Does your chewing gum lose its flavour in Antarctica … and other important questions.


Previously at Mawson Station 1956:

During March, most of the work in Horseshoe Harbour was domestic. The office dongas took shape with painted walls and shelving, and the metal plane hangar was completed. Small parties took the dogs out on one- or two-day training runs around the harbour. Throughout March, Syd Kirkby the suveyor and the geologist, Peter Crohn, discussed plans to carry out a series of five-day trips throughout the six-week period left before the perpetual dark. On Tuesday 27 March 1956, Syd, Peter, the Mawson OiC Bill Bewsher and Noel (Toby) Cooper the diesel mechanic set out on the first of the trips over the plateau.

Moon over Casey RaSyd, Bill, and Peter left Mawson at ten in the morning and arrived at the Henderson Depot at three in the afternoon.  “The Weasels are running like dreams,” Syd wrote from the safety of two sleeping bags, inside one of the vehicles.

In the morning, the party edged around the crevassed area to the eastern side of the range, passing through by one in the afternoon. There, Syd surveyed and laid down a couple of kilometres of markers—for ice flow and accumulation studies. He set up in the lee of the weasel, but once the markers were in place and he had completed a sun observation, the rest of the team left in the weasel, leaving Syd to do magnetic readings. At five thirty in the afternoon, after “chuffing along happily,” they entered an area of heavy crevassing. It was almost dark, and they feared stopping as much as returning, so they pressed on.

On the northwest side of the range, the ice was solid. They stopped to radio in to Mawson. The diesel mechanic was a bit frostbitten, Syd reported, and he noted that one of the mysteries that had taxed his thoughts had been resolved, not entirely positively.

Does urine freeze before it hits the ground in Antarctica. You must have been wondering about that too! The answer, dear readers, is that it does but unfortunately in those winds not all of it hits the ground and the bit that get blown back freezes whatever it gets blown onto.

And speaking of important science … Do you remember the Quiz earlier this year? Click here if you don’t. I refer you to question 2.

At much the same time as our expeditioners were making this first short foray out onto the plateau, Soviet scientists set out from Mirnny on a four-hundred-kilometre trek towards the south geomagnetic pole, where they would, in the future, establish Vostok (the coldest base on Earth) and, at the pole of relative inaccessibility, Sovetskaya station.

The convoy would often cover just ten kilometres a day, despite being serviced by two C-80 tractors pulling three sledges, each carrying fuel drums, equipment, and provisions. The data obtained in that first journey allowed the Soviet scientists to measure ice-cover thickness and glacier-bed relief and produced new data on global climatic patterns. At some sites, by means of seismic acoustic soundings, they measured ice thicknesses of two kilometres, while bedrock was found at some points below the sea level.



About lynettefinch

Dr Lynette Finch. Once I was a poster designer and illustrator. I ran a small poster business called Mantis Prints, specializing in political posters during the odd days of the Bjelke-Petersen Government in Queensland. I’m told my posters hung on the walls of Rizhsky railway station in Moscow, although I’m not sure about that. They are in the collections of the Queensland Art Gallery, on several on-line websites, and in the following book: Lynne Seear and Julie Ewington, eds. Light II, Contemporary Australian Art 1966-2006, Queensland Art Gallery Publishing, 2007, pp. 110-117. In my next incarnation I was a senior lecturer in history. I published books and articles on urban health and feeding people in modern industrial cities, on the Queensland home front in the second world war and the role and history of war propaganda. Sometimes I wrote about Marxism and its impact around the world as well as intimate oral histories of communists in Australia, their experiences in conservative society, their role as social and political radicals in small towns and cities. Once I went through a death phase and wrote about the role of the Coroners Court in colonial society, about abortion and infanticide in nineteenth century cities, and about the role of gossip in policing. My research took a decidedly happier direction when I was granted an Arts Fellowship to Antarctica in the 2007/08 season, as research for a biography about Antarctic surveyor and explorer Syd Kirkby. I bunkered down in a blizzard in Brooke's hut near Davis station and imagined what it was like for Syd, caught for twelve days in a 150-knot blizzard, high in the plateau beyond Mawson in 1960. Some of my books: Australia’s Frontline: Remembering the 1939-45 War. With the rapid escalation of the Pacific War in 1942, Queenslanders suddenly found themselves perilously close to the frontline, especially those in the far north. The book is based on interviews of men and women who worked their farms in the north, some of them Italians and Germans who were interned as enemy aliens. Nevertheless, the book is essentially a story of courage, of community spirit and neighbourliness, and of the public and private war effort of a community facing crisis and loss. Dark Angel: Propaganda in Modern Warfare. This book traces the origins and development of propaganda and media manipulation from the 1800s to today’s ‘spin’ and ‘false news’. Why have governments at war allocated resources to propaganda leaflets, broadcasts, movies and art during major military conflicts? Read the book. You’ll find the answer. The Classing Gaze: Sexuality, Class and Surveillance. Concepts like sexuality and class share the same moment of birth during the nineteenth century as social inquiry turned to analysis of the workings, population growth, thought patterns, economic systems and internal bodily workings of humans (or Man, to be historically accurate). How did these ideological concepts impact in the real world? A great deal, is the short answer, outlined in this book. Young in a Warm Climate: a history of childhood in Queensland is an edited volume about childhood on the Queensland frontiers, at school, at home, in hospitals and other institutions. Fixing Antarctica: Mapping the Frozen South. In 1956, in the height of the cold war, the biggest wintering expedition that Australia had ever sent to Antarctica set out to map the great frozen landmass of Antarctica, driven by official fears that the Soviet Union meant to take the continent for themselves. The fourteen scientists were chosen from a field of hundreds of applicants. The surveyor, the central character in Fixing Antarctica, was Sydney Kirkby. Over the next twenty years, Syd Kirkby explored and map more unknown regions in the world than any other person in history. Earth, Wind and Fire is essentially twelve generations of my father’s mother’s family but it’s much more than that. It’s kind of Game of Thrones without the dragons. It starts with a kidnapped girl in Shelford, Nottinghamshire in the east midlands of England in 1618 and follows an unbroken chain of recorded births, deaths and marriages which spans four centuries until, six generations later, her descendants flee their farms in Ireland and join the diaspora to Australia. Using family stories, family photographs, published diaries and official documents, it’s the interwoven stories of five families struggling to survive amidst the most tumultuous times in European history. What’s next? I’m wandering into the boggy territory of creative fiction, writing a series of crime stories set on King Island, a beautiful windy island in the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania. I’ve finished the first draft of Book One, The Rock. There will be seven, I think. I’m also writing a stand along novel, called The Key Collector. It’s about a World traveller, Angela who settles in a Tasmanian village near her daughter and grandson where she witnesses a car crash that kills three women. Convinced the collision was an act of murder, she digs into the tragic lives of the victims and is mired in a mystery stretching across three continents and reaching into the second world war.

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