20th November, 1995

Hello from Expedition Ice-Bound's Southern Leisure Resort. I am starting to forget what happens to Gadget Hut and my own feelings, during a severe blizzard. It has been so long since our last - "touch wood". The weather continues to be basically mild with temperatures at night around -10 degrees Celsius and during the clay -2 degrees Celsius, with 20 hours of sunshine most days. Don actually fell asleep on the rocks last Sunday and I did a little bit of sunbathing with my shirt off. It was so good to produce a little amount of my own vitamin D.

The ice and snow surrounding Mawson's Hut is starting to melt for the first time with Interesting artefacts appearing from their winter cover. Don is planning a photographic survey of Mawson's Hut within the next two weeks. Back in 1985 a group of "Project Blizzard" expedition members, visited Cape Denison for a few weeks during summer to carry out a comprehensive survey of Mawson's Hut and the surrounding area, including a very detailed photographic record of every timber plank on the Hut which has become very wind-worn and eroded. The patterns in the timber are quite impressive with the grains sitting up proud as if sand blasted.

We plan to repeat the photographic record of each plank this summer, 11 years after Project Blizzard. The two sets of photographs will be compared to determine the rate of deterioration and wind erosion during the past 11 years which should worry the various governmont departments who are responsible for the Hut. It will give them an indication of how long until the Hut completely blows away. Discussions have been under way since 1965 about conserving, preserving or restoring the Hut, but so far nothing has really happened. I think a lot of the artefacts are "junk" (rusting tins etc) and that the place needs a huge clean-up but we can't touch anything.

Adelie penguins continue to arrive each day, swelling the existing rookeries to overflowing. Three completely new rookeries are being developed by "penguin land speculators" here. They have created brand new little "suburbs". It starts off with just one pair of penguins, individuals who decide to settle in the country, away from the cities. Over time they are joined by others, creating a little country town. Don thinks that before long, these towns will expand right up to the existing cities as Cape Denison seems to attract and support a very healthy, ever-growing population of Adelies. We are mapping all rookeries on Cape Denison.

Nest stealing seems to be the way some dominant males overcome the pressure of city life. We have watched a couple of "take-overs" which take place over a few hours or even days with vicious fights and considerable blood shed, as well as the loss of a few eggs. Yes that's right! Eggs1

Last Saturday afternoon, eggs started to appear from everywhere. They are slightly bigger than a duck egg and are a light greenish-blue colour with many "mums" having two eggs. Now it's a roster system for the two parents as they snuggle on top of the eggs to keep them warm. They have a little gap in their feathers between their legs with the eggs fit. Inside the gap is penguin skin so they can transfer their body heat to keep the growing embryos warm. During the many rookery fights, some eggs roll out of the nests to be collected by skuas or crushed by other penguins. Either way, they freeze very quickly, which is probably why nature gives many couples two eggs, in case one is lost early.

We have discovered a "whitch doctor" in one rookery who has built his nest out of penguin bones and feet discarded by skuas after feeding. Another guy, we have named "Hoppy" because he has only one foot, but othenwise looks very fit and healthy. He even has a girlfriend so maybe we will see "little hoppies" later!

Don and I really enjoy watching all the penguin antics. We sit and watch them for hours each day.

Wedel seals are slowly crawling up on the ice for a snooze with four visiting Boat Harbour this week. The ice is heavily cracked there and slippery now. Guess what! Don fell over!! Gee I feel good when he falls over rather than me. There are no bruises but we now walk around carefully. Don thinks that the ice on Boat Harbour could all break up with the next big blizzard.

"Ave Maria" iceberg is still grounded about seven miles from here. It moves around a little, but it can't quite make it out to the ocean.

We are using much less kerosene now as our heater is off most of the day and we don't use our kerosene lamp any longer.

Our supply of Muesli is getting low but should last us and I can now confirm that the toilet paper rationing is now over. Phew! What a relief Stock of tinned fruit is low with only 12 cans left.

We have been checking all our gear this week for our trip up onto the plateau. We set the Macpac Olympus tent up and will sleep in it next week and cook meals with our special stove right next to Gadget Hut in final preparation. Don says we will take off for about five days during the first week of December. We have been checking our sun navigation techniques because we can't use compasses here. We have a global positioning system (GPS) which uses satellites to determine position and course over the ground but we have to use the sun as a backup in case the GPS is damaged, stops working or loses battery power.

Our brilliant discovery for this week is that we are actually half a mile further north than the maps and charts say. That's right! We have moved closer to Australia well not reallyl It's just that using the GPS which is very accurate, we have proven all the existing maps are out of position by approximately half a mile on a bearing of 020 degrees True. Don was happy to report this to the various mapping authorities in Australia who will now change their maps. This is the first time that GPS positioning has been carried out in Cape Denison.

We have lost our Friday night radio contact with the other Antarctic bases which is disappointing. One night we heard a funny "thud" when it was calm and Don thought a bird might have struck our long wire aerial so he checked for any injured birds but none were found. Now the wind has dropped back with the improved weather, we have decided to put streamers on the aerial again to hopefully alert the birds if the streamers last.

Our beautiful iittle white snow petrels with the black eyes and beaks which we have seen all year, are now nesting in rocks crevasses and under huge boulders within 100 metres of Gadget Hut, They are my favourite birds. They are just so pretty. We are having our last big school conference calls this week for both Australia and New Zealand. We will miss your voices and questions but hope you will still enjoy the weekly bulletins. Don't forget to check your computers next year when you return to school.

Don't forget also, if you want Expedition Ice Bound t-shirts for $15, to contact Expedition Ice-Bound headquarters in Sydney on 02 9979 8530 or P.O. Box 778 Mona Vale N.S.W. 2103.

We have another call to Japan and Munro School (hello Lightfoot and Dickens) in December.

On Sunday. February 4th 1996 our Australian followers can watch 60 Minutes. They will run a story on our year in Antarctica and you will see our faces on the screen. We are currently trying to organise a visit to New Zealand in May 1996 to speak with some schools and may even get up to Japan. So stay tuned!

For New South Wales and Canberra schools, you will be able to visit us at the Augtralian National Maritime Museum, to check out a very good Antarctic display they will be exhibiting. Don and I will meet you there, show you some of our video footage and slides in their theatre and talk about our year in Antarctica and answer all your questions We will give you each a photograph and generally have a fun time. It will cost $2 each to get into the museum and then the fun begins. You will see some of the equipment we use also. Get your teachers to contact Expedition Ice-Bound headquarters or the Australian National Maritlme Museum on 552 7514. We will be giving the talks over two days only on Tuesday 21st May and Wednesday 29th May. You will need to book early as we are confident it will book out. We look foeward to seeing you all then!

Total sunshine for the week was 103 hours. Three teddy bears were born this week. A 1 5cm beige bear called "Poo-bear", another called "Captain Zero" and the third called "Gadget". The bear I made a few weeks ago called "Flinders" is now dressed up as Santa Claus. I cut up some material I had here and he now looks very smart in his Santa Claus jacket with his white fluffy beard and little red hat and big black belt.

Stay COOL.

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