11th December, 1995

You are no doubt very excited about the forthcoming holidays and the last few days at school. We feel the same way here as it may be only three and a half weeks until we have some visitors. It may be even earlier. We have heard that the "Polar Star" a U.S. Ice-breaker may be visiting Cape Denison on Christmas Day to service their automatic weather station, but this isn't confirmed as yet. This may mean that we will have a very special Christmas also!

This is our last bulletin for 1995 and there will be some journals waiting for you when you return to school next year, so remember to check your computers. Remember also to watch "60 Minutes" on Channel 9 on Sunday 11th February, to see us. Also check a special bulletin regarding "Spirit of Sydney's" voyage to the South Magnetic Pole during February.

It is Monday 11th December as I write this journal, so it covers from Saturday 2nd until today. The second Qantas flight to Antarctica on 3rd December was another disappointment for us. There was total cloud cover so we couldn't see anything at all and the passengers missed out on seeing Cape Denison. They had a fantastic flight though, along the Antarctic coast up to the Ross Sea etc. We spoke on the COMSAT phone when they were above us and the clouds disappeared about three hours after they left.

The exciting day for us was yesterday, Sunday 10th. The big red Qantas jumbo painted with aboriginal murals with the kangaroo on the tail, flew overhead in perfectly clear skies. There was no wind and we had a perfect view of the plane as it circled around us and the "Ave Maria" iceberg about six miles offshore. We told them it was a world-famous iceberg and was being tracked by thousands of school children around the world and the passengers were impressed. They no doubt took lots of photos.

I was really excited to see something from another world. We spoke on the COMSAT phone and flashed a mirror at them 10,000 feet up in the sky. We had some friends onboard so it was a great moment. The jumbo also flew over the Plateau to check on "Ted's Geyser" which has not been active for about ten days. They may not have seen anything. I was a bit upset when they flew away. I wanted to be on that plane, headed home tool!

It has been so warm lately (up to +3 degrees Celsius) that I have been drying the washing outside, pegged to the securing stays of the hut. The sun is so powerful, it feels a lot warmer than +3 degrees, when the wind stops. Some days we don't have our heater on in Gadget Hut. That's unbelievable. I can't believe that the weather can get any better. The seals and penguins love it!

Two special visitors arrived a few days ago which was a real surprise. A baby Wedel seal pup, probably about 8 weeks old and a bit over 1 metre long, arrived. He was so cute with a soft fluffy face and brand new black whiskers. Don and I sat for hours watching him. All the other seals are sleeping but he is very active, rolling around and making growling sounds. He is obviously a very restless little "child". We call him "Coco Puff" like the breakfast cereal. I would really like to bring him home to Gadget Hut and invite him in for breakfast.

The other visitor was a huge elephant seal. He is about 3 or 4 metres long and probably weighs well over a tonne and gets very grumpy when he sees us. If we get within 20 metres of him, he growls, burps and rears up into the air, looking really intimidating. He moved up onto some rocks one day, so we did not see him until we were about 8 metres away. He growled and huffed then made a lunge at me. He only moved about a metre so he was only out to frighten me and he succeeded!l It took one hour before my heart slowed down. It really, really frightened me. Don thought it was a bit funny and he took some great video footage and photos. We now give him a "wide berth" and let him sleep, provided we see him because he does move around quite a lot. Unlike the Wedel seals who lay around on the ice and go to sleep, the elephant seal moves around a lot and I never know where I'm going to find him next.

The ice edges are breaking off all around Cape Denison, so most penguins arrive back after feeding, directly into Boat Harbour. It is too difficult for them to land on the ice anywhere else. Of course, this is where all the seals are sleeping. One night all the penguins shot up out of the water, not realising the seals were asleep on the ice. One seal was bombarded ~y the penguins which was so funny to watch. I am not sure who got the biggest surprise - the penguins or the seal. There was quite a 'Crash landing" as the seal tried to get away from the penguins raining down on him.

The "Aurora Australis", Australia's Antarctic resupply ship, has completed the resupply of Casey Base as well as moved equipment to some field stations in the Bungan Hills using their three helicopters. We followed their daily activities on our radio. They are now headed for Davis Station and had hoped to visit a Russian Antarctic Base at Mirny by helicopter but the weather was not looking good for flying so we think they had to miss them. The Russian Base only gets one resupply a year which I think is in late January so they were no doubt disappointed.

We sent a message through to the "Aurora Australis" telling them that "Spirit of Sydney" will be most interested in the Ice Reports they may be able to give at the end of December when "Spirit" is about to leave Hobart. Fingers crossed!

We finally ran out of oats this week so we are now onto other cereals. Our milk supplies are also getting low but we have plenty of Berri Fruit Juice and Buttercup Oven Bakes, long-life bread rolls which have been great. The biggest bonus now that the weather is so stable are our Shelf Stable meals. They are so quick and easy to prepare. We just heat them in the microwave or in boiling water. Some days we are still outside at 11 pm, so it is good to have so many varieties of tasty meals that are so easy to cook up.

Don has begun the photographic survey of Mawson's Hut. Every plank is being photographed. When he was on the roof, I had to be ready to catch him in case he slipped which may have been a difficult task. Fortunately I wasn't put to the test. There are so many exposed nails I think he would have been spiked rather than sliding off anyway! Half the Hut has now been photographed. The Baltic pine planks are eroded with their timber grains sitting up after 80 years of exposure to extreme winds. In the late evening sun, the colours of the timbers are really spectacular with their artistic patterns.

Late in the day, the wind usually drops completely. We usually go out for a walk and marvel at the colours in the sky and all around us and how special these days are compared to the days of the long dark winter. It is very hard to describe everything as it is so big and beautiful, a classic white wilderness with no one but us to experience it. These are very lucky and special days, the good times which are too good to believe.

I am really looking forward to "Spirit of Sydney" arriving. Don has been very busy on the phone, helping to coordinate its departure. It is going to be very emotional when they get here and I think I will be in a big mess. I will probably be crying again when we sail away. We will both have mixed emotions - sad to leave but happy to be going. Hobart will be fantastic after the Southern Ocean. I will probably be in my bunk all the way as there are a lot of good sailors on board!

The best part of the week: Whistling to attract little Wilson Storm Petrels. They are birds about as big as a budgie with yellow webbed feet that are so unafraid, they landed on our feet and on our hands to listen to our whistling. they are so pretty.

The total sun for the week. Lots!

The temperature range: +3 degrees to -7 degrees Celsius.

Teddy bears born were 3 beige 20cm bears "Uno", "Madigan" and "Hurley".

That is about it from us until next year when we will hopefully be writing our journal from Australia in some warm sunny room, overlooking the beach or maybe sitting under a tree in a park with no shoes on, whilst wriggling our toes in the grass.

See you back in Australia. Stay COOL over Christmas - except for our Japanese Schools, stay WARM.

Let's hope we don't have to stay warm after January 23rd 1996 when we will just stay COOL!


Don and Margie in Antarctica
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