Station Life at Mawson

IMG_0468IMG_9125My alarm bleeps at 6am and I open the curtains and peek out. It’s been light for half a day already, which can really wreck the sleep patterns…IMG_9289

I hop up and pad down the hall to the galley to grab a cup of tea. The chef’s already well into her daily routine and breakfast is laid out ready for the early birds. Back to bed for half an hour of tea and writing. Then I tap on Jane’s door and we head to the gym – one of the few ways we can get some aerobic exercise within the limitations of what we can do on station before we’ve been survival-trained and can go on longer walks. Get the heart rate up on the treadmill, cross trainer and bike, while enjoying the outlook across the frozen sea.

Breakfast: serve yourself porridge, bircher muesli, fruit, cereal, toast, IMG_9296and knock up a coffee on the espresso machine. Check out the day’s weather (looking out the big triple glazed windows, or reading the digital notice board). Mornings are generally windy with the katabatic winds coming down from the polar plateau. Catch up on day-old news printouts lying on the tables or flick through one of the communal ipads for something more up to date.

8am – everyone in high-vis gear gets up from the tables and heads to work. Of the 32 people on station, the majority work in trades and they head to the workshop or other locations to do maintenance, repairs, rebuilds and all the other work that keeps the station warm, watered, lit and in touch with the world.


Jane and I bundle up in down jackets, beanies, big boots and gloves and trudge 100m up the hill to our office in the old aeronomy building – which looks very worn on the outside, but has been fitted out as a new office space inside. We’re temporarily sharing with surveyors Matt and Brad (shown here ready to head outdoors for some carefree surveying). They’re good company, though undoubtedly bemused by some of the conversations as we plot the kids’ books. They’ll be heading back to Davis in a couple of days, leaving us with the aeronomy building to ourselves.


10am the bell goes for smoko –hot meal with soup, bread and other warming and solid mid-morning foods, important for those working outside in the cold, very bad for those of us sitting down all day.


Another two hours of work before lunch – on offer are lots of salady type dishes, bread for sandwiches, and leftovers that you can heat up, cold meats and the like. Then back to work, until knock-off time at 4ish. Jane and I generally go a bit longer. 5ish there’s a bit of bar activity with home brew, or a good time for a quick stroll.

Six is dinner time – fantastic hearty delicious meal with plenty of meat and IMG_9316vego options and outrageous desserts. The food isreally, really great. Plus the Naughty Corner is on standby and fully stocked for anyone feeling faint from hunger.IMG_9155

Evenings – hanging out in the common areas – the bar, the pool table, armchairs by the big windows looking out at this incredible landscape all around us. Daylight is long and winds tend to drop, so evenings are beautiful for walking around the rocks of Horseshoe Harbour. There’s often a movie in the cinema room, a game of pool to be had, cards, board games or darts to be played, lazy chatting to be done.

Saturday is a half day and everyone pitches in for station duties in the afternoon. Sunday is the chef’s day off, known as Catch and Kill – you fend for yourself from leftovers, sleep in, and take it easy.

Sometime around 11pm the sun sets… and rises again a few hours later, and the cycle repeats.

But now, the lunch bell has just gone… best be off.



About Jesse Blackadder

Living at the easternmost tip of Australia on the caldera of an extinct volcano, Jesse Blackadder is a novelist, freelance writer and Doctor of Creative Arts. She is fascinated by landscapes, adventurous women and very cold places and has published three adult novels and three novels for children.
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2 Responses to Station Life at Mawson

  1. cal mac says:

    i love this Jess, it’s wonderful to see pictures and hear about your routine in a place most likely i will never see

  2. monocotyledon says:

    So fascinating, Jesse, thanks! Looking forward to more.

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