Last week a small group of us summer expeditioners who had not yet been out to Auster Rookery to see the Emperor Penguins kept a close eye on the weather forecast. We were desperately hoping for a clear day before the weekend, as the sea ice that far away from station was due to close on Saturday. We woke up on Friday to clear skies and good winds were telling us it was going to be a good day – definitely time to get out there while we could!
It’s a fairly long trip of about 60kms east of station, so we all jumped in the Hagglunds and off we went. As we got closer to Auster there are many, many large icebergs stuck in the ice, and it’s quite a bumpy part of the trip as the icebergs slowly shift and push the fast ice around throughout the year.
We parked a good distance from the colony and walked in carefully. There are clear approach distances we need to adhere to so as not to disturb the breeding birds. Once I found a nice spot I got down on the ice and quietly sat there watching the birds wander in and out of the rookery.
Being the middle of the day and full sun the birds were quite hot! Apparently they were not as curious as they usually are compared to previous visits as they flapped their wings to cool off, or just lazed around on the ice. Still, a lot of activity in the group though and the occasional adult wandering past, heading out to the sea for a feed.
We spent about two hours watching the birds. It’s an incredible sight to be so close to an Emperor Penguin colony. I snapped pictures and took some shots for a video, but it doesn’t quite capture the sense of the warm sun, the gentle breeze, and the adorable calls from the jouveniles wanting some lunch from their parents. This has definitely been the biggest highlight from this season so far. I could have spent hours just sitting there enjoying the whole thing.
We eventually did have to head home, and we topped of an amazing trip by visiting a jade iceberg on the way home.
On Wednesday 29 November the sun finally set at 12:10am, only to rise again shortly after at 1:02am. As Mawson station resides within the Antarctic circle our summer will now continue with a full 24 hours of daylight each day.
Our next sunset will be on 13 January when it will finally set at 12:47am, only to rise again a mere 19 minutes later! The nights will then progressively get longer as it moves out of the summer season.
A quick walk home from the office at Mawson station. The winds were somewhat high but the visibility was good so we can see a few things on thewalk.
Thursday and Friday we were off station on our field training. This is a course most expeditioners complete shortly after their arrival on station, to learn skills such as navigation and survival essentials for an Antarctic environment. Over the two days we completed a number of exercises such as preparing for a field trip, driving quads along GPS waypoints, waste management, and orienteering using a map and compass.
What was really fun though was a ration pack dinner and camping out in a bivvy bag on the snow! It was surprisingly warm in my sleeping bag and I got a pretty good night’s sleep.
The trip took us up the plateau to Rumdoodle for the night, which is the landing area for planes later in the summer season when the sea ice is gone, then a drive around and up to Mt Henderson for some breathtaking views over the plateau to the fast ice.
We all returned safely to station in the afternoon, a bit tired but full of stories to share with our fellow expeditioners and new skills to keep us safe when travelling out in the field.
Work has been going well this week, and now today we’re off up the plateau to Rumdoodle for our Survival Training. This is an overnight course all new expeditioners.
See you tomorrow evening!
It has been a rather busy start since arriving here at Mawson that it is now day 5 down here. A bit of a summary:
It was a pretty busy day leaving the ship on Wednesday. I was scheduled for flight #2 which we weren’t too sure if it would make it into the forecasted weather window. They always ensure it’s a good day for flying. The news came in that the flight was going ahead so we got ready. When it was time we went straight from the ship to the plane over the sea ice on a Hägglunds snow vehicle. Once ready for take-off we were on our way. The flight over is amazing with our route mostly following the East Antarctic coastline.
Getting in to station was fun. We landed on the sea ice, donned microspikes on our boots, and walked into “town”. There we met our wintering team and then went straight into inductions around station. Following a fire drill we all sat down to dinner and got to know each other. They’re an amazing bunch of people who haven’t seen any new faces for half a year, so it was great hearing what they’ve been up to over the winter.
My primary role started on the Thursday as the IT Officer for the station. So far I’ve been helping the summer expeditioners get connected and a few other things around the office. I’ve also been helping with upgrading the webcams around station and some satelite upgrades, two projects we’ll be working on over the season.
The weekend rolled around and after completing my Saturday community duties (this week I was on the garbage run around station) we got the bar ready for a party. This week we celebrated the Station Leader’s birthday and the theme was “red”, so I wore a red shirt and found a tartan hat in the costume store downstairs. It was a great night to all celebrate together and just enjoy ourselves.
On Sunday I had my first walk off station. The doc took a few of us newbies on the Guamm loop, a 4.2km walk up the plateau and back. It’s amazing to look back and see how tiny the station is compared to the local scenery of glaciers and icebergs trapped in the sea ice. I’ll definitely be doing this walk again soon.
I’m now “home” for the summer. In my own room! With (basic) internet!!
Been a very long day though so more soon.
Today was heli fly off for essential Davis personnel, so those like myself not involved spent most of today bunkered in with the bridge and external decks closed. So a rather uneventful day for myself and no opportunity to get off the ship unfortunately. Wandering around Davis might have to wait till V3.
Tomorrow morning Mawson flight #1 is a go, with those personnel going straight from the ship to the plane which we can see not too far away on the sea ice skiway.
I’m flight #2, so it’s still undetermined if we’re a definite at this stage, if we will get a quick chance to see the Davis living quarters “flight lounge” on route, or if we too will go from ship to plane direct. All will be revealed tomorrow…
Today has been an absolute stunning day of cruising between the ‘bergs, followed by a glorious sunset just before midnight. It’s been a beautiful orangey-yellow twilight since, and with sunrise less than 4 hours away from sun down, it just doesn’t get dark at night anymore. More opportunity to stay up and see the incredible landscape.
We reached the fast ice edge at 01:35 where we commenced crunching our way in. Helis are due to fly off tomorrow morning.
Davis is now in sight! From the bridge you can see all the station buildings and a few lights on.