Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Galavanting

Well I have been thrown in the deep end a little here. I don't mind it at all when the water is this perfect though!



On Monday the opportunity arose to head out to the Auster Emperor Penguin rookery to see how the chicks were doing before the sea ice is closed for vehicle travel. Of course I jumped at the chance and was appointed driving duties in one of our Hägglunds over snow vehicles. It was quite a big party heading out for the evening with 2x Häggs and 4x Honda Quads.



The trip itself is a 120km round trip to the east of Mawson along the sea ice and past the field hut at Macey Island. The Macey hut is interesting as it looks like it is constructed from an old railway carriage and its smack in the middle of an Adelie Penguin rookery!



Macey looking toward Auster




We left Macey and headed out to sea to find the Empies. They have moved over a kilometer from their original winter huddle and have now broken into 3 separate groups.









At the moment the Penguins are 'Creching' which is when the chicks stick together in groups and are looked after by a few adults while most of the parents head out to sea to feed. That is why the ratio of chicks to adults look wrong at the moment.

Pre-School


Hungry




And a nice big berg we found on the way home. The dot on the left is a quad bike about 3/4 the way between myself and the berg for scale.



The next day involved an early start in preparation of a trip to another Emperor rookery! This time to Taylor Glacier and one of the only Emperor rookeries to be found on dry land!

Taylor Glacier is to the west of Mawson and is a 220km (including sightseeing) round trip. Conveniently located close by is Proclamation Point which is the site where Sir Douglas Mawson first raised the British flag and claimed that gigantic slice of Antarctica.



The cache


A copy of the Proclamation


Here is a transcript of the proclamation if you cant read it from the photo:
Proclamation
In the name of His Majesty, King George the Fifth, King of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions across the Seas, Emperor of India.
By Sir Douglas Mawson. 
Whereas I have it in command from His Majesty King George the Fifth, to assert the Sovereign rights of His Majesty over British land discoveries met with in Antarctica. Now, therefore, I, Sir Douglas Mawson, do hereby proclaim and declare to all men that, from and after the date of these presents, the full sovereignty of the Territory which we have discovered and explored extending continuously from Adelie Land, westwards to MacRobertson Land being that part of the Antarctic Mainland and offlying Islands (Including amongst others, Drygalski Island, Hordern Island, David Island, Masson Island, Henderson Island, Haswell Islds and and Island in Longitude 103° 15' East shown on our charts) situate between meridia 138° and 60° East of Greenwich and south of Latitude 64° as far as the South Pole, vest in His Majesty King George the Fifth, His Heirs and Successors forever.
Given under my hand at this spot in MacRobertson Land on the eighteenth day of February 1931.
Douglas Mawson
BANZARE
(British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition)
This in particular has been a highlight for me and I feel very privileged to have step foot on such hallowed ground as this. To date there is only a couple of hundred people to ever visit this location.

My name in the history books


The view was pretty spectacular too!

Where Mawson raised the flag!


We stayed in Colbeck hut which has recently been renovated and relocated by the wintering team this year since it had a bad habit of getting buried under snow. The new location should stay snow-free and has a pretty amazing view.

Refurbished Colbeck


New location


View from Colbeck


As mentioned before the Taylor Emperor rookery is one of the only on dry land and is the site of Australia's first ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area) which limits the impact of humans by only allowing one person at a time to enter the zone and only when in possession of a special permit. Unfortunately I wasn't the holder of that permit but we found that the Penguins had moved a large number of their chicks onto the sea ice which allowed a photo or two.

Under the glacier

Waiting for their parents

And that's about it for now, I have a feeling my next post might include mountains!!..

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A change of scenery

Well, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth... entirely.

The reason for my absence from my blogging duties is because I have moved 'home'. That's right, I have changed stations! On Wednesday the 19th of November (sorry about missing your birthday Mat) I flew from Davis Station to Mawson Station to spend the summer.

Mawson has always been a goal of mine and is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Australia’s Continental Antarctic stations for numerous good reasons.

Mawson can be described with many superlatives which you will hear in due course but it is also home to a few impressive records!:

  • It is the oldest continually manned Antarctic station on the continent and the site of the 1st ANARE (Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition) in 1954.
  • It is the first Antarctic station to have a portion of its power supplied by wind generation (at the moment over half of the power here is generated by the two wind turbines). 
  • It is the last station to have a pack of Husky sled dogs, they were kennelled here until 1993.
  • It is the furthest station from Australia and also the smallest Australian station by population.

Despite all this Mawson talk I am going to finish off this brief blog with a few photos of the last month or so at one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Davis Station.

HDR of the Aurora Australis at anchorage on V1 resupply


Playing around with extension tubes and snowflakes (thanks uncle Tony!)


The Weddell seal pupping area at Brookes.



It's a Seal's life.

A religious iceberg? (geddit...)

A friendly Emperor.


Tina, Penguin whisperer.


Time for your close up...

Such a beautiful bird!

A little Adelie dood.

2013/14 Davis Diesos saying goodbye, for now.


Our amazing Celery Top and Sassafras winterers plaque.


And a couple of shots from Mawson...

The Mawson fleet waiting for a plane.

The old warbird on approach.

DC3's are a beautiful plane from any angle!

Stay tuned for more updates from 'Awesome Mawson'...

Monday, 20 October 2014

A weekend to remember!

For this blog post I had intended to go back into explaining more about working and living in Antarctica as opposed to 'playing' in the field like majority of my posts but this last weekend was possibly one of the best times I have ever had here and I feel the need to share it as best I can.

It all started on Friday afternoon. Myself and Sarah decided to get away for the weekend and relax at one of field huts (or shacks) that are dotted throughout the countryside. We settled on spending two nights at Platcha which is a smaller hut that is nestled beneath an ice cliff at the base of the plateau.

Since the days are getting very long at the moment (sun is rising at 0530, setting at 2130 and we have 'twilight' all night) we decided to depart station after dinner. It turned out to be a good move as literally five minutes after getting on the sea ice on our trusty Honda quads we were hijacked by three Emperor Penguins!!


Empies are a rare sight at Davis as we have no adjacent colonies but we do get the occasional one wandering past if we are lucky...


And Sarah and I were very lucky! These three Emperors were the most vocal and unafraid Penguins I have seen so far. We have strict rules about approaching wildlife down here which everyone adheres to but there are no rules if the animals approach you, and approach they do. Since the wildlife here have virtually never been hunted by humans they let their curiosity take over and seem to enjoy checking out the humans as much as we like being around them! After they got bored of us, they proceeded to inspect our transport and then continued on their merry way. It was definitely a moment to remember!

They really are massive birds!

Inquisitive too!

The next day we awoke to blue skies and no wind which is a rare especially around Platcha as it is usually battered by Katabatic winds rolling down from the Plateau.

Platcha

Not a bad spot for the afternoon!

We had a great day walking around the hills of the area and enjoying the sunshine.

Lake Bisernoye

Some of the ice was amazing

Sunday's weather was the same as the day before so we got away early to attempt to find some Weddell Seals which are pupping at the moment in the Fjords. We struck gold near Brookes hut and found a number of seals, most with pups lounging around a small island. Some pups looked no more than hours old and the local Skua population was keeping a close eye out for any scraps!


Peek-a-boo!

Ready to pop!


We made it back to station in good time where preperations were underway to take advantage of the weather and do one of our 'Davis Radio' shows out amongst some Icebergs! Stu, Kernal and myself loaded up a Hägg with all the recording equipment and hit the ice one again with the surprisingly easy task of finding a photogenic Iceberg to set-up in front of. I realise I have mentioned it a few times but the weather was incredibly good! It was still -13c but completely bearable without gloves or a hat because there was no wind and plenty of sun. It was the icing on an already great weekend and one I will remember for the rest of my life!

Surreal Darts..

The view from my mic

The 'Davis Radio' team for 2014!