Monday, 29 July 2013

Monday 29th July 2013

Today the weather has improved and the sun was out all day. The wind was blowing about twenty knots most of the day and lots of snow blowing about. We had a laugh at lunch time as I had to pull the curtains across as the sun was in my eyes. I spent the morning answering emails and then I got the tide gauge poles and drilled drain holes in them.

Later I rigged up a test coils so I could test the tide gauge communications interface and prove that it is working correctly and that the tide gauge is faulty. The tide gauge communications interface worked correctly, so it looks like I will have to raise the tide gauge which will be a huge job as it weighs about half a tonne.

For a while the wind dropped right off and I was going to move the server from the ANARESAT building to the operations building (after I dug the door out) but shortly after the wind came up again so I have postponed it till tomorrow.

I had a spa after work and after dinner I watched a recorded documentary on life in a Bali prison. Tonight Keldyn, Darron, Trent, Justin and John are heading up to Macey hut tonight and out to Auster rookery to see if the emperor penguin eggs have hatched. Three of them will be riding on quads and two in the Hagg and they plan on coming back tomorrow night. It will be bloody cold on the quads as it was minus twenty three when they left.

The tide gauge coil, camera & light
Pulse train from the laptop to the interface coil

Sunday 28th July 2013

It was a very quiet today. I woke up late feeling very lethargic and I had some lunch and just lounged about reading the papers and drinking coffee. I put on two loads of washing and then all afternoon I worked on my blog and after making a toasted sandwich for dinner I watched a movie in the cinema.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013

Today I was the cook for the whole station for the day. For brunch I cooked up sausages, bacon, eggs and pancakes. For dinner I cooked corn and crab meat soup with no crab, (I used prawns) chicken in soya source, sizing beef with green beans, fried rice, mixed vegetable stir fry and self sourcing chocolate pudding. Every one enjoyed the meal and I got lots of compliments and there was very little left over.
 
Some of the ingredients were not available so I had to substitute a bit and some of the vegetables where in disgusting condition and I had to do my best with what we have. I think everyone (including I) was hanging out for some tasty spicy food. One thing I really miss here is sea food.
 

 
 
 

Friday 26th July 2013

Once again it was a very windy day. After hearing nothing back from Kingston about what to do with the tide gauge I decided to pack all the equipment away. Most of it had to be cleaned to get the salt water off and the poles had to be stored in the green store to melt out all the ice before putting them away.

After lunch I went down to the transmitter building and decommissioned the Inmarsat.B emergency transceiver and removed all the equipment to be RTA'ed. After work I was disturbed by a page from the doctor whilst I was having a relaxing spa to say there was a piña colada night in the bar at five o'clock.

The piña colada's went down real well even though we had to substitute the white rum with Bundy, but the million year old crackling ice made up for it. Dinner was Mexican and later on we watched the Dictator.

Thursday 25th July 2013

Today was a rather quiet day. The wind was blowing about forty knots and it felt really cold outside. I spent most of the day catching up on things and getting a few little jobs out of the way. Also we have still been trying to find the problem with the VoIP phones in the Operations building since replacing the UPS on Tuesday. Our Internet has been running very slow for a while, so I have been trying to locate the reason for this too.

Tonight's foreign movie was French and called L'Equipier.

Every one knows the world famous picture taken by Jean Guichard titled La Jument. Taken in 1989, it depicts the French lighthouse in a tempest. In the photograph, a wave is about to engulf the lighthouse as its keeper, Theodore Malgorne, thinking Guichard's was the rescue helicopter, looks out the open door. Well this movie is about this famous lighthouse! The scene was set well before the lighthouse became automated in 1991. It was a terrific movie and I truly recommend it.

Summary:

Camille arrives at the island Ouessant where she was born, to sell the house of her parents. She finds a book of a certain Antoine and starts reading. A story of a stranger is told who came 1963 to the island. He wasn't well received and left again after 2 months.

Wednesday 24th July 2013

Today there was very little wind and it was snowing, always a pretty sight. By smoko the wind had almost dropped to zero so I decided today was the day to down load the tide gauge data. I spent about an hour getting prepared and using some photos to locate the exact position, I drilled the sea ice and put in a cane pole where I thought it should be.

The tide gauge sits out in Horse Shoe Harbour in about eight meters of water. The idea is to first find the location, then drill a twenty five centimetre wide hole, two meters down through the sea ice using a Jiffy drill, then lowering an eight meter pole containing a camera, light and a transducer that fits over the tide gauge transducer. Simple, I mean, how hard could that be?

Well after four hours out in minus twenty and snowing we had drilled four holes and seen lots of star fish, but no tide gauge. The photo sights were not lined up exactly and one of the photos was taken over the water so we weren’t confident that photo was accurate so we ditched that photo and just went on the other three marking a spot eight meters away.

We drilled through the ice and lowered the camera and immediately saw the tide gauge. We drilled one more hole thirty centimetres away directly over the tide gauge and lowered the transducer over the tide gauge transducer and then fired up the computer. Unfortunately after all this work the tide gauge didn’t want to talk to the computer and we suspect it may have flat batteries.

By now it was well and truly dark and our boots and pants were frozen solid by sea water and everything was covered in snow so all we could do was pack up for the day and go try and get warm. Later I contacted the responsible engineers in Kingston to see if there was a way to test our equipment or it they wanted us to try and raise the tide gauge.
 
 
 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Tuesday 23rd July 2013

This morning the blizzard was still blowing fifty knots so I spent the morning in my room sorting emails and generally catching up on things. After smoko I went down to the operations building and searched through all the old station documents to find the 1960 station log book, the 1961 and 1962 logs and also a heap of other maps and field reports to aid me in some research I have been working on lately.

I scanned the entire 1960 station log book and found exactly what I was looking for and then I read through the 1961 log book and the field reports and also found what I was looking for. In December 1960 my step father Bill Kellas was extracted from Binders base by a Dakota aircraft and brought back to Mawson station but shortly after the Dakota was wrecked at Rumdoodle in a severe blizzard preventing a fuel drop to be made for the returning field party.

As a result, one of the two tractor trains had to be abandoned two hundred and ninety kilometres from Mawson when they ran low on fuel. The 1961 logbook and field reports revealed a recovery team left Mawson on the 7th November 1961 and succeeded in recovering the D4 tractor and sledges after a very eventful trip.
 
After lunch Chris, Peter C and Trent decided to replace our main UPS in the Operations building resulting in the crashing of our VoIP telephone system. By the time I knocked off it still wasn’t working.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Monday 22nd July 2013

I woke up to the sound of a roaring eighty knot blizzard and as it was not my week to do the ARPANSA filter change I smiled, turned the alarm and light off and went back to sleep. I woke just in time for a shower before smoko. This was a great opportunity to catch up on everything. I caught up on all my emails and updated a couple of days on my blog, and then I did all my washing and cleaned the bathroom, and vacuumed and emptied all the bins.

By now it was lunch time and I had some tomato soup. After lunch I chipped away on my blog again until two thirty when I lined up Keldyn to come out into the blizzard with me to take some photos and movie footage. The wind was so strong it would blow you off your feet at times so imagine what a one hundred knot blizzard would be like. It is extremely tiring trying to walk in a blizzard and after forty minutes we came back inside exhausted and sweating.

I think I’ll give my ice axe making a miss tonight as I have no desire to walk down to the mechanical work shop in this weather.
                                                              
 
 

Sunday 21st July 2013

Today I had a very relaxing day. After a long sleep in I spent most of the day reading emails, reading the news, reading my book and I also spent quite a bit of time up dating my blog.

Around about two thirty I went for a walk down to the transmitter hut and made quite a few contact using the JT65A mode causing quite a frenzy. I had a bit of a clean up down there and then headed back up to the red shed to scrounge up some thing for dinner. After dinner we watched a horror movie called Decent that was alright. I sat up till late trying to catch up on my blog.

Here I am measuring wind speed with an anemometer whilst standing next to the Campbell Stokes Recorder. This device measures sunshine. This type of recorder is made up of a glass ball which concentrates sunshine on to a thick piece of card. The sunshine then burns a mark on the card which shows the number of hours of sunshine in the day.



Saturday 20th July 2013

Today after a long sleep in because of last nights activities, I strolled out to have brunch and was informed my Saturday duties is picking all the stems off all the potato's working with Luc and Chris. I was in no hurry and by the time I wandered over to the potato container Luc and Chris had long gone but there were still many boxes of growing potato's for me to take care of.

After nearly three hours and ten boxes of potato's done I felt satisfied I had done my bit for society and so I wandered back to the red shed to get rid of all the storks. My back was aching after all the bending over and heavy lifting, so I decided to go and have a spa and read my book for an hour.

Dinner was roast duck and really nice although it was a bit tough. The movie after dinner was Shutter Island and although good, was one of the most warped plots I have ever seen.
 






Deaths at Mawson Station

Today the flags will be flown at half mast today in remembrance of the death of Reginald Sullivan at Wilkes in 1968.

Living and working in Antarctica is very dangerous and over the years there have been many deaths at each of the four Australian stations as well as out in the field. As far as I know, Mawson has lost three good men. As you sail into Davis and Mawson stations one of the first things you see are stone graves with white cross's which really brings home the reality of the savage environment we have come to live in.

Graves at the entrance to Davis station
Graves on west arm at Mawson station

I have often wondered if the graves were just symbolic or there really is people buried in them, so I did some research and discovered they are actually buried there. As much as I love this place there is no way I want to be buried under a pile of rocks down here but I would think times have now changed and they wouldn't let it happen even if you wanted to. These days death is much less common due to modern OHS rules and modern equipment and telecommunications but the environment is still the same. 

The following are extracts from the Mawson station logs detailing the deaths of Robert White 18/10/1963, Kenneth Wilson 18/8/1972 and Geoff Cameron 24/3/1974. It gives a good insight to the tight bond between expeditioners and the impact such an event has on your life down here. The effort and fine detail the men put into the funerals is quite moving. With all due respect to the deceased and families involved I think it's important that they are remembered and their stories are told.          
Geoff Cameron 24th March 1974



This afternoon Geoff Cameron [1] was killed in an accident while tobogganing on a slope to the east of the station. A number of people were out enjoying perfect weather, skiing and trying out the new toboggan Geoff and Gary had built. The slope used is a long gentle slope, a consolidated drift behind a serac -ed hill of ice, but the slope has a steep fall to the western side. He evidently veered to the left and catapulted over this fall, plunging some 40 feet to a blue ice surface, fracturing his skull on impact. I[2] was one of the skiers, and was at the top of the slope and out of sight of the incident. Dadswell, Heap, Clark and Heustridge were also present, and some saw his fall. Walter saw the incident from a distance – looking from the station.



All made haste down to the body, arriving at different times. It was clear he was at least critically injured – blood was coming from his ears. Dadswell was the first sent to get the M.O. Heustridge & I attempted to find a pulse and breathing, but unable to detect any, were not convinced that there were none. The skull was distorted, but the extent was not clear without moving him, so he was left lying on his stomach, for fear that we would injure his brain. We covered him with parkas. Bill Griffiths arrived about 15 minutes later, with a number of helpers. After a short examination he pronounced life extinct.

The body was bought back to the hangar on the rescue sledge. Bill, assisted by jerry and Ron, performed a post-mortem examination in the hangar. An ANTEMERG was sent to Melbourne on the 6.20pm MBT shed, advising of the death. A Coroners Court will be held tomorrow. Technically, it should wait until instructions are received, but I believe it important for morale not to delay. The bureaucratic details can be sorted out later. We are shocked. He was a fine man, a gentle, thoughtful, earnest, well-intentioned, kind and decent person, who in the month we've been here has given himself entirely to the work and pleasure of the station. He was a gentleman by the ancient definition. He was a man.


All in the party have responded in the best possible way. It is a humbling experience to have so fine a group of men at one's command – this is so sadly plain in an event like this. 
The field party[3] have made good time and reached a point 6 miles this side of Twintop.

25th March

This morning a coded cable to follow the ANTEMERG was sent. As a result we spoke on an VNM sched at 10.30am. Sulzberger on behalf of Director had acted promptly on all matters relating to the death. I am very grateful for this, especially for the early breaking of the news.

A Coroners Court was held in the Recreation Room commencing at 11am, and adjourning for lunch and sitting again after lunch. seven witnesses were called, and a deposition from an eight accepted. Frank Johnson acted as clerk of the court, and a full transcript was recorded. 
The Deputy coroner recorded a finding of death by "Accident, or misadventure", occurring shortly before 4pm local time on 24th March, about one mile east of Mawson. 
The body of the deceased is lying in the hangar. A coffin has ben made. Terry, Werner and Graham Heustridge worked until six in the morning to finish it. This is typical of the marvellous response from this party.

A lengthy cable has been coded (actually finished at 4am on 26th!) for transmission to Melbourne ASAP, giving the Coroner's finding, text of the MO's report of death and autopsy report, and incidental information. This is a mighty task with this new code which is more time-consuming than the old one.
The field party have been advised of the death. They are at Twintops. Comms were very poor.

26th March

Melbourne have advised us that the news of the death has been released to the Press. Funeral arrangements are being made. The body is in a flag-draped coffin. The flag has been flying at half-mast for two days. A number of people are preparing the burial site of their own volition.

The field party are still at Twintops. We decided they should come home for the funeral, depoting there rather than trying for beyond Depot A.

27th March

Spoke to Styles[4] today re burial arrangements. 
Field party have not moved

28th March

At 7am, the field party advised they were moving. At 9pm, they reported 16 miles out, expecting to reach GWAMM about 3am, where they will wait till daylight and be down for breakfast - we hope.

After speaking to Melbourne, we are able to fix the time for the funeral service at 10am, to coincide with the memorial service at Williamstown. If the field party are delayed, we will hold off till 2pm.

Burial is to be here, but depending on ACT Coroner to clear it. Consequently, this afternoon all available-hands turned out to cart rocks to the grave site on West Arm – thank goodness the sea-ice is in.

Meanwhile the station just ticks over.

29th March


Spoke with Styles on PNM this morning – confirmation of burial. Tis is at 8am – the field party call up from GWAMM at 8.10, saying they are on the way. They arrive at 9.45. we delay the funeral to 10.15 to permit them time to prepare. The funeral was at 10.15 in the Rec. Room. The weather looked bad – blowing 50kts and the barometer dropping. We decided to bring the burial forward to 2pm.

At 2.10, in heavy wind, we departed from the hangar. The coffin was drawn on a dogsledge by four men, Narra, John, Werner and Ron. It rested on an Australian ensign, and was draped with our ANARE pennant. The pall-bearers, Bill, Garry, terry, Mike H, Tony and Don walked beside the coffin, which was preceded by the OIC and followed by the remainder of the party in single file. The wind was strong on our port quarter, and we had difficulty retaining our footing on smooth ice, so that the procession was rather broken up. All were wearing new Ventiles, trail mitts and mukluks.
[5] On reaching West Arm, we were met by melt pools at the ice edge, and the sledge was manhandled up the slope.

The coffin was taken from the sledge and preceded OIC [6] and sledge-hauling party to the grave, passing between two ranks of the rest of the party. The service was red, the wind snatching the words away into the grey Antarctic gloom. At the conclusion all – and I had only asked for half a dozen – all turned to to bury him, piling rocks on the coffin with the most marvellous common will. It was most moving – it is so gratifying to have such a fine party for such an event. We have 20-odd years of Antarctic experience, and I myself have wintered, & still we marvel at how good a party we have.

 The wind stayed up, but there was little drift, and of course, no sun. we all repaired to the Rec. Room for a Wake, a final farewell to comrade of whom we saw too little.

For the duration of the observances, we suspended station activities – on my authority. We care more for men than data. The one exception was to hold the rad phone sched – to speak to the widow, and assure her of the ceremonies held – Bill, Don & I spoke to her.

Tonight, we have seen Geoff on his way.
 
                                                      Kenneth Wilson (18/8/1972)

Wednesday 23 August

Welcome return (of field party from Colbeck), they had put in a very long last leg from the Stanton group. The exhausted party was welcomed in awesome silence as the news of the death of Radio operator Ken Wilson was revealed. He had died on Sunday the 18th August at 11.00am at Taylor's Hut. Words cannot describe the impact of such news upon expeditioners. Naturally mine was tremendous sympathy for those who had accompanied him through his illness under such trying field conditions. They had all been through the worst of experiences. Post mortem was held early the next day, Wednesday.

Wednesday 23 August

Des
[7], Mark and myself witnessed the P.M. and it was discovered that the cause of death by perforated stomach ulcers, general peritonitis (acute) and general Toxaemia. A death certificate was drawn up. Post mortem results and notification of the death and conditions surrounding it were fwdd to H.O. the news was thence relayed to Mrs Anne Wilson, Ken's wife and subsequently made public only after every man's N of K was notified at my request. Flag flown at ½ mast, coffin made, body within taken to hangar after specimen taken by Doctor.

Thursday 24 August

Station in a state of deep mourning only absolute essential done.

Friday 25th August

Morale lifting a little. Movies shown as a diversionary aid. Things naturally very quiet.

Saturday 26th August

Thankfully the weather good and projects on as usual. Interestingly enough the dog trippers who accompanied Ken were all extremely dejected, down in weight and were indifferent towards everything signifying that what they had been through in the form of 2 violent blizzards, the death and the long push home had shattered them. A quiet Saturday night.

Sunday 27 August      
A general exodus from camp in an attempt to restore things to normal – it helped. Film at night capped off a much more lively afternoon in the Rec Room.

Wednesday 30 August

 Fine day 00F slight 20Kn wind. It has been divulged that Ken be buried at Mawson in a grave on West Arm adjacent Bob White's grave. All hands in working bee carry rocks over the harbour to form cairn for coffin. Certainly a moving sight. What a great team of blokes we have here. Morale good – jokes, jibes and 'stirs' flying about the station.

Thursday 31 August

Beautiful weather continuing with no wind and 120F. The pyro layers(?) are nearing completion but as is always the case on an Antarctic base there's always something to be done, the governors on the Domain (name for diesel generator?) stuck and a rush down to the P.H. to switch them off prevented a total burn out. Keith has completed Ken's cross and Ole has drilled the hole to take it. Max Cutcliffe gashes his wrist badly – August is hell on us!

Friday 1 September

Ken's funeral service held – all of doggies man haul the coffin on a dog sled over to West arm. They became pall bearers whilst the radio boys bear the coffin to the grave site. Service completed under superb Antarctic conditions. Cairn constructed and a great bloke put to rest.

                                                       Robert White (18/10/1963)




 In contrast to the other two deaths there is very little information on the death of Robert White. The log entries by OIC Ray McMahon are brief to say the least. On the 18th the only words are ‘Bob died!’ on the previous day he wrote ‘White admitted to hospital’ – again the only entry for the day.

A search was made of the national archives in 2005 and they found additional entries in the original log, which they hold.

17th October 1963

White slipped on sea ice while running with dogs

1. Apparently hit hard on posterior

2. Seen walking very easily with caution later on

3. Visited M.O.

4. Collapsed in mess. Carried unconscious to surgery

18th October

Bob White died at 0619 this morning

Artificial respiration applied until 1130. No avail 



[1] Geoff Cameron was a carpenter and this was his first ANARE expedition. He'd been at Mawson for only 28 days.
[2] Dave Luders was the OIC and he was previously OIC at Casey in 1972.
[3] Dave McCormack was a member of the field party.
[4] Don Styles was the AAD Acting Director. On retirement he described his greatest disappointment as not being successful in convincing government to establish a permanent rock runaway at Davis.
[5] Winter boots, similar to Sorrels
[6] The Mawson OIC was Neil Roberts a famous ex-footballer for St Kilda who won the Brownlow medal for best and fairest in 1958. In an article in 2008 this is what he wrote about his Mawson experience. ‘‘It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. It was a rugged life. ‘‘I didn’t think I would have to bury a man,’’ he said. Roberts would have gone back, but in 1976, he and Ron Barassi were involved in a serious car smash in Lismore in NSW.
[7] The MO, Des Parker, went on to become the AAD's medical officer. He also assisted in the evacuation of a biologist, Roger Barker, who had fallen from a cliff on Macquarie Island in January 1979. 


There is a forth stone grave at Mawson that is symbolic and contains the ashes of Dr Phillip Law and his wife Nellie. Dr Phillip Law established and named Mawson station on the 13th Feburary 1954.


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Friday 19th July 2013

This morning the wind was blowing pretty hard so I stayed in my room doing my emails until it was time to do the ARPANSA filter change. Chris gave me a hand to do the calibration check of the spare detector now that it had cooled down to minus one hundred and seventy degrees Celsius and we had ramped the detector voltage up to fifteen hundred volts. The detector checked out okay and the X-cooler was holding up.  Later on I psyched myself up to go back and fix the fault with the audio on the bar sound system. After pulling it all apart again it turned out to be a very simple fix.

Tonight was burger night in Klub Katabatic while we watched Crusty Demons doing their crazy motor bike stunts.

At eight thirty, Justin, John, Peter L and I assembled in the mess to prepare to go out to west bay to  hopefully take aurora photos while the wind is clam as it there is a coronal mass discharge due to hit Earth tonight. By the time we got over to west bay there was a faint aurora forming and while we set our selves setup.

The light show just got better and better and I never once felt the minus twenty five cold even though I only had my inner gloves on most of the time and my jacket open. We moved around a lot to take advantage of the ice fall back ground. After about three hours we decided to call it quits and during the walk back all hell broke loose. The sky lit up with the mast awesome aurora display I have ever seen and probably will ever see. It was moving around so fast and in all directions it was hard to keep up with all the action. Not only was it vivid dark green, but it was also purple and red falling as curtains from the sky in every direction.

John had left, Justin had left his camera on time delay and only Peter and I had our cameras. At this stage my camera and battery's were so cold I was only getting about two shots per battery before having to warm them up in my glove. I fumbled around with my gloves on changing battery's and adjusting camera settings and only managed to get a couple of photos, but the aurora was so bright and so fast moving with the camera setting I had been using what photos' I got were blurred and over exposed. It was such an awesome experience and I was so pumped up I didn't get to sleep till about four o'clock in the morning.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday 18th July 2013

Today I had a hell of a day. I spent all day working on completing the wiring in the bar. I must have made five or six trips back down to the Operations building or to the green store getting bits and pieces or a new battery for the battery drill, then a charger for the battery drill, or a bloody drill for the battery drill. Then the wall that I wanted to bring all the cables down had a steel stud blocking the path and once I got around that there were two PVC pipes concealed in the wall that I had to deal with.

It was a basted of a job that took me all day to complete. At one stage two blokes came in and were going to give me CPR as they thought I'd passed out from drinking too much as all they could see were my legs sticking out from under a table. I'm not one to give up and eventually I finished around six o'clock and then I had to vacuum and clean up as Thursday night is the foreign movie night and the bar will be full later on. All I can say is thank god that's done. It looks bloody good though as the previous crew had left wires dangling all over the place and I now know why.

Tonight's foreign movie was Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso 1988) which was a great movie. Unlike Hollywood movies, European movies rely on touching human emotions rather than over loading the sensors with action, violence and unbelievable heroic bull shit. I'm not saying Hollywood movies are no good, just don't write off an SBS foreign movie because it has subtitles as you might be surprised what you're missing out on.

Bugger me, after the movie we were playing some video clips on the bar projector and the sound was coming through in mono, so that means I will have to take a look again tomorrow and sort it out.....Doh !!

Storyline:

A famous film director remembers his childhood at the Cinema Paradiso where Alfredo, the projectionist, first brought about his love of films. He returns home to his Sicilian village for the first time after almost 30 years and is reminded of his first love, Elena, who disappeared from his life before he left for Rome.

The movie won the Palme D'Or and Academy Award for Best Foreign Movie plus many other awards. It goes for 167 minutes.
 
Nice and tidy
Hidden out of sight
Klub Katabatic
No more dangling cables from the ceiling