K-Axis Day 56: Marooned at Mawson Station

The last week has been pretty incredible while we took advantage of our time at Mawson Station, waiting for someone to come and pick us up. We also broke a few records with our visit, the most people on station (75), the most women on station (16), the most scientists on station, and there’s probably a few more there as well. It was a pretty tight fit into the “Red Shed” where the living quarters are located and a few of us took over some of the living spaces (the library and dog room) and slept on couch cushions, but it all seemed to work out okay.

Once we were settled in we were allowed to wander around the station and explore our new surrounds. Most of us got a few hours on station during resupply but it was only a taste so it was really nice to poke around a bit more, or sit on the rocks and watch the seals and penguins. There were a few familiar faces on station from my last two seasons at Davis and it was nice to catch up again. The station leader also organised the watercraft operators to lead some iceberg cruises and the outgoing winterers drove us up onto the plateau to see the blue ice, mountains, and Rumdoodle hut.

We were also treated to tours of the station, especially the old original station buildings that remain, by one of our watercraft operators Dave Mac, who is an ex-Mawson winterer and summerer over a number of seasons in the 70’s & 80’s and an avid history buff. The stories he had to tell about how things used to be were just incredible and he had a story for everything. He also hosted a slide night (yep, real slides) with a heap of pictures of his time at Mawson and a few other historical images thrown in. We definitely have it pretty good these days tho we can’t get up to the kind of mischief they used to!

I got to go on a trip up to the plateau in one of the Hagglunds and it was definitely the highlight of our time at Mawson. Its so windy around Mawson that its all blue ice and very little snow up there, which makes it pretty amazing to see (and very slippery). We saw the remains of some of the melt rivers that occur during the height of the summer and also drove along a moraine line, where rocks have fallen off the mountains onto the ice and are slowly being moved down the plateau toward the sea. Its pretty hard to imagine all of the ice in Antarctica slowly moving down the plateau like a solid liquid (which seems like a complete oxymoron) and its even more incredible to see the mountains around Mawson that stick out of the ice and cause it to flow around them, but that’s what happens. All the ice that forms the glaciers that flow into the sea have to come from somewhere and its up there that they start.

Rumdoodle hut is nestled into the side of one of these mountains and sits safely in the lee of the wind. Around it, however, are some very large rocks, taller than a person, that have fallen off the cliffs and are now sitting out on the ice. We went out and investigated them and wondered how long ago they began their journey along the ice then we sat in the hut and ate some fresh donuts that one of our chefs had made for smoko. Also along our trip we stopped on the road and looked into a small crevasse that had formed in the ice, it was about 10cm wide and as big a crevasse as I’d like to get near. We could still see how deep it could get and why they strike fear into the hearts of any ice explorer. The incredible blue colour is mesmerising and pictures don’t do it justice.

The Mawson summer band decided to re-form or one final gig before we left and a few of us extras joined in for some of the songs. Those of us off the ship also put together a rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” and I got to perform “Killing in the Name of” to a sold out crowd on our last night on station.

This morning we were all up early as we got ready to be flown to the Shirase (the Japanese expedition icebreaker) on the 3 helicopters that had arrived with their crew during the week. We’ve been warmly welcomed by the Japanese crew and expeditioners on board and have been made to feel quite at home. I think we’ve definitely made the news somewhere as there were video and still cameras everywhere when we arrived. We’ve got a few days on here on route to Casey Station where we will wait for the AAD Airbus A319 to pick us up and return us home. We’re onto the next step of our adventure now and we’re all pretty excited to see what the next few days will bring.

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