Monday, 19 January 2015

'Living' in Antarctica

Well here is something I have been intending to do for some time now. It is all about the building we 'live' in.

Ironically this particular blog is all about Mawson's LQ (Living Quarters) which I have only spent 2 months in as opposed to the 24ish months that I have spent in Davis's since 2010 but that may have something to do with my laziness... Anyway..

If the 'Red Shed' is ever mentioned in conversation with an Antarctic expeditioner, this is what they are talking about... The LQ (Living Quarters) is joined to the SMQ (Sleeping & Medical Quarters) at all Australian continental stations.

All in this one structure we sleep, eat, drink, wash and entertain. It is the building that we spend a vast majority of our time.

Mawsons's in particular is special as it holds a huge amount of old memorabilia. As I have mentioned to a few people back home, working at Mawson feels like working in a museum.

All sorts of tools from the old 'dog days'

To enter the building you must first pass through a cold porch, which is an air lock between the harshness of outside and the comfort and warmth of inside. It is where you hang all your wet and cold clothing.

Once inside you are greeted by Vida. A taxidermied husky that first came to Mawson from New Zealand's Scott base in 1979.


Here we also have our mess and kitchen. Lately I have been spending quite a bit of time in the kitchen as our chef has injured his shoulder and is unable to cook so we are taking turns cooking for the rest of the team.

Dining table

Next to the mess is a conveniently placed cardio gym.

The cardio gym

Down in the basement is a large plant room which handles our sewerage, fresh water, heating and the world famous 'Nunatak Brewery' which churns out beer using the cleanest water in the world!

A S4 (Stout, batch 4) ready to consume

Couple of brews on the go

Best bottle washer in the world...

Above the kitchen and mess is the incredible bar, cinema, lounge and library.

The 'Wall of Shame' where photos of any drowned or damaged equipment goes


Lounge, not a bad view!

The Library

One of my favourite areas is also found here, guarded by 'Noogis', Mawson's lead Husky from 1977 to 1986, the Mawson 'Dog Room' which is jam packed with Sled Dog and Antarctic memorabilia.


A fully loaded dog sled

Venture down a corridor and we enter the Mawson SMQ (Sleeping & Medical Quarters)

Here we have a Doctors surgery with operating theatre.

Operating Theater.


and of course, Bedrooms or as they are known down here, 'Dongas'!

My Bedroom!

That is a general overview of the Living Quarters and SMQ, hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Power production at Mawson

Mawson is unique among the Australian bases as a portion of its power is supplied by wind turbines which are made possible by the stations convenient location of being right at the base of the Antarctic Ice Cap.

The power producing buildings.

Due to the location, it is right in the path of the infamous Katabatic winds, which are produced by air being cooled and becoming dense inland which forces it to flow down the slope of the Plateau and replace the air that is warmed and less dense over the sea. Due to this effect, the average daily wind speed at Mawson is 45kph, perfect for powering wind turbines! But first...

Despite the two 300kw wind turbines, there is still a diesel powered powerhouse very similar to the setup at Davis, with a few important differences.

The MPH (Main Power House)

Since usually we have an excess of power produced by the capabilities of the turbines quite a lot of the station is run on electrical items as opposed to the diesel powered Casey and Davis. For example, the 'site services' water, which is pumped around the station buildings to keep them warm is heated by an electric matrix heater here, unlike the diesel boilers at Davis.

Electric water heaters.

Even though the two turbines can handle 600kw under ideal conditions we still need to have an engine running to compensate for any lulls or gusts in the wind to minimise the chance of black or brown outs around station. The engines we use are the same Caterpillar 125kw 3306 straight 6 engines as used at the other stations but here they run a closed circuit crankcase breather arrangement and electronic throttle actuators and monitoring to make them compatible with the turbines.

Trusty old things!

The 4x 3306s

MPH Control room.

Power sharing between the turbines and engines.

The last big difference is the emergency engine at Mawson is a 27L Caterpillar 3412 turbocharged V12 engine rated at 420+kw.

The EPH (Emergency Power House).

CAT 3412.

The wind turbines themselves, since installed in 2003 have saved the station an estimated 5 million litres of diesel and have reduced the CO2 output by around 1500 tonnes per year, making Mawson one of the most environmentally friendly bases on the continent!

Here is a little, hardly ever updated info page on our power usage:
(I will try to figure out who updates it...)

The upper turbine it all its glory!

50m up from the ground to the hub.

The turbines are most efficient in winds of around 65kph and they feather themselves out for protection if the wind speed is above this. As I mentioned earlier, Mawson is a windy place and they have managed to stay standing in wind gusts of up to 200kph!

From the nacelle to the nose-cone.

The generator itself.

The blade hub from the nose-cone.

Inside the hub and blade.

Each turbine has a little weather station that indicates which way it should be facing and how much pitch should be on the blades.

Weather station

Donkey doing some tests.

From the nacelle through the cargo/emergency hatch.

From the nacelle back down the ladder.
And finally, here is the view of station from the upper turbine, not a bad place to spend a summer...

The view from the top of the upper Turbine.