A trip out to the Russian Aircraft

Last week we went exploring the Russian aircraft, a Lisunov Li-2T which crashed during take-off from Mawson in 1968 and has been stuck up on the plateau ever since. It’s in an interesting location – right in the middle of a crevasse field! To visit we need to take extra precautions of roping up together and wearing climbing equipment.

It’s an absolute incredible spot to visit and definitely a highlight of the summer.

We have internets

Last Friday a colleague and I completed our “large” project of the summer, upgrading the satellite link. It was an early start and a tough day, but we now enjoy internet that is orders of magnitude faster and far more reliable, and phone calls that don’t have a huge delay on them.

An article is available on icy news.

Here comes the ocean

The sea ice near station has been closed to vehicles and vehicles, as the tide cracks had been getting quite large and slushy. In the last week, the ice in Horseshoe Harbour has turned a rather dark shade of grey, indicating it is probably full of water and ready to blow out at any moment.

We went for a walk up to Gwamm last Thursday to get a better view. Unfortunately it was an overcast afternoon, but you can see the Big Blue getting closer. To compare the sea ice imagery to the local landscape, Walsh Island is the island northeast of the station “holding in” the fast ice, and that is the predominent humpy-looking island in the picture.

The Aurora Australis departs Hobart for Mawson station in just over a week’s time. Here’s hoping we get a big blow and there’s some open water for her to get into the harbour with.

“Sunset” on station

I know I often talk about weather or the sun here on station, but it is definitely given regular consideration each day by expeditioners – is it going to be good weather to get off station? Do outdoor projects need to be tied down before a blizz hits? Is the science project going ahead? Weather is often quite the deciding factor.

This week I noticed around midnight the sun is still not setting of course, but it is far south and low over the plateau, putting the station in shadow whilst lighting up Walsh Island (the humpy one on the right) and the bergs out to sea. My quick shot on the smartphone doesn’t quite do it justice of course, but it is quite the sight down here!

Happy Midsummer!

Sunlight graph for Mawson station (image: AAD)

Today at 9:28pm local marks the summer solstice, when the sun is tracking at its highest point in the southern hemisphere sky for the year. Most importantly this is the turning point for the summer season, and we know the sun will gradually wind its way back down the sky and finally start to set below the horizon mid next month.

Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to see the sun today here at Mawson, as there is a raging blizzard with winds gusting up to 76 knots (140 km/hr) with little visibility, but it’s good to know we’re halfway to the next sunset.


Learning to drive a Hägglunds

Climbing the Central Massons with the Hagg parked below

According to the Division website:

Hägglunds are Swedish dual-cab, medium class, over-snow vehicles which can carry four passengers in the front cab. They have a towing capacity of 2 tonnes on suitable sleds, and they operate over most snow and ice terrain including sea ice and soft snow.

They are also very fun to drive! This week I was completing my vehicle training induction which is my final training scheduled for the summer season. On Wednesday morning we met with the diesos for a full rundown of the features of the Hägglunds, what not to do, and what to do if something did go wrong.

With our bags packed we jumped in the yellow Hägg and headed out to Fang hut. I’d been looking forward to this trip as currently I had been out as far as Rumdoodle but not out further to Fang. We all took turns with the drive out and learned steering, suspension, and advanced manures.

What is important with a Hägg is there is absolutely no suspension built into the tracked tyres! You need to mount bumps by hitting them on an angle, otherwise your passengers in the back really feel it. It was good practice being out there and I’m starting to get the knack of driving these things.