For the last few days we have been anchored close to Davis station, conducting a quick resupply, retrieving summer personnel, and bunkering down the helicopters to mark the end of the season.
All went well and we departed Davis on schedule last night, in similar fashion to Mawson with a few flares and the ship’s horn marking our departure as we headed out and up Iceberg Alley. Most of the expeditioners were out on the external decks to wave goodbye. It’s the last of the continent we’ll be seeing this voyage.
As we travel north today we will stop to collect a whale mooring (an acoustic recording device which will release itself from the seabed and float up for retrieval), and once complete we will be underway on the homeward journey, crossing the Southern Ocean and heading for Tassie.
#Goodbye, Mawson station I’ve been living on the ship for two weeks now, commuting in to shore when I’ve been needed, but otherwise have been packed up and ready for departure. It’s been an odd feeling, being on the ship for this long but not really having a destination as such. This changed today however, as today marks the last day of resupply operations at Mawson. We’re going home.
With the final returning expeditioners aboard and the cargo secured it’s time to say goodbye to station.
The Aurora blew her horn, set our heading, and began making her way out of Kista Straight this evening.
A few of the station expeditioners made their way out to West Arm to see us off, waving their arms and shooting a few expired flares into the sky; a traditional Antarctic send-off. They won’t be seeing any new faces for the next nine months now, not till next season commences.
So this evening marks the beginning of the end to my Antarctic summer, as I look out from the heli deck and see the local Mawson mountain ranges getting smaller and smaller in the distance. It’s a little sad as I might never be back here again. This has been my home for a mere three months, but as the sign on West Arm says: “Its home, its Mawson”.
I now look to our journey ahead. A few days and we’ll be at Davis to pick up the summerers, then after that we make our way across the rough seas of the Southern Ocean as we head for Tasmania. In all, 18 days and I’ll be eating smashed avo at Salamanca and be back in the busy, bustling civilisation of downtown Hobart.
Yesterday and today have been spent out at sea in the pack ice. Checking the forecast (and simply looking outside!) shows there is high winds and poor visibility, which means boating operations are suspended till conditions improve.
As an expeditioner it’s great to be in the pack ice though as there is so much more wildlife to see here compared to being out in the open water. Seals lay around whilst adelie penguins hop into the water for a quick feed. Various petrel species fly past the window as I’m making a cup of tea in the mess. It’s a reminder of how pristine the wilderness is down here and I always make time each day to look out from the bridge and try and take it all in.
The forecast looks a bit better Saturday, and improved again for Sunday, so I’m hoping we can complete Mawson resupply as per the revised schedule. I look out over the decks of the ship and most of the cargo containers have now gone so we must be close to finished, with only some RTA (Return to Australia cargo) and final passengers to bring aboard.
Each day following cargo operations the Aurora departs Kista Straight, which is next to the station and in close proximity to neighbouring islands, and heads out to open waters. We’re lucky in that every night of clear skies, we’re treated to fantastic ‘berg cruising followed by incredible sunsets over the plateau.
Due to the limited bandwidth aboard the ship, the file sizes need to be very small when uploading a picture, but rest assured I’ve been taking many hi-res photos off the back of the ship each evening.
Over the past few days we have been resupplying the station with fuel. This involves connecting a hose line from the tanks aboard the ship moored in Kista Straight, which then runs on the water and up over West Arm, across the sea ice still in Horseshoe Harbour, then into the pipes which plumb into the station fuel farm.
I assisted in the West Arm setup, hauling lines and connecting up the hoses, and then in later shifts monitoring the connection points during pumping, to ensure there is no leakage into the environment during operations. After both pumping days we safely and successfully transferred the target amount of diesel to station.
Tomorrow morning marks my first week back aboard the Aurora, and I’ve settled in fine. Right now we’re pretty much down to round-tripping staff, watercraft, scientists, and resupply personnel on board, making meal times a pretty quiet affair, especially when the boaties are off ship and out on the water. That should change in the next few days as more Mawson folks finish up on station and transfer across, and we’ll be a full house again once we get back to Davis station for summer retrieval. I’m definitely enjoying the avocado and mandarins though!
With the Aurora Australis now at Mawson I’ve relocated from the station to free up my room for one of the incoming winter expeditioners, so I’m now here living back aboard the ship for the next month. Hello fresh yogurt, milk, and oranges – I’ve missed you!
As we flew in from Davis V1 I didn’t get to see this view of station previously. From out at sea here the landscape surrounding the station is magnificent with the prominent nunataks of the area poking out from the rolling ice plateau. The wildlife is also abundant in the pack ice with adelies, seals, and giant and snow petrels regularly sighted.
Today we plan for the upcoming refuelling operation, and as always look at the weather forecast to continue resupply activities.
This season I’ve been part of the Hydroponics team, growing and picking fresh produce for expeditioners to enjoy on station to supplement otherwise shelf-stable or frozen ingredients. It’s great to enjoy the warm, humid hydro shed, and even “sample” a fresh cherry tomato or two as you harvest.
Along with questions like: “Are there polar bears in Antarctica?” and “Is it cold down there?” is also another popular one – what is the food like on station?
Benny, our station chef whips up three meals daily and keeps us well fed and happy expeditioners. The cuisine ranges from Mexican to Japanese, and pub meals to formal dining experiences. All that with only using shelf stable or frozen ingredients, supplemented by a small quantity of fresh hydroponic veggies grown on station.
Oh and do we have party ice? Yes, there’s plenty when you dig out a blizz tail just outside!
This week I went up to Rumdoodle with two colleagues for a quick overnight jolly (recreational trip). With the last flight for the season on Thurday and the ship arriving next week it was our final opportunity to get off station, so we threw our things on the quads and headed up the plateau.
Rumdoodle is our airstrip / landing area and the closest hut to station, which often makes it overlooked by expeditioners wanting a trip away, usually further into the field. I find the craggy peaks to be amazing scenery and with it only being one hour away, a great place to spend a Monday night after work.