Saturday, 31 August 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013

We woke up to a beautiful sunny day without any wind. After breakfast I climbed to the fifty three meter high summit of Bechervaise Island which gave spectacular views of the whole region, then I wandered slowly back to camp checking out all the penguin monitoring equipment along the way. The Adélie Penguins on Bechervaise Island have been studied for decades to understand the impact of krill fishing and lately of the impact of acidification of the southern ocean. There are automatic cameras, weigh bridges and every summer there are biologists living out on the Island for months studying their breeding.







After packing up we headed off to the Kellas Islands as I wanted to place a cache there. It’s a heavy brass canister containing a laminated page about who the Islands were named after and a brief story of Bill including a few photos. I also included a pencil and note pad for any comments should it be discovered. My plan was to install a cane pole deep in the ice and tie a rope around both the pole and the canister and drop the canister into a gap in the rock. I forgot to take a GPS reading so we just winged it by eye and ended up driving past them and ending up at Parallactic Islands about a kilo meter further North so we turned around and drove back till we found them. 


The rock was almost completely covered with frozen sea spray making them hard to identify out on the sea ice. It must get very violent out here during a blizzard when the sea is open. While carrying the gear from the Hag to the highest point I broke through the honeycombed ice and all my weight went forward on my leg just below my knee and as I fell over for a moment I thought I might have broken my leg as the pain was so intense. After a while I hardened up and continued to hobble about. I drilled a hole for the cane and filled it up with water to freeze it in, attached the cache, took a few photos and then headed off to our next destination Marble rock. 



Marble rock was a huge rock protruding from the plateau ice cliffs. We climbed up and over the top to admire the view and on top I found a couple of really old pitons hammered into the rock which I removed to put them in our dog room display. On the climb back down I stopped to take some photos of a really nice curled cornice. Our next destination was Peake Jones rock and then onto Ring rock where we stopped and went for a long walk. Near a cairn on one of the summits I found what looks to be a piece of dog harness. It amazes me how often I think I am the first human to ever set foot on a place and then I find some trash or relic. After our long walk we had a hot drink and something to eat before heading off to climb Welch Island. Welch Island is one of the most distinctive Islands in the whole area and I have wanted to climb it since we have been allowed access to the sea ice. It’s only one hundred and thirty meters high but it’s a steep and slippery climb. On the summit the view was superb and we sat there for a while to take it all in. Just before our descent we saw Keldyn, John and Justin combing down the plateau in the orange Hag after they had spent the day climbing Mount Rumdoodle. We climbed back down to the Hag and then headed off getting home just in time for dinner.












Monday 26th August 2013

Today was a perfect day with zero wind so I decided to attempt to raise the tide gauge after lunch. During the morning I did the usual comms stuff then after smoko I got everything ready for the tide gauge packed into the green Hag ready to go. After lunch we drove out onto the sea ice and drilled two holes directly over the tide gauge. In one Chris lowered an eight meter pole with a light and a camera so we can see the tide gauge on a monitor and I lowered a mechanical grab on two ropes. It didn't take long till I managed to grab the top of the tide gauge and carefully pull it out of its concrete housing and then raise it to the surface. Mission completed. I took everything back to the office and gave the tide gauge a good scrub up. Once the tide gauge had warmed up I tried connecting to it once again but it was still completely dead and needs to be packed up and sent back to Kingston to have the special batteries changed and the data recovered. In the mean time we will have to plug the hole in the concrete housing to prevent silt and sea creatures from taking up residence. On the walk back to the red shed there was a magnificent view as the moon was setting behind castle berg.

The recovered tide gauge

After dinner, Darron, Pete C and I went out to Bechervaise Island for the night staying in one of the four huts out there. We made our way out there all right in the dark and got ourselves settled. We enjoyed a bottle of wine and a few beers and latter I went out to photograph some aurora activity that was taking place. It was hard to shoot as it was so dark and I couldn't illuminate the huts to my desire and I was a bit disappointed. I stayed out for quite some time and I had to regularly keep changing batteries to warm them up again when suddenly the moon started to rise and around the same time the aurora started to go nuts. It went super bright and was swirling all around the sky as quick as you could turn in every direction. When they do this it is really something to see. I was yelling out to the other guys to get out and take a look at the action and by the time they finally emerged most of the action was over. It was a great display and finished off a great night.


Peter c
Darron








Sunday 25th August 2013

Today turned out to be a nice sunny day with little wind. For most of the morning I sat in my room working on my blog, reading the news and going through my emails. When I saw how nice it was outside through the big windows in the mess I thought bugger it I’m going fishing today. Nobody was interested as the rugby was on TV so I peeled a few prawns for bait, got my gear organised and drove out onto the sea ice in the harbour on my own.

I picked a random spot out in the middle and got the jiffy drill out and drilled a couple of holes through the one and a half meters of sea ice, set up my camp chair, bait and bucket and dropped in my baited line. In the other hole I lowered my camera. I should have consulted a chart beforehand as it was over ninety meters deep and I should have moved closer to the rocks but the jiffy drill was playing up and it took me over an hour to drill these two holes so I just persisted and enjoyed the serenity. It was very cold at around minus twenty six but very relaxing just the same.

As expected there were lots of little fish nibbling and stealing the bait. After a while Peter C walked out and had a go using my other rod and he caught a monster which tangled our lines together. The fifteen centimetre fish froze almost immediately once taken from the water. His rod was now out of action but I fixed up my tangle and dropped back down and a short while later I landed a monster twenty centimetre fish and then we decided to call it quits.

Everyone talks about these fish tasting horrible as they are full of antifreeze so I decided to put it to the test. I filleted both fish and fried them up for a taste test. Actually they were pretty good so I would have to say myth busted!! The type of fish we caught were Nototheniid - Pagothenia borchgrevinki which are one of the most common of the 203 bottom-dwelling fish species of Antarctica.
 
 
 
 
Nototheniid - Pagothenia borchgrevinki

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Saturday 24th August 2013

Today I slept in very late and after making a coffee and some brunch I decided to do my Saturday duties which was cleaning and vacuuming the cinema and dog room, and while I was in cleaning mode I also decided to clean my room and bath room and also to do all my washing and change my sheets.

By about four thirty I was buggered and decided to sooth my aching bones by having a spa. I got myself organised and walked down to the green store only to find the spa turned off and leaking water everywhere so I spent the next hour and a half finding out where the leak was coming from. Water was coming out of the ozone generator drain so I think it had been over filled. Tonight for dinner John cooked lasagna and later Keldyn & Chris went to Bechervaise Island for the night. After dinner I watched Fleetwood Mac in concert in the cinema and then I watched movies The beach and Machete.

Friday 23rd August 2013

This morning I reluctantly started back on the audit and reorder. After doing the ARPANSA filter change and having lunch, I headed over the ANARESAT building to reset the automatic tracking system that had dropped out during the last power outage. It took me about forty minutes to dig my way into the building as the snow was nearly over the door once again. 

We have quite a few black outs here as we rely on the wind turbines for most of our power and when the wind suddenly drops the diesel generators have to kick in very fast to take up the load. It’s quite an advanced system and saves us tones of diesel but as any alternative energy source it does have its limitations. 

Once done at ANARESAT I headed back to the Operations building and copied some documents and maps for the trips I am planning to the Casey range. I reprogrammed Geoff’s GPS and that was about it for the day. After dinner I watched some old ACDC concerts on the projector in the bar and ended up having a big night with Pepe & Keldyn.

 
 
 
Ever wondered what is in that great big scary dome?
 
Our satellite communications network, known as ANARESAT, uses Intelsat geostationary satellites to provide telecommunication links between Australia and the three Australian Antarctic stations. The satellite earth-station at Mawson was installed and commissioned in January 1988. Before this Mawson relied on high frequency radio for all it's communications back to Australia. Mawson ANARESAT operates with a modest bandwidth of 500 kbps. (kilobits per second)

ANARESAT operates in C-Band (6 & 4 GHz) and uses 70 MHz IFs. The dish, which is 7.3 metres in diameter, is enclosed in a Kevlar radome to protect it from the harsh and unforgiving environment.

Thursday 22nd August 2013

It was a really nice day this morning so I went for a walk around the station taking photos. I dropped into the Aeronomy building too look for resistors for my amplifier and found the only 5.1 ohm resistors on the whole station; what luck. While in aeronomy, I found this fantastic work of art that highlighted how resourceful you have to be to work down here. Out of necessity someone had crafted some electronic equipment out of an old (very old) Fosters Larger beer can. I just had to get a photo of this little gem.


Polar engineering


Aeronomy building

Aeronomy is the science of the upper region of the atmosphere and this is another science building where we are responsible for looking after the instruments and experiments. There are two experiments running in aeronomy at the moment; a Riometer array and a All-sky Fabry-Perot Spectrometer.

The Riometer array is an instrument used to quantify the amount of electromagnetic wave ionospheric absorption in the atmosphere as it measures radio noise emanating from distant stars and galaxies. This information can be used in forecasting space weather and for making high frequency propagation prediction maps.


Riometer


Riometer antenna

The all-sky imaging Fabry-Perot Spectrometer is capable of recording independent
spectra from many tens of locations across the sky simultaneously. Initial analysis has focused on the large-scale daily and average behaviour of winds and temperatures derived from observations of the 630.0 nm air glow line of atomic oxygen, originating from a broad layer centred around 240 km altitude, in the ionospheric F-region.


The all-sky imaging Fabry-Perot Spectrometer 
While walking around out the back of the tank house I found an old weathered axe handle that will make a good handle for the ice axe I am making. I will turn it down on the wood lathe to make it round. 

Back in the workshop I replaced the resistors in my amplifier and then continued on with some more auditing till I got bored. After work I went down to the transmitter building to set the standby bias current on my amplifier (after replacing the resistors) and found out the power supply wasn’t working. What a bummer, something else to fix. The series regulator was not working and it must be one of the transistors gone on strike. While taking some measurements with a multimeter I slipped with a probe and managed to short out the rectified 60v blowing a terminal off and frying a crock clip producing heaps of smoke. After switching off the power I rushed to open both doors to blow the smoke out of the room before the fire alarm went off and everybody having to muster. Bugger, now I have to fix the fault I just created before getting back to the original fault. 

I was so annoyed with myself; I just packed up and called it quits for the day. Tonight’s foreign movie was a bit creepy with this guy constantly stalking his girl friend and I didn't think much of it but latter we watched three episodes of Trailer Park Boys laughing our eye balls out all the way through.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Wednesday 21st August 2013

Today was cold windy and overcast but when I stepped out the door there was a beautiful sun rise taking place. A very faint pink colour was lighting up the clouds from below. I took a couple of snaps but couldn’t capture the true beauty of the moment. Then my hands started to go off so I had to glove up quick smart. Once your hands have gone off it is extremely painful and you lose the movement of all your fingers. Then next step is the pain subsiding, your skin goes pail and waxy and slowly your fingers freeze solid killing all the tissue. Often out in the field it’s very difficult to warm them back up again and you could be in pain for an hour or so. For a day or so your hands will feel sore and lack movement so you know probably some damage has been done.

First up I took a look at my blown up 6m amplifier and found the four 5.1 ohm bias resistors that had burnt out. I searched through both Comms and Met and could only come up with 5.6 ohm resistors as 5.1 ohms is not a preferred value. My last chance is the Aironomy building. If there is none there then I will have to try 5.6 ohms and adjust the bias and hope for the best and hope the FET’s are OK too.

I started back on reordering and auditing and by lunch time I had had enough. I did a bit of research through some old field log books on a few places I would like to visit and while doing this I discovered some more field notes from the 1960’s so I scanned a lot of pages and then the printer jammed up. I then spent the next three hours stripping down the printer to find the problem. It was a mongrel job and eventually I found a tiny corner of a page jammed out of sight blocking a sensor. Talk about ruin your day. After dinner at the people’s night we watched some time laps movies from Jeremy and some photo’s from Luc of his time on Willis Island Met station.


Sunrise


My 6m amplifier guts


Two of the four fried resistors


Sunset

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Tuesday 20th August 2013

Today once again there was hardly a cloud in the sky, bright sun but still blowing 30 knots all day. Quite a few of us found it hard to get motivated this morning and we ended up having a lengthy discussion over breakfast. Chris rolled in at some point so I can officially write it off as a comms meeting. Without most of us knowing, Justin, Pete L and Cliff left for Macey hut for a couple of days.

I finally dragged myself down to the office where I spent the morning rebuilding the file server menu structure and getting things back to normal after it crashed a couple of months ago. I also put in a request to our station leader (to be forwarded onto head office for approval) to lead a trip into the following places which are outside our approved operating area.

Ledingham Dept (Inc Colbek) maybe 5-6 days. 150kms west of the station over sea ice

Casey Range

Twintops (Mountain range) Staging point and depot in early days

Mt Hordern

I'm over summer's camp. I want to do some big ball stuff and get out off the beaten track before my time here is up. Strait away my Ledingham Dept request was denied even though last year's expeditioners were allowed to go there, so that was disappointing but I will still work on it. I guess I will have to wait and see what the powers to be in Kingston come back with on the other requests. If you don't ask you won't get.

I did my first Internet shopping today to order a few little bits and pieces including a couple of hard drives hopefully to be delivered on V1 flight in November. I have been very disciplined with Internet shopping whilst down here as I had visions of getting bored and ordering all sorts of stuff throughout the year and getting home only find a sea container dumped on the lawn full of junk that I can't even remember ordering.

After lunch I went for a wander down to the mechanical work shop to return some dies and taps I borrowed and then I wandered back to the Ops building via the sea ice as I wanted to take at look a the sea ice now most of the snow has been blown off. I also wanted to check out the sea ice where Jeremy and Geoff have been dumping all the snow they have been clearing for months. The weight of the dumped snow has been causing the nearly two meter deep sea ice to sag and crack causing sea water to flow up out of cracks and refreeze around it. I never get sick of looking at all this stuff as it's so interesting and you will only see it down here. On the way back, I watched the MET balloon release. I stood there for ten minutes in the freezing wind and watched it rise to maybe ten thousand feet. It was amazing watching it get blown around in the wind and to see how the wind direction change as it climbed higher and higher.

I took a break from the mind numbing reordering and stock take to do a bit of research on the places I have requested to get permission to go to. Yes I know it's premature, but I figure if I have done my research first and I am fully knowledgeable about traversing to these locations I will have a better chance of getting approval to go there. Anyway, I just like drooling over maps, I always have.

I came up with some real good stuff, old maps, dog traverses, field notes and a tremendous amount of info to sift through. I also came across more 1960's field notes, diary's and photos which I spent the afternoon scanning for my old 1960 epeditioner comrades. There is a real treasure trove here of fifty three years of history in old brittle log books, diaies, notes, maps and old photos. I have been told they have all been copied and held in Commonwealth archives somewhere never to be seen again, so I hope this priceless and invaluable information doesn't get lost forever.

Once upon a time Australians were the leaders and experts of polar travel and exploration and all the secrets and valuable lessons and observations are contained in these crusty old documents. What these men did and achieved long ago was incredible and a documentary should be made interviewing the remaining expeditioners before they move onto that big glacier in the sky. Compared to these men, today we are mealy political caretakers of this great white continent. Yes we have satellites to take photos now from above, but we have only dared to explore by foot a microscopic fraction of the surface of Antarctica. Scientific plateau traverses are a thing of the past and in the mean time Russia, China, India, Italy and Japan are building stations on so called Australian territory. C'mon Aus, let's get back into Antarctic research.

 
 
 
 


Monday 19th August 2013

Again blue sky, 30+ knots, snow melting & dusty with radiant heat. If only the wind would go away this would be awesome weather. I had a bad headache today and felt a bit off colour. The water was off for the first time when I went to have a shower so I had to have one after smoko. I have to do stock take and reordering before the end of this month so I have to start cracking. It's a mongrel job and I'm hoping Chris will give me a hand to get through it.

I took a break from stocktaking in the afternoon to have a go at a moon bounce contact with both N7NW & K7CW in the USA. I still haven't managed to get a signal into the USA and I wasn't about to today either. The full moon looked spectacular as it rose up above the plateau and it would have been perfect watching my signals bounce off it on such a beautiful day, but it wasn't to be. Unfortunately as I was about to shut my transmitter down I noticed my 6m amplifier was dead. So now my final piece of equipment has blown up. I can't believe my luck, or bad luck I should say.

I stripped the amplifier down in disgust and found all four bias resistors were fried. All this time I must have been over driving it and it has finally said enough is enough. I just hope the two FET's are OK as if they are shot my moon bounce days are over and my 6m work has been reduced to bare foot.

I worked back late and wandered up for dinner feeling rather glum. After dinner I watched a documentary on five young black kids in New York who were wrongly convicted for rape in the late eighty's. It was a very sad story and they were released seven years later after a confession and a DNA match. The saddest bit is they are still waiting to be compensated ten years after being released.