Monday, 16 September 2013

Monday 16th September 2013

Today wasn't a bad day. The wind was fairly light and the sun was shining with a bit of blue sky. In the morning I did a bit more cleaning up and removed a heap more gear for RTA and did a bit more auditing. Looking at the weather there was a bit of an opening on Tuesday and Wednesday to maybe do a run up to Auster rookery so I talked to Luc and he was up for it and Jeremy jumped in also.

After lunch I had a moon bounce sked with Hal in the States and John in SA. Unfortunately I wasn't successful with either of them but degradation was rather high at 4dB. I did manage to finally have a chat with Antti in Finland using Olivia. It was nice to catch up after three years. In the afternoon I got a heap of gear together to take to Macey. I want to change the hut antenna to a 3dB collinear and also replace the hut radio to a newer model while I’m there. The plan is to have a lazy drive up checking out all the islands and bergs along the way and visiting Auster on Wednesday. This could be in reverse depending on the weather.

At Auster there is a tide crack where the penguins and seals are coming in and out of so Jeremy is going to drill a hole through the sea ice and lower his Go-pro under the ice to film the penguins swimming and coming in and out of the hole while I will setup my Contour on a tripod next to the hole to film them coming out and going into the hole and Luc will have balloon cam on a weather balloon a couple of hundred meters above the whole rookery. So I think we will have all bases covered while we’re taking photos and enjoying the action. 

Tonight I also had a meeting to discuss my plan for the upcoming Colbeck trip I have organised. As soon as we get a nice three day weather break we’re off for five days. Also this week Thursday and Friday are looking promising to visit the Russian aircraft. It’s shaping up to be a busy week.

Our new excavator

Cathy, our D7 Traverse dozer


  1. Craig, so incomprehensibly odd to be reading your blog while simultaneously reading not only Douglas Mawson's personal account of his travails on that first expedition, but also a third-person, updated account. On my iPad Mini, every night before I go to sleep.

    I don't want to bore you to tears, but if you're there, is their old Hut still there and preserved in its original state? Is Aladdin's Cave still there, or at least the location known?

    The sheer insanity of what those men did boggles the mind. I would imagine it's a *tad* more comfy out there now, but *tad* would probably be the operative word. When they matter-of-factly discuss wind speeds of 95 mph my brain melts; I do live in Montreal and I have been in -35°C weather when the wind was blowing a fair shake, say 25 mph, and of course here they warn of "frostbite on exposed skin within 60 seconds" etc. etc.

    Of course, it's been a long while -- at least 20 years -- since the last time it was that cold, so I do almost forget the experiments I did of splashing some boiling water on my balcony to watch it freeze solid in 60 seconds.

    But I imagine science has not yet come up with ways to tame the katabatik, so I am assuming that winds merrily gust up to 150 mph on a regular basis at Mawson Station . . . am I right?

    How those guys survived TWO winters there is sheer, naked terror to my mind, yet, there you are.

    On my MacBook Pro I have the weather data for Vostok Station: today it reads a balmy -66°C but does not include wind data.

    How far are you guys from the Ross Sea, McMurdo and all that, or Vostok? Google Maps only provides your webcam, not your physical location.

    It would be wonderful to get a personal email from a place that is likely to live only in my imagination; you are pretty much as close to being Santa Claus and Mawson Station might as well be the Toy Depot as my imagination can stretch . . .

    A shout would be very welcome at

    And what DOES penguin taste like when you don't HAVE to eat it?

    Cheers, and . . . remember Ninnis and Mertz.


  2. Craig,

    It would be amazing to have some videos up there . . . I know you're busy guys but there are cameras these days that take 1080p movies, require no batteries and take about 10 seconds to set up and start filming, then maybe ten minutes to upload the results to YouTube, if any of that is possible for you guys.

    I would gladly donate such a cam if it meant I could watch some some video . . . the photos, while astounding, don;t seem real . . . they seem like you just pinched them off a National Geographic website (though I KNOW that isn't the case!)

    But let me know and give me your address, and a camera will be on the way! They have no moving parts, so I'd imagine they would perform like troopers in minus 50-degree weather.

    For an example, check out my video at

    Let me know!



  3. Hi Nick,

    Those iconic heroes of the past were both very brave and very naive. Mawson station was named after the great man, but the original "Mawson's Huts" are the collection of buildings located at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in the far eastern sector of the Australian Antarctic Territory, some 3000 km south of Hobart and a very long way from Mawson station. On the coast of Antarctica we get Katabatic winds, which is cold air falling off the ice plateau, it travels north and is usually only about 20 knots. When a low passes it combines with the Katabatic and can create a blizzard up to 200 knots. Mawson station is very windy as the Framnes Mountains tends to funnel the wind directly at it. Wind chill factor will freeze exposed skin very fast so you must be covered at all times when its windy. But here's the thing, when it is very windy (blizzard) the temperature goes up to say -10c and when you go inland the Katabatic wind disappears and the temperature goes down (-30c to -60c)and with a bright sun it can feel warm on your face. Strong blizzard are not so common but 40 knots can be the norm for weeks. As long as you have shelter and heating you can survive down here, but step outside and you are always slowly dying. Here we live very comfortable, but out in the field is the same as when Mawson was alive. Even just 50 years ago the expeditioners were heroic in my eyes. Here is a good map of Antarctica
    I have never tried eating penguin as they say it tastes awefull. We have a very slow Internet connection down here and that is why I have only got still photos but you are right video would really show what it is like down here and I have no experience in uploading video to the Internet. Mawson station is a VERY remote and isolated place and is about a thousand miles from the nearest station. I will send you an email Nick and I am happy to answer any more question you may have.