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Antarctica Odyssey: "In the Footsteps of Mawson"

 
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MessagePosté le: Mar 10 Jan - 07:16 (2012)    Sujet du message: Antarctica Odyssey: "In the Footsteps of Mawson" Répondre en citant

L’expédition Aurora ou expédition Mawson, officiellement appelé Australasian Antarctic Expedition, est une expédition australienne en Antarctique. Elle fut menée entre 1911 et 1914 par Douglas Mawson dans le cadre de l'exploration et de la cartographie d'une partie quasiment inexplorée de la côte de l'Antarctique située au Sud de l'Australie, entre le cap Adare et Gaussberg
Pour célèbrer le centenaire de cette expédition , une expédition scientifique va refaire le voyage.

On board the Aurora Australis, a multi-purpose research and resupply shipt,he Australian Antarctic Division's Tony Fleming tells Karen Barlow that Douglas Mawson's expedition to Antarctica 100 years ago was really important because it helped place science at the centre of the continent's future.


The icebreaker Aurora Australis is ploughing through the Southern Ocean to land a commemorative party where explorer Douglas Mawson first set up an Antarctic base 100 years ago.
On January 8, 1912, members of Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition came ashore from the steam yacht Aurora at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, directly south of Australia.

They were the first to set foot on the 3200km stretch of coast between Cape Adare and Gaussberg, setting the scene for Australia's later territorial claims and its continuing scientific involvement there.

Just as the Aurora was hampered by ice and blizzards 100 years ago, the modern Aurora Australis will have to work around a giant iceberg off Commonwealth Bay and looks set to have to ice-break its way in on Wednesday or Thursday.

A blizzard is forecast for the bay tomorrow when the Australian Antarctic Division ship is due in the area. Weather and ice permitting, it's hoped a commemorative party will be ashore at Cape Denison on Thursday, January 12, 100 years to the day that Mawson and a small team of men first set up camp overnight ashore.

The party plans to lay a time capsule and raise the Australian flag near Mawson's wooden huts to mark the groundbreaking 1911-14 expedition.

The Adelaide-based geologist and his men were only able to take ashore one boatload of supplies before a blizzard set in and they were forced back to the ship.

Australian National University historian Tom Griffiths, who is aboard the Aurora Australis, said despite continuing bad weather, Mawson determined they would camp on January 12 and within three weeks they had built the two sturdy huts that stand to this day.

Mawson and 17 other men ''overwintered'' in the huts after the Aurora left to drop another overwintering team further west before returning to Australia.

When winter was over, teams left on sledges to explore the new land.

Mawson was the lone survivor of the far eastern sledging journey after young British army officer Belgrave Ninnis fell down a crevasse and Swiss expeditioner Xavier Mertz succumbed to illness and exhaustion on the gruelling return journey.

Mawson made it back to the huts after a month-long, lone journey in appalling conditions and had to spend another winter on the ice with a relief party after missing the returned Aurora by only hours.

Professor Griffiths said Australians did not know enough about Mawson's ordeal or the achievements of his expedition which put scientific and geographic exploration ahead of the race for the pole.
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MessagePosté le: Mar 10 Jan - 07:17 (2012)    Sujet du message: Antarctica Odyssey: "In the Footsteps of Mawson" Répondre en citant

  1. January 10, 2012
  2. Antarctica is on show
  3. Ice.
  4. The ‘bergs and icefloes have arrived and this place finally looks how it feels.
  5. The Aurora Australis is 63 degrees south and just north of pack ice. There are icebergs and crazed bergy bits floating past the ship in the grey fog.

  6. This iceberg pic was captured by my cabin mate Nisha Harris from the helideck. By the time I arrived on the scene it had faded back in the greyness.
  7. My attention was immediately taken by about a dozen albatrosses diving around us.

  8. The sooty albatrosses are just beautiful. They seem a little more confident than the other birds. They came extremely close and two seemed to be playing around together.

  9. This one was right over me.
  10. You can see its aerodynamically perfect body with its legs all tucked away.

  11. Suddenly, despite the fog there is so much to see. There are sea birds everywhere and as I look out my porthole now, there are icefloes as far as the eye can see!
  12. They have flattened out the swell and are bobbing around freely.
  13. Antarctica is on show.
  14. Posted by Karen Barlow on January 10, 2012 |Comments (2)
  15. Penguins aplenty as crew prepares for landingThe first penguins sighted on this voyage may be a disappointment to some, but not to me.


    This is the fine jacket of the Deputy Voyage Leader, Barb Frankel. It is setting the tone nicely as we enter the Antarctic ice zone.
    One hundred years ago today conditions at Commonwealth Bay were much the same as they are today. The men from the first Australasian Antarctic expedition were battling a blizzard as they tried to unload cargo from the Aurora.
    The Diary of Captain J K Davis reads:

    Citation:
    For the last twenty four hours it has been blowing a gale of wind, the squalls being very violent; indeed how our anchor has held is wonderful. … The wind has been very violent, lifting great sheets of spray off the water … (Davis)

    After such a hopeful first landing at Commonwealth Bay on the 8th of January, Douglas Mawson also noted the difficulties. “Never was landing so hampered by adverse conditions (Mawson in Home of the Blizzard).”These excerpts of the various 1911-14 expedition diaries have been collected by historian Tom Griffiths. He’s also blogging from the ship.


    Here is the main landing party 100 years later. There have been many meetings and briefings around the ship over the past few days and there are more to come.
    Landing on Antarctica 100 years after Mawson’s group remains quite the logistical exercise and there are many variables. Our safety is paramount and we don’t want to disturb both the historical huts and the area’s penguin rookeries.
    It is still difficult to say when, or even if, we get to set foot on Antarctica, but if we get the green light we want to have the smallest footprint as possible.
    One thing that seems possible over the next week is finally getting to eyeball what is left of the Mertz Glacier ice tongue. The final destination of my first Antarctic adventure was shrouded in fog last summer and I never got to see it. The glacier is close to Commonwealth Bay and it is likely we will swing by it before we try to push onto land.
    Posted by Karen Barlow on January 10, 2012 |Comments (0)

  16. January 9, 2012Grey skies leave minds to wanderThere are still no bergs to report.
    The Aurora Australis is passing 60 degrees south and the expected world of white is still a whole lot of grey.
    A weather low is hanging with the ship and appears to want to partake in the Mawson commemorations at Commonwealth Bay.
    With not much dazzling our eyes outside the ship, we have been stirring our minds inside.

    Here's 'Team Acid' in the Wet Lab. It is Kelly Strzepek from the ANU and Donna Roberts from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC. They are sampling marine snails, or pteropods, for their work on the other side of climate change, ocean acidification.
    More atmospheric carbon dissolved in the ocean will make it more acidic, and that will make it difficult for marine snails to make their shells. The scientists say at some point the snails won't be able to form shells.
    Team Acid have compared shells with others collected in pre-industrial times and Donna Roberts says they have found a 35 per cent decrease in shell weight.
    "So they are getting thinner and they are quite substantial food for commercial fish, whales and other charismatic macro-fauna. So it is really important that this is going to have a big effect up the food chain."
    Kelly has her busy head down in the lab often, and when that happens look who shows up.


    The duo say it is an absolute privilege to work on the Aurora Australis. Kelly Strzepek says it is like a scientist's Disneyworld.
    "It always really exciting and you never know actually what you are going to find and a lot of the time we don't realise the impact of what we find until we get it back to the lab."
    Those of us going ashore for Mawson commemorations are being prepared for the big day even if we don't know exactly when it will take place. It will be soon though and once we are in the Commonwealth Bay area we will have about two hours' notice to go. It sounds like a while, but we are talking about special clothing, survival equipment and, for the ABC, specific technical gear. I will have the "go" bag of all go bags.
    We were also given a rundown of Antarctic helicopter safety today.


    I'll have to wear this space-suit like immersion suit as it is likely we will be flying over open Antarctic water.
    Don't tell my mum, but it is in case we have to ditch. You can tell her truthfully there is still a possibility of small boats taking us ashore.
    Keen eyes will see I am standing next to a replica display of what the men wore for the 1911-1914 expedition. How times change.
    Posted by Karen Barlow on January 9, 2012 |


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MessagePosté le: Mer 11 Jan - 08:15 (2012)    Sujet du message: Antarctica Odyssey: "In the Footsteps of Mawson" Répondre en citant

Glacier and penguins take centre stage
January 11, 2012
I am standing where the Mertz Glacier ice tongue used to be and I finally can see everything.
The sun has surprised us all and is poking through the clouds. There's a golden touch to the scene around us.

Those that followed the Antarctic voyage last summer will remember there were some fog issues around the time we got to the Mertz Glacier. Not so today.
The Aurora Australis is cruising around open water vacated by the ice tongue two years ago.
You can really get a sense here of how enormous it must have been before it was severed by the giant iceberg B9B.
We are about halfway along where it was and the continent is a distant dark line on the horizon.

We are now heading to the coast to see what is left of the glacier. The scientists want to investigate the remarkable Antarctic event more closely.
For me, the classic Antarctic experience is now complete with the arrival of penguins.
There were just a few adelies and one emperor on parade last night, but they were enough to get expeditioners ooh-ing and ahh-ing around the bridge.

The penguin experts on the ship say many of the adelies we saw were one-year-olds. You can tell by the white chins. Older adelies have black chins. We reviewed their chins on our photos.

The penguins were not that close to the ship, but we were all still charmed by them. They can't have seen anything like our monster orange ship before, so their immediate response was flight instead of fight.
Of course, in the penguin world "flight" is flap fin-like wings madly, waddle to the edge of an icefloe and launch in like it's going for gold.
More penguins should be seen as we get closer to land. It is nesting season and small chicks are expected near Mawson's Huts. We will have to be very careful around them. Penguins can come to us, but we have to keep our distance.
Posted by Karen Barlow on January 11, 2012 |
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MessagePosté le: Mer 11 Jan - 23:02 (2012)    Sujet du message: Antarctica Odyssey: "In the Footsteps of Mawson" Répondre en citant

Expeditioners near Antarctic coastlineThe expedition marking Sir Douglas Mawson's journey to Antarctica a century ago is nearing the frozen continent's coastline

  1. January 12, 2012
  2. Keeping it clean in Mawson's footsteps
  3. Good or bad weather, the final push is on to Antarctica's Commonwealth Bay.
  4. We are among the big 'bergs and they are beautiful.

  5. These glacial icebergs are made of ice pressed so hard that air bubbles have been squeezed out of them. The bright blue ice caves and cracks promise sapphires, Paul Newman's eyes and endless objects for bower birds.
  6. Surely the water from these beasts is the purest and therefore sweetest in the world. It is hard to imagine otherwise.
  7. This giant 'berg was riddled with giant cracks. It didn't, but my fellow onlookers and I were expecting it would calve at any second.
  8. Another iceberg looked like a blue mountain range. It didn't need snow caps as it was all ice.

  9. We passed all these icebergs as we travelled west along the Antarctic coastline. It is incredible to finally see land. Soon, with fingers still crossed, we will be on it to document the Mawson centenary commemorations.

  10. The walls of these icebergs are more than 300 metres high and you have to imagine much more 'berg action below the waterline. They could be the drinking supply for a major city for many, many years.
  11. The Aurora Australis is now on a path that will take us around the large remnants of the iceberg formerly known as B9B. It should take us about 24 hours to get around them and it is all happening in daylight now that we are below the Antarctic Circle.
  12. The Mawson men 100 years ago were having a momentous day. After days of difficult unloading at Commonwealth Bay, the men managed to sleep ashore for the first time. Biologist Charles Harrisson wrote in his diary:
    1. "We went up to Dr Mawson's tent. He had the Nansen cooker going preparing a meal. Meanwhile, we pitched a couple of the little sledging tents... unscrewed boxes and got out the Reindeer sleeping bags. Then a mug of hot soup was served round, most delicious! Followed by a mug of hot cocoa.
    2. "And we turned in about 2am. Great amusement over Hannam getting into his sleeping bag! … I snuggled into mine, fastened up all the toggles, and tired and cold, slept well. We did not wake until past noon – the day bright but blowing fresh."
  13. There are still more preparations that must be done before we can truly step in the footsteps of the original Mawson expedition.
  14. The latest duty is making sure we don't carry any alien critters with us. I have seen an ET t-shirt around on the ship, but alien in this case refers to seeds and bugs from Australia. My old gear brought from the mainland for Antarctica has been scrubbed and vacuumed.
  15. Our Mawson footprints must be clean.
  16. Posted by Karen Barlow on January 12, 2012 |Comments (0)
  17. January 11, 2012
    Weather delights penguins and watchers
    We have crossed the Antarctic Circle and quickly hit our most southerly point on this voyage. 67 degrees 13 seconds will be as far south as we go.
    King Neptune may be paying us a visit tomorrow for crossing the line. All newcomers to this wintry world had better look out.
    While Neptune rules, his people are penguins.

    The Aurora Australis has been so close to these adelie penguins that I could hear them squawk and carry on. They do appear to like a bit of argy-bargy.
    Today's good weather was delightfully unexpected and the ABC team has spent much of the day filming for tonight's ABC TV News. However, I had to pause to take these penguin shots. You understand.

    We weren't bothering the penguins as the ship had stopped for the scientists to take some water samples.
    This gang was leaping in and out of the water and trying to work out some unknown, complicated issue.
    There was also some mandatory preening to be done.

    You can see the green organic matter in the water in this wider shot of the penguins on parade.
    The water around the Mertz Glacier in the middle of bloom of plant microbes called phytoplankton.It is thick and almost goopy.
    Today's water sampling was special. 100 years ago, Douglas Mawson and his team tested the water in this exact spot for temperature and salinity.
    The scientists today have compared the results and it turns out the water column is colder now.
    The CSIRO's Dr Steve Rintoul says the break off of the Mertz Glacier two years ago has changed the way the whole area works.
    "This would not be correct to see that this is a trend or a climate change signal," he said.
    "What it does tell us is that if we do lose more of these floating ice tongues in the future, because of warming of the oceans or ice breaking free, that these results show we will form less of that dense water and the ocean circulation pattern slows down."

    After not seeing it on my last voyage due to heavy fog, here's the Mertz Glacier ice wall. One Antarctic promise fulfilled.
    The brilliant, surprise day has everyone out of their labs and cabins.

    Here's Dr Delphine Dissard from the University of WA taking photos.
    She is a research scientist volunteering on this voyage with Dr Donna Roberts on her ocean acidification project.
    She had a big win a few days ago correctly guessing the appearance of the first iceberg. My best guess was out by a few hours.
    Now back to those penguins.
    Posted by Karen Barlow on January 11, 2012


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MessagePosté le: Sam 14 Jan - 06:30 (2012)    Sujet du message: Antarctica Odyssey: "In the Footsteps of Mawson" Répondre en citant

Rendezvous at sea
January 12, 2012
We are not alone down here and I am not talking about penguins.
Just on the Antarctic Circle, north of Commonwealth Bay, the Aurora Australis today had a friendly rendezvous with the Russian flagged tourist ship, the Akademik Shokalskiy.

The blue and white vessel was parked in a clear spot in amongst heavy pack ice.
We had to get through quite a field of heavy pack ice to get to the ship.

At some stages it was very slow going. The Aurora heaved and lifted as we ploughed through multiple-year ice.

It is our first snowy day, which is a delight. All around us is a world of white.
The Akademik Shokalskiy's expeditioners had attempted to land at Commonwealth Bay yesterday, but had to be content with parking on the edge of fast ice 20 kilometres from land.
We are told they had a beautiful sunlit day in amongst pancake ice. They certainly looked happy in these zodiacs when we came by.

Suddenly we were the tourist attraction!
We were told an emperor penguin had been spotted and they were out trying to casually cruise by it, but I think they got just as much out of us.

After a few chats over ship radio between voyage leaders, we were off. We have a date with King Neptune.
However, I won't go before what is now an obligatory penguin shot.

We are now heading due south again after getting around the remnants of the iceberg B9B.
The Aurora Australis should be near the fast ice of Commonwealth Bay tonight.
Posted by Karen Barlow on January 12, 2012
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MessagePosté le: Sam 14 Jan - 06:34 (2012)    Sujet du message: Antarctica Odyssey: "In the Footsteps of Mawson" Répondre en citant

Horizon vanishes in ocean of white
January 13, 2012
Outside our portholes there is just white.
Sky and ice are merging. The horizon is gone.
The Aurora Australis is parked on a vast expanse of fast ice that hasn't managed to melt for us around Commonwealth Bay.
All that is between us and land is what appears to be a 20-kilometre wide ice-skating rink.
Our journey is not over, but this way-station is populated and we met a welcoming committee on arrival.

It was like first contact with aliens. At first, the penguins did not appear to like the icebreaker repeatedly bashing into the iceshelf as it tried to get a steady foothold.
There was collective scampering from the noise and the vibrations of the Aurora backing up, changing gear and driving hard onto the ice.

Our nemesis was thick and hard and only gave way for the length of the ship. These were impressive manoeuvres to put us in our new temporary home.
After the ship nestled in, the penguins came to see what all the fuss was about. They were as interested in us as we were with them. If they had cameras they would have used them too.

This shot captures one adelie penguin leaping out of the water at the edge of the fast ice to join the group eyeballing the ship.
These fearless creatures came within 10 metres of us to check us out on the Aurora's trawl. As I look out of the porthole right now there is very large group of adelies lolling around on the ice.

While we are puzzling over how and when to hold the Mawson centenary commemorations, it is time to meet one of the other scientific groups onboard the Aurora Australis.
The Navy is here.

Leading Seaman Anthony Moxham, Petty Officer Graham Compton, Able Seaman Richard Frey and Lieutenant Commander David Sowter are doing an important hydrographic project on this voyage.
It may not be the usual work you expect the Navy to do, but they have been looking at and analysing soundings of the ocean floor since Hobart.
Their main mission is finding safe anchorage in Commonwealth Bay.
They have stowed a small yellow boat on the Aurora Australis for this voyage, however this fast ice may mean they don't get to use it.
Posted by Karen Barlow on January 13, 2012
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MessagePosté le: Lun 16 Jan - 04:37 (2012)    Sujet du message: Antarctica Odyssey: "In the Footsteps of Mawson" Répondre en citant

  1. Posted by Matthew Liddy on January 16, 2012 |Comments (0)
  2. Penguin parade turns menacingDon't be fooled by these cute little guys.

    Behind their seemingly painted-on outfits and charming little moves lie adorable little hearts of pure evil. I was out on the fast ice last night, minding my own business, when a parade of penguins turned into a gang.
    Anyone who has been out on the Aurora Australis's trawl deck over the past day would have seen the penguins massing near the ship. I think they enjoy the turbulent waters at the stern. I watched as the adelies leapt in and out of the water and embark on a series of furiously loud squawky fights.

    After I finally got a decent shot of an adelie doing this aerial trick, I went back out on the ice to get a shot of one of the scientific teams. It is here, near the ship's bow, that the penguins turned on me.

    About 40 or 50 came over en masse. I thought they were transiting through. Most were - however the group in this wide-angle snap came right up to me, flapped their flipper wings and screeched.
    Another aggressive group was on the other side of me and one barged into me from behind. I guess I was just in the way. Anyway the scene was so amusing it helped the crowd smile for the photos.

    ... and here's the shot I was aiming for. It is of the oceanographic team led by the CSIRO's Dr Steve Rintoul holding symbols of their work. From left to right they are Brian Hogue, Dr Rintoul, Marvin Alfaro, Graham Simpkins, Dr Laura Herraiz Borreguero, Dr Beatriz Pena-Molino, Esmee van Wijk and Mark Rosenberg.
    While we are on the fast ice, they are pausing in their work with the conductivity, temperature and depth, or CTD, sensor. As soon as we are finished at Commonwealth Bay they will be off sampling water properties of the Southern Ocean to see how it is changing.
    Now - when will we be finished here at Commonwealth Bay?
    We are hoping to hold the centenary commemorations for the landing of the first Australasian Antarctic expedition today. There are 32 men of that expedition that we want to say thanks to.
    The weather is not as bad as exactly 100 year ago, but it is causing us as much trouble.
    The Aurora's second officer, Percy Gray, recorded on this day in 1912: "The wind is most peculiar, either it is a dead calm or else blowing a howling gale."
    100 years ago, the Aurora's Captain JK Davis wrote in his diary that unloading continued between the gales:
    "Blowing fresh from SE until 3pm when, wind moderating, work started again; stores and fuel going away in the launch and two boats ... 9 pm. Stores practically all ashore with exception of aeroplane and fuel."
    It is just people that we want to get over to shore today. I'll let you know how we go and whether I fare better with the penguins if I get over there.
    Posted by Karen Barlow on January 16, 2012 |Comments (8)


  3. January 15, 2012Waiting game continues
    Our team is still parted down here from Antarctica by 20 kilometres of fast ice and an ill-timed fog.
    The choppers on the Aurora Australis remain grounded and we are told there is no chance of getting in the air today to fly over to Mawson's Huts. The event to mark the landing of the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition will have to wait another day.



    The penguins aren't taking it well and are fighting amongst themselves.
    ABC cameraman Peter Curtis is also over there, presumably enjoying himself by filming in one of the best places on Earth for two days without a pesky journo or producer.
    I have broken into my absent cabin-mate's chocolate supply. I think this is only fair.

    http://blogs.abc.net.au/.a/6a00e0097e4e6888330168e58cc940970c-piWhich leaves the rest of us here on the fast ice holding the fort - so to speak.
    There are many hopeful looks out of portholes. The fog has come and gone in strength, as fogs do, but looking outside right now it is looking good for us.
    The last update from the extremely talented meteorologist and French horn player, Lance Cowled, is suggesting a 2am start for us. We'll see about that, but I am up for anything.



    We get out on the ice every chance we get. The locals have not lost interest in us and we have not been able to stay away from them. I can't wait to see the chicks over at Cape Denison. The penguin biologists were on the first chopper flight over to land and I am told they are very busy counting the local residents.



    It is incredible how close these fearless birds come. This shot is with a 24mm wide angle lens so it is very close.
    I've been trying to perfect shots of adelies "dolphining" in the chilly water. I have some good action shots, but I want to post an excellent one.
    Now can someone please blow this fog away for a day?
    Posted by Karen Barlow on January 15, 2012 |Comments (5)


  4. The waiting gameJust a quick update as we are trying again to fly the rest of us onto the Antarctic continent for the Mawson centenary commemorations.

    While I was not leaping for joy like this adelie penguin when yesterday’s fog caused my helicopter flight to be aborted shortly after take-off, it was not the end of the world.
    Safety goes first and we then had more time with the penguins on the fast ice. I also beat a few guys in a few rounds of gin rummy with some weird Tasmanian rules I’d never heard of before.

    (photo by Dr Peter Schuller)
    Cricket has been played over the past few days and I witnessed a strange, windless attempt to kite surf on the ice.
    Apparently it has been fine and lovely on land. Our travelling companions, who got on the earlier successful chopper flights, are 20 kilometres away probably waking from a snug night in Antarctic sleeping bags.
    I am told ice was quickly dug out from Mawson’s Huts and people can freely move around in them.
    One hundred years ago today, the Katabatic winds were still howling around the Mawson men. The Aurora’s Captain JK Davis noted in his diary how difficult the unloading of stores was going:
    8 am Blowing hard from SE … very trying weather; anchor however still holding well. 3 pm Weather moderating, launch came off and discharging recommenced… (Davis)”
    It is not simple or easy down here.

    This is Aaron Spurr from the Australian Antarctic Division silhouetted against the bright Antarctic continent. It was my scene yesterday while I waited for the “go” to walk out on the helideck during helicopter operations. You can see the white slopes of Antarctica running down towards the fast ice. You can also see the blue sky before it turned all shades of wrong.

    Here’s the icebreaker from above. I took this photo with my phone camera as my SLR was stowed away. You can see the ill-timed fog in the distance.
    See how far the Aurora Australis’ Second Mate Tom Watson parked the Aurora onto the fast ice. If you look carefully you can also see the igloo. It is left of the ship.

    (photo by Dr Peter Schuller)

    This is your faithful Antarctic scribe and snapper out on the fast ice making friends. It is very nice of the penguin to pose for me.
    Hopefully the next picture you see from me is from the continent.
    Posted by Karen Barlow on January 15, 2012



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MessagePosté le: Mar 17 Jan - 04:50 (2012)    Sujet du message: Antarctica Odyssey: "In the Footsteps of Mawson" Répondre en citant

January 16, 2012
Expeditioners mark Mawson anniversary

A panoramic view of Mawson's Huts today. (Click for full-size image.)
I have stood on Antarctica and it was beautiful.
This visit to Commonwealth Bay has been wondrous, eerie and overwhelming. I am in sensory overload.

What sights just from the helicopter ride over! Vast icebergs captured in water-level fast ice. Smooth mountain ridges of ice and snow surging from the frozen waterline. This is the stuff of giants.
It is summer here, but exposed rock can barely be seen. There's Cape Denison to the northwest and our destination, the land around Boat Harbour.

The colour isn't right and tries to burn our eyes. Is this a world in negative?
The snow is sludgy in parts and we can easily drop down to our calves. There are alien pale-blue ice lakes over the rocky ridges, and to the north, the Aurora Australis is a faint dot in the distance.

Blue rivulets snaked downhill towards our target, the frozen museum that is Mawson’s Huts.

While our eyes were being dazzled, our nostrils were being assaulted.
The acrid stench from the nearby penguin rookeries flooded our personal space as soon as the helicopter doors opened.

Here's the source of the smell. There were thousands of penguins nesting in the rocks around Mawson's Huts.
The penguin biologists Colin Southwell and Louise Emmerson had the chance over the past two enforced days and night on land to count them. Looks like they need a few more.

There were many fluffy chicks - all desperate for food and parental attention. The whole area was covered in krill-coloured penguin poo. They could not have smeared it further if they tried.
Today's trip to Commonwealth Bay was lightning fast and the Mawson men were the focus. After all the delays the commemoration of the landing of the first Australasian Antarctic Expedition was about to finally happen.

This is the director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Tony Fleming, giving a fine speech about Douglas Mawson and the 31 men who joined him for the 1911-14 expedition to this desolate, windy place.
Dr Fleming was careful to name them all, including the other station leaders Frank Wild and George Ainsworth and the men who died on the Far Eastern Sledging Party, Belgrave Ninnis and Xavier Mertz.
It was a small, solemn service with numbers augmented by several penguins. After all we have been through, it is fortunate that anyone made it onto Antarctic land at all.
Dr Fleming said the expedition was "a grand adventure" and "a defining moment for our newly born Federation".
"The Australasian Antarctic expedition was the last expedition of the heroic age of exploration, a feat of human endurance the like we may never see again," he said.
Tom Griffiths, professor of history at the Australian National University, told those gathered at Mawson's Huts the expedition was a vital link in Australia's past.
"When I think of how much we make of Gallipoli, just a few years later, well I think the landing at Commonwealth Bay was equally important, perhaps, as a statement of Australian identity," he said.

The Australian flag was raised by the national president of ANARE, David Ellyard, and the Australian Antarctic Division's Deb Bourke.
A time capsule was laid with messages from schoolchildren and the Prime Minister, and a commemoration plaque was unveiled at nearby Proclamation Hill.


The huts themselves are remarkable. How did 18 men peacefully exist in there? It was difficult walking around with one or two other people, but 18?
On a rough day with katabatic winds bearing down on the fragile buildings there is nowhere else to go.


There are ice crystals attached to just about every surface: from the rafters; on medicine bottles; from the skylights; and on the clothing still hanging on hooks.
The dirty acetylene and seal blubber fuel they used for lighting still wafts through the buildings. It is not just dark in the huts, it is soot-seared.

The personal effects are fascinating: old matches and candles trapped in ice; a pile of books all stuck together; and iced notes from Douglas Mawson, unread for decades.

Here's the famous girly photo on a shelf in Dr Mawson's small separate bedroom. It was hard to see her in the dim light, but here she is in all her glory.


Antarctica may be on earth, but I know what it is like now to visit another planet.
Mawson's Huts are a slice of home in an otherworldly place. We know humans aren't made for Antarctica. Surviving here is an extraordinary achievement and I know this from experiencing Antarctica on a good day.
Four of our expeditioners were left on the continent yesterday as the weather closed in yet again. They will be picked up tomorrow when my time here on the Aurora Australis sadly comes to an end.
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Posted by Karen Barlow on January 16, 2012
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