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Mawson Newsletter December 1980
Happy New Year, belated Christmas wishes and farewell to 1980! Sorry that this newsletter is a bit late, but as expected, December was a busy month.
December presented us with two highlights, the first being the arrival of the "Little Red Ship" late at night on 5th December, 1980. Although we could not see the "Nella" as she anchored at the sea ice edge about 40 miles out to sea, the sight of the three helicopters appearing over the horizon brought the whole station out in force. (Even the Huskies chipped in with a chorus of welcome).
With many hands to help and a boost by fresh ale and fresh tomato sandwiches, the mail was sorted and handed out. Everyone then disappeared to their dongas for the rest of the night to read their mail and open their parcels from home. Many are the joys of life down here, but receiving mail after 9 months isolation from family and friends is one of the supreme joys.
The following two days saw busy times as the helicopters ferried in the 1981 team and off-loaded cargo, whilst R.T.A. cargo and departing 1980 expeditioners were ferried out to the "Nella". It was quite sad indeed to see eleven of our "old boys" leave the station, especially under such hurried circumstances, and our good wishes for life back in Australia went with them (and perhaps a tiny twinge of envy at their good fortune to be returning home).
After the "Nellas" departure for Davis, everyone settled back into a semblance of routine living down here and plans were set into action for summer work programmes. This gave us all a chance to work side-by-side with the "new guys", and to get to know them. Within a few days new friendships had been formed, and it seemed as though everyone had been fellow-expeditioners together at Mawson for the past year. The 1981 expeditioners are certainly a well prepared and competent group and our wishes go to them for a successful year at Mawson.
The second highlight of December was the unexpected announcement on Christmas Day of plans for the departure of a tractor train to go on traverse to the Prince Charles Mountains. This traverse was to be made up of four 1980 expeditioners and four 1981 expeditioners, and its purpose was to establish fuel depots and mark the route in to the Northern area of the P.C.M.’s about 300 miles inland, south-east of Mawson. This is in preparation for a major traverse to this area later in 1981 to complete geological, surveying and meteorological work commenced there in the early 1970’s. So with sore heads Boxing Day saw the commencement of a busy week getting vehicles, food, repair and rescue equipment ready for the departure of the tractor train. Fortunately, in hopeful anticipation of a summer traverse, we had already loaded and waiting at Gwamm, seven sledges each filled with twenty-four 44 gallon drums of fuel, and most of the major mechanical work on the D5. Tractors had been completed before the arrival of the orders to go.
Accordingly, much time was saved in getting ready, and at 7.00am on 31st December most of the station headed up to the Plateau with the tractor train to say "Bon Voyage". Gwamm resembled something like a Picadilly Circus traffic jam. There were tractors, sledges, R.M.I.T. vans, caravans, a mole mink, a G.T. snow track, dog teams, skiers and hitchhikers all over the place. (Kodak shares must have jumped a few points that day). The day started very overcast and windy, with mild white-out conditions, but by 10.00am blue skies and a bright sun farewelled the lads on their way inland.
Those of us remaining behind returned to Mawson to get an early start on "New Year" celebrations. By midnight everyone was in fine form to see the New Year "in" with champagne, rocket flares, "Auld Lang Syme" (sung to bagpipes) and all-in-all a general helluva racket. (1980 - that was a good year, that was).
Other December activities have included a station effort to put a massive rope harness around our pet iceberg at the harbour entrance. This rope was then dragged across the harbour sea ice to "East Arm" so that it could be anchored to a massive bollard in preparation of an attempt to tow the iceberg free of the Harbour mouth when the sea ice breaks up. Subsequent betting on the possibilities of success of this venture have been an amusing pastime for dinner table discussion.
The sea ice generally has been decaying fast of late, and a lead into the sea ice about 20 miles north-east of the Station and another about 10 miles north-west of us, have appeared in the last few days.
While it lasts, many people are taking advantage of the 24 hours daylight to spend their off-duty moments walking out to local islands to visit the penguin rookeries and to see the hatching of the chicks. Skiing on our own backyard slope has also gathered a regular following, and subsequently at night the Station itself is rather deserted as men catch up on all these outdoor activities. "There’s never a dull moment" is certainly true of a year spent in Antarctica.
Well folks, lots of love for the new year and we are all looking forward to seeing you again very soon. Until then our thoughts are with you. We leave you with a few extras from the Mawson "Who’s who" as of 1st January, 1981.
Slk, Brutus, Jumbo, George "Head and Shoulders", Sojo Thomo, Later (Ron), Hasty-Tasty.
Skiers of Renown:
Snoopy, Whitlam, Cosray, (K.C.M.G.), Tricky Ricky, Yea-Man, 50/50, Steelo.
Shep, Drobo, Tuck, Gnome, Petal, Cookie Monster, Little Stevie Wonder, Wal.
Mac, M-Squared, Gordo, Raincoat.
Chastiv, Dagwood, Father, Normal, Henri.
Liz, Shakey, Magus, Weather, Terrible, Phredd, Jaygee, Siggy, Rusty.
On Loan to Davis:
Big D, Stix.
Extra Names for the Glossary of Mawson’s "Who’s Who".
"George Head and Shoulders" George Hedanek.
"Thomo" George Thompson
"Later" Ron Kennedy
"Hasty-Tasty" Mark Haste
"Whitlam" John Gough
"Tricky Ricky" Rick Fleming
"Yea-Man" Bob Yeoman
"Petal" Terry Rose
"Cookie Monster" Alan Winter
"Little Stevie Wonder" Steve Musgrove
"Wal" Wally Elliot
"Mac" Dave McAvoy
"M-Squared" Mark Meyer
"Gordo" Gordon Ashcroft
"Normal" Norm Jones
"Henri" Henry Weiss
"Dada" Graeme Dadswell
"Animal" Alan Marks