Friday, 21 June 2013

Friday 21st June 2013

On the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice; we woke with the wind still blowing at over 45 knots. Well this is Mawson after all. The day started with a wiz bang breakfast at 08:00mbt. (mbt = Mawson basted time, a hangover from the days when the station used to operate on GMT) I had a couple of smoked salmon bagels, the breakfast for a king.

At 09:00mbt we had a video conference from Biscoe hut (Weddell) to Kingston and all other stations, including a brief by the minister Tony Bourke. So after breakfast I raced down to make sure it was going to work and thankfully it did. The video conference was quite entertaining with Kingston and every station giving a presentation. When it came to Tony Bourke, the video slowed down and it sounded like he was drunk and we were all rolling with laughter until it speeded up and we realised it was just a technical problem. The guy’s on Macquarie Island made an awesome movie and the highlight was Cliff; our assistant plumber being presented with the directors award for outstanding service to the division over many years. Well done Cliff you deserved it.

That's Sir Cliff on the left with his arms crossed

After the video conference everybody had a rest while I went off to do the ARPANSA filter change, then it was lunch in the Biscoe hut at 11:30mbt where we ate Mawsons 100 year old menu. On the way back from  ARPANSA I had to quickly get dressed in my Carharts (Canadian arctic clothing) to look old school. The meal was fantastic and a real credit to Justin. Mind you the seal was replaced with wallaby and the penguin was replaced with guinea fowl. The Biscoe hut looked fantastic and was an ideal setting and a credit to Cooky's hard work. Everybody on the video conference was commenting about it also.

At 13:30mbt it was Dr Neil Streten’s final farewell. Neil was a past expeditioner and Bill’s boss back in 1960 here at Mawson. Neil passed away last year and his wish was to have his ashes spread over Antarctica. As Neil was a weather forecaster for the Bureau of Meteorology while here at Mawson, we thought it fitting to send his ashes up into the stratosphere by a weather balloon where the winds would disperse his ashes all over the continent. Cookie read a nice farewell speech and in fifty knots we all stood at attention while Luc released the balloon and we saluted Neil farewell as the balloon lifted high into the atmosphere and out of site, eighteen kilometres on his final flight.

Dr Neil Streten - Antarctic Expeditioner

Farewell Neil

As it was now blowing fifty knots, the traditional mid-winters swim was cancelled until better conditions prevail and the outdoor spa didn’t look too inviting either, so we had a three hour gap in the program and some of us took advantage of this to sneak in a nanny nap. At 17:30mbt we all assembled for dinner in the mess, most of us wearing our finest threads. It was a serene scene that reminded me of a group of blokes all scrubbed up for a wedding. Dinner was superb and once again Justin had done a fine job. I don’t know why he can’t do this every day? There were so many courses it just kept coming out and eventually we were so full we had to call it quits and save the rest for tomorrow night.   

After a bit of yackety yak we all retired to the snow cave for Port and some intellectual conversation. It was very comfortable with fourteen of us inside and we all enjoyed the special moment together.

Eventually we had to crack on with the show and we all reconvened up stairs in Klub Katabatic while we waited for the organisers to open the theatre. We were all issued with our personalised tickets and without your ticked you weren’t allowed in. The usher escorted everybody to their allotted seat and then the show began with Cliffy blowing a bit of blues on his harmonica. Keldyn was the organiser and MC and he kicked off with a little entertaining spool of a few funny words about each expeditioner and then the show began.

Justin (Chef) put on a time laps movie he has spent the year making from the sail down to spectacular auroras. It was fantastic and worth the hard work he has put in making it.

Cookie (Station leader) jumped up and gave a little talk about his love of protest songs and how he was influenced by them as he grew up and to our surprise he burst into song with one of his favourite numbers.

The Doc was next with a great rendition of one of his favourite funny poems. Apparently he gets together with his crusty old mates from time to time who all enjoy a poem or two.

John (Field training officer/store man) gave a talk about his lifelong passion for mountain climbing and then played a short movie of a US couple climbing one of Americas most difficult and scenic climbs. Amazing footage John, don’t forget our Rum doodle climb, and I promise not to get my boot stuck again.

Next up was Trent or Troy, (Electrician) I can never remember that guy’s name. Actually I do but I keep calling him Troy for a laugh. Any way he put on an interesting slide show of his previous job and life working in the wilderness way up in Canada.

I was standing at the urinal with Craig and......

Then we took a break as Pepe went off to prepare himself for his act. While we waited Peter L surprised us all with the unveiling of the 66th ANARE Mawson plaque. It is magnificent and will be the bench mark for station plaques for years to come and we are all very proud of it. Well done Pete, fantastic job.

Finally Pepe was ready. (Communications technical officer) He was dressed as an “Old Hag” and Geoff was acting as her expeditioner husband. It was a very funny sketch and went over well but man, was she ugly. Any excuse to dress in drag Pepe is up for it.

Next act was Keldyn (Plumber) who put in a gutsy effort singing a couple of songs while playing the guitar and then he played a couple of numbers on his clarinet.

Then it was Jeremy (Diesel mechanic) and Geoff’s (senior diesel mechanic) turn that also put in a gutsy effort singing a couple of songs while Jeremy played the guitar that he had only started to learn two months ago. Great job Jeremy and don’t give up when we go home as you have a bit of talent there.

Up next was Luc (Senior weather observer) who gave a presentation of his new property in King Lake and some photos of his work clearing the land and building a huge shed. He also talked about his house plans he is designing himself in his spare time whilst down here. The chicken with the shaved butt was a bit of a worry. No wonder he wants to build off the road out of sight.

Then it was my turn. (Senior communications technical office) For quite some time I had been trying to decide what I would do. Before leaving home I asked the kids to make something for me to take down south with me; a movie, their favourite songs etc. Well they did and I have had the memory stick in my draw all this time waiting for mid-winters to see what they had done and when I saw what they did I was totally blown away and touched to the core. They had put together four photo montages and some movie of our lives together. There were so many fun times and it was great to see such happy kids all growing up together and it made me realise how lucky I am, so much so I decided to show it to the whole team. I was worried it might not interest some of the guy’s and said I wouldn’t be insulted if they left the room for a drink or something but everybody sat and enjoyed it as much as I did. Later I received so many comments about how nice it was to see such a happy bunch of kids and how lucky I am. It went over well and I think the timing was perfect to reflect on family and loved ones back home. Thanks Sarah, Jackson, Iyan and Jade; you are all now famous.

Next on was Peter L (Carpenter) who showed some photos about his beloved home town in southern New South Wales. It’s a top spot where Peter spends his spare time surfing with his kids. Peter’s beautiful daughter passed away during his last expedition and he dedicated his presentation to his lovely daughter and allowed us to meet her. Nice one Pete.

Next up was Sir Cliff (Assistant plumber) who was by now pretty well pickled after celebrating his Directors award. Even so, Cliff is a talented Fijian guitar player and he belted out a few classy tunes while trying not to fall off his chair. Well done Cliff you bloody legend.

Finally, after blowing out the schedule by about three hours we arrived at the final act; Peter C (senior electrician) and Darron (Weather observer & MET tech) and Keldyn out front as the lead singer who put together a band only a couple of days ago to entertain us while we danced the night away NOT. These guys went full out on their costumes (a bit like Kiss) which kinder over rode their musical talents. But full credit to them, they managed to get an encore and kept going for a few more songs. Well done boys.


Well, I think it was somewhere between 03:00 – 04:00mbt when I decided to have a spa out in minus twenty and sixty knot winds. The water was lovely except the rust died my white shirt a nice orange colour and my hair and beard froze solid requiring one to submerge from time to time to alleviate the ice cream headache. When I dived in fully clothed my reasoning was it saved me having to walk out semi naked, but when it came time to get out the other guy’s had towels and dry clothes in the Hag parked close by. Hmm, that kinder posed a slight conundrum, should I just sleep out here or make a mad dash for the red shed. The soft warm bed won out and so I made a mad dash back to the red shed and by the time I got to the shower I had completely seized up and turned into the tin man with my cloths frozen around me. Lucky my finger tips could just reach the hot tap and after a few seconds I melted into a floppy mess. It was an awesome day for all and a day we will all remember forever. Thanks Keldyn and Justin for the effort you both put in.

Good "hick" night 


  1. seem you all had an awesome day , well done !!
    is so nice to know that living away from home for such a long time and bonding well with everyone ,
    you look drunk in that spa !!!

  2. in the spa with all the boys hhhhhmmm !!
    troy look so much younger and chris .... oh boy !! nice hair cut !!!

  3. Hi Craig, l have just been talking to Marg Streten and we agreed it was just beautiful the send off given to Neil. He would have aproved of it l am sure. Well done Fellas.Glad you all enjoyed Mid winter l loved my invite and waited and waited for the Taxi to come. Oh well maybe next time . Love Mum.xx