Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Thursday 25th April 2013

This morning we all gathered at sun rise in front of our flag poles to pay our respect with an Anzac day dawn service. Cookie did a great job and it was quite moving at times. After the dawn service, I went into the workshop and replaced the cooling fans in my amplifier and got things ready for my first moon bounce test tomorrow with Lance in America. 


At twelve we all met up in red dwarf for a BBQ and a game of two up. The Barbie and two up went well and was a credit to Trent who organised every thing. After a few beers most people snuck off for a nanny nap. I spent the afternoon hanging out down the transmitter shack coming back up for dinner and some socialising up later on at Club Catabatic.

Having a game of two up on ANZAC day

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Wednesday 24th April 2013

Today I was determined to finish both the green and the blue hag's today and after breakfast I walked strait down to the Hag's parked down near the sea ice in minus twenty. I started up the green Hag to warm it up to drive it up to the green store and sat inside with the heater going in minus twenty. I thought I might as well warm up the blue Hag as I still had some work to do it and so I started it up then I went back to sit in the green Hag. After a couple of minutes I went back to hop inside the blue Hag and thought ah, that's funny I couldn’t see in through the windows as everyone of them was jet black, then I realised I didn’t open the exhaust hatch and the whole cabin had filled up with diesel exhaust fumes and eventually chocked the engine. I opened all four doors and let the thirty knot wind blow it all clear, but it did retain a bit of smell for a while. Oops J

I found and fixed the last remaining problem on the blue Hag. The radar was not working and I had thought this was from the extreme cold (-20c) but it turned out to be an RJ45 connector I had put on back the front using a dodgy diagram in the installation manual. I wonder how many other people have done the same thing?

I finally completed everything on the blue Hag. This vehicle has caused me so much grief and I have never experienced so many faults and problems like it before.

I repaired the wiring fault with the green Hag so the GPS and rate gyro compass were now working and then I tuned the HF antenna. I upgraded the MFD software, routes and way points and setup the display same as the other two Hags. Finally we have three fully serviceable Hag's.
The fleet of BV-206 Hagglunds at Mawson
Multi function display, GPS, rate gyro, digital broad band 4G radar, VHF marine radio, HF radio

Tuesday 23rd April 2013

There was a magnificent sun rise today which took my breath away and reminded me where I am as I walked to the office.


The blue Hag is still giving me grief. Now the radar won’t work and there is a problem with the HF antenna. I have been trying to complete this vehicle outside now as it is such a hassle reshuffling all the vehicles around to get it back inside the green store where the temperature is about plus one compared to minus twenty outside.
Extreme cold does weird things to materials. The copper electrical cables get stiff and brittle and can break easy, electrical tape does not stick any more, cable ties just break in your hands and are useless. Soaking them in water will help them work again. LCD screens will freeze and become useless and some electronics just refuse to work at all. Batteries will go flat really quickly and penis's just shrivel up while balls will drop off.

To get the Hag back into the green store first I have to isolate the vesta fire protection system, then open the huge door, then move the two utes outside and keep them running otherwise they will not start again, then move the Hag inside, then move the two utes back in and then close the huge door and then put the vesta fire protection system back on line.

Have you ever tried to solder in minus twenty?
You can’t, it doesn’t work.

So back into the green store it goes again. After replacing the connector twice as they are crap cheap quality and melt as you solder them, the problem turned out to be the antenna base as well. There are two types of bases and two types of antennas and one will only work with the other. It’s nice how all the previous techs and engineers have left detailed notes behind explaining all these things as I have never come across this in over thirty years, any way its fixed now and I just have to sort out the radar tomorrow.

I was so cold after work I went straight to the spa and I laid in thirty seven degrees water shivering with goose bumps for fifteen minutes before I started to warm up. I was so exhausted I went to bed at seven thirty and still woke up tired.

Monday 22nd April 2013

I got up at 2am this morning to work 160m into Europe. I picked up SM7BIC in Sweden but he faded before we could exchange details. I went back to bed about 4am and woke up very tired for work. For the first time in ages the wind had dropped so I went out to east arm and dug a ground radial from the 160m antenna out of the sea ice and straitened it out. The sea ice was so hard to dig with my ice axe I had to walk back to the transmitter building and get a small bar to help dig. It took me ages to dig the cable out and by the time I was finished my hands and arms were aching.

I found the fault with the blue Hag VHF antenna and fixed the problem. 75 ohm BNC pins had been put into the 50 ohm connectors…..doh !! I also fixed the faulty micro switch on the APANSA air filter door that has been giving trouble for a couple of weeks.

I finally sealed up all the gaps in 3 windows in the transmitter building that were letting in bliz and cold air. Every time I melted the ice away another blizzard would come. I tried about eight cartridges of silastic before I found one that wasn’t solid. I hope this makes a difference to the temperature in the building. I pumped about six cartridges of silastic into the frames so nothing should come through now.

I ran some new bliz lines down to the transmitter hut after the scary walk home last night, so I now have a rope 90% of the way. I might run another one near the operations building where there is nope rope.

I helped Chris with the gash run (Rubbish run) which was our Saturday duties that was not possible during the blizzard.

After work I tested my new 500 watt 6m amplifier I built to use for bouncing signals off the moon to communicate with people on the other side of the Earth. I managed to get all the software talking to the hardware as the whole system is fully automated and everything seems to be working well but the amplifier was getting unacceptably hot so I need to improve the cooling.

I put some calls out on 160m at sun set but got no answers.

The bliz gets into everything and it's so hard to keep it out

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Sunday 21st April 2013

At 2am I got up and went down the transmitter building to work 160m into Europe. I made a few new contacts but unfortunately conditions were rather poor so I called it quits. I went back to bed about 4am and got up at lunch time. Outside was a raging 70 knot blizzard. After doing all my chores I then spent most of the afternoon down at the transmitter building. I had a nice pile up on 40m but it was a hell of a walk back to the red shed in the dark with the strong wind and zero visibility. I would hate to get lost in a blizzard so I carry a radio every time I go out into a blizzard for this reason.

We have blizzard lines strung out every where so you can hold on or pull yourself along when visibility is almost zero. If you let go or there is no rope you have to use your memory to find your way around. Large deep snow drifts make moving around very difficult and strong gusts can easily blow you off the rope or off your feet for that matter. It's extremely difficult to breath and fine snow finds its way under your clothing and into all areas. I even had a glove blown off my hand. Often you have to stop and find some temporary shelter to regain your composure as the whole experience is extremely tiring and claustrophobic. Try doing it at night? You get the message !!
The old station

Saturday 20th April 2013

Today I woke up late and had a nice sleep in. After lunch as the wind had completely stopped blowing I went out to east arm and installed a ground connection between the earth mat to the cable tray on the 160m antenna. My hands got frost nipped in no time in the minus twenty and it hurt like hell. The afternoon was spent in the transmitter hut as a raging 70 knot blizzard whipped up outside.

Chris cooked a nice roast for dinner and afterwards I stayed up late talking to the guy's and later watching Red Dwarf.

After the last blizzard I now have to dig out the ANARESAT building
The receivers hut is also starting to disappear.

Friday 19th April 2013

Today I was slushy. Afterwards I was so exhausted I went to bed very early.
Where the plateau meets the ocean. Now everything is white.

Thursday 18th April 2013

This morning we had a video link up with Kingston and all the other stations to listen to the director and a few others babble on having their 5 minutes of fame. It was sooo boring that most of us fell sleep. This buggered the whole morning.

In the afternoon I worked hard to finish the blue Hag and when I drove it outside to test the systems, the VHF antenna was faulty. I spent quite a bit of time working on it but in the end it was too cold and eventually I had to move it back into the green store where I left it in disgust. I organized with the help of a few others to move the three new printers into their new locations. The foreign movie tonight was quite good "The movie of the century" from the Netherlands: Turks fruit (Turkish delight) and the debrief session afterwards went on till the wee hours of the morning.
Deep snow (bliz trails) around the station after the last big blizzard


Wednesday 17th April 2013

While I was working on the blue Hag today Chris walks in and asks if these plugs and cables are mine?


I was sooooo pissed off yet at the same time sooooo happy. Someone had removed them from the Hag and thinking they were rubbish thrown them into a pile of rubbish to be burnt. Trent was cleaning up and recognised one of the plugs as one of the items I had been searching the whole station for. It cost me about two days work, but at least now I will get the equipment fully operational. I spent a very late night with Chris and Darron in club catabatic discussing worldly issues.
After the blizzard over the weekend there are now snow petrels everywhere. It suddenly struck me how alone we have been since the ocean froze over as all the penguins and seals have left us weeks ago. These little birds are SO fragile yet they seem to thrive down here, it just blows you away how they can do it? Most of them nest inland in the mountains and where they go during a two hundred kilometer per hour blizzard has got me buggered?

Tuesday 16th April 2013

In the morning I cleared up a heap of emails and did the APANSA filter change and then after smoko Luc and I had to sort out all the potatoes removing all the rotten ones and covering all the good ones with old doonas to keep the light off them. Boy was this great fun. It took us about three hours and then after this I had to do a gash run in the blue Hag to get rid of all the empty boxes. I went for a walk in the afternoon and I found three 303 bullet casings. I wonder who was taking pot shots or if they were shooting seals for dog meat? I put them into a glass of vinegar to shine them up and then I will put them in the display cabinet in the dog room along with all the other artifacts.
Luc and I sorting out the rotten potatoes
Artifacts on display in the dog room
Sea spiders from Horseshoe harbour

Monday, 15 April 2013

Monday 15th April 2013

The wind has dropped a lot today but the blizzard conditions have left deep bliz trails all over the place making it very difficult to move around. The snow is very compacted and trying to climb up or down the bliz trails is impossible without micro spike and it’s so easy to come a cropper. Half of the bliz lines are buried and to my horror I discovered my 6m antenna was buried under one and a half meters of snow which took me an hour and a half to dig out.

I was hoping to finish the blue Hag today but I have discovered there are two plugs and a cable missing as well as no mounting hardware for the HF radio. I can only install what I have so the rest will have to wait till next year. I have scrounged around and got the two plugs working, but without the cable I am hoping this will only effect the operation of the radar and the GPS & MFD will still work OK for navigation. After digging out my antenna I was exhausted and went to bed shortly after dinner and had a magnificent sleep.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Sunday 14th April 2013

 I slept in and when I woke up the Internet wasn’t working so I spent an hour and a half working on getting it back up again. After lunch I wandered down to the transmitter hut in the afternoon and the blizzard was still raging at about sixty knots.

Conditions on 10m were very good and I had a very enjoyable after noon and didn’t call it quits till about nine o’clock. It was a difficult walk back to the red shed in seventy knots in the dark but I’m getting pretty used to it now. I had one long neck and then called it quits for the night.

Saturday 13th April 2013

 I slept in only getting up to do the APANSA filter change and was annoyed to find Chris had just done it, so I made some lunch and wandered over to the green shed to have a spa and to read my book for an hour and a half. It was just what I needed and I felt rejuvenated afterwards.

I spent a couple of hours in the transmitter hut in the afternoon and got cleaned up for Saturdays dinner which is always our fancy night of the week. We had twenty four hour stake (stake cooked for twenty four hours at fifty degrees) and deep fried prawns on secures.  It was nice but I don’t eat much red meat these days and I struggled to eat half of it. Latter I chatted with a few of the guys for a couple of hours and after a bottle of wine I went to bed early.

I woke at about one o’clock and went down to the transmitter hut to try and work into Europe again and Rod in New Zea land on 160m but conditions were not very favourable so after a while I called it quits and went back to bed again.

Friday 12th April 2013

 Well last night’s movie was quite a hit with an interesting twist at the end. The debrief afterwards was quite extensive and has left me with a bit of a head ache today. The day was fairly uneventful and I spent most of the day either working on the blue Hag or looking for parts to install on the blue Hag.

Once again it is blowing about forty knots but in the late afternoon suddenly the wind unexpectedly dropped to zero so I raced out to East arm and installed another seven ground radials under the thirty four meter vertical antenna to try and improve its performance. This was very hard work and by dinner time I was exhausted.

After dinner the long awaited quiz night was scheduled for eight o’clock leaving little time to find a costume to wear. Instructions were to wear some thing flamboyant, have clean feet and to bring your ski goggles and balaclava??? There were some great outfits worn and the night was good fun with many laughs. Some of the questions and songs were very difficult but the high tech electronic quiz machine that the host Luc built worked well.

After the quiz we played a few games such as bursting balloons attached to our feet, gherkin on a string eating contest, getting marbles out of a tub of jelly with your toes and getting a piece of chocolate out of a bowl of flower and eating it without using your hands. My team won overall and we received a gold medal and a bottle of Han wood port. It was a good night and a fun social get together and most of all, a chance for the closet trannies to frock up.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Thursday 11th April 2013

 Today is still blowing hard, but not as hard as the past few days. After doing the APANSA filter change (No exploding bombs in North Korea detected yet) I had to do my twelve day check on our hydroponics garden. I love going in there as the smell of the tomatoes is intense and it’s nice and warm and humid.  It’s a really good place to go and read your book with your shirt off for an hour or two. Pretty much all our fresh food finished weeks ago. Some, including the tomatoes and oranges were spoilt before they even got here. We are growing all sorts of things such as lettuce, peas’, tomatoes, spring onions, herbs, cucumbers, silver beet and many others. The building used to be the old Aurora lab joined to some other unidentified building both dating back to the 1960’s At least your old lab is being put to good use George !!

The hydroponics hut (Ex Aurora lab circa 1960's)

After lunch the wind dropped off and it turned out to be quite a good day. I got quite a bit done on the Hag today. It seems like everybody is talking about this week’s foreign movie on tonight. (They are always enjoyed by all, thank you Luc)
It’s called 101 Reykjavik and the plot is as follows;
Thirty-year-old Hlynur still lives with his mother and spends his days drinking, watching porn and surfing the net while living off unemployment checks. A girl is interested in him, but he stands back from commitment. His mother's Spanish flamenco teacher, Lola, moves in with them for Christmas. On New Year's Eve, while his mother is away, Hlynur finds out Lola is a lesbian, but also ends up having sex with her. He soon finds out he and his mother are sharing more than a house. Eventually he must find out where he fits into the puzzle, and how to live life less selfishly

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Wednesday 10th April 2013

Terrible weather today, almost blizzard conditions and forty knots all day. After doing APANSA I spent quite a bit of time working on the blue Hag and having to walk back and forwards between the green store and the ops building. I got a HF antenna sorted for the orange Hag and the blue one. At one point I needed a soldering iron so I trudged back to the ops building and found a Weller in the draw and then trudged back over to the green store, turned it on and hey guess what; doesn’t work, (Someone had broken a pin off in the connector) so I trudged back over to the ops building, pulled it apart, found a similar connector and repaired it. Keldyn comes in for a chat and I put my feet up on some boxes left on the floor from resupply and for some reason I decided to open one and surprise surprise inside is a brand new soldering station. Hmmm, this place.

The best thing to happen was I found my blue polar fleece. After work I went down to the transmitter building as I had a 160m sched with Paul in Queensland and Rod in New Zealand. They could hear me quite well but I only got them a few times but too weak to decode their signals. We will try again early Sunday morning. I was late back for dinner (I hate having early dinner at 6pm) and worked late again on my Blog.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Saturday 6th to Tuesday 9th April 2013

Tuesday 9th April 2013
Today, I cleared all my usual bullshit emails and there was one from Tom saying some of the information I gave him was wrong and he logged on and confirmed this. Doesn't that make you feel good after you have been trudging around in deep snow and high winds in minus twenty four. I don't think I will bother replying to that one.

Later I started work on the blue Hag with Chris giving me a hand and after lunch I had SAR training all afternoon outside in minus twenty. I had to jump start the mechies ute today as moving it out of the green shed yesterday for forty minutes while I swapped the Hag’s around was enough to kill the battery. After SAR training I completed some work on the cinema I started ages ago and then after five o'clock I spent a few hours down the transmitter shack. I missed dinner and spent the rest of the night trying to catch up on my Blog.

Monday 8th April 2013
I got really motivated and finished the orange Hag. I fixed the wiring fault and worked out how to program the GPS. We also had the usual boring Monday meeting. By lunch time a blizzard had developed and it was bitterly cold. I took both utes out of the green store so I could get the orange Hag out and take it back down to the deisos and then drove the blue Hag back up to the green store. I moved the cooks ute back in but in forty minuted the deisos ute had frozen and wasn't going any where so I had to leave it out in the blizzard. After dinner I spent the rest of the night writing up my Blog.

Sunday 7th April 2013
If it was hard getting out of bed yesterday, this morning really sucked. I listened to the alarm for about an hour and then laid there for another half hour with the lights on till I finally woke up enough to drag myself out of bed. I spent the morning working on Tom's drawings walking for an hour through forty knot winds and driving snow. At least it woke me up and made me feel alive. After smoko I cleaned, mopped and wiped the cold store as it was mine and Chris's Saturdays duties. I spent the afternoon repairing and finishing my 6m 400 watt amplifier which I hastily built in Perth before leaving. After work, I moved our drum kit from the library down to the Biscoe hut as I have had a few complaints from other expeditioners when I had the urge to play at 2am. They did say I sounded great, but it was just the wrong time of night. I figured they weren't going to get used sitting at that location so now the Biscoe hut is the music room and I will setup an amplifier as well and really get the place cranking. Funny, this room used to be where my step father Bill used to have meals and recreation and I bet I am the first to play a drum kit in there. At eight that night we watched "The thing", a legendary film about aliens crashing into Antarctica. "The thing 2 will be showing next week. Actually it was piss weak and they went around with flares, flame throwers, pistols and rifles and I spent the next few days hassling Cookie about where are all our flares, flame throwers, pistols and rifles kept and he wouldn't tell me. I'm sure he's holding back on me. 

Saturday 6th April 2013

It was a real struggle to get out of bed to go to work when I was so tired and most people were sleeping in on their day off, but I have to work the weekend paying back the two days I just had off. I cleared all my emails and all the small bullshit jobs that go along with all the emails. This usually involves walking in deep snow from one end of the station to the other in minus twenty and howling catabatic wind just to get a few readings or to trace some cables so some drawings can be marked up in Kingston while they in Kingston sip their boutique coffee and read the news paper in air conditioned comfort. I hope they appreciate the trouble I go to for them while my nose and ears are burning with cold.
I seemed to be out of sync with the whole station today and missed smoko and had a late lunch and didn't see any one till dinner time. We had a really nice dinner and after I talked to the doc and Chris till late and then latter we moved up to the bar.
At 2am I had an arranged sched with Paul from Queensland who was very keen for a contact on 160m which is the most difficult HF band. 160m is basically the AM broadcast band and is pretty close to what Mawson was using back in 1913 to make the first radio contact from Antarctica to Australia. Actually they had a relay station on Macquarie Island half way between Australia and Antarctica. 

Walter Henry Hannam (1885–1965), wireless operator for Mawson expedition 1913

Our timing was wrong and I didn't manage to make contact with Paul, but I did make contact with four other stations in Africa, Bosnia and a couple of other places in Europe, so my 34m vertical that I ran out four ground radials is working very well. Apparently there were hundreds of other stations I couldn't hear calling me which sent the radio world into a frenzy and now they are all wanting to make contact. When I get some fine weather and some spare time I will run out a further four radials and improve the antennas performance. I pretty much fell asleep at the microphone and stumbled back to bed around 4 am.

Friday 5th April 2013

We got up around eight and the temperature was minus twenty four. After breakfast we headed off to the nearby wind scour which was very impressive after a long hard walk down a steep ice slope. From here we travelled in a clockwise direction around the David range hoping to check out some more wind scours as we went. This turned out to be impossible as they were so deep and steep it could only be achieved using ropes and they were just too dangerous.

Wind scour near Fang hut
Trent in the wind scour near Fang hut

We continued on and rounded Mt Coates to traverse the western side of the range. We drove through some nasty crevasses and then pulled up at a nearby wind scour for a look. We could only walk in a short distance when it stopped at a cliff. Darron and I climbed down while Trent stayed back near the Hag. The scour was very impressive and went a long way and Darron suggested we keep walking and hopefully we will get back to where we started. (Bad move) We walked a long way and Darron decided to walk high up on a ridge to see where we were. He made hand signals for me to keep going and off I went down this long ice slope. I crossed a large ice ridge and on the way down my micro spikes let go and off I went sliding down the ice slope. I figured it was easier and quicker than walking so I curled up in a ball and went as far as I could. Still being directed by Darron high up on the ridge I walked through deep snow and rounded the hill on the plateau side hoping to see the Hag. Not so, this led me into another very impressive wind scour. I started to walk in and immediately one leg fell deep into a crevasse. Oh shit, no problem, I tippy toed around some crevasses and continued to walk up the wind scour till it ended in an ice cliff. (Bummer) I had three choices, go all the way back, climb up the steep rock cliff or scale the ice cliff.
Wind scour at Mt coates
Darron giving directions from high up

Nice ice scour near Mt Coates
Nice ice scour near Mt Coates
I finally made it back to the Hag
I first had a go at the ice cliff, but without ice axes it was impossible, so then I attempted to climb the rock cliff. I got three quarters of the way up and decided to abandon my attempt as the rock was too loose and dangerous, so I turned my attention back to the ice cliff once again. I hacked steps in the snow on an angle all the way to the top but the ice was so slippery it was almost impossible to get any hand holds to pull myself up and over the edge. Using my micro spikes, I pushed my way closer to the edge and using all my effort and to Darron’s amazement; I managed to get my fat arse up and over the edge to the slippery surface above where I collapsed in a heap to recover. No sweat, now just a short stroll back to the Hag while Darron has to walk all the way back across the upper ridge and down the rocky slope.
The crevasse Darron fell into
When Darron got back to the Hag we were talking about the dramas of the past hour when he stepped and his leg fell deep into a crevasse exposing a bottomless view right next to my door of the Hag. How the hell did I get out and not fall into this crevasse? Anyway, I just seem to be lucky. We got the hell out of this mine field and headed down the western moraine line. Ice acts just like water in slow motion and all the fallen rocks get carried down moraine lines and eventually they sink into the ice due to heating from photons from the sun. These rocks can travel thousands of miles and eventually drop out in glaciers or into the sea from ice bergs. Some of the large rocks are amazing how they melt the ice and snow around them and everywhere in the ice are circles where huge rocks or tiny pebbles have sunk down.
Me and a huge rock slowly sinking into the ice

Travelling down the moraine line
My favourite rock
A nice ice formation
There is always time for one last climb before heading off. Darron & Trent enjoying the view
The view back to the coast. Can you see my rock?

We stopped at several places along the moraine line to take photos of rocks and interesting formations in the ice before heading off back to Mawson. I was so tired I fell asleep in the Hag on the way back even with all the near death experiences smashing through the sastrugi. We got back to Mawson about six o’clock and all very tired. We missed dinner with the others, but I managed to have a few social drinks with the guys before crashing out.
Time to head for home
The sun was just setting as we rolled into Mawson