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Mawson Newsletter, January, 1980

The season of "Ho Ho Ho" is well gone now, and the first month of 1980 seems to be a fading memory. Doesn't time fly ... ?? Already work programmes down here are well under way, and Autumn leaves, (if there were any), would be about to fall.

Mawson, 1980, opened with grand weather, blue skies, warm sunny days, and very little wind. This gave the ski club two weeks of uninterrupted bliss, the Plateau slopes became like Falls Creek in peak season every evening after work; the swimming club also met each evening in Kista Straits and the membership reached a peak number of nine on some occasions. Daylight lasted twenty-four hours in the first part of January, and consequently much work and play was enjoyed by all.

The major work programme down here of course has been a building project. The big red living quarters being constructed on the hill top at Mawson has reached "lock-up" stage (9th January) and internal concreting has been completed. The new powerhouse has had concrete footings erected and daily work lends to its evergrowing appearance. The building team have put a lot of effort into the Summer months and have been assisted by the Army lads and many others on the station when time has permitted them to leave their own work. Good effort fellows .....

The 2nd of January saw the Summer traverse reach Mt King. The traverse was completed in 2 weeks without a hitch, and a record 98 kilometres was achieved in one twenty-four hour period. The eight men on the traverse drove constantly in three tractors for eight hours each shift, and refueled, repaired, cooked and slept in between their shifts. They all arrived at Mt King tired and sunburnt, but justly proud of their effort.

Early January also brought the arrival of "Nella Dan" and this meant all men pitching in to unload the ship. When the "Nella" arrived, the harbour was covered with ice, and it took eighteen hours of frustrating ice-bashing for her to berth. Nonetheless, everybody's anguish was rapidly quelled when the LARCs and the helicopter came ashore with the latest mail from home, and some fresh beer. (Speaking of beer, we are now down to zero stock, none at all, help .....)

The "Nella" remained at Mawson for five days, and unloading was continually hampered by the large ice flows that remained in the harbour; although slow, the offloading was completed rather uneventfully and as the "Nella" sailed off into the blue yonder, the pack-ice in the harbour drifted out and clear blue water remained. Since her departure, the harbour has remained ice-free (Wouldn't you know it ....) still, this has proved to be an advantage for our recent arrival, the "Nanok S".

The new ship employed by ANARE is a 4000 tonne Danish vessel. She, too, is red and white, not very big in appearance, but has two super structures above her work decks. The passenger cabins are twice the size of "Nella's" facilities and everyone was pleased to see the efficiency with which she operated. Unloading was completed in three days and before you could say "Aurora Australis", she was gone. Here's hoping to see the Nanok S down here again next year. (The name, by the way, is Danish - "Nanok" for Polar Bear, "S" for Sorensen Line).

Another January visitor to Mawson was a Russian aircraft. It overflew the station three times and carried out an airdrop of gifts and mail for our Russian winterer at Mawson. Unfortunately, they did not land here, but at least their airdrop did wonders to boost the morale of our "comrade" and his "International Trading Post" has flourished with new vigour.

As you no doubt have already heard by now, the first "Nella" this Summer could not get close enough to Davis to land their expeditioners, so we naturally inherited them. Apart from the booze they consumed, they all were jolly fine guys and good workers, and we all felt that they were almost good enough to become Mawsonites. It was sad to see them go on the second "Nella", but let's wish them good luck at Davis and thanks for all their help over here.

With the 1979 winterers and the 1980 arrivals, plus the Davisites, and the Mt King Summer team, we have had 78 people in the area this season. As Mawson caters for 30 people usually, let me assure everyone who thinks that Antarctic life is dull and boring that they are wrong. This place is like Fitzroy Street on a Saturday night, with a few exceptions of course .... Life, however is now taking a turn for the quieter as some of the Summer expeditioners have departed, as have some of the 1979 Mawson winterers. The remaining 1979 men are now all getting itchy feet and will be glad to see the little "Nella" appear in three weeks to take them home and so their year will come to an end. Hi ho ....

Well this letter better come to an end right now, and I'll take this opportunity to wish the 1979ers a "Bon Voyage" and a fine welcome to them and their families in Australia. Thanks lads for your help and advice in this time shared Summer period, and we hope to uphold your good work this year.