in service to Australia in Antarctica. We are proud, however, to ensure that we do not forget such sacrifice, and so we make sure to commemorate such loss by marking the anniversaries with the flag at half-mast.

One of the graves belongs to Geoffrey Maxwell Cameron, who was killed in an accident on station in 1974. In memory of Geoff Cameron, the Station Leader at the time recorded the following words in the station log:

We are shocked. He was a fine man, a gentle, thoughtful, earnest, well-intentioned, kind and decent person, who in the month we’ve been here has given himself entirely to the work and pleasure of the station. He was a gentleman by the ancient definition. (Dave Luders, OIC Mawson 1974)

It is by marking such occasions that we serve to remind the whole team that we must take care here. Isolated as we are, so far from the Australian mainland, it is so important that we look after ourselves and each other so that we may return home safely at the end of our season.

Cat (Mawson SL)