Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Monday 21st October 2013

Today I was determined to get rid of those hazardous transformers containing PCB’s sitting in a dangerous state only meters from where I sit using my radio. I searched the green store and found the perfect hazardous goods containment tub. I kitted up with the appropriate PPE and sealed the open holes with good old gaffa tape then lifted them both into the tub. I filled the tub with vermiculite absorbent material covering the transformers and then sealed the lid on with more Gaffa tape and placed a large red danger label on the lid. Finally I called Chris to give me a hand to load the tub into the ute and I took them down to the chemical store for safe keeping before transport back to Australia can be arranged.

 I feel so much better with them out of my sight now and safely stored. Kingston are now working on their removal as well as replacing the other three transformers still in use. Finally I am getting changes made down here. Over summer I hope to get east arm cleaned up and all the asbestos and rubbish bagged up and returned to Australia. When it warms up in summer I am thinking of organising a “Clean up Antarctica” day and get all on station involved for the day. If it gets approved I might ask Kingston if we can make this day for all stations once a year like they do in Australia for clean up Australia day. Just picking up nails down here you could fill a forty four gallon drum in a day. 

Back in the workshop I filled up two big boxes with equipment manuals for gear that hasn't been down here for years and took them over to the green store for RTA. John had asked me on Friday before he left for Colbeck if I could take the cane pole trailer up to F14 for him before it gets too difficult to get the trailer up the steep plateau. As the weather was great this afternoon with sunshine, blue sky and no wind I thought it would be perfect time to do it. 

Around three o’clock I hooked up the trailer and grabbed Luc and we both headed off up the plateau in perfect conditions. It was a nice run up to F14 in the fresh powdered snow and we disconnected the trailer and parked it up against the fuel trailer we left there on Friday. We enjoyed a sunny drive back to the coast were we stopped on a high point on the plateau just before the steep descent down to the station. I had brought a couple of chairs, an improvised table and some cheese and crackers and refreshments. We both spent a memorable hour and a half chatting and admiring the magnificent view which neither of us will ever forget. Eventually we had to drag our selves back to the station for a late dinner and it was a great afternoon.

Sunday 20th October 2013

This morning I was woken from deep sleep by a fire alarm in the smokers hut. I wasn't amused and I staggered out looking like a greasy cave man to see what was going on. Peter C and I went out to investigate and when we opened the door we both nearly threw up with the filthy stench. There was no fire unfortunately, Keldyn had turned the heaters on to melt all the snow and an over temperature detector had gone off when it reached about thirty degrees. Thanks Keldyn you mongrel. We reset the detector and stood everyone down. I think I went back to bed for a few more hours after that. Again it was another beautiful day and I really felt guilty spending time indoors down the transmitter building. I had wanted to go tobogganing over west arm (even though it’s against the rules, yes true) but no one was interested. Next time I will go on my own. Anyway propagation was superb once again and I spent a few hours clocking up a couple of hundred more contacts. Later, after chomping on some scraps I managed to slap together we watched the worst movie ever. I can’t even tell you what it was as I’m still trying to erase it from my memory for ever. Thanks Lloyd.

Smokers hut

Saturday 19th October 2013

Today Keldyn, Justin, Peter C and John left for Colbeck on quads and I don’t like their chances of getting to Colbeck after what I told them it was like down there. I told everyone I would only consider a Hag for the trip and quads are too dangerous and not fit to travel in the conditions down there. Of course they didn't listen to me or take my advice from my recent experience down there so good luck to them.

This morning I had a nice sleep in after the exhausting day up on the plateau yesterday. After some brunch and Saturday duties I wandered out to see what was going on. It was a perfect day with blue sky and no wind and was so nice to go for a long walk and feel the sun on my face. Eventually I wound up down at the transmitter hut and the radio propagation was smoking.

It was the JOTA (Jamboree of the air) weekend where thousands of scouts and adventurers get on the air through clubs and talk to each other. I was contacted by several clubs to come on air and talk to the kids and answer questions about Antarctica. Propagation was excellent and I talked to kids in both Perth and Melbourne as clear as a telephone and I think I got as much entertainment as they did. 

Later I made several hundred contacts throughout Asia, Australia and Europe mostly on 10m but also on several other bands and it was probably the best day on air since arriving at Mawson. After dinner we watched several episodes of Trailer Park Boys as we are trying to get through every episode before Chris and Jeremy leave us. Later in Club Catabatic we watched music videos till late.

Navigation in Antarctica

In the days before GPS was invented, land navigation in Antarctica was a real challenge. Magnetic compasses, sun compasses, sextants, and dead reckoning were all used by the Antarctic traveller, but each method had its own unique drawbacks. Even modern day GPS can have problems. Coverage at the higher latitudes is limited to certain, yet predictable, hours of the day. At times, accuracy is diminished by the low incident angles of the satellites to the horizon.

Magnetic compasses must be modified for use in high polar latitudes by reweighting the needle. As the compass gets closer to the South Pole, the south-seeking end of the needle is pulled downward toward the earth and will drag on its enclosure unless the proper nonmagnetic counterweight (copper wire) is added to the north-seeking end.

Field parties must be careful of localized magnetic variations. On Ross Island, for example, magnetic compasses are unusable because there is so much iron in the rock. Likewise, compasses are also affected by the metal in vehicles. Bearings must be taken well away from such disturbing influences. Navigation with a magnetic compass over long distances is difficult because the magnetic variation (the difference between magnetic and true north) is so high, and changes significantly over short distances. Field parties may elect to travel by using a Grid North system, versus a magnetic or true-north system. Using a compass is an accurate way to determine bearings. Using an astrocompass (in conjunction with an artificial horizon) is a good way to fix your position. This method requires an accurate chronometer and extensive knowledge on how to use navigational tables to get good results.

Polar exploration was one of the fields in which the astrocompass saw the most use, for the reasons described above. An astrocompass was the most reliable way to ascertain the direction of true north through the positions of various astronomical bodies.

Principle of use of an astrocompass

The Earth's axis of rotation remains, for all intents and purposes, stationary throughout the year. Thus, with knowledge of the current time and geographical position in the form of latitude and longitude, which are set on the instrument using dials, an astrocompass can be sighted on to any astronomical object with a known position to give an extremely accurate reading.

In its most basic form, the astrocompass consists of a base plate marked with the points of the compass, with a mechanism known as an equatorial drum mounted on it. On this drum is a set of adjustable sights and a scale of declination. More advanced versions may have built-in chronometers or default settings for bodies such as the Sun.

To use the compass, the base plate is first levelled with the horizon then pointed roughly to what the user believes to be north. The equatorial drum is then tilted in relation to this base according to the local latitude. The sights are then set using the local hour angle and the declination of whatever astronomical body is being used. Once all these settings have been made, the astrocompass is simply turned until the astronomical body is visible in the sights: it will then be precisely aligned to the points of the compass. Because of this procedure, an astrocompass requires its user to be in possession of a nautical almanac or similar astronomical tables, and a slide ruler, one of its chief disadvantages.

The bubble compass

A bubble compass was used on aircraft during the early pioneering days of flight in Antarctica to measure the altitude of a celestial body above a horizontal line of reference. (“Altitude” in this case is a special use of the word describing an angular measure, not a distance in feet above sea level.) Measurements were taken through a bubble window protruding into the slipstream from the top of the aircraft and this would enable the navigator to determine true north. When an airplane is above the clouds or flying at night, its navigator can’t see the horizon. The bubble sextant solves this problem by providing an artificial horizon using a bubble, but acceleration of the aircraft and turbulence frequently deflect the true vertical; therefore, a single reading may not be accurate so multiple readings are necessary for accuracy.

Both the astrocompass and the bubble compass have seen many years of reliable service here at Mawson guiding our field parties and aircraft to their destinations and safely home again.

Bubble sextant Mk IX – Henry Hughes & Son LTD (Left) 

Garmin eTrex10 – Current AAD field issue GPS (Middle) 

A.M. Astrocompass Mk II - Sperti Inc (Right) 

Slide ruler – Used to calculate complex calculations (Bottom)

"Sperti Inc." Was a company that made products for the US Air force and Navy. One of the products made was the Astrocompass which went into service in 1942. The name plate containing information on what the item was, Its parts and serial number and AM indicating the instrument was made for the "Air Ministry" was stamped onto the chassis of the instrument and highlighted as white lettering.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Friday 18th October 2013

Today was an absolute perfect day, with no wind. John asked me to go up on the plateau with him to replace canes, but first we had to deliver a trailer load of aircraft fuel to the Rumdoodle blue ice runway. Geoff and Jeremy where towing another load of fuel to the same location and we left in a convoy. We reached F14 at the Rumdoodle blue ice runway and dropped off our fuel and the trailer Geoff and Jeremy towed up and secured it with an ice anchor. Geoff and Jeremy headed back to the station while John and I headed back slowly replacing all the canes every 700 meters.

It was hard work but quite pleasurable and satisfying. We cut off and removed all the broken, damaged or moved poles. The ice sheet travels about 20 meters a year up there so many of the canes have to be moved each year. We also retrieved three old drums that pose a hazard in white out conditions. These drums were used to mark the routes before GPS and most of them have moved way off the routes and are completely frozen in and most are impossible to remove now. 

At about F11 we came across some old crossed canes only about 50 meters from the route which indicates danger. We walked over to investigate and found a bottomless 1.5 meter wide crevasse. I would hate to drive or fall through that sucker. The job of replacing canes is quite simple, first we cut off the old cane pole or stub and then drill a new hole. The new cane is placed about a meter down into the hole and then water is poured in to freeze it in. We did this for about 16 kilometers all the way back to the station arriving just in time for dinner which was Indian and very nice.

Thursday 17th October 2013

Today I was slushy again. Outside was a raging 60 knot blizzard and I had to go and get a Hag and go to the green store to bring a huge load of food back to the red shed. Very bad planning if you ask me considering how good the weather was yesterday. During my rest break I raised an incident report to get two open and exposed transformers in the transmitter hut containing PCB oil removed and sent back to Australia. This very dangerous material should not be on the continent and needs to be carefully disposed of. Hopefully they will travel back on the same ship as I will in February if the paperwork gets completed in time.

Wednesday 16th October 2013

The trip I organised today to climb Rumdoodle with John and Peter C was cancelled due to the overcast sky, but within a couple of hours the sky cleared into a fantastic day, -2c, blue sky and no wind which really sucked. I spent all morning moving about 50 battery’s and another printer over to the green store to be RTA’ed.

After lunch I went up one of the wind turbines with Trent and Jeremy to have a look. It was terrific to have a good look inside and to take some photos out of the hatch on the roof. We were actually sitting inside the nose cone while replacing grease canisters, a scary thought when you look up from the ground. Climbing up was the worst bit. It was quick and easy for the first two thirds but then I got tired and the last third was a struggle. Climbing back down was a lot easier. It very cramped inside, cold and they move around a lot in high winds.

The long climb up

The view from above

The long climb back down

Late in the afternoon I took a run out to Bechervaise Island to complete the battery replacement and to repair the open circuit fault with the solar panels on the radio link. I was hard work carrying 100Ah battery’s back and forth across the Island as well as the generator. By the time I got back to station I was knackered again.

At peoples night Justin put on some photos and talked about his time working as a concert caterer and all the bands and artists he worked alongside and traveled with.

Tuesday 15th October 2013

Today was also pretty good weather so after doing ARPANSA I spent most of the day working on RTA. I moved two huge TV’s back into the green store for storage, then I packed up all RTA material into boxes and carried them over to the green store including three printers and a large UPS. It was hard work and all items had to be itemised and entered into the computer. 

I still have four very large printers and three very heavy UPS to move into the green store to be packed and readied for RTA. These can wait for wooded crates to be made and a fine day and many hands to help move them. At least apart from the four printers, all this crap is now out of my areas and all our building are now clean and tidy. The transmitter building looks fantastic and is probably the cleanest it’s been in over forty years.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Monday 14th October 2013

Today was a beautiful windless day with the sun shining and blue sky. I decided to collect all the old redundant material from down in the transmitter building and bring it all back to the green store to pack into a cadge pallet to send it back to Kingston. I drove the ute down there and it took me about ten trips to get everything loaded. Half of the material was Andrew 10kW copper hardline that was installed back in the 1960’s when all messages sent and received was by 10kW HF telex.

This all had to be stripped of all contaminants, cut to length and sorted into different metals such ad copper and brass. This took me pretty much all morning and after I had all the paper work done I was pretty knackered. There was about 300kg of copper all up. After lunch while I was still in the mode I got stuck into the Telecoms workshop and threw out a heap more stuff, crap that hasn't been used in years like floppy disks and spare parts for equipment that was removed a decade ago. 

After work I went down to the lovely clean transmitter building to see what the bands were like. There was pretty much a radio blackout due to the current solar storm but I still managed to work a few Japanese stations via JT63HF. Trent cooked schnitzels for dinner and they were great. Latter I spent the rest of the night getting my blog up to date.

Sunday 13th October 2013

I woke up early this morning as the sun was shining through my curtains. These days the sun is coming up at 5am and setting at 8pm and my body clock is now back to normal. I could never work night shift as my body needs the sun shine. After messing around on the computer and doing a bit of a clean up, I went and had an early lunch and headed off down to the radio shack. 

20, 17 and 12 meter bands were on fire so I got on air and caused huge pile ups with mostly Japanese stations, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Russian and Europeans. I filled the log with hundreds of calls and by 7pm I was totally fried so I went and had a spa to relax with a few beers. Back at the red shed there was nothing in the fridge to eat so I woofed down a can of asparagus and some tinned sardines – what a combination.

Lunch, same thing every day

Saturday 12th October 2013

Today when I woke up the sun was shining and the blizzard was finally over after eight days blowing over 50 knots !! After a coffee and breakfast I went for a long walk taking some photos around the station. It was so nice to feel the warm sun on your face once again and it was such a pleasure to walk around without and wind. These days at -12c I just wear a T-shirt under my half open jacket as I get too hot otherwise. When I get home in March it will probably still be 40c and I might have lay down in the chest freezer to stay cool.

The Blizzard made some huge bliz trails which Jeremy spent all day clearing with the loader, but it also blew so much snow away with its sand blasting effect, so now there are huge areas of bare rock exposed. The blizzard also blew down one of the wooded support poles for the IPS receive antenna array.
Eventually I ended up in the radio shack and spent a couple of hours on air before going back to the red shed for lunch. Late in the afternoon I went back to the shack for a couple more hours as conditions were so good before retiring back to the red shed for the fancy Saturday dinner. The menu was haggis for on tray and wallaby & baby chicken for the main course. After dinner in the cinema I watched an IMAX documentary on the Hubble space telescope and then I found this very old 1969 Leyland brother’s movie where they drove a 6m diesel powered open boat from Darwin to Sydney. It was a typical amateur Leyland brother’s film, but an extraordinary effort that would still be considered extraordinary even today.
They were so inexperienced and ill-equipped and it’s amazing none of them was taken by a crock, but what an adventure. After five months in a small boat getting sun burnt, bashed about, soaking wet and freezing cold I can understand why they sold the boat and bought four wheel drives. After this I was joined by Darron and Pete C to watch a movie called Bitch Slap.

The red shed, built 1984

Friday 11th October 2013

The blizzard was still raging this morning and I had to cancel the EME sked I had planned for 3pm. After doing the ARPANSA filter change I decided to fix my 40vdc 25 Amp power supply. I changed a resistor and a pot that were out of tolerance and managed to get it working under a light load of 1.5 Amps, but when I increased the load the regulator would shut down. It appeared to be suffering from parasitic oscillations but why only now had me buggered.

The four transistors all measured good and I couldn't find any other faulty component. We don’t have any spare transistors of this type down here so there is not a lot I can do. Chris had a look and it had him buggered also. Eventually I ran out of time and had to put it aside for another day. I might try probing around and trying to find out where the oscillations are being generated from and try hanging a few decoupling capacitors around to see if I can improve or fix it. Tonight we had Mexican for dinner and latter on eight of us played this murder mystery game and I was the only one not to dress up as I was really tired and not really up for it but it turned out to be a fun night.

Chris & Luc

Does this look normal to you?

Thursday 10th October 2013

The blizzard was still raging this morning and everybody was dragging their feet at breakfast as no one wanted to go outside and battle the elements again. Most people either try to find a job in the red shed to do or make their way to their office and stay there all day. The operation’s building has a kitchen and bunks in case it gets too bad to leave the building. I spent a couple of hours in the hydroponics hut this morning as for some reason three of the tanks were empty and there was lots of water all over the floor. It is so over grown it’s hard to move around in half the building. I did the ARPANSA filter change and then worked from my room for the rest of the day. Tonight’s foreign movie was called Englar alheimsins (Angels of the universe - Icelandic) (2000) and it was about mental illness which I found a bit confronting and depressing and not what I want to see in a movie. Later, Tailor park boys lifted the sombre mood.

Wednesday 9th October 2013

With the blizzard still raging I went down to the transmitter building and reassembled the 1kW linear amplifier. My new 2.5kW GU-84B tetrode will be here in two weeks time so there is no point wasting any more time on the Barrett amplifier. These hardy valves were manufactured by the Russians during the cold war to survive nuclear explosion EMP's and were used in their submarine transmitters. After I had finished with the Barrett amplifier I disassembled my Emtron DX-2sp amplifier and removed the crook valve in readiness for new valve. After lunch I spent the rest of the afternoon working from my room. After dinner Cookie put on a movie called “Left for dead on Mt Everest” which I had seen before.

Tuesday 8th October 2013

Today the blizzard has intensified and it’s now blowing sixty knots. I decided today I would reassemble the 1kW amplifier and put it back into service. I ended up having to assemble all the equipment required for the upcoming Tregoning summer project. This is a field trip six hundred kilometres out to place GPS units on nunataks to measure if the ground is rising, falling or stable. If global warming is reducing the ice sheet then the ground will be rising. It got too late to go down to the transmitter building, so I did some work cleaning up the workshop. I repaired a GPS and boxed up all the redundant equipment to be RTAed and also ran some checks on the radio console system.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Monday 7th October 2013

Today the blizzard has increased to 50 knots and its very cold and depressing outside. After doing the ARPANSA filter change I decided to work from my room today as I just didn't feel like spending any more time out in those conditions if I don’t have to. 

Later on I installed a satellite tracking program and ran some plots on the International space station. During the final hectic rush to get all my gear down here I threw in some satellite gear in the hope I may be able to work some of the LEO satellites and the ISS. Before leaving home I ran some rushed plots on the ISS and proved there would be a short window into Mawson giving seven minutes at only five degrees, but what I didn't look at was who else would be in the footprint? 

Well now I know; no one! I was hoping I could work into South Africa but it’s just out of the foot print. I could possibly work Davis for a very short time if someone there was active and I was hoping to work the astronauts during the mid winter celebrations, but at those brief opportunities its just not worth the effort, so I will pack away that gear and give it a miss. 

We have now started working on a year book so I spent a while looking for photos to contribute which if a bit task as last time I checked I have taken 15,425 photos !!

This is our brewery logo

A nunatak (from Inuit nunataq) is an exposed, often rocky element of a ridge, mountain, or peak not covered with ice or snow within (or at the edge of) an ice field or glacier. The term is typically used in areas where a permanent ice sheet is present. Nunataks present readily identifiable landmark reference points in glaciers or ice caps and are often named. Mawson and the far surrounding region has numerous nunataks.

Sunday 6th October 2013

Today the blizzard has reduced to about 30 knots which is great as I have a moon bounce sked today. I had a couple yesterday but I had to cancel those ones due to the high winds . I went down to the shack early and conditions were awesome and twelve meters was on fire. I put a few calls out and in no time I had a huge pile up going and made hundreds of contacts with mostly EU and JA stations. After a couple of hours I had to give it away as my mouth was so dry and I needed something to eat.

Later I came back and worked many contacts also on twelve meters using the JT65HF mode. My EME sked was at 17:40 and I successfully worked IW5DHN in Italy and also ON4GG from Belgium. I also tried to work another station in the States who I managed to get five good decodes before the moon sank too low in the sky to continue. I was thrilled with this achievement and by the time I packed up it was dark and cold outside. This weeks effort has brought my EME tally up six stations now.  

View looking west of the station

Saturday 5th October 2013

This morning when I woke up there was a 70 knot blizzard howling outside, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. After breakfast I cleaned my bathroom, did all my washing and changed sheets. It was a pretty quiet day messing around on the computer and reading the news or chatting to people. 

Later on I went down to the transmitter building to see what was going on. The bands were pretty busy with the Oceania contest going on so I put a few call’s out using Olivia and ended up having a long chat with a guy I know in Taiwan and then later a guy in Busan Korea who I have spoken to before many times. It’s always nice to catch up with the regulars. 

Around five o’clock I went and had a spa which did wonders for my sore neck and back. After dinner we watched “The boy in striped pajamas” which was quite a moving movie about the holocaust.


Friday, 4 October 2013

Friday 4th October 2013

Today turned out to be a very unproductive day. As Chris was away I had to do the news papers and after this I did ARPANSA. I have been suffering from bad back, neck and chest pain for some weeks now and yesterday I had a bad fall so I hooked myself up to my tens machine to give my shoulder and muscles a good shake for an hour or so. It was very painful but I felt so much better afterwards.

After smoko there was supposed to be a SAR exercise but Justin called in and said it was too cold and windy and so the exercise was called off. That only left a couple of hours till lunch time and then the fire training. Just after lunch there was a real fire alarm in the main power house due to a circuit breaker burning out. This then delayed the fire training. An hour later there was another fire alarm, this time in the red shed. It was a false alarm caused by Trent filling the cinema with theatrical smoke to be used for the fire training, so fire training was delayed again. Finally we had fire training and by then, afterwards it was a bit late in the day to do anything else.

Mawson monthly weather report

During September we recorded the highest wind run (2947 km) and wind speed (194 kph) for the year so far. The month started off with some very cold days but it then became much milder at the start of the second week. We also had the equinox happening on 23 September at 01:44 AM LT. 

Temperatures - at Mawson during September we expect:
  • A maximum mean temperature of -14.3°C. The average maximum for the month was -09.3°C. The lowest maximum was –21.3°C and the highest -04.3°C
  • A minimum mean temperature of -20.7°C. The average minimum for the month was -16.0°C. The lowest minimum was -29.3°C and the highest -08.9°C.
The coldest temperature for any September day on record at Mawson was -35.8°C on 04/09/1982.

  • The average daily wind run (the measure of how many kilometres of wind pass the station in 24 hours) was 1188 km per day for the month. This is well above the long term average of 959 km per day.
  • The maximum wind gust for September was 194 km/h from the SE recorded on the 8th. The record gust for September is 222 km/h recorded on 17/09/1975.
  • Blizzard conditions were recorded on 2 days for the month, with 5.1 expected. A total of 32 blizzards for 2013 so far.
  • There were 29 gales compared to 15.7 expected for the month, 30 days of strong wind, with 27.2 the average. 7 days of snowfall were observed, well above the expected average of 4.7 days.
  • A Strong Wind day has wind in excess of 41 km/h and a Gale is wind in excess of 63 km/h.
  • We recorded a total of 94.7 hours of sunshine for the month.
  • The long term average is 153.0 hours.

September was much warmer and windier and less sunny than the long term means. Every day of the month we had strong winds and only one day of the month that we didn't experience gale force winds!

We had a total wind run of 35,654.2 km for the month. Total wind run for the year so far is 290,384 km. We only had two blizzards for the month but 7 days of snowfall.

Framnes Mountains

Mt Henderson
David Range

Thursday 3rd October 2013

Today I wanted to investigate a fault with the radio console system and hopefully repair it. It appeared to be a software issue and I need to locate a manual to continue any further. I finish off the tide gauge manual and in the afternoon I had a moon bounce sked with Tim N3XX in the US. It was looking impossible for a while and then suddenly I got three returns from him and things were looking up. 

Then it went quiet for another twenty two minutes and I thought it was all over and then he came back again. The moon was only five degrees above my horizon at this stage and I couldn't even see it due to the thick cloud. That’s a round trip of 774,879 kilometres and my best effort yet and I was very happy with the results.

Tonight’s foreign movie was a Norwegian horror movie and wasn't too bad. Justin and Chris rode up to Mt Henderson hut tonight to be part of the SAR excise tomorrow.

My antenna

Tim's antenna

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Crossing the 60th parallel and paying homage to King Neptune

Somehow this VERY important rite of passage never got published. It could have been due to duty of care and a total media blackout at the time, but I think the real reason was that I didn’t get the photos in time, and there were lots of other thing happening at the time which quickly took over the event. Now I’m a crusty old salt, a sailor and a mariner and King Neptune and I go back a long way. We first met in 1992 when I first crossed the equator and at that time he took all my hair and also later in 1994. In 2005 I crossed the 60th parallel in Sweden but on the 20th of January during the sail down to Antarctica, I crossed the 60th parallel again but this time on the ocean and it was here we met again. To cross the equator you need the Kings permission, but to venture below the 60th parallel you not only need the Kings permission, you NEED the Kings protection as its hell on Earth down there and if you don’t want to end up in Davey Jones’ locker you had better do what the King says !!

Each virgin pilgrim was called before his majesty and a rotten fish was rubbed all over your face and then placed on your head while you state your intentions to the King, and if his majesty agreed to grant your request for safe passage then you would be baptised in the tradition of the scaley brine. The rotten fish would be removed from your head and two of the Kings scaley helpers would cover you in the most vial repulsive substance known to man and fish. This vial repulsive substance must be rubbed into ever orifice, face and hair to have maximum effect before the now fully initiated pilgrim would be allowed to continue their journey no safe in the hands of the good King Neptune. I felt the force was with me now, but it didn’t stop me from dry reaching as I swear I smelt four kilograms of parmesan cheese. Shortly after while under the shower I was pushing lunch times chewed up prawns down the plug hole knowing full well I was safe and the force was with me now and trust me it worked as we had a safe and uneventful vouge all the way down to Mawson.

Wednesday 2nd October 2013

Today I had to do my monthly report so I locked myself in my room all morning until I had it completed. It was such a beautiful day with full sunshine and very little wind by the afternoon and it was such a shame to be working indoors. Late in the afternoon I went down to the transmitter building to see if there was any activity on the bands but as expected, there was a complete radio black out due to the high level of solar activity.

A 35 degree filament erupted from the northwest quadrant of the Sun late on 29th September with an associated halo coronial mass ejection (CME). Ejecta is expected to arrive at Earth late in the UT day, 02 October to early on 03 October.

This means good conditions for auroras over the next couple of nights. It might also be best to stay indoors as much as possible to limit the amount of cancer causing charged particles smashing through you body !!

Just for something different;

On the large rock down below the mechanical workshop are painted the words “Stor Klippe”.

The language is Danish, most likely from a crewman on one of the four Dan ships that resupplied Mawson from the fifties to the eighties. (Kista Dan, Thala Dan, Magga Dan and Nella Dan)

In Danish,“Stor Klippe” translates to "large rock", which shows that the painter had a sense of humour.

Tuesday 1st October 2013

Today I was slushy once again so nothing much to report there. The southward equinox was on September 22nd and it is really apparent now the days are getting much longer than the nights. The sun is now up at 06:05 and sunset is at 19:25 and the days are getting longer every day. The best thing is I no longer have to use my head torch all the time and it now only comes out after dark.

Here are some interesting facts and figures to contemplate:-

  • Recent summer population of Antarctica was – 4,490 people, with 955 of those at McMurdo.
  • Current world population surpassed 7 billion in October 2011.
  • The world’s population reached 1 billion for the first time in 1804. By 1927, it was 2 billion, and 3 billion by 1960. Since then, the world has added another 1 billion people around every 13 years.
  • Estimated number of humans who have ever lived - 107 billion. Estimates suggest that about 40% of those who ever lived did not survive beyond their 1st year.
  • The Han Chinese are the largest ethnic group on the planet being 19% of the current world population.
  • The world’s most spoken language is Mandarin – 12.4 % of the world population speak Mandarin as their primary language.
  • The global sex ratio is – 1.01 males to 1 females.
  • Global life expectancy is 65 years for men and 69 for female.
  • Global fertility rate is 2.52 children.

Monday 30th September 2013

Today was a very quiet day as I had a lot of catching up to do with emails and what’s been happening while I was away. I also had quite a bit to do cleaning up from the Colbeck trip and returning equipment back to the field store. Cookie was hoping the trip out to Twintops might leave on Wednesday so I had to get my gear ready for that trip just in case we have to leave at short notice. After work I had a nice relaxing spa and after dinner we watched a few episodes of Trailer park boys.

Sunday 29th September 2013

I got up very early this morning and as it was shaping up to be a great day, I woke every one up and after breakfast we packed up everything and were gone by 0800. We drove to Chapman’s Ridge as Darron had wanted to climb this striking feature for some time now.

Rising to 300 metres (1,000 ft) and extending southwest for 3 nautical miles (6 km) from Byrd Head. It was discovered by the British Australian New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition, 1929–31, under Mawson, and mapped by Norwegian cartographers from aerial photographs taken by the Lars Christensen Expedition, 1936–37. It was named by the Antarctic Names Committee of Australia for P. Chapman, auroral physicist at Mawson Station, 1958

Trent climbed to the first summit; I climbed to the middle summit while Darron continued to the final summit. It was a hard slog but we were rewarded with breath taking views of the entire surroundings. Down below there was virtually no wind at all, but up on the summit the katabatic was blowing a stiff twenty knots and it was bitterly cold with frost bite a real danger.
Chapman’s Ridge

Tailor glacier in the back ground

After a few hours we were all back in the Hag and we set course back to Mawson. About five kilometres for the Jelbart glacier we came across quite a large tide crack mostly concealed by snow. There were seals and penguins along the crack as far as the eye could see so I knew it must have been open. We stopped and drilled a few holes and decided it was too risky to cross so I drove roughly to the point where we crossed it on Wednesday and it looked just as bad. On Wednesday it must have been completely covered in snow and we crossed it fast enough to not be noticed?

I drove several kilometres along the crack looking for a better location to cross but it all looked the same so I stopped and we cleared an area and did some more drilling. I had 500mm sides and about a three meter snow span which was about the maximum you would consider crossing in a Hag. I make the call to cross while the other watched by. I wanted to attempt it at high speed but the others convinced me to take it easy so I took it easy. The heavy cabin seemed to cross without incident, but when the caboose started to cross the whole span collapsed and the caboose fell at a 45 degree angle into the frigid water.

I heard and felt the ice break so I gunned it and managed to pull the vehicle out without incident pulling up at a safe distance and walking back to inspect the large hole in the sea ice. It was a good lesson and a wakeup call to remind up we are driving across water that is thousands of feet deep. Tide cracks are an ever present hazard and as long as you don’t hit one parallel you can usually winch yourself out without too much drama. This is why we keep all our emergency equipment tied onto the roof and we have emergency escape hatches in the roof or the vehicle. 

After this little drama we continued on towards the Jelbart glacier rounding it once more without incident and when we were several kilometres clear and I was starting to relax and breathe again I felt that sinking feeling once again. I had driven into a tidal pool covered in snow without realising it and we came to a complete halt.

I gunned it forward and make good progress until a bow wave of slop which came up to the windscreen height brought us to a halt once more, so I put it in reverse and gunned it reverse and make good progress until a bow wave of slop which came up just as high brought us to a halt once more. I repeated this procedure a few more times until I eventually got the vehicle out. By this time the hole had filled with about a meter of water.

Off we went again without further incident and after about an hour or so I decided to deter to some huge caves I could see in the ice cliff for a look. When we got there; there were two seals that had just delivered pups so that was a bonus. We took a few photos and then hit the road again. 

The going was pretty good although surface definition was still very poor. We passed an area about twenty kilometres west of the station that had absolutely no snow on the sea ice and the sea ice was perfectly smooth and a lovely torques in colour. We got back to station around five thirty, packed up, fuelled up, cleaned up and sat down to watch the AFL grand final. It was a great successful trip and everybody had a great time.

It was Keldyn's 27th birthday today too.