Happy New Year!

In Antarctica, there is a place along the frigid coast called Mawson Station. It is named for Sir Douglas Mawson, an Engligh-born Australian explorer who was one of the early Heroic Explorers of Antarctica. His story is quite interesting, especially his survival during one grim trip where things went south, so to speak. There is a bit of info on that in the Wikipedia article, and the story is the subject of the book Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Story in the History of Exploration.

This was a man of grim determination, and willingness to push forward, to see something new, and to make things happen in an unexplored territory.

Some of us have had similar feelings about getting through 2013 and launching into this new year. I wish you all the best!

The longest continually-occupied station south of the Antarctic Circle is named for this Sir Douglas. Mawson Station, staffed since 1956, now has a webcam where you can see the buildings of this little encampment. The webcam takes infrequent photos, and strings them together to make videos where a full day is only about a half-minute of film. Normally, not much happens visibly until a ship comes in.

A group of global warming scientists were heading to Mawson’s Hut, an encampment that is a long distance from Mawson’s Station, and were re-creating an early Mawson voyage to “show the effects of global warming.” The scientists were just finally rescued by helicopter, but the incident demonstrated that there is much more ice in Antarctica in the summer than there was at Mawson’s time in the same area nearly a century ago. The irony of these “it’s all melting!” feckless faux explorers is discussed here. They’ve just been rescued safely, but the crew, and the ship itself, remain stuck in the ice. The total amount of sea ice globally, north and south combined, seems to be nearly the highest ever recorded.

The “Spirit of Mawson” (or Ship of Fools) was a long way away. But while nothing much happened at Mawson Station itself over the New Years holiday (at least, visible in the webcam), I did happen to catch one interesting frame: A few moments into the new year, it appears that someone at the station launched a small rocket or Roman candle. It appears in precisely one captured frame:
Mawson New Year
You can see the webcam here, and replay the last day or two. So, whether your new year is full of quiet accomplishment, serious exploration, or the rockets’ red glare of victory, may it be everything you hope for.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle