Saturday, 30 November 2013

Saturday 30th November 2013

I slept in till late, got up and cleaned the bathroom and then had some breakfast and relaxed while reading the paper. It was a pretty good day, overcast and blowing about twenty knots and the temperature was about plus two which was melting all the snow causing slush.

Moving the BGAN satellite transmitter was a good move as it has now solved the regular intermittent outages we have been experiencing and the RSL is now rock solid and flat as it should be. 

Mid afternoon I went down to the shack with the intention of working as many Australian stations as I could. I must have worked over thirty stations and just as many Japanese stations including many portable stations. It was nice to hear a lot of Aussie stations on the radio. Hopefully tomorrow if the weather is fine and there are no flights due, John, Peter C and I are going to ride up to Fang hut and attempt to climb Fang peak which is quite a difficult and steep summit and a major feature in the Framnes Mountains.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013

This morning Richard and I went to move the BGAN backup satellite transceiver from the red shed ray dome to inside the transmitter building and discovered the vibrations caused by the wind had shaken the antenna to below the horizon, so it’s got me buggered how it was still working reflecting off the sea ice and ocean? We moved the whole lot including the boxer PC and as soon as we had it setup and aligned the RSL was flat as tack, so finally we have it completely sorted.

After the BGAN installation, I did some work on the land based tide gauge and on the walk back to the operations building I picked up about fifteen bullet casings including 303, 45 and 22 calibre from where all the snow had melted.

After work I had a moon bounce (EME) sked with Geert ON4GG in Belgium which only took about ten minutes, then Johan ON4IQ also in Belgium jumped in and he also only took about ten minutes to complete and finally Tuomas OH6MIK in Finland had a go and we completed in about forty minutes. Three EME contacts within an hour is unbelievable. After this I also had a successful CW (Morse code) sked with Per SM4TU in Sweden.

Frozen puddles on the walk back to the red shed

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The geology of Mawson

Most of the exposed rock around Mawson including the Framnes mountains were formed in the Precambrian era (4600 – 520 million years before present day) which predates vertebrate life forms.

Antarctica formed part of Gondwana which split from Africa, South America, Australia and India. The geology around Mawson is very similar to the Eastern Ghats province of India. 

Most of the rock was formed by molten magma that pooled from fifteen kilometers below the surface cooling slowly forming large crystals into what is now called Mawson Charnockite which contains the relatively rare mineral sapphrine. Charnockite is characteristically dark brown, hard and brittle and forms high peaks and sharp ridges. 

Metasediments formed by mud and calcareous sediments pushed at least twenty five kilometers below the surface also make up a smaller portion of the regions geology. The Metasediments are often banded and contain garnet, biotite, feldspar and quartz.

Mawson Charnockite


Thursday 28th November 2013

I woke up and it was blowing 40 knots and I remembered I left my 6m antenna up over night but luckily it didn't get damaged. I had another moon bounce sked with Steve HA0DU in Hungry today and in the mean time I got the tide gauge equipment ready and tested. I had to replace the underwater light and then when I tested the communications system with the tide gauge it wasn't working. 

I replaced two of the DB9 connectors that had corrosion on them and it still didn't work. I then opened two joins in the cable and the wires were full of corrosion so I cut, cleaned and re-terminated these. When I tested it again it started working but only if I applied pressure on the cable where it joined the coil which tells me there must be corrosion or a break in there as well. This was bad news as the chances of fixing it would be very slim. 

By now it was time for my sked with Steve. Lucky my antenna had survived and within fifteen minutes I completed my eighth moon bounce contact and the first ever into Hungry from Antarctica. Later I went back to that bloody tide gauge coupling coil. I dug out all the silastic and glue from where it had been repaired before and it was all full of corrosion. 

I spent hours digging it out and cleaning it up before attaching a new cable but it was all in vain as it was too damaged and was causing too many errors on the computer to be used. Feeling very tired I knocked off and went back to my room to work on my blog and to read some emails.

If the weather is good tomorrow then some of the project people will fly back to Davis station and three people will fly out to Richardson Lake. Personally I think they would have more luck picking up pickup sticks with their butt cheeks. Lets wait and see.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wednesday 27th November 2013

Blocking the window worked as I didn't wake up once last night and I had a good sleep. In the morning it was overcast and blowing about 30 knots. At lunch time I had a moon bounce (EME) sked with Steve HA0DU in Hungary. We came very close with many reflections but not quite enough for an official contact.

 Later I had a JT65HF sked with George in the States and a failed sked with Per in Sweden. Conditions on 6m in Australia have been going off the dial last couple of days so I have been monitoring VKlogger hoping for a 6m opening between Australia and Mawson. As a test, I tried ten meters to Australia and managed to have a conversation with Steve VK3ZAZ and also an Argentinean station. After work I came back down and worked about a hundred stations in Europe on 10m. I spent most of the day preparing the tide gauge equipment in readiness to deploy the new tide gauge. I also managed to get head office to rectify the routing problem with our BGAN satellite phone.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Tuesday 26th November 2013

Lately the 24 hour day light has being playing havoc with my sleeping. I keep waking up around 4 am and can’t get back to sleep so last night I blanked out my window with cardboard and it seems to be working as I went back to sleep real easy. You have to try and trick yourself its dark and past bed time. You would never get the kids to sleep down here.

Today I had a successful moon bounce (EME) sked with Paul ZS6NK in South Africa. That is my seventh and a new continent. I was hoping to deploy the tide gauge today and I also have to get over to Beche Island to do a bit of work over there but this all needs to be done on a fine day and I need a Hag to do both. I started to get things organised for both jobs so I am ready when the weather is fine next. 

I packed away the two tide gauge containers and in the afternoon I did magnetic observations. It still took me well over two hours but I felt a lot more comfortable this time. It’s very tedious and repetitive and rather boring and it’s so easy to make a mistake. On the way back I found what I think is the very first mag-obs bench mark having 1954 stamped on it. After dinner I watched two episodes of Home Land.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Monday 25th November 2013

Well today was a crappy day with blowing snow and 40 knots of wind and it felt cold. I spent the morning modifying the other flux gate compass display for geo-mag. After smoko I finally found the tide gauge hidden in a steel drum. Someone thinking it was dangerous goods had removed it from its original box and repacked it, he should have kept his noise out of someone else’s business. I opened it and thank goodness the oils had not leaked out and caused air bubbles and I reconnected the power ready for deployment and put it back together.

After lunch I tested the BGAN satellite phone and found a routing problem with the in dial numbering scheme and I rewrote the operating notes once again. I discovered this radio experiences periodic loss of receive signal strength possibly caused by multipath reception and I might have to move it to a different location away from the red shed. I also rewrote my geo-mag notes again. Later I made a couple of contacts on the radio and had an early night.

Oil leaking from the tide gauge
BGAN satellite antenna in the small ray dome
Periodic loss of receive signal strength possibly caused by multipath reception

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sunday 24th November 2013

This morning I slept till quite late thinking Richard will get up and do the ARPANSA filter change again but he was thinking the same thing. Eventually I got up and moseyed on out for brunch and Richard asked if I had done ARPANSA. Bugger, we were late, Geneva won’t be happy. It was another nice day and I couldn't believe they were not flying again. Two wasted perfect days. The Richardson Lake project will never happen as they are too conservative.

I spent most of the day doing washing and cleaning before heading down to the shack to see what was going on. Strait away I tuned into a Victorian station talking to the doctor at Casey station so I had a good yak to them and later about thirty contacts from both Australia and Japan. I had to walk away as Theo was putting on a science display up in the Aironomy building. Theo’s display was quite good and we had nibbles’ and then after dinner we watched a movie called ARGO that was quite good.

Aironomy building
Gone but not forgotten
Radiometer antenna

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Saturday 23rd November 2013

I had a nice sleep in today and forced myself up to go and do ARPANSA only to discover Richard had already done it. It was a really nice day outside but as usual there were no vehicles available so after a bite of lunch I headed down to the radio shack to see what was happening. All the bands were alive and I spent most of the afternoon working about ninety stations all over the world including Australia, Japan, USA and Europe. After dinner things were jumping at Kulb Katabatic and I ended up having a very late night.

The Emergency diesel generator

Friday, 22 November 2013

Friday 22nd November 2013

We rolled out of  Macey around nine thirty headed for Auster rookery. Once again the track wasn't too bad as we followed yesterdays Hag tracks as the snow was very deep. The sky started out nice and blue but soon the clouds crept in and it got very overcast. It didn't take very long to get there and like yesterday we passed many Weddell seals with young pups along the way laying around the numerous tide cracks.

The rookery had completely changed from last visit again, as they move when the area gets too messy. This time they were in two big groups, the one that we stopped by and another one way out in the distance. I walked about three hundred meter from the quads and moved in close and just lied down. In no time I was surrounded by about twenty curious Adult Emperor penguins.

The chicks were enormous and their wings were now as long as their entire body looking out of proportion. It was about minus three degrees and most of the chicks looked dead or dying laying on their backs or stomachs contorted with wings in the air, but they were just hot and trying to cool off. Their down must be so efficient keeping them warm and I was pretty hot myself.

It was great to just lay there and watch all the action. Their mannerism and antics are really amusing. The adults were hot too and all the birds were eating snow and trying to stay cool. After a while an inquisitive chick walked out of the crèche and came right up to me. It stayed with me the whole time and the adults had to keep it from touching me. It was great to watch it rolling in the snow and eating snow to stay cool. Maybe it recognized me?

After spending a few magic hours with the Emperor's for probably the last time, I walked up to where their tide crack used to be. I had closed up but there was another one open nearby that had a heap of seals around it with their hungry crying pups. They make a sound like a human baby trying to get a feed all the time. A couple of seals came in and out of the water while many Emperor's looked on.

Finally it was time to move on, so I headed back to the quads where the other guys were waiting with a group of Emperor's surrounding the bikes. We headed further east through the bergs to an interesting berg Darron wanted to get to for a close look. We had to negotiate deep snow and the other three blokes kept getting bogged requiring digging and pushing to get them out. After a while I got sick of this and rode ahead to blase a trail all the way to the berg and all the others just followed. Darron was the trip leader and I was responsible for riding in the rear to look after the two summerers. Anyway we got there quickly and it was a very interesting berg. It had a lot of moraine on top that was eroding it fast causing a huge pillar to be formed. It was quite interesting and we stayed a while to explore and take photos before heading off back to the coast.

On the ride back Darron lost the Hag track and the wind came up and the three of them kept getting bogged to the axles. I spent the next three hours constantly stopping to dig and push them out. One guy couldn't ride for quids and it was so frustrating, I must have pulled him out eighty times while I got bogged three times. On the way back we stopped at a striped berg to have a closer look and take some photos. By the time I got home I was exhausted and had a bad head ache but even so it was a great trip and so good to get off station after such a long time.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Thursday 21st November 2013

It was a perfect day today, zero wind and nice blue sky. Peter L took a few others out to Auster rookery and it must have been terrific out there. I spent the morning catching up on emails and sorting out a few small issues. The new tide gauge that the guy’s sent to me from Hobart arrived but the box was empty, so I’m still trying to sort this mystery out.

After doing ARPANSA I got my kit organised to head out to Macey hut tonight and onto Auster rookery tomorrow morning. In the late afternoon I did this week’s geo-mag observations and sent the results off. After dinner I rode the fifty kilometres to Masey hut with Darron, Ashley and Dean. The ride was pretty easy as we rode in the Hag tracks that returned this afternoon. 

I was surprised to see the hut surrounded by Adélie penguins, with some of them even sitting on eggs. The hut was pretty cramped with four people so I decided to sleep in the Apple on my own. I was having a really crappy sleep until I changed beds and then I slept like a baby.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

What are all the extra people for?

When the Basler came in on the 5th November it took away five of our wintering team. The Doc, a plumber, an electrician, a deiso and my Communications Technical Officer. Off the plane came our summer crew consisting of a replacement plumber, a replacement doctor, a replacement Communications Technical Officer, two extra deiso’s and two extra electricians and a penguin biologist. 

We also got extra people only for about one month to complete two projects. A geophysicist and a field assistant that wish to install several GPS on remote Nunataks out at Richardson Lake about eight hundred kilometres south west of the station. So far the weather has been too bad for their aircraft to go out there to prove the landing so they might end up going all the way back to Canberra without doing anything. 

We also have a project manager, a glaciologist and an army surveyor who are here to do a feasibility study on the possible placement of a new hard snow ski way. So far they have only been out a couple of times and nowhere near the locations they were intending to go. If the weather improves this week they might be able to get out and complete their tasks. 

We also have an optical physicist who comes here every summer to do work on the Fabry-Perot Spectrometer. 

And finally we have an artist who has been sent down here to do paintings for a private exhibition.

Unfortunately I wasn't sent to Canberra with Chris my previous CTO to do geo-mag training before coming down here, and Chris’s replacement Richard was not trained either, so I had to do a crash course by Chris shortly before he left to keep observations happening until the new wintering crew arrive on V4 in February.

With so many people on station all having to do field training and survival training, sea ice travel training etc etc there has not been any vehicles available to get off station and it will be this way till seven of the project people fly out in about a week’s time, then with a smaller crew we can get to know the new summer crew better. 

Officially the sea ice will be closed next week even though it’s still over sixteen hundred mills thick, so I am hoping to get one more trip back out to Auster rookery to see how the Emperor penguin chicks are going. After this we need to write a JHA and have good justification and drill holes where ever we go.

Wednesday 20th November 2013

I woke up very tired this morning and was quite slow to get moving. After doing a lot of emails I decided to reinstall the new tide gauge sent down on V1. I went for a long walk down to the sea ice to inspect the conditions and walked into a big sea ice melt pool under the snow and got soaking wet. 

I had organised with Barbra to release Stefen to do some survey work for me and I started to prepare the equipment. After doing ARPANSA and having smoko, I went back to the workshop and opened the heavy box containing the tide gauge only to discover the box was empty! 

They had forgotten to put it in or had sent the wrong box? 

Hmm, some red faces over that one. I got another job done that has been sitting on my bench for the past few months. I installed a circuit board into a diecast box and mounted a DB9 connector on the outside. This is an external peripheral interface box for my Flex 5000.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Tuesday 19th November 2013

I’m finally getting on top of things with the help of Richard and I now have time to do a few of the smaller jobs around the place. I made a new service and maintenance manual for the ANARESAT. I made a new amplifier and antenna tuning chart and went down to the transmitter building and filled in all the results. I checked the web camera and found a missing IP connection to the Mawson Intranet website that needs repairing then I did ARPANSA.

It has been snowing heavily most of the day and it was nice to sit out in it and watch the flakes coming down instead of sandblasting your face sideways. Everything is nice and white and there is deep snow everywhere again but it’s so warm it’s all melting causing puddles that freeze over. Just before lunch I dropped into wombat to see how John the artist is coming along. He’s been pretty busy and has knocked out quite a lot of paintings.

After lunch I played a good prank on Terry the new chippie, he was hammering in Weddell doing some restoration work and I was on the outside. When he was hammering, I was hammering in time on the outside wall and I started doing one extra bang after he finished. He must have thought the place was haunted. I wish I could have seen his face. It went on for a while, and then he would do one and I would do one, then he would do two and so on and so on. Eventually he did the old door knock and I finished with knock knock and walked off. He never knew who did it. Late in the afternoon I went for a long walk around to check for damage after the big blizzard on the weekend.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Monday 18th November 2013

This morning I made a new operation and phone number list for the BGAN emergency satellite phone. I also typed out my geo-mag notes once again making a few more changes here and there and then attended the weekly meeting.

John the artist’s sea container broke its anchor and blew away in Sunday’s big blizzard and it was found smashed to bits on an Island about three kilometres away. After lunch I fixed the back door TIRIS Gate controller from Bechervaise Island and then I finished the modification to the fluxgate compass on the geo-mag theodolite. At ten o’clock I went down to the shack as I had a sked on 40m with VK7JJJ and I also worked heaps of EU stations as well. It's nice to have VK0JJJ fully operational once again after all these months of dramma.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday 17th November 2013

A bloody fire alarm went off in the emergency power house at seven am and everybody had to muster while Ashley and I had to go and investigate. It was a false alarm so all the sore heads went back to bed. A clear 60 knot blizzard turned into a white out 100 knot blizzard by the afternoon.

I adjusted the bias on the new tube in my amplifier and it tested all OK, but if I only had a radio to use it with, what a bummer. I decided to have one last look at my radio and I stripped it down again and I tried several different things to no avail. I needed some specialist test equipment we didn't have to calibrate it so I was screwed. I kept studying the circuit diagram and decided to have one last attempt. The PA was shutting down due to high swr even into a dummy load so it must have been a component failure in the swr bridge or the software has gone out of calibration.

I stripped down the radio for the 4th time and applied an earth to the reflected side of the swr bridge and hit the PTT and hey presto, full power. I had done the impossible again and got it working once more. The software power meter is still out of whack but who cares as long as it’s working, so VK0JJJ is now officially back on air. I tested the radio through my amplifier and it was putting out 2 kilowatts full steam so we’re back in business. 

I was pretty burnt out by now and so I went and had a spa, relaxing while reading my book for an hour and a half. After getting a few scraps together for dinner I went back to my room to clear all my emails and to write up my blog.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Saturday 16th November 2013

After doing ARPANSA I went down to the transmitter building to do the bias adjustments on my amplifiers new valve but discovered I hadn’t seated the valve correctly, so will have to wait another 24 hours now. I stripped down my Flex 5000 to try and get it operating. I tried bypassing a few things without any luck. The fault is either on the transmitter board, a logic fault or a software fault.

Unless it’s a software fault, there is no way I’m going to be able to fix it, so VK0JJJ is officially shut down and all the guys on 6m waiting to put Mawson in their log books will have to wait another thirty years. Disappointed, I went and had a spa. We had fish & chips for dinner tonight and later at Klub Katabatic an impromptu party broke out and it turned into a wild night.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Friday 15th November 2013

Today I made some more updates Geo-mag observation notes, made up some result sheets and sorted out a modification that has to be made for the fluxgate compass on the theodolite. In the afternoon I fixed a fault with the BGAN satellite phone. After work I installed the new valve in my amplifier and then left it to boil off impurities overnight, and then did some further testing on my faulty Flex 5000.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Thursday 14th November 2013

Finally I am starting to get on top of things after the busy past week with all the new people moving in. I spent quite a bit of time catching up with all my emails, doing ARPANSA and getting myself prepared to do geo-mag observations. I had to make quite a few changes to my geo-mag notes and I also made a few more changes to the geo-mag computer.

I sorted out all the spare hard drives we have and boxed them up and labelled them for easy access. We now have plenty of spares to get us through to V4 without worrying too much about the server crashing again. Late in the afternoon I went and did geo-mag observations. I was very tired by then and made a couple of silly mistakes which I rectified before sending off the results.

I have been praised for the accuracy of my results after such little training so I am happy with how things are going. It’s nice to be able to keep the data flowing after fifty nine years of continuous geo-magnetic observations here at Mawson, the longest continuous geo-mag data collection in the whole of Antarctica. It’s very tedious work which requires a lot of finesse and concentration and the absolute zero magnetic building is the oldest building on site having been brought to Mawson in 1954 from Heard Island and it smells like it too.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Wednesday 13th November 2013

Today I worked very hard doing auditing and re-ordering all day until I finally had it all finished. I did ARPANSA as Richard went out for a jolly with Helen. At smoko Theo from Aironomy gave me a faulty external hard drive to have a look at. The power supply was kaput and I spent an hour and a half making a new power supply only to find out the drive had a short circuit. When I gave it back to him he tells me he had the data backed up anyway.

After lunch I got to work on the geo-mag computer and setup wifi and installed Dimension 4 to automatically synchronize the time to a time server so I never have to adjust it manually. I also loaded some antivirus software so I can surf the net if I need to. The baslar landed again today with the remaining cargo and an extra chippie. My valve arrived within the cargo so that was exciting.

For the peoples night John the artist gave a talk on his art career which was very interesting and then he put a few cartons of Moo Brew over the bar which he designed the labels for, and we had a good chat late into the evening.


Last sunset 00:10 November 29th

Last sunrise 01:03 November 29th

First midnight sun 00:38 November 30th

Last midnight sun 00:58 January 12th 

First sunset 00:49 January 13th

First sunrise 01:07 January 13th

All times are Mawson basted time which is five hours ahead of GMT. Sunrise and sunset times can be affected by atmospheric conditions and by anything that sticks up above sea level (mountains, icebergs etc) and also by the observer’s height above sea level so allow a few minutes either side of the times given above.

At Mawson our time according to longitude is four hours and eleven minutes ahead of GMT so our local time is 49 minutes ahead of the sun which is why the ‘midnight sun’ does not occur at midnight.

John did a drawing for me of one of his Moo Brew labels. Maybe I could make a fortune on Ebay ?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Tuesday 12th November 2013

It was blowing about sixty knots today but the wind felt warm being only -1.5c. Richard did ARPANSA today so now we can alternate every week as I did with Chris which is good. I worked very hard doing auditing and re-ordering all day as I just want to get it finished and over and done with. Only five more pages to go and if I work hard tomorrow on it, I should get it all finished. Auditing always leads to cleaning and putting things away and there was plenty of that done.

While I was having lunch a cheeky Adélie penguin walked past the mess window. There is a few getting around station now. On the 12th November, we had a new record for the year; we had a maximum temperature of +4.5 C!
The previous hottest day of the year 2013 was on 18 January and we then had +04.0 C. The highest temperature ever at Mawson was + 10.6 C and was recorded on 9 January 1974.

After dinner we watched a couple of episodes of Home Land and I am starting to get hooked on it. Once again I worked on my blog till midnight to try and catch up.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Monday 11th November 2013

First thing this morning I got the remaining gear ready for the Tregoning project for John. Now that things had settled down a bit and there were no planes scheduled for today I started back on stock taking, auditing and reordering which led into more cleaning and throwing things out.

During the ARPANSA filter change I showed Richard what to do as well as running a QC check on the spare detector and for the rest of the week he will do it on his own. After smoko we had the Monday meeting followed by more stock taking, auditing, reordering and further cleaning........great stuff.

After lunch more stock taking, auditing and reordering. Richard gave me a hand on the computer hard drive section. By day’s end I managed to complete the computer section and the cables section and my brain felt like mush. I also changed the privileges of a few accounts on the server and setup a pager as well as making telephone directories and muster lists for the two muster stations. I also found a missing radio and swapped two others in the asset log. It was a very busy day with lots of VLV radio traffic as well and I will be glad when I finally get all this auditing and reordering completed.

The wind died down to nothing around six o’clock so Justin decided to take Lydie, Bianca, Richard and Stefan out for a walk on the sea ice after dinner and within a short time the wind came up to seventy plus knots and they had to go to ground and wait to be rescued by a Hag sent out. It was a good lesson to them all how quickly conditions can become life threatening.

One of the missing radio's thanks Keldyn 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Sunday 10th November 2013

Today the wind was blowing over fifty knots but still with a blue sky and the wind felt warm as the temperature had crept up to about minus three. I have to do ARPANSA every day now until I get Richard trained up. Chris used to do it on weekends as he knew I liked to sleep in, thanks Chris.

After doing the filter change I had an early lunch and then headed down to the transmitter building to see if the bands were any better today. Unfortunately they were pretty much the same as yesterday. I tried to put a call out and my transmitter was dead. I messed about for several hours to try and find out why but it was useless, for some reason the PA fold back circuitry was kicking in and preventing full power out. I even stripped down the rig and loaded the software again to no avail. If I can’t come up with a solution then my time on air is over and that would be very sad.

Radio VLV - Mawsons call sign. This sign came off the original old communications hut and is now pride of place in the Operations building radio communications room.

Mawson October 2013 Climate Summary

Mawson October 2013 Climate Summary

October has been the windiest month for the year so far.  During October we recorded the highest total wind run for the year so far: 38787km! Second was July with 37353km and third was January with 36606km.
This averages to a wind run of 1251 km/day (52 km/h)

Temperatures - at Mawson during October we expect:
  •  A maximum mean temperature of -09.9°C. The average maximum for the month was -07.7°C. The lowest maximum was –12.9°C and the highest -02.3°C
  •  A minimum mean temperature of -16.4°C. The average minimum for the month was -12.8°C. The lowest minimum was -19.8°C and the highest -06.9°C.
The coldest temperature for any October day on record at Mawson was -29.0°C on 02/10/1980.

  •  The average daily wind run (the measure of how many kilometers of wind pass the station in 24 hours) was 1251 km per day for the month. This is well above the long term average of 911 km per day.
  •  The maximum wind gust for October was 146 km/h from the SE recorded on the 8th. The record gust for October is 208 km/h recorded on 26/10/2007.
  •  Blizzard conditions were recorded on 7 days for the month, with 3.1 expected. A total of 39 blizzards for 2013 so far.
  • There were 26 gales compared to 14.7 expected for the month, 31 days of strong wind, with 27.7 the average. 13 days of snowfall were observed, well above the expected average of 4.8 days. We had 11 days of Blowing Snow (Visibility <1km).
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 142.4 hours of sunshine for the month.
  •  The long term average is 232.5 hours.

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

We had a total wind run of 38787.1 km for the month. Total wind run for the year so far is 329,171 km. October was dominated by many days of blizzard, blowing snow and snow fall.

Myth busted

And now for something completely different

The air in Antarctica is so pure you rarely smell anything, but when you do it is really intense.
Such as, you might be outside working and suddenly you will get a whiff of the power house exhaust or the incinerator exhaust or if you are really unlucky the shit farm vent which nearly blows your nose off.

Normally out in the field you never smell anything including the penguin colonies even though there is shit everywhere. Walking into the hydroponics hut, the smell is really intense and the smell of the tomato plants is awesome. Now that things are warming up and the snow and ice is starting to melt in the intense sun and radiant heat from the rock warming up, the penguin rookeries are starting to stink rotten as the shit and dead birds thaw out. 

I conducted an interesting experiment the other day. I was out battling my way in a 70 knot blizzard when I let rip with a big fart and it travelled all the way up my clothes and into the hood of my jacket and it stunk really bad. I have tried to see the steam from a fart without success but I think if you were naked it would work depending on the water content of the fart which is mostly methane. Taking a piss doesn't result in walking sticks either but it does freeze instantly on the ice or rock. So that's the truth about Antarctica.

[Photos to be added]

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Saturday 9th November 2013

The day started as another perfect day, sunny and no wind, but the wind came up in afternoon and was blowing 50 knots in true Mawson style by late evening. After having breakfast and a coffee I did the ARPANSA filter change and then went over to the green store to check through my cargo in the hope my valve was in one of the boxes but it wasn't to be. It must still be sitting at Davis with the remainder of the cargo.

I wandered down to the transmitter building and went on air for a short time, but the band was very dead but there was a JA CCTV signal cranking 599 so I sent a few pictures through and made some guy in Japan very happy. After lunch at one thirty I ran through some fire training and induction for the new guys then went for a long walk out on east arm looking for Adélie penguins but I didn't see any, instead I found five snow petrels either nesting or just roosting under large rocks and ledges.

When I came back to the red shed I put a load of washing on and then went down for a spa. I found out it was Cookie’s 60th birthday today so I congratulated him. He didn't want a cake and kept it low key and he and Peter L went up to Rum doodle for the night and it blew like the clappers. 

At the bar tonight there were too many people and we winterers felt very awkward. We winterers feel lost and a bit out of it at the moment, and finding it very hard to adjust, but I’m sure that will pass. It will be a bit better when the science crew leave in 4 weeks or when they are out in the field so we can get to know the summer crew a bit better. Tonight I put on Kakoda in the cinema and I was very disappointed at the poor acting and lack of story line for such a defining moment in Australia’s history.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Friday 8th November 2013

Today was another beautiful day, sunny, blue sky and no wind. You have to be very careful outside on these days as you get sun burnt so easy from the reflection off the ice. Today we were expecting four flights which turned into six flights. Several times we had to escort Adélie penguins off the ski way while waiting for the flights to arrive.

The twin otter was coming over from Davis, it was to land here to refuel before heading out to Richardson lake about six hundred kilometres further out south west of us to see if it could land successfully on the lake and make sure it was safe for the Basler to land. Then it would fly back to Mawson to be refuelled before flying back to Davis station. 

The Basler was coming over from Davis carrying a heap of cargo. It will unload at Mawson and be refuelled and load about twelve drums of avgas to cache out at Richardson Lake for the Tregoning project before returning back to Mawson to be refuelled before flying back to Davis station. At last minute, Cookie arranged to take the Basler out for a flight out the back of twin tops for a recce for the Vogel project which he, John, Stefan and Barbara boarded. As it turned out, the twin otter couldn't land at Richardson Lake due to low cloud so both aircraft flew back to Mawson, refuelled (The Basler unloading all twelve fuel drums) and after Cookies joy flight, headed back to Davis. 

At one stage I had to move the orange Hag a bit closer to the Basler so the refueling hose would reach and I got about thirty meters and it came to a crunching halt with a burning smell. I grabbed the fire extinguisher and gently lifted the engine cowling but there was no fire but the starter motor was burnt out and the Hag had to be towed back to the workshop. It was a long day for us out on the sea ice and we all got very sun burnt. Richard was a great help on the radio (VLV Mawson) and he is a good worker. After work I went and had a spa to get the chill out of my bones and after dinner we watched a good movie called Death Proof. After dinner, Justin took Lydie, Bianca and Stefan for a drive up to Mt Henderson and the blue Haglunds broke down forcing them all to spend the night up there.

All the winterers were excited to get their mail and all the goodies they had ordered. I got a new lens and a couple more 2 Tb hard disk drives. My valve didn't make it and hopefully is still over at Davis with the remainder of our cargo. It was nice eat a fresh apple and a juicy orange after nine months of rationing.

Both aircraft are operated by Kenn Borek Air Ltd based at Calgary International Airport, Canada. The Basler BT-67 is a fixed-wing aircraft produced by Basler Turbo Conversions of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It is built on a retrofitted 1941 Douglas DC-3 airframe, with modifications designed to improve the DC-3's serviceable lifetime. The conversion includes fitting the airframe with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprop engines, lengthening the fuselage, strengthening the airframe, upgrading the avionics, and making modifications to the wings' leading edge and wing tip.

Turbine DC3 (DC3T) information - US$6.5 Million

· Maximum Seating: 18 passengers, 2 pilots, 1 Flight Attendant

· Maximum Payload: 8,500 pounds

· Cargo Door Size: 71" x 56"

· Baggage Area: 1225 cubic feet

· Maximum Range: 12 hours, 2300 miles

· Cruise Speed: 248 mph

· Fully I.F.R. Equipped, Including Global Positioning System

· Operates on wheels and wheel-skis

· Twin Pratt and Whitney PT6A-67R turbines rated at 1424 shaft horsepower each

Twin Otter (DHC6) information

· Maximum Seating: 19 passengers, 2 pilots

· Maximum Payload: 3,500 pounds

· Cargo Door Size: 56" x 50"

· Baggage Area: 126 cubic feet

· Maximum Range: 4.5 hours, 750 miles

· Cruise Speed: 165 mph

· Fully I.F.R. Equipped, Including Global Positioning System

· Operates on small wheels, floats, skis, wheel skis, tundra tires

· Twin Pratt and Whitney PT6A-27 turbines rated at 620 shaft horsepower each

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Thursday 7th November 2013

Today was another perfect day, sunny and no wind. I can’t believe all this good weather after all the shit weather we have had over the last month. With all the new people, things were pretty busy. While all the new people were having inductions, I got busy sorting out email accounts, setting up printer’s access, security access levels, making telephone lists, issuing pagers, radios, printing news papers etc.

I went down to Rosella taking Richard with me and picked up and delivered the printer crates Peter L had made for me and hurting my sore shoulder again in the process. Back in the office I got back onto the radio audit and then did ARPANSA. After work I spent quite a bit of time trying to catch up on my blog that has gotten away from me recently.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Wednesday 6th November 2013

Today was perfect, sunny and no wind and finally the day had come when we’d lose our five brothers and gain twenty strangers. The sun was so bright we were all getting badly burnt no matter how much we covered up. I had a bit of time in the morning to read a few emails and get ARPANSA done and then it was everyone out on the ski way to wait for the Basla (a restored 1941 DC3) to land. Finally we heard it long before we could see it and it swooped down low to do a fly over and inspect the ski way and then next circuit it lined up for the final approach and touched down in a cloud of snow and a loud roar. The beautiful shiny aircraft came to a halt only meters from where we were standing before shutting down and the door opened and twenty strangers disembarked.

After nine months of isolation it was all so surreal. There were those that knew a couple of blokes and moved forward to welcome them, but most of us just stood and stared. Most of us had jobs to do refueling and I had fire control so we didn't get emotionally involved and just got on with the job. Finally when it was time for our comrades to embark it really hit home and there were a lot of slap handshakes and a few man hugs. They all climbed aboard and buckled up as the turbo props wound up and shortly after we were exchanging profanities through the windows as the plane taxied away. 

We watched it in silence as it taxied to the end of the ski way and watched as it powered up and raced down the ski way lifting into the air. Finally it was just a black dot in the blue sky and that phase of our Antarctic experience was over. 

The new people had walked back to the station and we were left alone to pack up and drive back to the station. Back at the station we just all stood back and looked with curiosity at all the new people doing their station introductions. It was an awkward night as they were tired and we were curious and there was not a lot of convergence. I had lost Chris and gained Richard.