1st December, 1995

Hi everybody. It's the first day of summer - unreal! "Spirit of Sydney" leaves in only two weeks. The crew are now arriving in Sydney to start final preparations and I'm actually making plans to decommission Gadget Hut and pack my bags. (touch wood !)

I am also sharpening the scissors as Don's pony tail is now 15cm long and will get 'the chop' on Christmas Day. This will be his only haircut all year.

Last Sunday, Don's mother came down for a visit on-board the first Qantas Antarctic flight. She was only 10,000 feet above us and we were speaking on the COMSAT satellite phone which was pretty amazing. The signal was transmitted from us to the satellite over the Pacific Ocean then down to the COMSAT American earth station at Santa Paula, then back to the satellite which bounced the signal to the Qantas flight in mid-air just above us. The bad news was that we had total cloud cover so we could not see them and they could not see us. I was really upset, especially when all the clouds had gone 90 minutes after the plane left. The clouds arrived only 6 hours before the plane and it has been sunny for weeks!

Sunday was also the warmest day we have had since January. The mercury rose to +5 degrees Celsius with absolutely no wind. We both sunbaked for about 30 minutes. These warm temperatures caused the ice edge around Cape Denison to crack up with huge chunks falling into the sea. This makes it very dangerous, when emptying our slops bucket. Don rammed two large ice stakes into the ice, well back from the edge, just in case we have to rig ropes to get someone out. (touch wood) We have a rule now - 'we are never close to the edge at the same time as each other'.

Huge pieces of ice are floating out from Boat Harbour. When the penguins return from their fishing trips, they see these pieces and think they are finally home. They 'rocket' out of the water like missiles aiming at the skyl then flop down onto the ice, landing on their two feet. The first few up are usually knocked over like skittles at a bowling alley by the next wave of penguins. As each wave washes more penguins up, at about a hundred at a time, they pile on top of each other, cramming lon- board'. Then they realise they haven't made it to the shore at all and that they are on a floating island of ice. They play 'chicken' to see who's going to jump into the cold water first to swim back to the shore. Penguins are really funny. They seem to be scared of the water until the first one jumps in, then they don't want to be left behind so they all jump in.

No penguin eggs have hatched yet but we have six Wedel seals in residence, sleeping and sunning themselves on the edge of Boat Harbour. A couple are really scarred and look beaten up as if they have been fighting. Some are covered in blood.

We had a tense time this week when strong fumes filled the cabin from an electrical problem. It took us a day to isolate the cause, with memories of the electrical fire back in January, fresh in our minds. It was a simple problem caused by a heavy current draw, overheating a wire which was not thick enough to carry the current. It felt like a big problem at the time. It was intermittent and we couldn't find it at first. We were very tentative every time we used power after that.

We spoke to the Australian bases at Macquarie Island and Casey Station this week by HF radio and heard the "Aurora Australis" but she could not hear us. The "Aurora Australis" is heading to Casey Station with supplies. One of the Austraiian personnel at Davis Base, died this week when he apparently slipped and fell from a cliff which was sad news indeed. It is one of the big risks in Antarctica - slipping on ice, then sliding on it until coming to a big 'drop'. So far so good for Don and ~! (touch wood)

Don and I have been having rock races. We find the blackest piece of rock possible and place it on the snow or ice out beside Gadget Hut. The sun heats the rock and it starts sinking into the snow. At the end of the day, the rock that has sunk into the snow the deepest wins. Some times they have reached a depth of 12cms. Matt black rocks sink faster than shiny black rocks as they absorb more heat. Don knew this fact and didn't tell me so obviously he won the race. I picked shiny black rocks, but never again.

We can get water very easily by placing a large black rock onto the ice. It melts down into the ice and very quickly a puddle of water is formed around the rock, even though the temperature is well below zero. We can always get a drink in survival situations if the sun is out. The sun is still up at 11 pm now and this week a big moon is up also which is really weird.

As I sit here writing the journal, 4 penguins are sitting right outside my window. They come right up to the hut now which is really great. I expect them to knock on the front door and ask if they can come in for a cup of tea.

This week, the sheets on our bunk were finally changed. All year we have used our flannelette sheets but now it is warmer, we have changed to a red double sleeping bag sheet which is a bit colourful. My UG boots are smiling at me now as the soles are lifting. Don drew two eyes and a nose on them, just for a giggle.

The exciting news for the week is that we were visited by 3 Killer Whales late on Friday evening. They came right into the entrance of Boat Harbour, swimming through a group of penguins, then out along the western shore of Commonwealth Bay. Don and I were sitting on a rock at the entrance watching. It was unbelievably spectacular. The sun was low on the horizon creating some amazing colours and the two biggest killer whales were absolutely huge. The third whale was quite small and maybe was an offspring of the other two. They swam only about 5 metres from the shore along the ice edge just outside Boat Harbour. We have a pretty good backyard, eh kids!!

How is this! The total sun for November was 497.5 hours but who is counting. It certainly makes the figures for June and July look a bit grim.

The lowest temperature was -17 degrees Celsius. The highest temperature was +4.9 degrees Celsius.

Three teddy bears were born this week. Two 1 5cm beige bears called "Ninnis" and "Bobba" and one 20cm beige bear named "Sir Douglas Mawson". This bear is now the "Ice-Bound Mascot" and will stay in Gadget Hut until it is returned to Australia in the Year 2000. He will then remain on sight as the "Spirit" of Sir Douglas.

Next Friday the 8th December, will be our final bulletin for the year because most schools will finish by the 15th and I know some schools are finishing this week. To those schools that a breaking up this week, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and a great summer holiday. We will see you via the journal again next year.

A big thank you to all the kids who have been sending us Christmas Cards.

A Special Note to our New Zealand Friends During the first half of May 1996, Don and I will visit New Zealand to say gidday to as many of you as possible. It has been very exciting speaking to you all during our Telecom New Zealand Conferences and we wish we could visit everyone, but unfortunately it may be impossible.

Our plans at this stage are not finalised but we shall be travelling through New Zealand so we can visit some country areas.

If your class or school would like us to visit you, please send the following details to Expedition Ice-Bound, P.O. Box 778, Mona Vale N.S.W. 2103 or fax 612 9979 8535 to arrive no later than February 16th 19~6.

Name; Address; Telephone Contact; Number of children following Expedition Ice- Bound; and then in 10 words or less, complete the following sentence. We would like Don & Margle to visit our school because...........................................

If we decide to visit your school, we may stay in your area for up to 24 hours so that you can share one of your adventures with us. You could organise a Teddy Bears Picnic, a bushwalk, overnight camping, a bike ride, paddling a canoe, go fishing, visit a museum or historic site, visit a farm, go for a ride on a fire engine, go sailing, go bird watching, sight-seeing, flying, etc. etc. etc. Let your imagination run wild.

In 50 words or less, complete the following sentence. If Don and Margie could stay with us for a short period, we would like to share an activity with them and have organised..........................................................................

Stay COOL and Keep Warm

Don & Margie in Antarctica
Back to Index Ever Onwards