13 April 1995
This week we have been out and about quite a bit. The weather has been exceptionally good. We've been able to get out virtually once a day. The average wind strengths have been way down and there's been a lot of sunshine. Margie and I have often discussed what happens to all the egg shells when the penguins are born. We haven't seen any egg shells and thousands of penguins were born here. On a walk we found a frozen egg which hadn't hatched for whatever reason. There were no penguins around and all the baby penguins from this season have already grown up. We felt certain it was an abandoned egg, so we smashed it open just to have a look inside. There was a yolk and it was frozen too. Margie's glad it wasn't a partially developed frozen baby penguin.
We took a big walk from Lands End in the west over to John O'Groats on the eastern side of Cape Denison. If you have a really big map of the area of Commonwealth Bay you'll be able to locate these areas but for those of you who don't, I'll explain. Cape Denison is shaped almost like your left hand. Extend your arm with your palm facing the floor. Your arm would be south and your finger tips would be north. Boat Harbour is in the area between your little finger and your ring finger. Lands End (the west) would be where the knuckle of your little finger joins your hand and John O'Groats is where your thumb knuckle is. The moraine line runs across the most of the area between Lands End and John O'Groats, sort of like your knuckles. As we were walking across the moraine line where the glacier deposits the rocks it has scoured off the plateau we found a bamboo pole. It was frozen into the ice. We doubt that Mawson would have put it in such a location. If he did put it there more than 80 years ago it certainly wouldn't still be there. So we're guessing here but we think it was a "depot" pole which could have been 5 to 7 kilometres inland. Mawson and his men put caches of food up on the ice plateau as emergency provisions and marked them with poles. We are going to take a lot of photos of it and try and figure out what may have caused it to be where we found it.
During this big walk, Margie fell. We were using and trying out our new climbing boots with super sharp crampons. We are going to use them when we go up onto the plateau later this year. Because we were climbing over rocks at the time, we took off our crampons. We were coming down the hill without them and Margie put one foot wrong. She slid 20 metres down a very steep ice slippery dip. Fortunately it levelled out instead of stopping abruptly. She lost her ice axe on the slide and didn't get seriously hurt. She bruised her bum and bent her little fingernail back.

On one of our other walks we were over at Boat Harbour. We were just standing there at the edge of the ice looking at the way it turns slushy and starts to freeze when "bang." We heard a gunshot. It frightened us both. Suddenly the ice we were standing collapsed into the sea. We had to jump. It was only a little gap but it was certainly frightening. Once back on the land we discussed what had happened. I thought the gunshot noise was the scariest part of what happened and Margie thought the ice breaking off was the worst. It wasn't very windy so the ice wouldn't have blown out to sea. That would have been dangerous. So what we had was just an interesting experience! Boat Harbour is finally frozen solid. It is just like a big ice skating rink. It happened in one night. The temperature went down to -23 degrees Celsius, the coldest temperature we have had so far. We got up the next morning and Boat Harbour was a skating rink with slight snow drifts decorating the edges.

Our weather recording system has to be downloaded into the computer. We are keeping as much data on the weather as we can and we had a mini-disaster this week. We lost the week's weather. Right now we feel bad about losing the data. Earlier this week we were feeling bad about a roll of film that we ruined. It hadn't been rewound in the camera correctly. It was one of those beautiful sunny days and the photos would have been great. We have the memories so we aren't feeling all that bad.

There are absolutely no penguins now on Cape Denison. They have all gone. We walked about 7 kilometres and checked every little nook and cranny. We didn't see a single one. It is funny that what I read in Mawson's journal seems to happen to us. He said all the penguins were gone on the 10th of April. That is almost the exact day that we saw our last penguin. According to Mawson they will be back on the 12th of October. I'll let you know! During April Mawson wrote about petrels visiting. We had the same experience. There were five snow petrels out in front of "Gadget Hut." They seemed to be eating krill from the slushy surface of the ice. Snow petrels are pure white with black eyes and bill. The bird book says they have black underdown beneath the white which may help them keep warm by absorbing radiation which has penetrated their feathers. The seals are getting scarcer now. There were only half a dozen when it was sunny the other day. Maybe it is just a temporary thing and they'll be back. There were hundreds just a few weeks ago. About those "polar bears:" The Saturday that Margie said she saw a polar bear and cub that Saturday was April Fool's Day. I tried to warn you. There aren't any bears in Antarctica. The early explorers brought rifles down here to protect themselves but they never had to use them except maybe to kill seals to feed the huskies. Highlights of the week: This morning we noticed that a hugh iceberg had broken off to the west of Cape Denison which is unusual. We haven't seen an iceberg drop off since February.
There is a full moon now and it makes a great sight shimmering over the sea at night time.
The best meal of the week was from Shelf Stable Foods: Chicken Provencale (chicken with tomato and garlic.)
We have already had 58 hours of sunlight so far this month. That is all Mawson had for the entire month of April.

Keep warm,
Back to Index Ever Onwards