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Mawson Newsletter November 1980
This has been a busy month, with people preparing for the arrival of Nella Dan, and making the most of improved weather for sightseeing and last minute photography. The darkroom is being used almost continuously.
The beginning of the month saw a number of people dyeing, but the novelty of this soon wore off. "DROBBO" started it with blue potatoes and pink cauliflower. The members of Dovers Donga then continued this by dyeing each other, culminating with "BRUTUS" who started his own version of the "Blue Balls Club", when he fell for the "blue dye powder in the towel" trick.
With this surge of activity a few minor accidents have occurred, nothing serious, but it serves to remind us that the Antarctic is not free of hazards even in good weather.
Two groups visited Auster Rookery this month, which means that everyone has been at least once. The first group comprised "NOBBY", "COSIN", "KCMG" and "GENIE". Their return was delayed by bad weather for three days. Non-smoker "COSIN" suffered the most!
The second group comprised "FATHER", "WX", "STEELO" and "BIG D", whose return was also delayed, this time by vehicle breakdown and they had to suffer the humiliation of being towed back by tractor.
The outstanding trip for the month was the attempt to reach Scullin Monolith (180km) from Mawson) by dog sledge. TOM, "DROBBO", "SOJO" and "GNOME" were forced to turn back because of broken runners on both sledges after ninety kilometres. The weather was generally kind to them and the slides they brought back show them lightly clothed, suntanned and obviously enjoying themselves. "SOJO’s" ham contacts from the dog sledge, eighty kilometres from Mawson are probably an Antarctic first.
The race to Ring Rock (8 km) and return by ice yacht was declared a no race. "JUMBO" and "SNOOPY" were becalmed, while "LIZ" and "SHAKEY" bent their yacht when crossing a wide tide crack. Both had to be towed back. "JUMBO’s" attempts to improve the appearance of "SHAKEY’s" ice yacht by welding on a figurehead, namely the workshop anvil, were suspected as being a sneaky form of handicapping.
"LIZ", "D", "TUCK" and "BRUTUS" took two dogs to Forbes Glacier, returning just before tea time fatigued from running most of the 48 kilometres and somewhat hoarse from calling instructions to the dogs. The quote of the day came from "LIZ" who said "All I can see is ice", when told they were at their destination.
Rumdoodle was visited by "TUCK", "LIZ", "RUSTY" and IVAN, who reported about two thousand Snow petrels in the area. With the sea ice becoming unsafe for trips by vehicle, Rumdoodle is now becoming the place to visit for a quiet weekend and already a number of people have indicated their desire to go there by dogs, manhauling or vehicle.
The returning animal life has been observed with much interest. Adelie rookeries on islands near Mawson have been visited regularly. Mating is in full swing and "NOBBY" claims to have a rare photo of a male Adelie actually proving it is a male. This is the only time of year most of us could tell the difference anyway. Although more than half of the birds are yet to arrive, many of the early birds have eggs and are squatting protectively on their rocky nests. Skuas are around the station continually, in ever increasing numbers and Wilson Storm petrels and Antarctic fulmars have also been sighted. Weddell seals and particularly their pups, provide excellent subjects for the photographer, whilst possibly the most popular are the pairs of faithful Snow petrels nesting amongst the rocks.
Other Antarctic wildlife appears during ding nights, when any reason for a party will do, and the best of Australian youth and culture is at the forefront.
Saturday night birthday parties were celebrated for "WX", "FATHER" and "SIGGY" and a couple of weeks later, "RAINCOAT", "RUSTY" and "SHAKEY". This second celebration also coincided with the special national day in the USSR, the anniversary of the Russian revolution. "GENIE" excelled himself, supplying pelmeni, kvass, russian peppers and other goodies, and naturally the vodka flowed freely. A raffle in which we all won small souvenirs of the Soviet Union and in particular Murmansk was greatly appreciated by all.
Snow ball fights are now more frequent as the warmer weather approaches. During a barbecue recently, "BEAR" and "JUMBO" fought a two-hour battle, sneaking up on each other, running across rooftops and generally showing their high spirits.
"JG" (JIM VALLANCE) can be seen at times, sitting on his RTA boxes, which have been packed for weeks, gazing wistfully out to sea for the first sign of Nella Dan. "BRUTUS" gave "JG" a well earned break by taking over the cooking for five days, "JG" becoming slushy for that time.
CHARLES TIVENDALE produced a brilliant Guy Fawkes display, firing sixty outdated and damp Very cartridges at once over Mawson harbour, and has been nibbling away at our iceberg with explosives periodically.
"SIGGY" and SYD have been hard at work on the go-cart progressively adding refinements such as clutch, brakes and rope starter as their need became apparent. The speedometer when fitted will read in mach numbers, not KPH. A weakness in the radiator hose was found by "50-50" who whilst riding it "disappeared in a cloud of steam" as the song goes. "50-50’s" instinct for damaging vehicles is well known.
"STEELO" has taken up D4 bulldozer driving as a hobby, clearing snow from around the buildings, and "COSIN" is learning the Met. routine, to help until KEV SHEPHERD’s broken ankle heals.
Practical jokes are on the increase, for example TOM received a telex from Lolita Escort Services (it still hasn’t occurred to him to look at the outgoing wyssas to Mrs. Rob.), and SYD got one advising that hand winches would be sent down to pull the berg by manpower!
Brewers "GNOME" and "RUSTY" continue to produce a good brew, but "COSIN’s" ginger beer plant has died, so unless "50-50" can rejuvenate it, that will be the end of the brewed soft drink for the year.
"PHREDD’s" scones (first for months) for morning and afternoon tea went down well, even though the oven was a bit cool.
In readiness for the critical inspection by the incoming party, a number of people, notably "STIX", have repainted the crapper (some say for the better) and the mess cold porch: "GENIE’s" hut is being better insulated and painted; "DROBBO’s" work area is being livened up with paintings of Australian scenes done by "NOBBY", "JUMBO" and "BEAR" and the station is being generally tidied up.
So once again, we end the newsletter with thoughts of our loved ones at home, and with thoughts also of the little red ship coming to take us back.
(This epistle brought to you by "COSIN", occupant of the castle on the hill (complete with dungeon) and "CHASTIV", occupant of the palace by the said (complete with outhouse on the sea ice)).
Note: Please refer to previous newsletters for identification of the dubious characters referred to by pseudonyms!
Editor - Mrs. Rob.