The 1967 Church Mountain Survey Traverse – Mawson Antarctica
Prepared by John Manning, January 2018
This document describes geodetic survey work carried out by a wintering party at Mawson Station. This connecting survey traverse between Framnes Mountains and the Gustav Bull Mountains can be seen as a follow up to the 1962 dog sledge journey from Mawson by Dave Carstens who reconnoitred the area and observed initial astro fixes for mapping. This is the account of trials and tribulations of the subsequent survey traverse from Mawson in 1967. The over-snow distance from Mawson Station through the Framnes Mountains to Gustav Bull Mountain is roughly 110 miles.
1967 Church Mountain survey traverse.
The Antarctic coast in the vicinity of Mawson Station was first sighted in the summer of 1929-30 by both Norwegian whalers and Douglas Mawson, as the leader of the two voyages of the British, Australian, New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions (BANZARE) 1929-31. The resulting small scale reconnaissance map of BANZARE voyages for the immediate area has the note: many small islands 0 to 3 miles from the coast. Following further Norwegians visits their first detailed map of the area shows the rock outcrop of the future Mawson Station as a nondescript small finger‑like point at the foot of the Framnes Mountains. This site was also clearly visible as a small horseshoe shaped feature on the 1946-47 United States Navy Operation High Jump trimetregon photography. (This US Antarctic Developments Program, with massive aerial support photographed some 40 per cent of the eastern Antarctic coastline.)
The Gustav Bull Mountains are located some 100 (over-snow) miles east of the Framnes Mountains. Land was reported to have been seen generally in this vicinity during an aeroplane flight from the BANZARE ship Discovery on 5 January 1930. In January and February of that year several Norwegian whale catchers (of Lars Christensen’s fleet also explored this coast, made sketches of the land from their vessels and named this group, the Gustav Bull Mountains for Captain Gustav B Bull, at that time whaling manager of the factory ship Thorshammer.
The Norwegian exploratory work of the Christensen whalers was not published at that time and when Mawson returned the following season in the second BANZARE voyage he independently named coastal features after his sponsors. He made a brief small boat landing at Scullin Monolith, a coastal feature of the group, on February 1931 to collect rocks and make a territorial proclamation, but no positioning astrofix was achieved. The Mawson landing site was not revisited for forty years until John Manning located the original cairn and flag pole in 1974.)
Christensen himself returned in the summer 1936-37 aboard the Thorshammer and took extensive coastal aerial photography of the area from a Stinson aircraft. He hoped Norway would make an extensive territorial claim over the region. Using this Christensen aerial photography, the geographic features in the Gustav Bull Mountains were published in 1939 as part of ten 1:250 000 scale charts by Captain Harry Hansen of Sandefjord (Norway). The highest inland feature was given the Norwegian name Kjerka (the Church) for its steep church like appearance. The BANZARE names suggested by Mawson were later approved by the Australian Antarctic names committees which accepted the Gustav Bull as a group name but preferred the English translation of Church Mountain to Kjerka.
In 1952 Phillip Law searched for potential sites on which to establish an Australian base on the Antarctic coast. He used the Norwegian mapping, the BANZARE records, and the American High Jump photography to select possibilities. After seven years of such preparation he finally led the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) to the area to establish such an Australian scientific facility.
On 2 February 1954, Law undertook a reconnaissance flight, in an Auster aircraft, from the expedition ship Kista Dan to view possible sites. Next day ski landings were made in a single engine Auster aircraft on the sea ice nearby to inspect the best site. The expedition ship Kista Dan then slowly made her way to that site through unbroken coastal sea ice and anchored in a horseshoe-shaped harbour at the foot of the Framnes Mountains on 11 February 1954. Law proclaimed this the site for Mawson Station. It was indeed a rare find for an Antarctic wintering base with an immediate deep water harbour and inland access to the Framnes Mountains. While this access to the polar plateau was possible, it was often difficult as it required an angled approach across sloping ice fields with ice cliffs below.
With the establishment of the Mawson Station, exploratory field trips for mapping were then made in 1954; to both the east, and the west on the sea ice, and inland to the south towards distant dark blobs visible on the 1946-47 American Highjump oblique photography.
Mapping the Gustav Bull Mountains
Before the Antarctic treaty in 1959 put territorial claims aside, the mapping of the Gustav Bull Mountains was of an ongoing cartographic interest to Australia, to connect to Mawson’s landing and support their potential territorial claims to the region.
After establishing the basic Mawson Station infrastructure in February 1954, expedition leader Phillip Law, took the Kista Dan eastwards to attempt to observe an astrofix at Scullin Monolith (where Mawson had briefly landed in 1931). This would provide ground control for mapping from aerial photography. However, two dangerous attempts to land from a small boat were unsuccessful. When the new Mawson Station was functioning, its first exploration objective was for geographical positioning of the features in the Gustav Bull Mountains. Consequently, in late autumn 1954 a party of four, under the surveyor and Station leader Bob Dovers, set off over the coastal sea ice in two vehicles to establish control for mapping along the coast to the Gustav Bull Mountains.
This proved a very difficult journey as the whole area is subject to very bad autumn weather and the sea ice broke up under the violence of the storms. A World War II Studebaker-built M29 Weasel over-snow tracked vehicle and a living caravan were lost when the sea ice broke up in a storm at night on 20 May 1954. In a desperate situation the party were lucky to be able to winch a vehicle and a caravan onto to a narrow ledge ashore (part of the Scullin Monolith) where they were marooned for a month until the sea ice refroze. They subsequently limped back to Mawson on 19 June in the sole remaining Weasel, only to see it catch fire an hour later when parked in the Mawson village square.
The vehicle was destroyed in the fire and Dovers’ survey observations were also lost in the fire. So bad was the trip that sea ice travel to the area was made off-limits for all ANARE future parties to that area and has not been repeated in sixty years.
Each year following establishment of Mawson in 1954, exploration parties set out for geophysical, geological and geographical exploration. Each sortie into the unknown terrain had its own unique adventure. From 1956 to1960, these ground explorations were supported by RAAF fixed-wing aircraft wintering at Mawson Station. There were no wintering aircraft in the other years and ground exploring parties needed to be self-supporting.
After Dovers’ attempt to provide survey positioning to correct the Norwegian mapping of the Gustav Bull Mountains in 1954, the area had been overflown in later years by RAAF aircraft wintering at Mawson Station. These flights reported difficult terrain with heavy crevassing in places. But to further improve the mapping it was decided to attempt to reach the mountains by ground travel over the polar plateau, but not in the autumn weather period. Eight years later in September 1962, surveyor David Carstens travelled to the mountains over the polar plateau from Mawson with two dog teams to reconnoitre the region and observe initial astrofix positions for mapping. The original plan was to use Snow Trac vehicles but this was over-ruled by the Antarctic Division head office in Melbourne due to the extensive crevassing previously observed on aircraft flights. The office nominated that dog teams be used instead and Carstens successfully reached the Gustav Bull Mountains over the inland ice plateau. (See Carstens’ separate report - forthcoming.) He observed two reconnaissance astrofix positions on the ice, one close by Church Mountain and another near Mt Kennedy. These two fixes provided the first preliminary geographical locations for these features. His report concluded with a comment on the access:
Although we crossed many crevassed areas with the dog sledges, these were obvious before we came to them. It was a matter of convenience and expediency that these crevasses, which were all well bridged, were not avoided. It should be quite easy and safe to pick a vehicle route through to Church Mountain using only small deviations from our dog sledging track.
Following the Carstens dog sledge journey to Church Mountain, the Antarctic Division office considered that only light vehicles were safe enough to use in the crevasse-prone terrain. Five years later the field survey program objective set for 1967 was to establish, using two Snow Trac vehicles, a precise geodetic quality survey traverse between the separate Framnes Mountains and the Gustav Bull Mountains groups.
With the evolution of distance measuring technology in the 1960s, the introduction of survey quality electronic distance measuring equipment enabled positional accuracies to be achieved by single line traverses as well as by triangulation chains. Such a geodetic standard traverse requires the measurement of angles and distances using accurate theodolites for angular measurement and precise micro radar equipment for distance measurement. The Tellurometer micro distance measuring instrument was capable of measurement precision of a few centimetres with an accuracy usually rated as +/- 15 mm + 3 ppm (roughly +/-50mm in 50 km) for the vernier dial-null meter readout MRA3 model Tellurometers.
The use of the earlier model MRA1 Tellurometer electronic distance measuring equipment in Antarctica had been trialled by David Carstens, who with Nat Map’s Bob Goldsworthy and other Expeditioners, measured a trilateration configuration of seven lines from the Mawson coast into the Framnes Mountains in January 1962. This ground breaking work was done without aircraft support. Snow Trac and Weasel vehicles were instead used to reach the mountain survey stations, while an Army DUKW (6-wheel drive amphibious vehicle) and the ANARE II workboat providing essential transport to stations on Béchervaise and Rookery Islands. Three years later in the 1964-65 summer season a separate single line Tellurometer traverse was measured from the Framnes Mountains westward towards Enderby Land. This survey used the expedition ship Nella Dan as a mobile base and was supported by fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
The Swedish Snow Trac tracked vehicles were designed for operation in soft snow and had with excellent ground pressures of less than that of a man’s footprint. However, they were not suitable as prime movers or proven in operations in difficult, rough ice terrain intersected by crevassing. Since 1961 all major journeys had been made either by dog teams or directly supported by Caterpillar D4 (seven ton) tracked tractors that were powered by turbocharged 5.7 litre 4-cylinder 63 horsepower engines. Although normally diesel-powered, Aviation Turbine Kerosene (ATK) was used to fuel the D4s as diesel became too thick in the extreme low temperatures as the heavier fractions solidified; ATK was also used in the D4 radiators to avoid freezing of the coolant.
With the advent of this distance measuring equipment, new survey technology had replaced the earlier Antarctic expedition approach of a surveyor with a dog team, small theodolite and chronometer observing isolated astro fixes. Ground survey work now required two simultaneous observing teams, the careful transport of delicate equipment and a reliance on battery power for electronic equipment. No longer could the survey support be provided by dog teams alone and greater logistic support was required. Tellurometer measurements were made in both forward and reverse directions, requiring an observer at each end of the distance legs. With only one surveyor in the party, survey work was heavily dependent on the expertise and goodwill of other expedition members to carry out observations with instruments often in extremely uncomfortable cold windy conditions. Both the 1965 and 1966 Mawson wintering parties undertook geodetic quality survey traversing inland from the Framnes Mountains, south to the Prince Charles Mountains.
The design of the 1967 survey was to establish a baseline of high positional accuracy in the Gustav Bull Mountains and to link them by an over-snow geodetic quality traverse back to Onley Hill at the south end of the Framnes Mountains and continue it down to Béchervaise Island where a positional origin for the network was to be established. This would be connected with a small leg back to Dovers original NMS76 survey mark near Rymill Hut at Mawson. The distance measurement of each traverse leg required an MRA3 model Tellurometer instrument at each end to make forward and backward measurements. The horizontal angles were read using a 15 kg Wild T3 theodolite with a one tenth of a second pointing accuracy (micrometer reads to one tenth of a second). Vertical angles were observed by simultaneous vertical angles using theodolites at each end of the distance legs to eliminate refraction errors.
Preparations at Mawson February-March 1967
The survey traverse to the Gustav Bull Mountains was set as a priority task for the 1967 Mawson expedition and was planned to be commenced in late summer before the onset of winter storms.
However, this plan encountered a setback when the Nella Dan, with the incoming Mawson party on board, was beset in the ice off Wilkes Station en route to Antarctica.
Arrival at Mawson was six weeks behind schedule and it was not until 23 February 1967 that the hectic Mawson resupply and crew changeover was completed. This was a serious impediment to the planned survey work. But in a period of 17 days after the ship left, whilst coping with a new crew settling in to run the Station, hectic preparations were also made for the autumn field survey trip.
Two of the three light Snow Trac vehicles on the Station were quickly serviced in the mechanical workshop while tents, food and survey equipment were prepared and loaded onto sledges. The field party was selected from those at Mawson, on the basis of capability and availability, as certain work was essential to the running of the base not everyone was available. The final autumn field party consisted of persons with quite different backgrounds:
· Pat Moonie Radio Operator
· Tony Jacques Weather Observer
· Ed Lawson Mechanic
· John Manning Surveyor and Party Leader.
A Caterpillar D4 equipped support team under the Mawson Officer-in-Charge, took the Church Mountain survey party to its starting point south of Fischer Nunatak. The members of that team were :
· John Erskine OIC Mawson Station
· Ian Wood Diesel Mechanic
· Kevin Reiffel (Padlock) Expedition Assistant
· Syd Little Mawson Electrician
· Brian Jackson Radio Operator
Patrick Moonie had just retired from the RAN as naval communications chief petty officer. Pat had much radio operation experience but little back country experience.
Tony Jacques had an extensive outback background having grown up in Julia Creek, Queensland. He was a capable, reliable, outback person. Tony had extensive experience with Meteorological theodolites during balloon flights and was the second theodolite observer, undertaking Tellurometer measurements and simultaneous vertical angle observations with the surveyor.
Ed Lawson was a diesel motor mechanic from a Gippsland country town. He had D4 tractor experience, having previously wintered at Mawson. Ed had briefly been on standby with a Snow Trac in 1964-65 at Rumdoodle, as a possible rescue unit when helicopters were having operational problems, however, he suggested he was unable to eat field ration pack food.
John Manning had an extensive scouting survival training, which led into an extreme bushwalking background. Beyond that he had eight winters working outdoors in Tasmania, mountain climbing and skiing. He was considered an expert Tasmanian bushman with good survival skills.
The autumn traverse party was equipped with two light Snow Trac vehicles powered by industrial Porsche engines and two Polaris motorised sledges as transport. Accommodation was in Polar Pyramid tents and cooking was undertaken on portable Primus stoves while tent lighting was by Tilley pressure lamps. Food, spare parts and fuel were carried on three heavy wooden cargo sledges.
While ANARE had used World War II, Studebaker-built, M29 Weasel over-snow tracked vehicles, for the first three years of exploration at Mawson, all major journeys inland for the last ten years had been supported by Caterpillar D4 tractor prime movers and sledge caravans. However, the terrain to the Gustav Bull Mountains was considered unsuitable for such heavy vehicles. Consequently, this was the first unsupported major work for the light Snow Trac vehicles on the polar plateau.
The access to the plateau from Mawson Station is by a diagonal traverse across an icy slope which can be rather difficult and dangerous for vehicles, particularly when towing sledges on flexible wire cables or chains. As preparations were completed for the autumn journey the components were loaded onto cargo sledges, together with the Snow Trac vehicles and towed singly up this route, by the seven ton Caterpillar D4 tractors, to an assembly point at GWAMM above Mawson Station situated on the edge of the inland polar ice sheet.
Situated about 1.5 miles south of Mawson on blue ice, GWAMM was an early landing ground for aircraft of the RAAF’s Antarctic Flight. The name GWAMM was an acronym formed from the given name initials of an RAAF party’s wives. In more recent times the spelling has become Gwamm. The route from Mawson Station to GWAMM involves a steep uphill climb for about one mile.
The account of the Church Mountain traverse can be readily grouped into three separate seasonal phases: Autumn, Winter and Spring. Each brought its own challenges and outcomes as detailed in the following account.
Phase 1: The Autumn Jaws of Death Field Trip 10 March to 10 May 1967
The account of this first field trip that year primarily covers the experiences of the party in the deteriorating autumn weather from 10 March to 10 May 1967. It has taken the surveyor some 50 years to come to terms with the embarrassment of the problems encountered on the over-snow survey traverse between the mountain groups. To overcome this personal reluctance, use is made of the verbatim diary entries of the supporting participants, as these give a better understanding of the events and difficulties encountered on this trip. The initial entry is by the OIC John Erskine, who reports on the support team of the Caterpillar D4 tractors taking the Church Mountain survey party to a starting point south of Fischer Nunatak at the eastern end of the Framnes Mountains. However, the main source of reporting throughout the trip is the field diary of Tony Jacques.
Friday 10 March 1967 - Mawson Preliminary
Erskine : Two D4s each dragged tractor train components up to GWAMM, except for the sledges containing fuel etc. which will be taken up tomorrow.
Jacques : Finished loading sledges and tying them down and packing the Snow Tracs. Everything loaded on to the larger sledges and towed up the initial steep incline to GWAMM by the two D4s. The two loaded D4s were driven by Padlock and Ian Wood. Ian’s D4 slipped into a slot returning from the first trip and had to be towed free.
Slight attack of butterflies at the immediate prospect of starting out tomorrow. Not scared it is just nervous anticipation.
Saturday 11 March 1967 - Goodbye Mawson
Erskine : The idea is to put Manning’s vehicles and supplies on sledges and tow them as far past Fischer depot as we can, in order to save the wear on the fragile Snow Tracs.
We went quite well up the steep ice slope to GWAMM, a short section of about a mile where we expect plenty of trouble later in the year, when ice is frozen harder and has less snow cover. No trouble through the solid uphill pull to just opposite Mount Henderson, where there were many big slots across our route, but we managed to cross them all safely (the safety of foolish ignorance) several crevasses lids broke open as the leading tractor passed over.
Had to winch loads up the very steep slope to Fischer, where we didn't stop but ploughed boldly on. Slotted one D4 about half a mile past Fischer, but easily pulled out by the other tractor.
Support train of two D4s near Fischer Nunatak with Snow Tracs on sledges.
The visibility was good enough to see several miles ahead but we did not realise that a fine haze and cloud cover was preventing us seeing ridges and domes, which would have been obvious in a good light. About 5 miles past Fischer on a bearing of 107° true the leading D4 went right into an 8 foot wide slot into which we had driven blindly and carelessly. On getting out and looking we found whole area a mess of slot. We were right on top of a dome, though it looked quite flat with the hazy conditions. The second machine was faced with a tricky circuitous route to get in front of the crevasse without itself becoming stuck. Ed Lawson took charge of the extraction operations very competently and Kevin Reiffel (Padlock) drove the second machine well. Ian Wood climbed down the hole and fastened a winch rope, and after half an hour or so with ice axes diggings ramps, came out like a cork out of a bottle, (Ian Wood had also attached a hemp rope to the slotted machine and at the appropriate moment pulled the gear lever, so starting its tracks moving, and with hard tugging by the other tractor to pull the tracks up against the ice wall, it walked up out of the slot).
I tried to erect a Beche tent (designed by a mountaineer and Officer in Charge Mawson Station in 1955 and 1959 John Mayston Béchervaise) on the ice but failed, due to too much wind, and the hard ice would have meant an hours’ digging to get it deep enough, so I slept in one Snow Trac, John Manning in the other and the rest in the caravan.
Jacques : Left camp at 0900 for rendezvous at GWAMM where we hooked all sledges to both D4s and headed up to Fischer. Lunch at the old caravan at Fischer at 1400 where we loaded some food supplies. Our first troubles began as soon as we headed over the crest towards Russell Nunatak, with numerous slots and Ian slipped into one.
He was smartly pulled out by Padlock in the other D4. We all started walking and probing with ice axe and poles until we cleared the area which was crevassed. We then climbed back into the caravan and chatted as we made good progress around the southern end of the nunatak and headed towards Russell Nunatak, which is an ice dome. About 3 miles short of this ice dome the lead D4 tractor (with Ian driving and John navigating) was badly slotted and in the caravan, which was immediately behind, we were all thrown violently aside. John and Ian naturally both got a hell of a fright as the D4 almost disappeared into the crevasse just saved by the front blade and the back of the drivers cab above the ice.
We were lucky to be able to extricate them in about 1½ hours and then made camp for the night as it was 1900. Both Snow Tracs unloaded and the Polaris transferred to our sledges while Jacko prepared tea. John Erskine and John Manning slept in Snow Tracs, rest slept in caravan self on the table all in double sleeping bags fully clothed, comfortable night. Our train consist of two Snow Tracs, two Polaris motorised toboggans, one Nansen sledge, and one cut down half- Nansen sledge together with two dog sledges.
Sunday 12 March 1967
Erskine : We woke to a cold morning, at first thought fresh snow had covered slots so we wouldn't be able to see them to get D4s clear, but was okay, thank God. The Snow Trac party moved off to the east after a little trouble starting the Snow Tracs. We in the D4s spent many hours cautiously probing with ice axes, then drove out safely. Found many more slots this side of Fischer bridged some with timber, should have bridged them all but tired and careless by then. Have since found safe route and marked with drums. We broke through five crevasses but were able to drive themselves out and arrived back at Mawson at 1700 after a slippery descent down the ice slope from GWAMM.
The Support Party withdraws and the Survey Traverse work begins
Jacques : Our first day out really. The survey traverse team having survived the OIC check list of essential items, headed off. With each Snow Trac towing Norwegian cargo sledges behind them, on flexible cables, it was quickly apparent that they were under stress in manoeuvring through crevasse fields. Leaving the support party 6 miles from Fischer, we headed ESE but soon encountered large slots up to 14 feet across as we neared the ice dome (Russell Nunatak). Very gingerly with Pat and I probing with a crowbar and ice axe respectively we turned north-east for a few miles away from the Dome and then straightened up and headed east. When we reached a point some 15 miles from Fischer, and we could only just see the tip of Onley Hill, we erected first trail marker flag. From this position we will make last Tellurometer shot to the beacon on Onley Hill on return. The program roughly is to get out there stopping only to place markers every 2 miles, camp at Church Mountain and do all the fixes and shots out to Mt Rivett and take the Tellurometer traverse measurements every 10 miles or so on the way home.
We made very good progress today, 25 miles from camp spot the night before and some 35 miles as crow flies from Mawson. Ed and I alternated at driving every hour or so and John and Pat the same. Apart from a blown tyre in Cuddles early in the afternoon and one large slot they opened up and drove around and which we had to detour around it was a good day we erected the pyramid tent and work in bed by 2300.
Names had been given to the two vehicles in the manner of the British Trans‑Antarctic tradition, one as Cuddles being a reminder of John’s wife and the other Val Hide a composite of Val being Ed s wife and Tony’s wife Heidi. Pat, being single missed out on the memory jogger.
Route of D4 support party from Mawson.
Monday 13 March 1967
Jacques : Used the Aerotech Herman Nelson heater to warm the throat of both Snow Tracs this morning but because we all slept in we got away to a late start. Slower travelling today, going much rougher. Numerous bits and pieces falling off sledges because of rough terrain, still slow but uneventful progress all day with shortstop for lunch. Soup from thermos and a chocolate bar each.
Mid‑afternoon middle level cloud developed following on the advancing cirrus cloud of the morning, rapidly moving in from south and reducing visibility considerably. This combined with ground drift, which gradually increased since early morning.
At 1600 we suddenly entered a heavily crevassed area. We decided to pitch tent and prepare for blizzard. We set up camp in almost whiteout conditions and after doing my first Met obs at 1800.
I retreated to the tent with the others. The tent is surprisingly warm and comfortable, exposed as it is in this inhospitable land and only heat is from Kerosene Primuses for cooking meals. After a tot of field rum and some dinner and writing up our diaries it was by bye-bye time.
Tuesday 14 March 1967
Jacques : Wild blizzard all day visibility down to 30 yards no hope of moving as we are in a badly crevassed area. Apart from dashing out every six hours to do poos we spent the day in our sleeping bags reading dozing and playing monopoly. It was John's turn to cook lunch and he then cooked Swiss for dinner, (I must get the recipe). Earlier self, cooked brekkie of porridge smoked cod and a couple of Bournvitas. Weather improving after lunch bar steady visibility up to half a mile to the east and cloud now discernible. Quite comfy in tent although deathly cold, it got down to -15°F last night.
Couple of tots of field rum during the day warmed our insides and we are in good spirits. If weather keeps improving we should be able to move tomorrow morning. John produced a book of learning German with pictures. It's a very good book and we are reading a few pages any time we are cooped up in the tent. We practice speaking it during the day and with my scratchy knowledge of pronunciation we are doing well.
Wednesday 15 March 1967
Jacques : Out of bed at 0630 for the Met obs but it took us until 1100 to break camp, we shall have to get better organised. One factor was that Pat had taken three quarters of an hour for a sked the night before and flattened the batteries in both Snow Tracs. I didn't really mind because I got a whizzer (a personal message).
Temperature at 1100 was -3°F and wind about 40 knots with temperature hovering around 0°F all day and weather gradually moderating. We encountered difficulty getting out of the slotted area where we had camped, so it was quite extensive and required two on foot to probe while the Snow Tracs followed. Apart from two areas with small crevassing and a couple of stops for minor mechanical troubles.
The erection of trail markers every 2 miles and a couple of stops when some gear fell off, we made good progress reaching Church Mountain at 1630 having travelled 25.6 miles from previous campsite. Church is a glorious looking mountain and even though we haven't yet started the survey work we feel we have really accomplished something. It's taken five days from Mawson, one of which was lost through blizzard. We have set up camp on immediate east side of Church at quite a height and the view of the coast and the surrounding mountains is fantastic.
Manning : Using information from the Carstens recce in 1962 it was quick and easy to set up a camp below the ridge accessible from the east. This saved much time as the western and northern sides were difficult to approach with large wind scours. On climbing to the ridge below the main peak a survey point was established alongside the plaque record of the 1962 dog team visit.
Thursday 16 March 1967
Jacques : I had the misfortune to have a mild attack of diarrhoea at 0300 brought about by the curry we had for dinner. Boy, was it cold squatting over the snow. The usual thing is to go each day about midday where it is usually the warmest part of the day. It's in an uncomfortable feeling exposing one's lower regions to that temperature and the accent is on speed.
We all took some really good slides but visibility wasn't so good. After some lunch on returning to camp we unloaded the dog sleds and split up all the camping gear and food and loaded two dogsleds with the same plus the large theodolite and Tellurometer and some fuel and the Herman Nelson all of which Ed and John will tow with the Snow Trac over to Mount Rivett tomorrow weather permitting.
Friday 17 March 1967
Jacques : 0700 rise again this morning: a last run through the operation of both remote and master Tellurometer and theodolite. Final instructions from John were that we are to make 16 pairs of vertical angles with the theodolite to Mount Rivett station then reciprocal Tellurometer readings, both coarse and fine settings, to the same beacon which they are to erect on the mountain. John and Ed left for Rivett at 1500 and will be away three days weather permitting while John reads angles to all visible peaks as well as shots back to Church Mountain. He has promised to name unnamed nunataks after self and Pat and a third larger one over near Scullin Monolith after Ed. He has decided to do his astro shots back here on his return. After they left Pat and I recharged both batteries for our Tellurometer and prepared odds and ends for the shots tomorrow at 1100. We were unsuccessful in making radio contact with John at 1600 and 1800 tonight. I climbed to the Church Mountain station ridge and could not see them so we assume they made Rivett okay. Had a bit of a wash after dinner and got out a pair of clean underdaks.
Church Mountain Massif : Survey station is above the right hand snow slope.
Saturday 18 March 1967
Jacques : Up the mountain this morning at 1000. Pat and I each with a heavy loaded rucksack with Tellurometer, battery, theodolite, altimeter hygrometer etc. A hard, arduous climb, established contact with John at 1100 on the dot, they had reached Rivett in two hours the day before, erected their tent and climbed the mountain before dark. Tellurometer shots went very well but because of shimmer was unable to locate them or their bacon visually with the theodolite.
Gave it away at 1430 and returned to camp with the Tellurometer battery we had used. Dinner at 1730 and back up the mountain at 1930 with fresh battery for another attempt at 2000 using Lucas lamps.
Very little wind during the day with temperature varying between zero and +6F, very comfortable working. Pressure still rising and dead calm at 1900 cloudless sky and temperature down to -7°F down at camp, it's going to be a very cold night.
Made contact by Tellurometer voice at 2005 and pinpointed their position by the Heliograph as the sun set. Thereafter made theodolite readings of vertical angles (eight pairs left and right face) and were back in camp at 2115.
The survey station on the Church Mountain block.
Sunday 19 March 1967
Jacques: Had sleep-in this morning missed 6000 obs and left tent after breakfast at 0900. Temperature was still -18°F so it must have been -25°F last night. The temperature never got above -10°F all day and wind strength increased to 20 knots. Had light nip in feet early and in the tips of the fingers of one hand later. They were frozen and had to put offending hand under clothes and onto stomach to thaw them out, very painful.
Tidied up and restacked sledges while Pat threw everything out of the tent and cleaned it up then re-stocked. After lunch of beef curry and a cup of coffee we climbed Church to bring down gear we didn't bring down last night. I had rucksack with battery and odds and ends while Pat took Tellurometer in its rucksack. Still petrified climbing down the first 6 feet with the 50 pound pack on the shoulders. During the afternoon we picked up hand generator from down at aerial and prepared for arrival of John and Ed.
Kept the Primus going for a brew when they arrived and they turned up at 1700 after having trouble with the Snow Trac on one back tyre when the track came off. They positioned Jacques and Moonie Nunataks by reading angles and were the first humans to climb Mount Rivett and Mount Kennedy. Jovial atmosphere prevailed in tent during and after dinner with double issue of field rum.
1967 Church Mountain-Mount Rivett survey route.
Details of the separated party activity on Mt Rivett taken from the surveyor’s diary.
Friday 17 March 1967
Manning : The reason for the distance measurement to Mount Rivett was to establish a Baseline from where all visible features in the Gustav Bull Mountains could be positioned by intersecting theodolite rays from each end. This would form the positional basis for a map of the area extending to the Murray and Scullin Monoliths. The planned continuous survey traverse back to Framnes Mountains would ensure optimal compatibility with the Mawson geodetic datum.
Scullin Monolith was the place of Mawson boat landing in 1939 and the desperate occupation by Dovers in 1954 when the sea ice broke up in the late autumn.
Morning temperature -10°F with sharp wind making it very cool but the sky is clear and sun shining. Finalised sorting and repacking to split the party, had lunch and left in Number 2 Snow Trac (Cuddles) at 1400 owing two dog sleds. Only went quarter of a mile and one overturned so lashing them both on a Norwegian cargo sledge we again set off for Mount Rivett.
This is a very bad area of mini ice domes and blue ice. Selecting a route very carefully however, to avoid domes and crossing slot fields at right angles we made very good time and selected a campsite to the east of the south ridge of Mount Rivett at 1630.
Reconnoitred the mountain approach after setting up camp, Eddie and I then made first human ascent of Mount Rivett, reaching summit at sunset 2000 hours. A most impressive view of surrounding peaks and sea ice currently forming out to sea. Wearily descended to camp, -20 F but still clear.
Saturday 18 March 1967
Manning : Up at 0600 left camp at 0800 and battled up to the selected survey point with heavy empty 44 gallon drum on mountain mule rucksack. Eddie with a load of survey gear. Returned to camp for 0900 radio sked on AN/GRC-9 radio – negative result. Packed survey gear up the mountain for 1100 Tellurometer sked. Contact successful with Pat and Tony on Church Mountain and Tellurometer readings went smoothly with wind dropping off. They were unable to see our beacon or Lucas lamp and arranged for sked at 2000, then read horizontal angles to all visible features. Went down to camp for tea and back again at 2000 to read reciprocal verticals to lamps with no wind, very satisfying work. Returned to camp with very heavy load in half dark. Temperature -20°F.
View towards Scullin Monolith from Mt Rivett survey station.
Saturday 18 March 1967
Manning : Up at 0600 left camp at 0800 and battled up to the selected survey point with heavy empty 44 gallon drum on mountain mule rucksack. Eddie with a load of survey gear. Returned to camp for 0900 radio sked on AN/GRC-9 radio – negative result. Packed survey gear up the mountain for 1100 Tellurometer sked. Contact successful with Pat and Tony on Church Mountain and Tellurometer readings went smoothly with wind dropping off. They were unable to see our beacon or Lucas lamp and arranged for sked at 2000, then read horizontal angles to all visible features. Went down to camp for tea and back again at 2000 to read reciprocal verticals to lamps with no wind, very satisfying work. Returned to camp with very heavy load in half dark. Temperature -20°F.
Sunday 19 March 1967
Manning : Up at survey station 0900 to complete horizontal angles then packed camp and moved off in the direction of Mount Kennedy. Made a solo first ascent of Mount Kennedy while Eddie kept Snow Trac warmed up. Had trouble getting across the wind scour and found mountain higher than it looked from below, it was interesting geologically with evidence of recent 30 foot drop in icecap level.
Moving on we blew a tyre and threw a track halfway back to Church Mountain, then limped slowly back on an improvisation of Eddie’s with another wheel, after fitting the track back on. Reached tent 1545. Good to be united again with Tony and Pat. Bit of a fire scare in the tent when Primus flared and missed radio sked with Mawson. Temperature -12°F.
Manning arriving back at base camp.
With the party reunited back at the Church Mountain camp, the narrative returns to Tony Jacques’ diary.
Monday 20 March 1967
Jacques : Helped Ed to replace sprockets on left-hand side of Snow Trac number one (Val Hide) and replaced punctured back tyre as well. Had to go into tent twice during the morning and sit over Primus stove to warm, temperature hovered around ‑10°F all day with chilling 25 knot wind.
John and Patrick climbed Church to read some more angles and returned at 1300 very cold and hungry. This area has not been mapped, hence the thorough comprehensive work by John and a map will be drawn up when he returns to Melbourne. After lunch John and I climbed Church and he read angles in the T3 theodolite to all peaks, whilst I did pencilling.
Both very cold by this time we finished at 1700, after numerous stops to warm hands, and on arrival back at camp John had very severe frostbite on one cheek, first instance of trip. He stayed in tent over Primus for 20 minutes until it thawed out. He lost a little skin around the side of nose near affected cheek.
Dinner at 1900 and all in sleeping bags writing diaries or reading at 2100, temperature -15°F, (47° below freezing.) Food still very good, steak and all the prepared packets of peas, potato, soup etc and bread rolls cooked by Bill before we left Mawson. Still haven't touched HF6 bar although John is keen.
Tuesday 21 March 1967
Jacques : After lunch John and I trudged up Church again with both theodolites for astro work, but we were unsuccessful and returned back at 1500. After a couple of Bournvitas John and I walked over to the Wind scour against Church Mountain, directly opposite camp to leave a heavy 6-Volt vehicle battery and Lucas lamp as a backsight and reference point, should we be able to do Astro tonight when the stars come out, as we were unable to detect them this afternoon in daylight. While going over the edge of the wind scour John who was carrying the heavy rucksack with battery slipped on the edge of a very steep drop and was unable to brake. He gained speed when he crossed some blue ice he lost the ice axe and proceeded at great speed still on his back towards some rocks. With quick reaction he fended himself off with his feet and finally came to rest some 90 feet down. It was quite a job getting back up and I assisted by recutting some steps.
Wednesday 22 March 1967
Jacques : Thermometer is the coldest since we left Mawson and getting very low at -31°F (63° below freezing) at 0600 and -14°F most of the day with 25 to 30 knots of wind made it very uncomfortable and every hour so we had to dive into the tent and sit over the Primus. Spent day doing nothing much almost finished maintenance on Snow Tracs but struck trouble replacing rear wheel. My turn to cook dinner, and after a rum, I cooked frozen steak, a packet of frozen peas and instant mash potatoes with dried onion in them.
John decided to climb Church after dinner to attempt Astro shots as cloud cleared and at 2000 we started work. After some minor hold-ups we got six stars, each time referencing back to the Lucas lamp in the wind scour taking five or six faces left and right as precise azimuth reference each time. We were both very cold before we finished at 2330 and descended in darkness with aid of another Lucas lamp connected to the wet cell vehicle battery in a rucksack toted by John. A good night’s work.
A couple of Bournvitas finished the night, John is very happy and has offered if we are interested, if we return to Tassie where he was a lands surveyor, he can get us some good land very cheap (perhaps about £4 per acre), must look into this.
Thursday 23 March 1967
Jacques : Mild blizzard all day so spent the day in the tent much warmer only -10°F at 0600. Very heavy drift during morning but decreasing in afternoon.
Friday 24 March 1967
Jacques : Spent the day repacking sledges, splitting up rations and camping gear, as we will set off and travel approximately 30 miles to an ice dome and do Tellurometer and Theodolite shots back to Church. Everything shipshape at 1745 and after doing 1800 Met obs, all into the tent for evening, finished the field rum and got a little merry and pulled out mouth organ and played a few tunes. John and Pat climbed Church to bring down T2 theodolite, which we must take tomorrow.
Saturday 25 March 1967
Jacques : Weather very nasty early in the morning, wind 35 knots with heavy ground drift, we procrastinated but decided it was improving and departed camp at 1130, Patrick and I taking turns in driving for two hours each. After only 5 or 6 miles we stop to re-tie some marker cane flags which Pat had noticed had come loose, and found that the wooden case with all John's survey gear had come loose from all the bouncing etc. and all the gear (including very valuable altimeter) was strewn behind us for about 3 miles. We unhitched the sledges and raced back and while re-hitching I noticed that the tube was hanging out of one of the back tyres. It's a hell of a job loosening the track and removing these wheels on the Snow Trac and matters were made worse by the fact that although Ed had given us a tube as we had no spare, he forgot to give us tyre levers. In two hours, using two screwdrivers, we were mobile again and I navigated resetting the Astro compass every 20 minutes. At 1900 we stopped for Tellurometer sked and after explanation pushed on until 2000 and then had our tent set up by 2100. bloody hard work.
Sunday 26 March 1967
Jacques : Up at 0800 and Tellurometer sked with John and Ed up on Church Mountain at 1100. We were unable to start the Snow Trac using blowtorch and ether spray, so had to be content with Tellurometer shot from here, which is only 26 miles from Church. John picked us up on the T3 theodolite but we were unable to see their beacon due to bad shimmer, so a new sked was arranged for 1900 when it was intended to use Lucas lamps for verticals and horizontal angles.
But at 1815 the wind rose and drift commenced and although we spoke on the Tellurometer speech channel, we had to cancel theodolite work due to the bad visibility. It's been three weeks since we left Mawson. This afternoon, after some precautionary work in the tent, in case we do get a blizzard, I chased Pat out and boiled a pot of water and had a bath in the washing up dish and put on new clothes. Bloody beautiful.
Snow Trac wheel repair, Church Mountain in background.
Monday 27 March 1967
Jacques : Well we got our blizzard all right, but only a mild one with heavy drift early morning. Apart from a few brief sorties outside at 1000 for wee-wees, at midday at 1800 for Met obs we spent the rest of the day in the tent mostly in the sleeping bag. The wind strength all day has been a mean of between 45 and 50 mph with gusts to 65, but at 0300 (from the way the tent was flapping) I would guess it was up to 80 mph.
Tuesday 28 March 1967
Jacques : It was one of those days today, nothing went right. The weather was beautiful temperature +2.5°F and no wind as we tidied up around at the tent etc. and cleared drift out of the Snow Trac and re-erected the tripod beside the Snow Trac and with the Tellurometer on the roof ready for 1100 sked with John back at Church. When we were closing down the Tellurometer after the readings, the atmosphere was playing up and we could not raise them at 1100 or 1400. However, did manage to speak for a few minutes at 1900 but battery was too low for efficient operation and using system of flashing lights both here and at Church we were able to get eight pairs of vertical angle readings. We used the hand generator for the radio sked with Mawson.
Wednesday 29 March 1967
Jacques : Lazy day today, did Met obs every six hours and every hour also darted out to peer through the binoculars in the direction of Church looking for signs of Ed and John, who we’re expecting although we haven't had satisfactory communication with them for three days. Spent intervening time reading in tent and at 1900 when we were just despairing of their arrival, they appeared on the horizon well to the north of us. We attracted their attention with the Heliograph and I dashed in and put on a stew in the pressure cooker. Pat and I were glad to see both the boys again and we chatted together until 2300.
Thursday 30 March 1967
Jacques : Poked head out at 0600 and read hydrograph and thermometer just outside the tent without getting out of sleeping bag, then read barometer inside tent. Snuggled in again until John had breakfast ready at 0730. All out at 0900 and started miniature two-stroke battery charger to charge up all Tellurometer batteries. At 1100 we started Herman and then one of the Snow Tracs and with a T2 and a Tellurometer on-board, Ed and I headed up towards the top of the nearby ice dome, where we hoped to get forward visibility to allow the next shot to be at least 10 or 15 miles. We were to erect a tripod from which to read angles with the T2 and also do a Tellurometer shot back to here, then carry forward as normal. This next shot from here is only going to be a short one because we were in a slight valley.
In nearing the top of the dome, but still unable to see forward, we ran into the biggest crevasses I've seen so far some were almost 20 feet wide with steep rough lips and we turned back and tried further to the north-west. The slots down there were certainly smaller but more numerous, so we returned to camp. Before dinner John read some angles back to Church and I was booking for him.
Friday 31 March 1967
Jacques: Half-hearted blizzard all day and light winds allowed drift to accumulate in great amounts around the sledge, tent and Snow Tracs. Spent all day in tent apart from calls of nature and Met obs. After unsuccessful radio sked attempt at 2130, we all wriggled into our sleeping bags and old Ed, as he has done on numerous occasions, unexpectedly begin sprinkling everything in sight with Nyal baby powder. He maintains it overpowers the other the less acceptable odours of unwashed bodies and un-aired sleeping bags and smelly clothing. It's a bit of a riot with Ed bouncing about and everyone trying to grab the tin from him through the haze.
Wind has dropped and sky is near cloudless, so we will be up early tomorrow morning and will move off on another leg towards home.
Saturday 1 April 1967
Jacques: After starting battery chargers Ed and I took off towards top of dome from where we had hoped to take shots back to camp and from there forward. Near the crest and only one and a half miles from camp, we ran into some slots up to 14 feet cross and too large to cross so we ran north-west along them, then we ran into a very bad patch, all shapes and sizes running each and every way. We broke through a couple and so abandoned our plan.
Semi whiteout conditions from lunch onwards made travel impossible. Having spent the afternoon reading, I cooked John's recipe for chapattis, (tortillas) for dinner with some steak; tossing them is quite fun with occasionally miss.
Sunday 2 April 1967
Jacques : A tentative peep outside at 0600, -21°F revealed what promises to be a fine day so we all got up and at 0800 where ready to shove off. However, Pat and I didn't get away until 1100 finally, as Ed had a hell of a time starting our vehicle and to make matters worse, the Herman heater acted up. Restricted by visibility we were at a new station by 1230 and although it is only 6 miles as the crow flies, it is progress and John is quite pleased with the route selected and also the station. After our survey work finished at 1500 we were unable to restart our Snow Trac and John and Eddie were also delayed so at 1800 when they arrived it was too late for another leg so we erected a tent had dinner and retired early with the intention of making an early start tomorrow morning.
Monday 3 April 1967
Jacques : Just as we were retired last night, despite clear sky, wind rose and moderate drift covered the area. Today it is a full-scale blizzard, the first real one since we've been out. I had to go outside just after lunch and it was an awesome experience. With the visibility only 5 yards less at times and with a mean wind of 60 mph, it is very difficult and dangerous moving around outside.
One moves carefully along from tent to sledge to sledge and to the Snow Trac, taking care not to get tumbled over by gusts which reach 80 mph, which could bowl one along quite a few yards and then one is completely lost. It's unbelievable but it took me just on half an hour to walk to the Snow Trac 30 yards away. The others were just preparing to come out looking for me when I returned. The fine drift gets into all one’s clothing and no matter how well sealed, it takes more than another half hour to clean the drift away on return. The day was spent reading mostly and chatting.
Tuesday 4 April 1967
Jacques : Blizzard abating today but still unable to move so we remained in the tent another day. We all spent the day in our sleeping bags and experienced trouble with sleeping bags icing up. Good authority has it, that the body gives off 1/2 pound of liquid in the form of perspiration per day so that over a period of seven days quite a few pounds of moisture is deposited in one’s sleeping bag with no opportunity to dry them and mine were well and truly iced up and I wasn't unable to keep warm overnight. However, three hours were spent holding them over the Primus stove to dry them out and last night I finally got a good night sleep in a warm comfortable bag.
Wednesday 5 April 1967
Jacques : Spent today in the tent as wind was still up with heavy drift. About the only thing of note was when John, who is a good camp cook, knocked up some chocolate crumble cookies. They were bloody good and very welcome as we have had no sweets except chocolate bars since leaving Mawson. They consisted of crumbled sledge biscuits in melted milk chocolate, garnished with home-made glace dried apricots.
Thursday 6 April 1967
Jacques : We were up at 0600 this morning and although weather was not the best, overcast cloud causing partial white out, we packed and Pat and I got away after lunch at 1330.
Although we could not see much, we made good progress and arrived at the foot of the very large ice dome at 1700. Our Tellurometer sked was unsuccessful and the same result at 1800, by which time we had only made about a mile and halfway up the Dome. The crevasses here are monsters one was 50 feet across and there were plenty of them. At 1900 we were still unable to raise John and still hadn't reached the top and were unable to go further and decided to return to the base of the dome on the snow and erected our tent. In turning we discovered one small tyre had split and spent half an hour changing it. We had the tent up by 2045 and now I am buggered.
Friday 7 April 1967
Jacques : After an unsuccessful attempt to start the small battery charger I strode up the Dome to reconnoitre. But it was too dangerous without a rope, so I returned without reaching the crest and prepared everything for a joint trip after lunch roped together, for a Tellurometer contact time at 1700.
At 1530 just as we were about to set off I spied John and Ed three miles away on one of the Polaris. They had come to see where we were and their Snow Trac had stripped the sprocket drive some 5 miles distant, (now useless and will have to be towed home). Whereupon they set off on the Polaris. John agreed I had done the best thing (actually commended me) and then he and I roped up and set off with a pack each and our ice axes. After crossing some very dangerous 80 foot slots we reached the top, left things there and returned. After an unsuccessful attempt to start both our Snow Trac and Polaris, they had no alternative but to stay the night with us.
Saturday 8 April 1967
Jacques : Despite a clear sky, very heavy ground drift prevented travel this morning. It wasn't until after lunch that Eddie and I were able to set off on the Polaris towing one dog sledge, back to the broken down Snow Trac, to retrieve the Herman in order to start our Snow Trac in which they are to return to the camp at Station 1. Eddie drove over while I rode on the sledge and vice versa on the return.
We were back by 1615 and worked on the Snow Trac with the Herman heater until 1800 but were unable to start it, so it was into the tent and work out a revised plan of attack for tomorrow. As the other machine has a re-conditioned motor just installed and consequently is easier to start, we plan to change the offending sprocket drive and use the other vehicle, towing this one up on a Norwegian sledge and towing a dog sledge behind each of the Polaris. So, all going well we will be able go back over to the broken down vehicle tomorrow and organise things.
Difficult wide crevassing on Frustration Dome.
Retrieving the first serious Snow Trac breakdown.
Sunday 9 April 1967
Jacques : Early rise, my turn to cook breakfast at 0700 but as mid-winter draws on and the sun rises later, (0845 this morning) we were unable to go out to start work until 0830. An hour’s work on the Snow Trac showed that it would be a major job to remove the drive sprocket and an even bigger one to put it on ours (Val Hide) so this plan was abandoned.
Some fuel was taken from the Snow Trac tank for the Polaris and at 1015 Eddie and John set off in the Polaris back to their camp. A sked on the Vaughan walkie-talkie with dipole aerial was arranged for 1400 and we were pleased to hear that they were back there by 1215, a two hour run.
Patrick and I immediately roped up and made for the top of the Dome. I packed a mountain mule with the Theodolite and the Met gear, barometer, thermometer and hygrometer. We sighted their camp visually with binoculars (or maybe a mirage of their camp) and at 1500 had contact with both Vaughan and the Tellurometer. A low bank of stratus clouds (about 200 feet up) moved inland from the north-east and obscured their camp and then John had a fault with his Tellurometer so we closed down until 0900 tomorrow and just reached camp when the cloud cover caused a heavy white out. Slight rime falling from 1600 onwards.
Monday 10 April 1967
Jacques : Blizzard today and slept and read all day. Another unsuccessful radio sked to Mawson tonight at the new time of 1845 as it was getting bloody uncomfortable getting out there at 2130 and turning the handle generator, but when as happened last night and again tonight, we sit there in the cold and wind in the drift for 10 minutes with aching arms and still no messages are passed.
No dice as far as I'm concerned. Radio procedure needs to be very brief with no repeats and no procrastination on the operator’s part.
Tuesday 11 April 1967
Jacques : Weather fine this morning but very cold all day with strong winds. Temperature at 1800 was -32°F our coldest yet (officially). At 0900 we made contact with John on the Vaughan and arranged a Tellurometer sked on the Dome at 1230. The Vaughan batteries are now flat and after some 20 minutes on the Tellurometer with an incomplete set of readings the two batteries, which we had hooked up in series, to get more ergs, are now flat also so we have no communication with the others.
At 1900 despite -35F we again ascended the dome with the Lucas lamp and erected the Theodolite on the tripod but after 15 minutes and no sign of a light from the others we gave it away and walked back to camp in darkness, our way illuminated by the indispensable old Tilley lamp on the trail we had previously marked with our ice axes by chopping chips from the blue ice and snow patches. So now we wait for John and Eddie to travel over. What with the condition of all the equipment and vehicles we can't even move and I personally am ready to head back for home as it's getting bloody cold, the weather consistently worse, and we have been out nearly 5 weeks.
Wednesday 12 April 1967
Jacques : Had a brief contact with John on the AN/GRC-9 (on Vaughan frequency) at midday but could not distinguish much more than try the Snow Trac batteries on the Tellurometer. So, we removed them and were all set to head off to the Dome (with a battery each, 60 pounds, in a mountain mule rucksack) for a sked using these two batteries hooked up in series, to give us 12 Volts, when John and Eddie arrived on the Polaris towing the half Norwegian sledge. They hadn't received our transmission and assumed all our batteries were useless so decided to visit us with a battery charger. So, we have visitors again.
Tomorrow, weather permitting they will return and will try again to get the obstinate leg we are calling this particular leg the frustration leg. Had sked with Mawson tonight but it's a bit difficult as the hand generator is just about buggered, the legs have broken away from the front end and we've decided to restrict its use to position reports every three days and emergency use.
Thursday 13 April 1967
Jacques : The weather today is fine and overcast and some 10°F warmer than yesterday but the wind is very strong at 40 mph. In a wind like this it is too awkward to operate the Theodolite and also the wind chill factor so great it would be murder manipulating the Tellurometer. Also, it would be almost too cold, certainly bloody uncomfortable, for Eddie and John to travel back in the Polaris. So, it's been a day together in the tent mostly chatting. Got the six small dice out at 1600, when everyone was a bit fed up, then couldn't get the buggers to stop even for tea, played right up until bedtime at about 2100. This game is certainly popular when first played and we all enjoyed the couple of hours it helped to pass. I informed them that they could thank my dear wife for purchasing them from Coles in Hobart and packing them in my things.
Friday 14 April 1967
Jacques : After a bit of a sleep-in, we went through the usual routine getting the Polaris started. Took about two hours and John and Eddie got away about 1245.
At 1500 we were unable to make Tellurometer contact but after a bit of a search picked up the camp with the Theodolite so I read 8 pairs of vertical angles there and then. We walked down from the Dome (had we remained for two hours until the next sked at 1800 we would have been very cold).
Had a cup of hot Bournvita and a snack and then back up just in time for the sked. We were finished the Tellurometer readings by 1920 but John wanted the Lucas lamp to read a few angles to so we had to hang about until 2000. We were home in the tent by 2020 and I cooked some mashed spuds, cabbage and a tin of salmon for tea.
Surveyor Manning reading angles with a Wild T3 theodolite at Frustration Dome 1967.
Saturday 15 April 1967
Jacques : John had some vertical and horizontal angles to read and wanted one of us standing there behind our Theodolite as a marker so I went up after brekkie and stood daydreaming until 1030 when Pat took over until 1100. A radio sked at 1200 confirmed that they have read all angles and the leg to Frustration Dome (NMS36) was finally completed. At 1500 we climbed her for the last time and toted the batteries down.
John and Ed appeared on the horizon at about 1800 but that is as far as they got, the fuel lines on the Polaris were caked with snow and ice and so they walked the last 2 miles to arrive just in time for the radio sked with Mawson, the first for three days. I got a whizzer from Heidi and John received one from his wife.
Supper after this sked was a beaut stew cooked in the pressure cooker with mash potatoes followed by Bournvita. Suffered first frostbite today, my nose went off and looks like losing a layer or two of skin but nothing serious, except as I thawed it out (excruciatingly painful) over the Primus in the tent before it got too bad.
Manning : After five weeks, the work in the Gustav Bull Mountains had been completed and the over-snow survey traverse had been carried back half way to the Framnes Mountains on a high, but very badly crevassed dome. The condition of the vehicles was a continuing problem and the charging of batteries difficult in the cold when the battery acid froze. However, thoughts of continuing the survey were set aside as the major task became trying to repair and start the vehicles during breaks in the bad weather.
Sunday 16 April 1967
Jacques : Today was really a day of work, at the end of the day I had to sit for half an hour drying out my down jacket over the Primus. It was saturated from perspiration. After a roundtable conference it was decided to again attempt to remove the sprocket from Snow Trac Cuddles but to first snig her up onto the Norwegian sledge upon which she is to be towed back as one track has to come off. After digging two trenches to accommodate the sledge runners, so bringing the top of the sledge to an inch or so above ground level, we dug another trench at right angles and with the Trawalla jack as anchor in the bottom of this trench we slowly hauled Cuddles onto the sledge with the cum-a-long winch.
John, Eddie and I then took about two hours to remove the sprocket and then did a bit of rearranging of sledges and gear and packed the Herman, sprocket and some other spares, the tarpaulin wind break, and some canes onto the light dog sledge which we will man haul across as far as the other Polaris tomorrow.
Monday 17 April 1967
Jacques : With the barometer at an all-time high of 902 millibars, it was surprisingly that with a 15 to 20 knot wind there was heavy drift most of the day, and the day was spent in the tent, apart from a sortie after breakfast to stack everything up out of the drift onto the sledges. We had a couple of hands of 500 cards during the afternoon, after tea, it was a game of dice. As a diversion and a change of diet John opened a tin of smoked oysters and with strips of bacon skewered with sharpened matchsticks rustled up an entree which went down very well with grunts and burps of approval before the main course of reheated pork roast (from Mawson). I heated a can of plum pudding in the pressure cooker and prepared a billy full of custard from milk, sugar, water and egg powder for desert and we all sat back to toss dice, stuffed with food. My nose is peeling badly from the frostbite of two days ago and is very tender.
Tuesday 18 April 1967
Jacques : After a Met obs at 0600 when there was light drift which was clearing, I lay back in the farter until 0730 when I rose and after lighting the Tilley and the two Primuses with the aid of the torch I prepared breakfast. We were all out of the tent by 0900 and while Ed walked ahead to start working at clearing the snow and ice from the fuel lines of the Polaris, John, Pat and I set off man hauling the sledge. It took well over an hour to travel 2 miles and what a bastard of a job it is.
The early explorers like Scott and Hurley who man-hauled hundreds of miles were bloody heroes. The Polaris proved very temperamental and we took it in turns to pull the starting cord for a couple of hours before she started. With the perspiration generated from hauling the sledge freezing and a stiff 35 knot wind, we were all as cold as hell (it's the coldest I've ever been). We decided to return home to camp instead of travelling onto the Snow Trac. It was definitely too cold to be able to work out in the open on mechanical devices.
Wednesday 19 April 1967
Jacques : Finally, ready to leave this camp at Frustration Dome. After 2 1/2 weeks today was a beautiful day, sunny with little wind and we travelled over to the Snow Trac on the Polaris. Changing the sprocket proved easier than expected – a quarter after two we headed for home. Pat wandered around like a chook with its head cut off (until John suggested he clean out the back of the Snow Trac), John and I worked at slackening, then later tightening the track while Ed worked under the bonnet with the sprocket. Ed drove the Polaris home and I drove the Snow Trac. After about a mile from the camp we had the misfortune to strip the studs on the rear wheel and it came off. We were held up only 15 minutes or so and limped home with the two studs holding.
Continual drifting snow made work on the vehicles difficult.
The afternoon was spent repacking the sledges and splitting up what food remained, ready for an early start for Pat and me tomorrow. There isn't much food left apart from the ration packs, but we have had made a deadline of Friday 28 April if the survey isn't finished then we take off home.
Thursday 20 April 1967
Jacques : There was a ridge of comparatively high pressure extending inland over us and our barometer reached an all-time high of 910 mb and hardly a breath of wind. Slight continuous snow all day, 3 inches had fallen up to 1800. It is a white out as well so naturally enough we cannot move and so it's another day in the tent reading playing dice and chatting. It is very warm outside and inside the tent; temperature outside hovering around 0°F all day and while cooking it got up to 50°F inside and all were stripping down to shirt and trousers. Swapped with Ed the ANARE Smith wristwatch for the Natmap Bulova Accutron (a $500, battery operated watch) as mine was losing time and we could be late for a sked. It's a beautiful job and keeps faultless time, John is wearing another.
Friday 21 April 1967
Jacques : Little or no change except the wind which sprang up after lunch. Slight continuous snow still falling. Boiled some ice for warm water about midday and with some soap and a washer washed around the old bottom and Freddie and changed into clean underpants. Had to throw the dirty pair away as the behind was blown out of them and they were disgusting colour. Also washed the feet with Metho and put a clean pair of socks on. Spent reminder of day saturating the hairs of the hydrograph and then reading some German and playing dice to see who cooks tea. Guess who?
Saturday 22 April 1967
Jacques : Fair dinkum blizzard all day, very heavy drift with visibility down to 5 yards at times and wind up around 80 mph.
Never left the tent all day, in fact only left sleeping bag to cook tea. Played a few games of dice and read and dozed all day. In a nasty mood this morning for no reason; must be this cooped up in the tent so long, and now to make matters worse we have run out of tobacco. Still only another week and we will be home so most definitely control my impatience.
Sewed up the hole burnt in the top of outer sleeping bag some two days ago while drying it out over the Primus.
Sunday 23 April 1967
Jacques : Wind finally dropped during early hours of morning but weather has not improved visibility is only still about 10 yards with heavy drift and sky not discernible.
Had to leave the tent today after holding out yesterday. It's quite warm, -5°F but the drift gets into everything and then melts.
Got a couple of blocks of ice and stacked them within arm’s reach of the tent sleeve opening and brought in some milk powder, sugar and potato flakes, which we had run out of.
The drifts around the sledges and Snow Tracs are the highest for the trip, some up to 8 feet but the strong winds which accompanied the blizzard have scoured out close in around them.
Monday 24 April 1967
Jacques : Wind increased during last night and between midnight and 0300 exceeded 100 mph. I was quite worried as the tent was really dancing and couldn't get back to sleep for three or four hours.
I lost another game at dice last night and had to get up and cook breakfast at about 0900. Laid around until lunch which John cooked, lunch was fried rice with HF6 meat bar sauce, very nice too.
We are now right out of meat except bacon and dependent upon the HF6 which is very heavy and becomes monotonous. Today is our fifth day in the tent and third day of this blizzard. All discussing what we will do on return to Australia. Tentatively I would like to have two weeks holiday, at home if Mum and Alf are away, otherwise North Keppel or elsewhere. Then get a job for the remaining six or seven weeks to make an extra $200 to supplement the old bank balances. The $200 won't go far towards the block of land, house and furniture, so with Malaya in mind we have three years to build our nest egg.
Tuesday 25 April 1967
Jacques : Wind is very light today but just persisted and while we dug out all the sledges some of them drifted up as quickly as we dug them out. We spent about three hours outside and it was a good break.
The wind increased after lunch and with it the drift. We had a radio sked at 1945 and I received a whizzer from Heidi again, (I Iove to hear from her). We three, John, Ed and self, take it in turns to wind the hand generator and John sent off two cables, one to Erskine and one to Natmap explaining that we will have to leave for home in at least 10 days if the survey traverse is not finished as we only have seven remaining ration packs remaining, which as they are 12 man days each, is about enough for 20 odd days more. John, needless to say has only one goal: to complete this survey traverse, he is very ambitious and overly anxious to do a good job so we will have to watch that no unnecessary risks are taken, like staying out longer than is safe.
Wednesday 26 April 1967
Jacques : Ground drift very heavy and visibility about 5 yards all day, spent seventh day inside the tent apart from the few hours outside yesterday. The temperature is comparatively warm around 0°F and got to -5°F today at midday and it is very comfortable in the tent. Morale is very good and I’m quite happy. Today we played 500 for four or five hours for the preparation of meals. Two consecutive games I had slam no trumps and we won about seven games so that Ed and Pat have to cook the next three meals. This morning before lunch I read some more German. The sleeping bags, after seven days have become intolerably smelly and one has to move cautiously to prevent the aroma escaping up around one’s waist. Liberal applications with Nyal powder have little or no effect.
Thursday 27 April 1967
Jacques : Eighth day of blizzard, overcast sky of cirro-stratus with strong wind and heavy ground drift. At last, however, the temperature has started to drop and with a little luck we may move tomorrow.
John who is leader doesn't seem too concerned that we have reached our eighth week tomorrow, which is the maximum time officially that we were to stay out and we are getting very low on food. Personally, I feel that down here in this inhospitable environment, one has to take special precautions to cover such a contingency and that our margin of safety is becoming too small with only four ration packs of food remaining.
Last night while lying awake worrying little bit about this, I suddenly had an idea. This idea I suggested to John this morning and it has been accepted with enthusiasm. We are all to travel towards Fischer with half the gear, leaving John and Pat at the site of the next station to read some angles if possible while Ed and I go onto Fischer depot to collect the two drums of petrol and enough food from the caravan for four weeks more.
Friday 28 April 1967
Jacques : Finally, our ninth day of blizzard? So, at last it has stopped. Today was perfect almost calm wind and the temperature slumped down to -15°F and later to -24°F. We were all up early and worked very hard at digging out all the sledges and starting the Snow Trac. While pulling out the Norwegian sledge with the Snow Trac aboard, we smashed the rear wheel stub axle and hanger and dropped the track. This was dismantled and welded by about 1400 but Val Hide which had started so easily, on three other occasions during the day refused to start.
Something seems critically wrong and we spent some four hours without success and flattened the batteries. An attempt lasting some 1.5 hours, to then start one of the Polaris also failed. Everyone is feeling pretty fed up, the vehicles are in a hopeless condition and it looks now as if we shall have to forget about finishing the survey and concentrate on getting home only. A radio sked with Mawson brought another beaut whizzer and John spoke with Erskine who intends meeting us at Fischer.
Manning : It was now apparent that the survey could not be continued, at best if one Snow Trac could be started we would immediately use it to return to Mawson. Failing that we would use the two Polaris motor toboggans to head back to Mawson. In the circumstance of these being unserviceable it would become necessary to enter a survival situation and man-haul our tent and supplies home on a dog sledge. This option was proving very unpopular with the other team members, who needed to be reassured that they could do it.
Saturday 29 April 1967
Jacques : Wind up today and bitterly cold, -34°F at 0800 and we all had to keep returning to the tent every hour or so all day to warm up. Both Pat and I suffered mild frost bite to the nose just before lunch. Although there is no perception of pain, not at least until one thaws out the offending member, it gives one quite a jolt to see the point of the nose turn pale then marble white as it freezes. About the only ill effect if one warms up the part quickly, is that the skin peels off.
It's another hopeless day though, we all worked all day and could not start any of the vehicles. John is even talking about man hauling but that is going too far. I'm sure we can eventually start one of them.
Anyhow as soon as we get mobile we are off for Mawson and I won't be sorry, as I’m in fed up myself with all the time wasted through the crummy worn out vehicles. We could have been finished and home a fortnight ago, if it hadn't been for all the breakdowns and hold-ups. Last night was bitterly cold but I was warm in my sleeping bag, but tonight will be even colder.
Sunday 30 April 1967
Jacques : Troubles, troubles, troubles. Things are getting desperate. It took until 1200 to start the first Polaris and until 1500 to start the second. Another two hours saw us packed with four ANARE ration packs (if we aren't at Fischer within 12 days it could be dangerous), and 4 gallons of Kerosene, one tent, our sleeping bags and the remaining 16 gallons of petrol. After leaving at 1700, intending to travel as long as possible, by the light of the moon if necessary, we only did 2 miles across to our old tracks on the way out and this took one hour, as one of the Polaris was icing up. When the second did the same thing we decided to erect the tent so that Ed could remove the carbies and de-ice them in the tent out of the cold.
We stopped about 1800 and had the tent up and were all inside with the Primus and the Tilley going. I spent nearly 2 hours drying out all my things as they were saturated with perspiration from rushing about during the day. It’s bloody annoying but John and I have to do nearly everything.
Monday 1 May 1967
Jacques : Bloody cold last night, this trip is not all beer and skittles. I'm having a bit of trouble sleeping as well, bloody insomnia. I slept like a log the first five hours then usually wake up shivering and lie awake until about 0500 when I do doze off. While one lies there awake for three hours or so everything rushes backwards and forwards through the mind, then follows exasperation of not being able to doze off and finally a mild anger. I have also been worrying a hell of a lot because our circumstances are really quite critical. Tonight, on the radio sked with Mawson it was arranged that they are to make preparations for coming to meet us if we don't reach Fischer by Sunday the seventh, by which time we will have only five days food remaining and very little Kerosene.
The weather closed in today and a whiteout made travel impossible, so we have one day less and still to start the two very unreliable Polaris before we can move. John is finally a bit concerned and says that if we don't get the machines started within a couple more days, we will have to take the bare essentials for survival, about 400 pounds and man-haul home. I certainly hope it doesn't come to that. However, I feel much relieved now that a SAR date has been nominated.
Tuesday 2 May 1967
Jacques : The little spell of worry is broken, late tonight we had a radio sked with Mawson and John Erskine has organised a party to come to our relief if we don't reach Fischer by Saturday 6 May. They are bringing a D4, fibreglass caravan and either the Canadian-built Bombardier Ski-Doo motorised toboggan and one or two dog teams. The blizzard has continued all day and we are unable to even attempt to start the Polaris. I ventured outside just after lunch for about a minute and it was very cold.
We received the message from Erskine on the normal sked at 1845 but were unable to acknowledge when the transmitter developed a fault. We decided to attempt to fix it before preparing tea and at 2000 when Pat got it going by replacing a valve, we were surprised to hear Jacko answer; apparently, he had been listening out even though it was well over an hour after the scheduled time, bless his little soul. We then had a great old yak, finally ordering even beer and cigarettes to be brought out for us. It was all very good for morale and in the in ensuing horse play, while singing our theme song, we decided to christen ourselves the Rivett quartet.
Wednesday 3 May 1967
Jacques : Sunrise is now about 1000 and sunset about 1700, day is getting very short. Today was another lost day, the wind has been bloody strong, up around 50 knots all day and although I slept through from 2300 to 0800 without stirring John and Ed both say that last night it was up around 100 knots and the tent was starting to shake alarmingly. The 1966 party had one blown down on them in 100 knots and for this to occur during darkness would be a frightful experience.
One of us produced a diary and read the entry for the first couple of days out from Melbourne. Amazing as it seems that was over four months ago, how time flies. For a few hours we compared notes and read our diaries, reading out loud humorous excerpts. We had another successful radio sked again tonight after a temporary power failure and condensation on the power lead from generator to the transmitter. I had a whizzer to send off to Heidi. We have been having HF6 meat bar for every evening meal now but I don't mind it, one seems to acquire a taste for it.
Thursday 4 May 1967
Jacques : Fourth day of this blizzard with more strong winds last night, but I slept like a top until about seven this morning and am not worrying subconsciously and lying awake now that I know precautions have been taken should we not arrive. The wind abated and by midday there was only a 10 knot breeze but with light ground drift, however, would make it very difficult to travel so John and Ed decided we will wait and see what tomorrow brings. Let’s hope it’s fine weather because we only need one or at most two days travel to reach Fischer, providing of course we can start at least one of the Polaris motor toboggans.
Tomorrow the five men leave Mawson for Fischer with a caravan and two D4s, where they will make a depot some 3 miles east on out outward route and then if we haven't arrived, a dog team and the Ski-Doo will set out to find us on Sunday 7 May. We have opened our third-last rational pack.
Loading the dog sledge with supplies for the man-haul home.
Friday 5 May 1967
Jacques : Patrick has caused a bit of consternation and trouble by sending off dramatic cables in Morse about our circumstances, whereas the rest of us have kept silent and John reprimanded him for this yesterday. Today he refilled the Tilley, one of the simplest chores and filled up the tent with smoke fumes and spilled bloody Kero over my sleeping bag. Enough of Pat, best to ignore him. Well it's getting worse and after a whole day trying to start either of the Polaris toboggans, we have decided that the safest way is to take off tomorrow.
If we get another good day, on foot man-hauling the lightest sledge with only food Kero, the tent, our sleeping bags and minimum camping gear. We have four ration packs and 6 gallons of Kerosene. With the half pack we opened yesterday we have food for fourteen days. As the radio is now unserviceable we can't contact Mawson to ask them to leave immediately to come to a rescue so things are bad as they can get.
Saturday 6 May 1967
Jacques : Oh my god! We woke at 0700, John and I cooked breakfast and we broke camp. Leaving at 1000, we man-hauled 8 miles like Scott and the old timers back in the 1900s. But they were fit and trained for it. Am I sore, mainly in the thighs and in the groin. Actually, I felt as fit as hell all day, still am, but can hardly move from the waist down. We hauled 500 pounds including the 85 pound dog sledge and used rope harnesses around the waist. One thing it was nice and warm, but when we stopped for a rest got it as cold as hell, because the perspiration on the body tends to freeze. After 25 minutes when we stopped and ate sledge biscuits, honey, peanut butter and vegemite for lunch, we were all shivering and had to start off to warm up. Up until midday we carefully followed the tracks from flag to flag but on sighting Mt Henderson we travelled directly towards it. We stopped at 1700, had the tent up and the tea on by 1800 and the washing up finished by 2000. And so to bed, I'll be stiff tomorrow.
Let’s Go! L-R: Lawson, Jacques, Moonie, Manning.
Sunday 7 May 1967
Jacques : And yet more man-hauling, my groin and hips were so sore last night I tossed and turned all and got hardly any sleep. We were up again at 0700 with Ed and Pat cooking breakfast and again at 1000 we set off. From about 1900 last night until somewhere around 0500 early this morning it was completely calm wind, an ominous sign and at 0830 it was a complete whiteout with moderate drift. Nevertheless, we decided to travel and push on.
Visibility was no more than a few yards and with the white out we could only peer at the ground where one was to place the next step or at either the person beside one, or in front as we are pulling into pairs. The wind gradually increased during the morning and made it bitterly cold when one stopped for a rest, on the other hand as it was a south-easterly wind and was on our port quarter it pushed both us and the sledge along at a brisk pace and we were doing about 2 mph as against 1/2 mph when we halted yesterday. At 1300 my groin was very bad and the wind increased 2 to 45 mph so we stopped and erected the tent, having travelled a further 6 miles, we hope in the right direction!
Monday 8 May 1967
Jacques : Yesterday in the white out we had occasionally checked with the prismatic compass travelling 348° magnetic which is 287° true allowing 61° magnetic variation. Between these checks we kept an eye on the wind direction and sastrugi orientation. Same again today but little trouble with my groin and we hauled from 1000 until 1730 with fewer stops and travelled about 11 miles. It was a cloudless day and hellish cold, about -25°F and my nose went off well and truly frostbitten twice and is now bloody sore. Until well after 1300 there was heavy ground drift up to eye level and apart from glimpses of Henderson we saw little until late in the afternoon when the Framnes Mountains showed up.
We now have 13 miles left to go and we are hoping someone will sight us from Fischer tomorrow and come out to meet us and save us walking the whole distance. Well our worries are over, no worries now with the food or the Kerosene so at last we are almost home, thank God.
Comment: Earlier when the Church Mountain team were contemplating man-hauling home on the plateau, the Mawson Station had begun to make rescue plans. The rescue party departed Mason in two D4s and included a Ski-Doo and a dog team. The party members were:
· John Erskine OIC Mawson Station
· Syd Little Electrician
· Peter King Radio Technician
· John Illingworth Glaciologist
· Mark Forecast Met Observer
The rescue mission is best described in the entries of Syd Little (Mawson Electrician) who was a key person on the rescue party.
Syd Little’s Rescue Party Diary Entries
Tuesday 25 April 1967
Little : The Church Mountain mob have not been heard off for a week but everybody talks nonchalantly about them otherwise the OIC would be off to make a dramatic rescue and have to be rescued himself.
Monday 1 May 1967
Little : John Manning made radio contact last night and said they could not start their remaining Snow Trac so they were leaving everything and returning to Mawson on the Polaris. OIC told John he would leave Mawson on 5 May and go to Fischer Nunatak caravan with two D4s and if they haven’t arrived by 7 May, a dog team and the Ski-Doo would leave there for him, John is some 35 miles east of the Fischer Nunatak. The OIC and Peter King will take the dog team and I will drive the Ski-Doo, the country is badly slotted for D4s but light transport should get over them we will be able to see Mt Henderson for 23 miles and will cover the rest of the distance by dog team.
Tuesday 2 May 1967
Little : Blizzard.
Wednesday 3 May 1967
Little : Blizzard, John has been two weeks in the same spot because of bad weather and the vehicles not starting – big job to recover the vehicles probably in the spring.
Thursday 4 May 1967
Little : John was blizzed-in yesterday and there is no need to leave until Saturday. 1845 radio sked they could hear us abut but their answer was very faint. Another day of wind and drift so no chance of the Church Mountain party moving. I made cover for the Ski-Doo. The OIC weighed the sledge contents and they came to over 700 lbs it seems too much and will probably cause transmission problems, it may be overloaded and have to rely double trips all the way.
The radio operators have just been trying to contact John Manning’s mob but without success we will be leaving definitely tomorrow midday it would be perfect if the weather hold good and we could go out for a few days, meet them and come back. They have been at the one spot for three weeks held up by weather and mechanical troubles and then when they decided to leave, by the gear and the weather. Four of us in the fibre glass caravan and the OIC in the Fischer caravan tonight heard Mawson trying to contact John Manning but without success.
Sunday 7 May 1967
Little : Woke this morning to a howling wind and no prospect of moving the drift was over three feet deep either side of the ledges the OIC came over to eat and Mark moved the D4 to another spot the dogs seemed happy rolled up in the balls on the snow and only got up infrequently to shake themselves free. The 25 yards between the two caravans was very difficult and only hope it doesn’t continue today. With winter coming we can expect the weather to continue to deteriorate a few falls were guaranteed There would be no chance of John Manning moving today. Had another radio sked at 1845 but again no contact because of the drift flying there was a lot of static and voice contact was unreadable.
Monday 8 May 1967
Little : woke about 0800 with not much wind and the drift only about four feet deep Mark bulldozed from around the sledges and we loaded the dogs got away 1130 still drift flying but knew it would get better when clear of the ridge of Fischer Nunatak Moved down the slope but about half a mile from Fischer caravan but only a few hundred yards for the mountain.
Suddenly there was a lot of shaking and noise and I could not see anything, struggled to get my Ventile hood up and balaclava down to see that I was below the ice level. With the blade in the air, the cabin top just caught the other side of the slot and the tracks grinding away. Disengaged the clutch checked the oil pressure and decided to abandon ship, so climbed out the door and up over the blade.
I had been following Mark’s tracks by about 50 yards, so I ran to the side, waving my arms and he saw me and stopped. They ran back and I ran towards them, and my foot broke through a crevasse on the way. Mark uncoupled his sledges and I grabbed a camera and we all returned to the scene. The slot was about 8 ft. wide and covered by an inch of ice and a couple feet of neve ice, looking down inside there were a few small bridges until light could not penetrate the darkness a couple of hundred feet down.
We thought of working the control by ropes but I thought it would be better with me inside, so Mark dug in and put his winch around blade and the sledges behind were a backup anchor. Mark winched and I drove in first gear, but the 45 degree slope was too much, so crowbarred some ice free of the belly and tried again in 4th but no good, so more digging and tried in second and out it came, bringing my sledge half over the hole. Mark was making a turn, between where he had travelled twice before, and he broke through with one track.
I left my sledges and winched him out okay and then returned to my sledge over the hole. Coupled up and off we went, as the area was full of slots, the D4s weigh 7 tons and most of the weight is on the back. Seemed okay for a while and after breaking a few more, stopped for the night about 5 miles east of Onley Hill.
Tuesday 9 May 1967
Little : At 0915 there was little drift and wind and it looked a very good day for travelling we ate and packed as quickly as possible, but Mark found some tractor track problems and we didn’t leave until 1230. Covered a couple of miles through slotted country and broke through a dozen times, the OIC was navigating but kept calling Onley Hill, Fischer Nunatak. Stopped to settle the matter near Russel Nunatak. It was 1400 and he looked over towards Russell Nunatak and said: What is that - a food dump? It was group of people walking towards us. We jumped back in the D4s and drove towards them and it soon proved to be John, Eddie, Tony and Pat; man–hauling a sledge. The dog sledge had four ropes for hauling and contained their sleeping bags, a tent, three weeks food and ice axes and some rope, 2 gallons Kerosene.
Their only clothing was what they had on, but they were in good condition and would have reached Fischer and Mawson no trouble. Photos were taken all round and all moved to the caravan. I had removed my outer gloves to take photos and my fingers were really singing by now. Made Bournvita which they had two cups each and after getting a rough story we decided to beat it as soon as possible, as there was a chance we could make Mawson that night, if we had no trouble. Lifted their sledge onto the articulated sledge and we were off. Mark in front and me, 20 feet to the side dodging the obvious crevasses.
But just before making our previous night’s camp site we started breaking through them again. Four times my tractor sunk a little, the blade went up but it crawled out and looking behind the sledges bumped over a hole say 6 feet in diameter, then suddenly I was down and caught 45 degrees down and tilting to one side, the back window was smashed and there was no oil pressure. I didn’t want to stop the engine as I thought I would never get it out without power but I switched it off.
Mark was a hundred yards ahead and there were two slots between us and after testing the surface with crow bars, he came back out and winched me out as the blade was slanted 45 degrees high. Mark then pulled my D4 (Clappa) along the ice on the winch and it clutched-started okay. Coupled up again and got going—if we slotted again we would not get to Mawson that night. Went over to Fischer caravan just as the sun was setting out to sea. My feet were very cold in the Mukluks so John Manning who had been travelling with me, drove while I ran alongside for a couple of miles and warmed up nicely. Slithered down past the melt lake near Mawson with a couple of minor shunts and needed lights to get down from GWAMM, Mark did a spectacular slide with his train but made it okay and we were all happy to be home again.
Reunion with tractor train rescue party.
This meeting of the two parties is also noted in the diaries of the Church Mountain field party.
Tuesday 9 May 1967
Jacques : What a wonderful exciting day today, I won't forget it for as long as I live. We were up at 0700 and moving at 1000 and at 1030 as we came over the top of the ridge we had camped on, a magnificent site presented itself – the whole of the Framnes Mountains spread out and on an ice dome. Some 3 miles east of Fischer Nunatak, we sighted first a light, and then through binoculars, the camp of the relief party. My God we all felt like jumping and shouting with joy.
We reached them at 1430 completing 32 miles man-hauling and they didn't spot us until we were a couple of hundred yards away as they were discussing the navigation amongst themselves. The bloody excitement, backslapping and handshaking that followed was a very moving moment and I believe John Erskine was close to tears. We all had a nip of field rum to celebrate and after lifting our sledge onto one of the larger articulated ones behind one of the D4s we set off for Fischer. I forgot to mention that we had to pose in our harnesses for about five minutes after arrival while they all took slides. Syd Little’s D4 went through a beaut big slot and had to be winched free.
Upon arrival at Fischer it was decided to continue the 12 miles home to Mawson where we arrived at 2000 amid more excitement and rejoicing. After some dinner, a spontaneous party was organised so I rushed down and had my first shower for 8 1/2 weeks and boy was it good.
Manning : The reunion between the man hauling party and the D4 tractors was great if hilarious. The rescue team were in poor understanding of the terrain and confused Russell Nunatak as a landmark and were uncertain what direction to take or what to do. They had become entangled in a crevasses field. Coming over an ice rise we saw the tractor train stopped in a bad place and changed direction from our direct line to go down to meet them. It was a joyful if incredulous reunion. We all went inside the small caravan had a celebration drink of field rum, while recanting our situation and began a return to Mawson stopping to carefully cross crevasses. I left the caravan and travelled with Syd Little in Clappa. We broke through the top of several more smaller crevasses, but usually climbed out under power, we cleared the danger zone carefully and approached the depot caravan south of Fischer Nunatak where there was considerable deeper surface snow covering the ice.
John Erskine as OIC sent off official report while photos with sledges were set up for transmission to Antarctic Division head office in Melbourne reporting that they were a strong confident team and would have had no problems sledging back to Mawson.
The celebration party back at Mawson was an immense affair between the survey party, the rescue party and the Station support members. Bill Butler and his mechanical team made up heavy brass Polar Medals 5 cm in diameter for the adventurers.
Light heartedly glaciologist, John Illingworth, a member of the relief party wrote a brilliant piece of prose focusing on the relief raising the question of whom rescued whom, as the relief party had hardly started and were in turmoil and deep navigation argument when the Church Mountain party arrived, and proceeded to usher them through crevasses. During the lengthy celebrations in the recreational room late into the polar night, the Church Mountain party gracefully, if humorously, finally agreed to have been snatched from the Jaws of Death but insisted it had rescued the relief party. So much euphoria for the celebration eventually returned to sober consideration of how we were going back to retrieve the vehicles and equipment and eventually complete the survey traverse.
Autumn Trip Summary
And so by mid-May the 1967 autumn survey trip had run its course. It had suffered seasonal bad weather possibly due to the late start from Mawson. This was a flow on result of the Nella Dan being stuck in the pack ice for nearly six weeks before arrival. It had been planned to be back at Mawson base by Anzac Day, but as autumn progressed towards winter, the weather, in a very windy and the drift laden corridor, proved an immense challenge.
While the early survey work at the Gustav Bull Mountains had gone smoothly, the returning over-snow survey traverse immediately encountered mechanical troubles. It became apparent that with the state of the vehicles, the terrain and conditions were too much for the light vehicles, towing heavy sledges loaded with fuel and a range of equipments. The use of the Polaris toboggans was rather experimental in the cold drift conditions of the polar plateau with their exposed engine, carbies, fuel tanks and petrol lines and provided little back up.
The weather encountered was very bad for long periods and was a big learning experience for all the party. Apart from the surveyor, the team had very little ice and snow camping or outdoor survival background. However, it is tribute to each member that they persisted until food and fuel began to run out, living together in a cramped tent for many weeks. In that time, they developed techniques, capable of surviving a full winter out on the Antarctic plateau in a tent, given enough supplies, in the old heroic era tradition. While the close living was a test for the participant’s morale and confidence, these remained high throughout, despite the trauma with vehicles and near continuous blizzards. The morale of the team throughout was surprising good, as it is so easy to get irritable and annoyed at personal shortcomings. For the surveyor the man-hauling was somewhat a relief, as it didn’t require spending countless frustrating hours and hours, day after day, trying to start vehicles, whereas man hauling is such simple, reliable hard work, depending only on personal ability.
The outcome, however, was very disappointing and at a considerable cost to the expedition with two Snow Tracs and two Polaris toboggans left stranded at a major feature, now aptly named Frustration Dome. All the vital high tech survey equipment had to be left there and be subjected to the extreme winter cold.
It was a concern that the Tellurometer micro distancer could suffer irreplaceable damage to its electronics in temperatures way below component design. There was also concern for the precision of the Wild T3 Theodolite for the same reason. Not only was this beautiful high tech survey gear out in the depths of winter on the Antarctic plateau, but the Station’s best light vehicles were out there too. It would take much effort perseverance and resources from the Mawson wintering party to rectify the situation.
Tony Jacques - vale 2017.
I acknowledge the support of the whole base Mawson base in preparation and field support, and I feel deeply indebted to the members of the field team, who tried so hard to make the project work, in particular the work and support of Tony (George, Luigi) Jacques. He was a rock in a hostile environment as his diary entries clearly show-thanks mate.
Phase 2: The Winter: The Recovery Field Trip 12 to 30 August 1967
When the euphoria from safe return of the autumn field party settled down at Mawson in the cold hard darkness of the Antarctic winter, serious thoughts turned to how the situation with could possibly be rectified. Lengthy discussions led to a plan centred on being prepared to take the Caterpillar D4s to Frustration Dome, despite the badly crevassed fields. Since May everyone at Mawson had been counting on a D4 combined survey and recovery trip to complete the work in August.
However, advice was received from head office in early August vetoing this proposal due to the danger to the heavy seven ton vehicles in crevasses country. This was an understandable and safe decision but disappointing to the surveyor. Rather than waiting for changeover as advocated by head office, when people could be flown in by helicopter, a new plan was developed. The new plan was dependent upon the mechanics working right through the Snow Trac to bring it up to a field standard sufficient to travel to Frustration Dome in bad weather conditions and then retrieve at least one of the vehicles there. The only Snow Trac now at Mawson (Number 7 Snow Trac) had broken its gearbox housing in Prince Charles Mountains in 1966. It was stripped and completely rebuilt by the mechanical section in the vehicle workshop during winter.
As temperatures lower than -40°F were expected, it was proposed to make the run to Frustration Dome in one continuous day to avoid difficulty in starting the Snow Trac in these temperatures. This was the only light vehicle on the base and the only back up available to this single vehicle approach was to take the single dog team to follow in the vehicle track up on the plateau, in case the vehicle broke down or was lost in a crevasse.
As this trip would be reliant on the single Snow Trac vehicle, two mechanics were considered necessary. John Erskine would lead the dog party with John Bishop for radio communications. However, in events leading up to departure Ian Wood had incurred a nasty gash injury to the calf of his right leg in an emergency situation while extinguishing a fire in a hut at Mawson. John Erskine had slipped on ice at Mawson and cut his hand requiring stitches. As Ian was such an essential member, with his extra expertise in petrol engines it was decided he should go but be carefully monitored by John Manning in the cold conditions. John Bishop had wintered at Macquarie Island two years before but had no experience with dogs or camping on the plateau so John Erskine decided that Tony Jacques should be added to his dog team party. The members of the team were:
· John Manning Surveyor
· Ed Lawson Diesel Mechanic
· Ian Wood Diesel Mechanic
Dog Team Party
· John Erskine Mawson OIC
· Tony Jacques Met Observer
· John Bishop Radio Operator
Snow Tracs at Frustration Dome Camp April 1967.
Manning Diary Entries
Thursday 17 August 1967
Manning : Left Mawson and GWAMM about 1100 with two D4s towing large living caravan, workshop caravan, and Snow Trac on large Norwegian sledge with sundry supplies, articulated sledge with dog team and dog sledge on another Norwegian sledge.
Low cloud was hanging on the plateau and weather did not look too good, but decided to push on nevertheless. Weather deteriorated when we came to end of our drum marked trail (put down previously). Two miles from Fischer, we were forced to give it away. Mechanics Ian Wood and Ed Lawson left tractors running for a while in case weather should clear briefly to enable us to reach Fischer but eventually shut down as a blizzard proper set in.
Friday 18 August 1967
Manning : Blizzard in morning, briefly clearing in the afternoon about 1600 then set in again. No move possible.
Saturday 19 August 1967
Manning : Blizzard again, no move, very thick drift.
Sunday 20 August 1967
Manning : Weather good, temperature -18°F. Mechanics started D4 tractors with Herman Nelson and relayed load up the slope to the pass at Fischer caravan. Had a brew then re-assembled the train and continued around southern slope of Fischer Nunatak on snow cover and decided to camp 0.8 miles past Fischer caravan and 50 yards short of the crevassed blue ice. This location became known as Survey Camp. Train was parked to be free of drift, tractors close to workshop caravan and the Herman. Sledges prepared for early start tomorrow. The temperature -24°F.
Monday 21 August 1967
Manning : Temperature -24°F. Up early and dog team away at 0845 with John bishop, John Erskine and Tony Jacques. Snow Trac set off at 0900, after a bit of trouble starting it, as the Eberspacher heater has gone on the blink, quickly passed the dog team and headed past Russell Nunatak towing a narrow Norwegian sledge with survival equipment, 44 gallon drum of petrol, Briggs and Stratton generator and mechanical spares.
Ian driving carefully at about 8 mph, vehicle went very well and did 38 miles on a tank full of petrol (12 gallons). Reached Frustration Dome at 1530 after fine trouble free run. Inspected situation and spent the night in the perfectly good Polar Pyramid which had been standing alone for 3 1/2 months now. Temperature dropping to ‑28°F.
Tuesday 22 August 1967
Manning : Up at 0800 to cook breakfast, temperature -30°F. Very little wind early but later stiffened to about 20 knots. Pretty good day for work and mechanics made great plans for the day, which unfortunately were nowhere near fulfilled. Saint Herman Nelson has a burnt out coil and Val Hide (Number 8) a burnt out inlet valve. The Herman Nelson hot air machine breaking down is a big disappointment. Ian and Eddie started Number 7 with screen and blow lamp, after quite some trouble. Attempted to tow start Number 8 but could hardly pull it even downhill – it never looked like starting. Seems without the Herman’s help on Number 8 we will have no success. I single-handed pitched another Polar Pyramid tent in a 20 knot breeze and moved gear into it, while mechanics used old tent as a workshop to work on the Herman Nelson heater. Temperature rose during day as cloud came up, stayed at ‑23F most of the time, but pretty nasty for handling cold metal. Ian having some trouble with his foot getting cold (which had been injured earlier in the year). Temperature dropping at 1800 as we moved into the new tent for the night.
Wednesday 23 August 1967
Manning : A typical day at Frustration Dome with its ups and downs, temperature -30°F in the morning, rose to -25°F most of the short day, -37°F at 1800 tonight. Bit of a wind and pretty cool but we worked till after dark using a Tilley lamp. After much ingenious work by mechanics, the Herman was started at 1230 using an external 12‑Volt battery coil ignition system. Briggs & Stratton started very easily at -30°F, runs well but no electricity output, later investigation showed burnt out diodes. No contact on radio sked, and hand generator seized up completely. Reluctantly used vehicle batteries for the radio but heard nothing (Mawson, however, did hear our short call).
Began heating Number 8 Snow Trac with the modified Herman and Ian reset timing and changed plugs and it started, MANY CHEERS. Packed up and shunted sledges about; we were half packed for an early start tomorrow when gearbox housing fractured on Number 8 Snow Trac, which is irreparable.
After a warm up in the tent and a cup of coffee, decided to swap gearbox housings from the unserviceable Number 2 Snow Trac, (Cuddles,) onto Number 8.
Cold hard work despite wind screens, mechanics doing a fine job despite fingers going off, constantly. Care needed to stop faces, cheeks and nose is going off. Ian's foot went quite well today as we dried his thermal boot thoroughly and he used a catalytic hand warmer in his sock with some success. Weather cold but no drift. Fumes in the tent tonight.
Thursday 24 August 1967
Manning : Temperature -35°F in the morning but with boisterous 60 knot wind, slowly decreasing. Too bad to work outside in the morning. I felt sick this morning and weak and dizzy probably from cooking on malfunctioning Primuses.
Early lunch, Ian keen to get to work and we succeeded in changing gearbox housing and packing up in the afternoon, all cold nasty work, however, we are pretty well set now. Good in the tent considering the temperature -40°F at 1830, will be quite a bit lower during the night but sure won't be going out to check on it.
Friday 25 August 1967
Manning : Up at 0600 to cook breakfast, vehicle started pretty well considering temperature -39°F at 0800. Left Frustration at 1100 for the old man-haul camp where we dug out the Polaris toboggans and put them on a sledge with Herman. Temperature -36°F, left 1230 with light sledges behind Number 8 and Polaris and the Herman behind Number 7. Met up with dog team after further 4 miles at 1310. As it was a good day with visibility good, navigated straight ahead along our outward route for the vehicles. I took off my down jacket and swapped places with John Bishop who was feeling it a bit. Enjoyed the run with the dogs, following on the vehicle tracks. Pulled up early at 1530 as recommended. Primus began fuming and made me a bit crook again. Pretty cold outside must be about -40°F. Trouble with intermittent short on the radio system, Tony trying on the Morse key, eventually radio lead went unserviceable and is not repairable.
Despite the outside temperature Tony and I pretty much at home, being used to this tent life, sleeping fairly lightly clothed, on one set of sleeping mats and taking every opportunity to dry condensation from sleeping bags. The OIC has not yet cracked the system and shivered all night in a full down suit, jumpers and Ventile trousers and has a pile of wet gear with him also.
Saturday 26 August 1967
Manning : Temperature -34°F, visibility limited with some ground drift and overcast sky with low clouds. Had a bit of a look around and seemed okay, so started at 1100 following the oil drip trail of the Snow Tracs vehicles and the indentations of the tracking metal rib under the wide Norwegian runners which usually stands out well. Cloud cleared right away and turned out a very enjoyable day in the sun with no wind, temperature stayed about -30°F all day. Took trousers (ANARE) and jumper off from under windproof before setting out as jumper especially iced up from condensation yesterday. Pulled up early again still on tracks at 1530, quite a strong breeze sprung up whilst we were pitching tent, had to watch face and fingers and glad to get inside. All had a turn drying out sleeping bags and the OIC is getting the swing of things. Day’s travel 14 miles.
Sunday 27 August 1967
Manning : Whiteout conditions -28°F, light drift blowing with strong cold wind. Away 1015 this morning following tracks and oil drips which are a big help. Visibility practically nil so much concentration required to keep on the tracks, taking turns at leading. Dogs ran well. Reached abandon Number 8 Snow Trac at 1400 and pressed onto the caravan at the Survey Camp near Fischer arriving there 1650 after a run of 25 miles, a good day’s travelling considering the conditions. Ian, Eddie and John Bishop all happy and well.
Monday 28 August 1967
Manning : Thick heavy drift all day until evening when it slackened off, temperature - 5F. Eddie saw haloes around the Tilley lamp this morning which John Erskine reckon could be glaucoma. So, he made arrangements for a relay radio sked with Dr Liddell at Wilkes. On the second of these Dr Liddell confirmed the glaucoma condition and stressed urgency to take the patient to Mawson for treatment. So, I gave Eddie a shot of omnopon heroin (from the emergency pack) and Ian started the Snow Trac and we left at dusk with Eddie stretched out in the back of Number 7 Snow Trac.
Following a very difficult journey down the plateau in pitch black night with overcast sky and drift kicking up in a strong wind. With very little sign of the curving marked drum route visible in the night we used prismatic compass and ice flow lines mainly for navigation, not a trip I would like to repeat. We eventually arrived Mawson at 2200 where Ian Thomas and Barry Cheney took over on prior instructions from Dr Liddell.
Tuesday 29 August 1967
Manning : Ian serviced the Snow Trac and we left at 0930 and had a trouble free run back to Survey Camp where we had a bite to eat, picked up Tony and the OIC and drove out to the broken down Number 8 Snow Trac. Winched it onto a Norwegian sledge and Ian towed it back carefully while I placed temporary cane markers along our Snow Trac route for further use, as we now know this area pretty well. Arrived back at Survey camp 1830 to find John Bishop had cooked tea for us.
Wednesday 30 August 1967
Manning : Loaded sledges with gear and Snow Tracs and Ian started both D4s with the Herman Nelson heater and dozed the drift away. With Ian and Tony driving we had a quiet trip back to Mawson arriving in time for homebrew at 1700.
Number 8 Snow Trac was successfully retrieved, together with two Polarises toboggans and considerable amount of survey gear and equipment.
It took only four nights for the sleeping bags to become troublesome and under these conditions of three in a tent, it seemed just a little better to remove windproof outer cover of the bags to sleep in. This reduced the condensation and icing up on the outer of the bags. Constant care should be exercised to use as little clothing as possible (during heavy exercise with dogs) and take every opportunity to keep this clothing and sleeping bags dried out when it is very cold.
The success of the trip is directly due to the skill and fortitude of the mechanics working from tents under harsh conditions.
[Signed John Manning
Mawson Base 1967]
While this report outlines the events, the activities of the separate dog team party when heading to Frustration Dome can be better appreciated through the diary entries of Tony Jacques, starting with final preparations at Mawson.
Jacques Diary Entries
Saturday 12 August 1967
Jacques : John Manning received news today that he is a proud daddy, his wife gave birth to a baby girl yesterday and so a celebration got underway when John put on a carton of beer, in addition to the normal Saturday night issue. Thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Sunday 13 August 1967
Jacques : OIC has decided he needs a third man along on the dog trip which is in support for the one Snow Trac in which John M, Ed and Ian are going out to Frustration to recover the vehicles left there. Looks like I am the lucky one as no one else is keen. Naturally enough I am as keen as mustard to go but would prefer to see either Ken or Ray go, however, they are not interested.
OIC, John Bishop and self are going with the same sledge we man hauled home previously, with some seven dogs, Spike, Scruffy, Hoobie, Apples, Berries, Fiveby and Davis, pulling in that order.
Driving directions are usually illie illie and yuck for left and right respectively plus: ready boys, Mush and Whoa boys.
Thursday 17 August 1967
Jacques : Ed driving Orange Bastard D4 up to GWAMM towing large six berth living caravan, Ian in Mr Williams towing the articulated sledge carrying our dog sled and dogs and 2 bridging timbers. Syd Little in Clappa towing Norwegian sledges. We rendezvoused at GWAMM where Ian had towed workshop caravan and a large articulated sledge on which was our Snow Trac.
Accompanied also by the ANARE Volkswagen (VW) sedan with supernumeraries out to see us off. Weather has deteriorated overnight now it is 8/8 overcast and beginning to snow over Mount Henderson. As we set off from GWAMM at 1130, firstly it began to snow and then drift so that we were only able to see the drum markers, one at a time. I was riding with Ian in the D4 and at times we couldn't see the other tractor trains. After winching up the slope opposite Henderson and rounding Onley Hill visibility worsened to about 15 to 20 yards and we had to stop and stake the dogs out and cook tea. I was dead tired from night watch previously and was asleep by 1900.
Friday 18 August 1967
Jacques : Blizzard continued, OIC made a cup of coffee at nine for everyone in bed and I hopped up and cooked some porridge at 1000. Couple of us went outside then settled down for game of dice. Ed lost both games and so has to cook lunch and dinner.
Bit of a snooze during the afternoon, these six berth caravans very comfortable, have a gas stove to cook on and a gas heater for warmth.
Everyone on the field rum and a bit merry tonight, Ed went out to shut the motor of the D4 down, which was still going but beginning to oil up. He was quite drunk from the rum, and nosed around in the vehicle and chopped up our only radio aerial.
Saturday 19 August 1967
Jacques : Blizzard still raging and visibility down to about 5 feet so Ian went out and stopped the other D4 which can't be left running any longer. Dozing in bunks all day and reading. Surprisingly enough, on about 10 feet of aerial, radio sked was good.
Chapattis for lunch to demonstrate recipe to new field hands.
Sunday 20 August 1967
Jacques : Very good day, bloody great to be back in the field, it really is wonderful and I love it, nothing quite like it, it's all inspiring, the spectacle of the Framnes Mountains and the backdrop out to sea for some 60 miles.
After some northerly gust to 60 knots it has cleared and we could move. Both the D4s had to make two trips from opposite the melt lake up to the Fischer caravan. After refuelling the D4s with ATK which was depoted there previously, we moved on to about a mile east of Fischer and made camp. We then unloaded the Snow Trac and our dog teams from their respective articulated sledges and prepared everything for an early start tomorrow.
Monday 21 August 1967
Jacques : Early rise at 0630 and after breakfast and packing a sleeping bags we unloaded our dog sledge, hitched up the dogs and were away and a brisk clip by 0900. We all had to trot along for the first few miles and were puffing and perspiring, however, after a few miles, they calmed down and we were able to walk, although it was a brisk one. They really work well these doggies and are pulling about close on 1 000 pounds in this case.
At 1500 both JB and self-had clutch trouble and as the little doggies were slowing and we had done 12 miles, we stopped and made camp. It took a couple of hours to all dry out all bits and pieces as everything external was iced up and our clothes and socks wet with perspiration.
Tuesday 22 August 1967
Jacques : I woke at 0800, JB was cook for breakfast on our roster. As there are three of us it works well with each taking a turn as each meal comes up. Also rotating across the tent with one turn in three in the middle, where it's warmest and away from the frozen ice on the tent walls. It's quite mad but I like this field life and one thing that stands me in good stead is the weight I am carrying, or rather the subcutaneous fat, as I don't feel the cold at all, while the other two are feeling the cold very much and I'm sleeping very well for this reason.
We made 10 miles today to put us 23 miles from Fischer. Weather good and dogs are travelling well, stopped at 1500 and a much appreciated drink was ready by 1600. In our sleeping bags by 2000.
Wednesday 23 August 1967
Jacques : Hard going today heading into fairly stiff wind. Still its bloody good for one being driven almost to the point of complete exhaustion and then managing to get one's second wind, as it were and keep going. We were later starting this morning, 1130 but had done 11 miles by 1530 when we stopped putting us 34 miles from Fischer. Our navigation has put us right on the beam as Frustration Dome looms up at 1400 ahead and Church slightly to the right and miraging. At a guess I'd say it was about 5 miles there and another one and a half miles around the eastern side of the Dome to the camp, too far to do tonight, so we will camp and amble over tomorrow. Radio on the blink tonight so we broadcast our position and turned in with bellies replete with HF6 stew, mash potatoes and frozen peas.
Thursday 24 August 1967
Jacques : Looks like a day of rest, wind is very strong about 40 knots and so no point in trying to move. Spent day lolling in sleeping bags and drying gear out. My turn to cook brekkie. Fried sledgies in butter fat with honey for lunch and then tin of nuts and hot cocoa for afternoon chompers.
Weather good after 1400 but too late to move as it takes almost 2 hours to pick up and hitch up the doggies.
Friday 25 August 1967
Jacques : Up early at 0700 and away at 1030. After crossing a ridge, Frustration Dome again in sight and we plodded towards it and at 1330 we spotted the two Snow Tracs heading towards us. We were only some 3 miles from Frustration with some 41 miles up on the odometer. JB has had enough and wants to swap with John Manning and I'll do the radio skeds if I can remember my Morse code. After a quick swap over of sleeping bags, the Snow Tracs departed and we followed in their tracks. At 1530 and after 13 miles, 47 on our clock, we made camp. John M very dopey and apparently has a touch of carbon monoxide poisoning. Temperature at Frustration Dome got down to -40°F at 1800 last night and was still -35°F at 11 am this morning. So it would have been close to -50°F last night.
Saturday 26 August 1967
Jacques : A very cold and exhausting day. I woke at 0700 after reasonable night rest and we were all packed and away at 1030. Had trouble with my mukluks this morning, all iced-up. They are a hell of a lot of trouble and I personally am convinced that the thermals are best. Dog Scruffy has a very bad wound in his near front leg sustained during a fight with Hoobie just prior to yoking up. Temperature all day hovering around -30°F and our stops for rest every hour or so were of necessity short-lived.
We have picked up a spare wheel which fell off the Snow Trac sledge and other bits and pieces which included the two handmade sprockets, a fan belt and a Jerry can. Much to our dismay Ed has made a mess of his navigation which in this area is a piece of cake and is headed for Mount Horden which he has mistaken for Mount Henderson so we are following miles out of our way. 14 miles today, phew!
Sunday 27 August 1967
Jacques : My turn to cook breakfast again. Watery rolled oats because there is no powdered milk left in the open ration pack, followed by scrambled eggs from the egg powder and a drink of cocoa. I was last out as it's the practice for those not cooking, to dress slowly while breakfast is being cooked. The sledge is being packed, then down comes the tent and finally the dogs are yoked. One carries the harness up, puts it on the dog, unhooks the leather collar from the line, which remains on the dog’s neck and a mad scramble ensues with getting the dog down to the sledge traces. Inevitably a fight breaks out while all this is going on. Also, invariably, the person endeavouring to keep order at the sledge trace has two or three dogs urinating over one's leg while you are not looking.
Complete whiteout conditions all day and we had to take it in turns to lead and peer at the tracks we are following. Very hot pace today and we are averaging 3.5 mph, travelling from 1015 until 1715, (seven hours), we travelled 25 miles to arrive at the caravan having travelled 86 miles in total. Ten miles out we passed one Snow Trac in which the oil pump and filter has packed it up.
Monday 28 August 1967
Jacques : Lay up in the caravan all together again. Radio sked with Mawson at 1845 when I requested Bodie to come up and replace me, I have fulfilled my obligation and want to get back on Met shift roster to relieve load on the other three. Party up here has to return and recover Snow Trac 10 miles out and pack up everything onto the articulated sledges, this will take another two days of good weather and there are others to do the job.
Early this morning Ed complained of sore eyes and hazy sight and that a halo appeared around the lights. As the day progressed the condition of his eyes deteriorated so on the 1530 sked with the Mawson a request was sent to Dr Bob Liddell at Wilkes. On advice some eye ointment in personal medical kit was administered and at 1930 sked, advice received that drugs available down at Mawson were needed. So Ian and John M set off in the Snow Trac to take it down. OIC has requested me to remain now to help and to drive the other down. Ed and I cooked a beautiful casserole for supper but he never got to taste it. Special 2100 sked but Snow Trac has not arrived at Mawson so we kept open radio watch.
Tuesday 29 August 1967
Jacques : Sked at 0800 with Mawson, Ian and John M expected back before1200. They arrived at 0930 and at 1030 we four Ian, John M, John Erskine and self were soon away in the Snow Trac to recover the other Snow Trac 10 miles out. Cold trip, but a successful one, scenery was delightful and took some black and white photos. Back at caravan at 1530, after a late lunch remainder of sledges were packed and both Snow Tracs loaded and secured on the articulated sledges. Ian started one D4 and will start the other in the morning while we load the two Polaris toboggans onto the Norwegian Sledge. Home tomorrow all going well.
Wednesday 30 August 1967
Jacques : Couple of trips each for Ian and myself in D4s ferrying the train down the slope to the bottom of Fischer. Spectacular trip down to GWAMM where we left both large caravans. Descent from GWAMM with one articulated sledge with Snow Trac aboard and a small Norwegian sledge behind each D4. John Erskine rode with me in the D4. Bloody frightening experience, slipping and sliding on the ice down from GWAMM.
Summary of Recovery Trip
This ambitious recovery phase was well executed. However, it still had to cope with arduous weather conditions. It was personally pleasing for the surveyor to get back to the Frustration Dome camp and occupy the Polar Pyramid left standing since May. However, once on site at the isolated camp, it was a testing time again when the Herman Nelson, both Snow Tracs and the Briggs & Stratton generator all failed to start. It raised the prospect that we might have to man haul home again alongside the dog sledge team.
The work of the mechanics in the field at -40F to cope with the situation was outstanding, particularly the performance of the mild mannered Ian Wood was exceptional. During the winter at Mawson Ian had carefully reconditioned the broken down Number 7 Snow Trac including replacing the broken gearbox housing. Shortly before the planned field trip he had cut his leg badly below the calf in an emergency situation putting out fire in a hut at Mawson. He coped very well with the cold on this bad wound. His knowledge and expertise with petrol engines made the difference in getting the two Snow Trac back to Mawson so well.
During the return leg, the decision for the surveyor leave the vehicles and join the dog team on the run back to the Fischer survey camp was not undertaken lightly. It seemed the navigation back along the outward vehicle tracks was straightforward with Mt Henderson soon to be visible by miraging. Both Snow Tracs were running well and provided mutual support. Ed had travelled this route three times before and John Bishop was suffering from the arduous work with the dog team and I was glad to be able to give him my place in a vehicle.
I again need to recognise Tony Jacques for being such an unselfish stalwart in difficult field conditions. But to me Ian Wood never got enough recognition for his magnificent work on the Snow Tracs. Without him it is hard to see how we could have been successful. He was the hero of the trip.
Thanks Ian–well done.
Phase 3: The Spring Survey Completion Field Trip 25 September–12 October 1967
All we had to do now was to overhaul the Snow Tracs and go back and complete the survey traverse!
Preparations at Mawson
With two Snow Tracs back in the workshop it was a heavy work load for the mechanical section to bring them to reliable field standard. This was a big task for Ed Lawson, Ian Wood and senior mechanic Bill Butler who also had the responsibility for servicing the D4 tractors, the powerhouse and concurrent extensive mechanical maintenance of the Mawson Station.
As well as the overhaul of the vehicles, there was considerable work to be done on the survey equipment which had suffered during winter at way below design temperature limits. Principally this work was to reset internal prisms in the accurate theodolite whilst the micro distance measuring Tellurometer units needed to have electronic components checked and modulation frequencies adjusted. By the end of September, the weather was improving and being past the spring equinox there was more daylight and hopefully the worst of the autumn and winter storms had passed.
For the Spring field trip a new field team was formed :
· Ian Wood Diesel Mechanic
· John Gillies Radio Operator
· Syd Little Electrical Fitter
· John Manning Surveyor and Party Leader.
(Haulage assistance at the start of the trip as far as Fischer Nunatak was again supplied by D4 tractors driven by Ed Lawson and John Illingworth.)
In addition to the surveyor (John Manning), Ian Wood was again a key person in the field party and John Gillies as radio technician was a valuable addition. John Gillies would undertake repairs when necessary to get the most out of the radio systems when the team was separated and needing communications.
Syd Little, the very hard working electrical fitter from the Snowy Mountains Authority, was the fourth member. He had worked tirelessly in the autumn and winter at Mawson Station to install the new power system and complete his prescribed list of Station responsibilities to make himself available for field work. To cover his absence the versatile meteorology observer Mark Forecast agreed to cover minor electrical problems at Mawson while Syd was in the field. Syd’s grandfather had been a surveyor and with little training Syd was a capable theodolite and Tellurometer operator. Both Ian and Syd were very valuable to the project with their mechanical knowledge. It was good to also have John Gillies to handle the communications and keeping the very useful Vaughan battery mobile radios operating. Ian and Syd would each stay with a vehicle and John Gillies and John Manning would interchange depending on circumstance.
To undertake the 40 odd miles of survey traverse from Frustration Dome back to the Framnes Mountains a new depot was established at the location of the old survey camp at the southern end of the Fischer Nunatak with a Freighter living caravan with food, spares and fuel. The plans for the next day, Ian and John M would set off towards Frustration Dome in a Snow Trac to establish the first survey point on ice as far out as possible.
From there they would make the distance measurement and read vertical angles back to the Onley Hill survey station. Syd and John G would drive the second Snow Trac to below Onley and climbed to the survey station with a full set of equipment; theodolite, legs, Tellurometer, barometer, hygrometer, Heliograph, Lucas lamp etc. and be ready for the first measurements and then repeat this sequence in separate legs until Frustration Dome was reached.
The events are briefly described in the Manning survey field report (No.13/1967 - Frustration Dome) as well as the diaries of John Gillies and Syd Little from 25 September to 12 October 1967. As the team often worked in two separate units the three records are inter-leaved below, as together they give a more complete perspective on the activities.
Inter-leaved Phase 3 Diary Entries
Mawson: Monday 25 September 1967
Manning : Departed Mawson 1115 arrived survey camp 1600 after assembling the train at GWAMM en route. Eddie Lawson and John Illingworth then returned to Mawson with the D4s.
Gillies : Left Mawson about 1200, missed lunch. Two Snow Tracs and two sledges behind D4s. Picked up living caravan at GWAAM after hairy ride up the slope in D4. Uneventful trip to Fischer, spent most time on bunk in caravan.
Stopped about half a mile past Fischer, D4 scraped snow to unload Snow Tracs, uncovered a few small slots under about one foot of snow. Syd, Ian and John M drove around to the base of Onley Hill to look for an easy way to climb it tomorrow. I stayed to fix up the radio for night sked, just missed the 1530 one, still going up Fischer ski slopes. Unpacked other sledge of food for caravan.
Radio: Good sked using Tele-radio 5A and Vaughan dipole 5/5 each way RT only.
Little : The D4s were started and we were ready to go at 1130. Was so good to be on our way but it was a load for the D4s up the ice to GWAMM, with plenty of winching and we didn’t get there until 1300. Picked up the living caravan where it had been parked since the last trip and with one D4 tractor towing the living caravan and an articulated sledge with a Snow Trac chained on it. The other D4 pulling one Snow Trac on a sledge and the two Snow Trac sledges. I walked for part of the way and then laid on some bags in the back of the sledge and went to sleep, was a perfect day calm and sunny.
Eventually reached Fischer and went half a mile beyond where we unloaded Snow Tracs and uncoupled the living caravan and Snow Tracs. The D4s left for Mawson at 1645. John G made some coffee and after unloading a little I decided to check out where we have to climb Onley Hill tomorrow. My Snow Trac is lightly loaded and as I have most of the camping gear, space etc. in the sledge, we took it. Ian’s sledge is only a very old one with three drums of petrol on it which will be dropped halfway to Frustration Dome as a depot. I drove a couple of miles to the hill and found it surrounded by huge wind scour and only accessible by going onto Mount Henderson and across the gully. Decided it would be possible with the gear, so headed back.
John M started cooking tea and John G unloaded food supplies for the caravan while Ian and I did a little work on my Snow Trac. Had a talk about what will happen tomorrow, John and Ian will go 15 miles unloaded, to where they can still see Onley Hill and we will go up only and do our part from there. Radio sked 2115 with VLV Mawson Radio using 2720 Meg dipole on the Tele-radio reception loud and clear both ways.
Tuesday 26 September 1967
Manning : Good day early, temperature -18°F. Vehicle started easily after short run with Eberspacher heater. Syd and John G drove Number 8 Snow Trac around the side of Fischer and commenced climb up on Onley Hill from the saddle connecting to Mount Henderson. With Ian driving Number 7 Snow Trac the two of us headed eastwards to establish the first station, after much reconnoitring decided on a position 20 miles out with the top of Onley just visible. Made Tellurometer contact after three attempts and changing over of headpieces and read measurements both ways. Conditions of changing refraction made it hard for theodolite readings. However, communication was lost when the Tellurometer packed it in soon after the distance measurement was obtained. Both parties returned to caravan at 1900.
Gillies : Climbed Onley Hill with Tellurometers, Theodolites, Altimeter and car battery, took 2 hours for me with a trip half way back to pick up my pack after taking battery to top so Syd could get the Tellurometer going. Nil heard from Snow Trac until about 1500. Meanwhile VLV was testing on 2720 and getting into the Vaughan I had listening for Snow Trac, Syd made contact on the Tele at the same time Ian came in on the AN/GRC-9 saying he did not have a speaker or headset and the Vaughan was unserviceable.
Tele shots all completed but the theodolite readings could not be completed because the Heliograph could not stay on for long enough as the sun was in the wrong position for us with two mirrors we couldn’t get a flash to them 21 miles away, then the Tele played up so about 1750 we decided to go back to the caravan, taking only the Tellurometer to check it out.
John M and Ian arrived back a couple of hours later saying the refraction was too bad for theodolite anyway. The Tele worked okay on the bench in the caravan but played up in the cold after being outside in -13°F for a while on top of OH. No wind. No cloud. Radio sked: VLV 5/5 both ways with Tele-radio 5A, VLV says 3/3 with Vaughan lot of water dried out from around relay that was sticking RT only.
Little : I got up at 0635 and lit the Tilley lamp and turned on the caravan outside gas bottle, lit the heater and burners on the stove and put on a couple of saucepans of ice. The temperature was -20°F and everything inside was well frozen. When the ice melted I started to cook porridge and Bournvita. The sun was soon above the horizon and promised to be a good day with little wind and no clouds. After breakfast we started the Snow Tracs by first pulling out the rag blocking the heater inlet to carbie etc., placed in case of drift and started the vehicle heater. Let it run for 15 minutes and then tried starting and they both started well. Ian had to put all his gear in the Snow Trac in case they were caught out later today. John G and I drove around to Onley Hill and we unloaded our gear while Ian and John M drove off to the east to go as far as they could and still see the hill.
It was a battle to get all the gear up the hill and I finished with the Tellurometer on my back plus various other things tied to the rucksack and a 12 V car battery in a box. We went down the side of Mount Henderson into the wind scour which has ice close to 200 feet high and then up the rock of Onley Hill. It is 2 500 feet high and has a very impressive snow slope on the lee side from the peak towards the plateau at a slope of 60°. It took two hours to reach the summit with the gear and we reached there at almost midday. So I had to quickly set up the Tellurometer and point it in the approximate position of John and Ian for the midday sked. No signal came back so I unpacked a few more things and tried again at 1230, again unsuccessfully. Waited till 1300, and at last a needle gave a signal deflection which indicated the other Tellurometer was going, soon made voice mode contact with John and we started taking measurements.
Three course measurements were taken and then 26 fine measurements each way, followed by three more course readings. I then put the Tellurometer onto the ground and mounted the T2 theodolite on the tripod. Tried to make contact over the Tellurometer but could not get through, John had a Heliograph set up and shining onto us, it was quite plainly visible although it was 20 miles away. However, the light was only on for a short time and then faded, we tried to call them on the Tellurometer but could not make contact. Set the theodolite on the light but it wasn't positive enough and finally disappeared. I'd repeatedly tried to make contact again and finally gave up and went down the mountain at 1815. John arrived at the caravan about 2000 as there had been Tellurometer trouble, what a pity as if we had been able to make contact we could have easily finished the job but now we will have to go back again for the vertical angles.
Wednesday 27 September 1967
Manning : Semi whiteout threatening weather temperature -10°F and rising. Climbed Onley Hill and carried survey gear down. Charge batteries and tested Tellurometers with no success. Asked for Tellurometer 1167 to be brought up from Mawson.
Gillies : Up Onley Hill again, only half an hour this time. [John M had joined us] Picked up battery, theodolite etc. Even with three of us, my pack seemed just as heavy as the day before, I must have been out fumbled somehow.
Conditions bad, almost total whiteout, no drift on top, drift seems to be on Casey and David Ranges, small amount of snow falling on Onley. Back at the caravan, Tellurometers checked again and it was decided to ask Mawson to send the spare up tomorrow in the VW. VLV Mawson Radio said that Tony Jacques and Vic Dent were going to Rumdoodle tomorrow but would call here first. Radio: 2115 sked good KB sounded bad at first then changed transmitters and was good 5/5 each way. RT only.
Little : Ian lit the Tilley lamp and the stove this morning and the caravan was nice and warm by the time we got up for breakfast. Outside the sky was cloudy and didn't look at all good for the long Tellurometer shot. After breakfast John decided we wouldn't have much chance of getting through over the distance and the best thing we could do would be to go up Onley and recover the gear and do the vertical readings on the return from Frustration Dome. Ian stayed behind to work on his Snow Trac which has an oil leak and the other three of us drove over to Onley. It was impossible to follow the tracks of our two previous trips because of the strange lighting affect, but when we reach the wind scour and we found it pleasant scrambling over the rocks without packs.
We soon reached the top and on checking our watches found it had taken 30 minutes. From the top we still had a good view around but clouds were moving in from the north-east. There was no wind at all on the top and after loading up we headed down again, reaching the bottom - no trouble compared with yesterday. Drove back to the caravan and John decided the weather is too bad to go forward in the Snow Tracs and so we spent the day charging batteries and packing up. The Briggs and Stratton started well and with the battery charger soon had the batteries bubbling. John and I set up the Tellurometer and they worked sometimes and not others, brought them inside the warm caravan but as it was -20°F outside once they were brought inside they iced up badly. Found a switch which wasn't very positive in its action and after a couple of more tries decided to ask Mawson to send up another Tellurometer instrument tomorrow.
John and I walked a couple of miles towards Russell Nunatak and put in a few marker flags on canes. Found a few slots that had been opened by the Snow Trac yesterday and pushed ice into them but it kept rolling down. The weather didn't deteriorate through the day but it would have been hard day to travel because of the lighting. We will be on the road tomorrow as soon as we get the other Tele and all the batteries will be fully charged as well.
Thursday 28 September 1967
Manning : Moderate drift much wind all day. Tony Jacques and Vic Dent arrived 1100 in the VW with spare Tellurometer, spent most of the day then working on the Tellurometers.
Gillies : Tony and Vic arrived about 1100. Whiteout and a little drift. When they left conditions deteriorated so we were unable to try Tellurometers outside. Hope to move off tomorrow after check of Tellurometers. Running out of Heatane gas in the caravan, tried to get a new bottle from Fischer but carbie on Snow Trac played-up. Ian took it off and cleaned up a replacement that he will put on tomorrow.
Radio: 2115 sked VLV again crook at first but when local AT20 used it was okay 5/5 both ways. RT only.
Little : John started the day by lighting the Tilley, the gas heater and two stove burners. No hurry today as we had to wait for the Tellurometer to be brought up from Mawson and tried out. After breakfast we had to wait till 1000 when the VW arrived with Tony and Vic, they were going to collect some rocks for carbon dating and brought up at Tellurometer for us. It was windy and drift was beginning to fly so they lost interest in going up the mountains. After a cup of Bournvita they left for Rumdoodle caravan. We set up the Tellurometer outside and gave them a run. The new one was better than the previous one but occasionally we didn't get through. In bringing them inside the warm caravan they immediately iced up as they were at a temperature of -20°F and it was a couple of hours till they warmed up and dried out. Gave them a run inside and everything seemed to go okay so we put them outside to cool to their normal temperature.
During lunch John G threw a dish full of water out the door over the Tellurometers and sheathed them in ice so we moved them further away as drift was beginning to fly again. Decided to charge the batteries and pack up and get all our jobs finished and then if the Tellurometer still work tomorrow morning we would move off to the east. The wind was blowing and the caravan was fitted with a wind speed indicator but it didn't work. Had a look around and found a broken wire. In the cold down to about -20°F here the PVC plastic covered wire breaks very easily and below that temperature it is useless. Repaired the break and the indicator inside work well by pushing a button.
The wind was 30 mph. The thermometer has the bulb outside and a large rotary scale inside so the Met observer can get the reading inside from his bed. After tea I had a final look outside in case there was a blizzard through the night and anything on the ground would be buried. When we went to bed we turned off the gas bottle outside in case of leaks and we had noticed the gas pressure was falling so decided to get the gas cylinder from the Fischer caravan. Sunset is about 2000 and then after that the horizon is lit up slowly to the south from the west as the sun moves around. Once the gas is turned off the last person gets into his sleeping bag and we read till about 2300 when the last reader turns off the lamp. The temperature soon crashes and all the pots of water on the stove freeze solid and begin to crack and nothing moves until the morning. It is almost -20°F inside and outside.
Friday 29 September 1967
Manning : Unsuccessful with Tellurometers all returned to Mawson in Number 8 Snow Trac for Tellurometer bench examination. Spent the rest of the day on Telles with Chris Simpson.
Gillies : Good day. Now two out of three Tellurometers play up we cannot go on like this, so we leave everything where it is. The four of us and the three Tellurometers in a Snow Trac and head back to Mawson. Arrive just after lunch but Padlock was cooking and gets us one. Boys say he is doing an excellent job, will be sorry when the Pom gets back. Chris, Syd and John working on the Tellurometers. Listened to Omik [with a dog team on the sea ice] on the1815 sked, says they are 23 miles away on Low Tongue Rocks, back for homers tomorrow.
Little : Woke this morning to a slight wind and after lighting the two Tilley lamps and waiting half an hour for the place to warm up, I got up at 0715 and checked outside. There was a bank of clouds to the east which obscure the sun but generally visibility was good enough for travelling, though possibly not good enough for Tellurometer work.
I cooked breakfast of porridge, fried bully beef and scrambled eggs and during this John said he would like to try the Tellurometer again to make sure they would work. We set them up outside and they work: sometimes they worked and not others and after several attempts to have a full run John decided to return to Mawson and get them working for sure, before we attempt going any further.
Ian was working on his Snow Trac and for test run he went up to Fischer caravan and brought back a bottle of gas and a half a case of trim canned beef and pork food, which we all like from trying a couple of tins we found in the caravan earlier. I started my Snow Trac after arranging things so that they will not get buried if the blizzard comes up while we are away. We left for Mawson, the four of us plus three Tellurometers, reached Fischer and went down the snow slope and onto the ice. I tried to run on snow as much as possible but it was mainly ice. For the 10 miles, being slightly downhill we could travel along in fourth gear no trouble and were back at Mawson in less than an hour. It was lunchtime when we arrived and then we put the Snow Trac into the workshop and Ian changed the oil as SAE 5 should only be used for 15 hours.
We took the Tellurometers up to Auroral science workshop and Chris Simpson, electronics engineer, had a look at them. I stayed there for a while and then did a few small jobs of my own. The Aurora field powerhouse is working now, it is a Lister single-engine diesel driving a Weasel generator. The afternoon was overcast and we probably would not have been much good for travelling so we possibly have not lost much. Padlock is cooking while the cook Bill Cowell is away on a dog trip and they all said he had done a good job. For tea tonight we had fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper and pineapple in batter and it was very good. Padlock seemed to really enjoy himself when he's cooking. Tomorrow night he is having a barbecue night at 5:30 so if we are still here we will be going along, at this stage it all depends on the Tellurometers.
Saturday 30 September 1967
Manning : Tellurometer repair field test after tea (with Weasel transport on sea ice). The test was done with Chris, who seems to have Telles working again.
Gillies : Still working on Tellurometers. Padlock and Admiral Eddy putting on a Ranch Night for dinner serving steaks until 2130. Homers in the kitchen. Doggies arrive back around 1645, conditions were good except today after last night wind and snow. They covered 106 miles in 6 days. Recon reported about 9 000 to 10 000 birds with about two thirds with chicks, no matter what OIC sends to Melbourne.
Little : Up this morning and on checking outside found it had snowed through the night and there was a quarter inch layer on the ground. After breakfast it was a little windy and drifting which made it doubtful that we would move today, regardless of how the Tellurometer went.
John and Chris went up to Auroral and started working on them, they tried them once and although they could make contact over them, the meter readings were not right.
The Potterton hot water boiler in the kitchen had stopped through the night so I had a look and found the fuel pump is not pumping and removed it. I got out the new pump and when Bill installed it there was again no fuel pumping. He removed the gears from one to the other and it was away. Cleaned out my workshop.
John took the Tellurometer out onto the sea ice in the Weasel and with the other at Auroral made contact over them okay. The meter readings were not perfect but good enough, so we will be off again tomorrow. It was BBQ ranch night and Padlock put on a good turn, there was sawdust on the floor and for grass there was parsley.
Sunday 1 October 1967
Manning : Final adjustments to Tellurometer modulations. Temperature -5° F, left Mawson 1430, very good weather. Arrived at living caravan and packed gear in Snow Trac and sledge. Temperature -20°F here tonight.
Gillies : Leave Mawson about 1430 good conditions but clouds looming on the western sky. Snow Tracs and sledges scoured well but large drift built up on approach to caravan, but all clear. Refuelled Snow Trac took five gallons for just over 20 miles. Sledges all lined up for go-go tomorrow. Radio: 2115 nil heard. We didn’t arrange a sked before we left.
Little : Woke this morning to a perfect day and to celebrate our departure stayed in bed till 0900. Outside it was windless and sunny. The plan is that we will have lunch here and then drive in the Snow Trac back to the caravan, stay overnight and then have an early start tomorrow. Sent away my monthly Electrical report for the end of September, time is certainly flying fast, the ship will be here in no time now. Had a shower before lunch and then couldn't find my Ventile jacket. Padlock was late getting up for breakfast and when he switched on the melt water pump it did not go. Bill unplugged it and brought it down to my workshop, the wiring things were shorted to earth so had to get another meter. Bill drilled new mounting holes and it is going again, but I have gone through a lot of meters this year, mostly because of the pump freezing, but I don't know what will happen to this one.
Left Mawson after lunch at 1430 and made the trip to the caravan okay, settled down for our last night under a roof for a while with the comfort of heating and gas cooking. The living caravan is mounted on a large articulated switch and weighs four tons, it has five beds and makes for easy living.
After the radio sked at 2115 we went to bed and I read a book about Matthew Flinders, The Voyage of the Investigator. Should be able to do some reading while we are away as we will have the Tilley lamps with us, they give plenty of light and also a form of heating. The cooking stoves make a Polar Pyramid tent really warm enough and you have to open the door sometimes.
Monday 2 October 1967
Manning : Up at 0530 left 0800, vehicles started easily and went very well. Reached Station M1 (NMS34) at 1100 temperature -8°F weather cracking up. Syd went ahead with John G with visibility dropping right off and he did 25 miles to locate a station 7 miles away. Tellurometer measurement completed, no trouble and verticals taken but horizontal circle on the T3 has gone out of focus and is unreadable much to my consternation as beacon on Onley was still and clear. Ian and I picked Number 8 Snow Trac and went ahead to Station M2 (NMS35) to camp in Polar Pyramid with the others. John G having trouble with the AN/GRC-9 radios.
Gillies : Wow- it was hell today. Drove 50 miles in Snow Trac, most of the way in third gear because gear lever broke a couple of miles from the caravan. We wanted to do a Tele shot so there was only one leg to Frustration Dome but we drove for miles in circles before finding a suitable position nearly 7.7 miles. Then the radios nearly all played up but the Telle worked okay.
Put up Polar Pyramid tent, bloody hard work then had radio sked. Four in a Polar Pyramid tent very tight. Radio: 2115 had VLV on Ian’s AN/GRC-9; this proved the generator is okay, so must look for trouble in the radio set.
Little : I woke before 0600 and started heating the place and cooking breakfast, when the rest were up I went outside to start the Snow Trac and John G finished cooking. After a good meal we took a few photos and headed off. My Snow Trac had John G and myself in it, survey gear inside, spare parts, tools, Jack's crowbars, winches separate on the outside. The sledge behind carried 44 gallon drum of petrol, Briggs and Stratton alternator, more spares, field camping gear, tend food and ration packs.
Ian and John had an old sledge carrying 3x44 gallon petrol drums which it was intended to Depot on the way for our use on return, with the sledge being left at Frustration Dome. There was nothing else on the sledge and everything else was carried in the Snow Trac, but food and fuel were only enough to last a few days just in case we were separated and blizzard in. Out past Russell Nunatak we followed the flag route and when 20 miles out, turned north to find the first station. Conditions for travel were good and third gear pulled easily, the gear lever breaking off, so we used a screwdriver but could still take off in third okay. The first station was marked by three canes and from the top of the ice ridge Onley Hill was a thin black line 22 miles away. We continued on then, John and Ian staying at the station.
I had to go over a ridge to a second ridge about 10 miles away from which Frustration Dome might be. We went over the first ridge but couldn't see the second so had a radio sked each half-hour and returned to the first Ridge for another try. Went 14 miles, with time and visibility running out, we again returned to the first ridge and set up the survey station there with a dome to the east visible?
Did the Tellurometer work and vertical angles and John did horizontal angles as well back to Onley Hill. Through the telescope I could see the Snow Trac and John plainly, I read my vertical angles from the roof of the Snow Trac, and John read the vertical angle back to me on a Lucas lamp set up under the tripod. On completion we started setting up camp and John came up to us.
John G started digging a hole to erect the Polar Pyramid tent and I got the Briggs and Stratton going to charge the battery. The other Snow Trac soon arrived and we erected the tent and shovelled the snow back onto the flaps. The first day had been successful and the dome to the east proved to be Frustration Dome at a distance of about 17 miles, so with a bit of luck we could be there tomorrow and take another Tellurometer shot.
Tuesday 3 October 1967
Manning : Weather fair, slight drift. Syd and John away at 0930 bound for Frustration Dome which I reckon is just visible. Tellurometer sked at 1700 to find all went very well. Read Tellurometers and vertical angles but unable to read horizontals. Temperature 0°F.
Gillies : Left Station 2 at about 0930. Headed towards a faint dome JM said was Frustration Dome. Found old campsite about 1200. Took a lot of photos of area. Took a load of gear up to beacon on top of the Dome, very hairy with big slots everywhere, just had to pick what looked the thickest bridge. Most slots were10 to 15 feet across, whopper at the top about 40 feet. Had Tele sked at 1700. After second trip finished measuring, sun went down while trying to measure angles with theodolite but JM said we have enough, he has only to get the horizontal angles to the last station and us.
Tent at Frustration Dome was in a mess but we cleaned it out. (It had been used as a workshop during the previous recovery visit.) Radio: 2115 sked. Supposed to have sked using Vaughan with Ian but could not hold aerial on. Heard Ian work VLV and VLV back to him 3/3 strength.
Little : Another good day, left at 0920 bound for Frustration Dome on a bearing of 173° magnetic. We travelled along the side of the valley and came over a slight rise, so I put in a marker cane with a flag. The cycle wheel read 8.4 miles. As the Dome approached we spotted a marker cane and drum in the valley and continued on our bearing of 173°magnetic. John had given me a sketch of the place showing a smaller dome in front and I thought the one visible was the small dome. After driving to it, we could then see another small dome still to the north, so the dome ahead must have been Frustration Dome. Between the two domes ran a few huge slots but they seem to be bridged well so I drove over them and around to the other side of the Dome.
John G had his head through the hatch and he spotted the old camp on the side of the Dome. To the left were a few boxes which must have been the Polaris Camp so we drove up to the main tent camp. It was an impressive site with a Snow Trac on a Norwegian sledge Polar Pyramid and a buried sledge, boxes, batteries, welding cylinders and assorted rubbish. The Snow Trac was well scoured and looked fairly easy to dig out, another sledge was buried about two feet and would require plenty of digging. The sledge which had only the drawbar visible would be left there and the rest of the gear would be picked through and only the light valuable items taken.
We arrived there at 1200 and as we had a lot of gear to carry to the top of the Dome, we took a load up straight away. The slots were up to 50 feet wide but were well bridged except the edges, we were told to keep well left where there are slightly smaller and better bridged slots. Onto the crest where we walked along between them to the survey station. We were right to have roped up together, but it was only a nominal safety precaution as with the heavy packs on we both would have been pulled down.
On top the station was a drum with canes holding it in place. To the west Mount Henderson was visible and to the east Church Mountain miraged up and down. Returning to the camp we cleaned out the tent and put in our gear then returned to the top of the Dome with another load of equipment and made a Tellurometer schedule at 1700. The Tellurometer measurement and verticals went okay, but John couldn't sight the marker drum back at the first station so he couldn't do the horizontal angle. He could see the marker through the T3 telescope but the scale readings on that theodolite had moved and optical micrometer wouldn't focus on the circle graduations.
John Manning had to use the smaller T2 theodolite, on which telescope was not good enough. This is the second year the T3 graduated scale has moved in Antarctica. Tools and instructions on repairing are at Mawson, so he will have to complete the job using a T2 theodolite. We reached the tent at 2200 while John and Ian stayed at the other station.
Wednesday 4 October 1967
Manning : Weather snowing and overcast white out. Up at 0700 no luck radio sked to Frustration Dome at 0900, then 1200, 1400 to check on weather. Weather clearing a little so decided to go back to M1 to read horizontal angle. Made a trail of little pieces of black old floor mat to follow on return if weather closed again. Read angle to Onley, conditions not the best. Returned to Station M2 to camp at 1830 for radio sked visibility over 17 mile leg to Frustration still very bad so gave it away. Bovril pemmican for tea, not really appreciated.
Gillies : Cold night, feet got cold wind blew all night got up at 0645 for sked with Ian at 0900. He came through okay but light to medium drift, visibility not good, have another sked at 1200. Visibility improved another sked at 1800.
Spent the day digging a trench around the buried sledge so it will be free to be moved tomorrow. At 1800 Ian asked us to go up onto the Dome with the Lucas lamp. Bad whiteout visibility but we eventually made it, we will probably die when we see the path we took tomorrow. When we got there at 1900. Ian said visibility had closed down at their end so wasted time and got a fright at the same time when my foot broke through a slot. Radio: 2115 Ian worked VLV Mawson Radio with Vaughan. Had two messages for JM, one from Natmap one private for birthday, when he finished one for Syd. Received them 4s but heard them okay.
Little : During the night the wind came up and I could hear the drift peppering the tent like sand, started cooking breakfast at 0800, as outside the drift was flying. On the 0900 radio sked John said it was drifting there also, with no chance of them being able to work. During breakfast the sun came out and I went out to the Snow Trac to see if the drift was getting in, as it was only blowing along to a depth of about 2 feet but there was a little drift getting inside.
Drift snow has an amazing ability to enter through the tiniest hole and completely fills anything. I put tape over places where it was coming in and it was fairly comfortable in the Snow Trac. I took a couple of photos of the tent, it is hard to photograph the blizzard effect and no good at all when it is heavy. The temperature was -5°F and therefore comparatively warm to the -20 5°F last week at the caravan. I went outside and begin collecting the ration packs, Jerry cans etc. which were around the tent. John G then came out and began digging the sledge out. The drift abated and it became a reasonable day but visibility was poor. The drifts around the place have been there for four months and have consolidated to become almost ice and need plenty of clearing.
The sledge with the Snow Trac on was well scoured and didn't require any digging, I merely jacked up the runners to free them and it was ready for hauling away. If anything is left on the surface of the plateau when it begins drifting a drift builds up at the front and rear where flow speed is upset but the wind swirling around the actual object prevents anything settling too close.
The Snow Trac had a snow ramp about 3 feet at front and rear but on the sides it was clear therefore it is important when stopping to always park across the wind which always seems to come from the same direction. There were numerous batteries around the place but they were all flat and frozen. I started up the Briggs & Stratton and while charging a battery placed the others around the exhaust pipe to thaw them out. Eventually had them all partially charged and thawed out. When they are charged the electrolyte will not freeze.
John wanted to try to take the horizontal angle again so at 1800 we headed up the Dome. We stuck pieces of cane into the ice to mark our return route in the dark and I left the engine running as an added help, because of the almost whiteout conditions, but John couldn't see us and we were back down again at 2000.
Thursday 5 October 1967
Manning : Vaughan sked at 0800 made arrangements for Tellurometer sked from Frustration Dome at 0945. Contact okay and Helio sights soon established and read angles. Temperature -10F but little ground drift. VLV sked again on the Vaughan radio.
Horizontal angle read despite shimmer and reflection. Packed it up and departed at 1140 for Frustration but left a drum beacon secured by bamboos driven in beside it and tied around it. Left tent as it is very well pitched looks secure although the mis‑fitted and stretched outer skin makes a lot of noise flapping.
Arrived Frustration Dome camp 1330 through thickening drift and slept in grey tent which has been standing since April without an adverse effect. Both AN/GRC-9 and not working hundred percent and John G is using a Vaughan for radio skeds laying back in his sleeping bag quite contented like.
Gillies : Had a sked at 0800, visibility good so up again for sked at 0945, 1000, 1015 with Vaughan. Arrived just after 10 after finishing breakfast and roping up, could not see many canes from last night. Everything worked good, Helio setup from FD to Camp 2. JM read angles then said they would come to us.
We had been down at camp for a while and was finishing off digging at the sledge when they drove up. Not long after the wind and drift increased, but pulled the Snow Trac and sledge out of the built up drift, repacked the sledge so we are ready to go‑go if John can see both markers from here.
Four in the tent is a bit crowded again, this tent is not in good condition but fortunately it is not real cold. My nose hurts when I am outside but I do not know if it is sunburn, wind burn or frostnip, beard ices up something terrible. Radio: 2115 Tried to work VLV on Vaughan, not much luck, heard him okay but we were weak. Tried AN/GRC-9 not much better than Ian’s, same problem as with mine but managed to send two messages one for Ian and one for John to Natmap. Nil for us.
Little : Good day today had an early breakfast and we were up on the Dome at 0900. Used the small Vaughan walkie-talkie radio and made contact with John, he lined up his Heliograph on us on the Dome, as we were the easiest to pinpoint and then I could line up my Helio on him, as I could not see him on the flat horizon.
The sun was to the east of us so John could use a single mirror to reflect back to us but I had to use a double mirror to send the light west. They have a 5 inch mirror which has a hole in the centre, a metal sight is positioned about a foot in front and to line up you look through the hole to the target and move the sight into position. Then the mirror is adjusted so that a small black spot caused by the hole not reflecting light is in the centre of the target then the beam should be visible at the other end.
The Helios are very bright sight through the telescope at 20 miles and have to be set partially off to reduce their brightness. Because the sun moves, every minute they have to be re-adjusted to keep them on the target. We didn't have anything else to do at our end, as the Helio was only so that John could read the horizontal angle between us on one side and the first station 7 miles on the other side.
They finished at midday and decided to leave the tent there as a marker, as a 44 gallon drum from 17 miles distance requires ideal conditions to be visible. This meant that they then travelled without a tent to reach us, so we arranged radio schedule for 1600, if they hadn't arrived. However, they arrived at 1400 and we all started on moving the buried sledges. Tried to tow one but it would not move so dug a hole and buried the oxy cylinder as a Deadman hold-fast. It provided a solid pulling point for the winch and after moving it a few feet it could then be towed away. It was left further up the slope faced across the wind and could be then towed away. The Norwegian sledge loaded with gear was likewise extracted and parked. It was John’s birthday and what a more fitting an occasion than his return to Frustration Dome.
We had a schedule with Mawson each night at 2115 and I received a whizzer tonight which said about the helicopter connecting all the electricity to Pats Bluff in Lamington (O’Reilly’s place). With four in the tent we had to re-organise things, but as John has spent many nights in them he soon had things running smoothly. The sleeping mats are laid down first and then the bags on top the two stoves are against the side plus the ration pack. The Tilley lamp hangs from the apex with socks gloves etc. all hung in the apex to dry out, with all the heat rising and passing through the top vent they dry very readily. At night a little drift started flying as we went to sleep, hoping for a good day tomorrow.
Friday 6 October 1967
Manning : Strong drift, late breakfast. Could do little outside so back into town for most of the day. Went up to top of Dome about 0700 when drift died down. Tried unsuccessfully to sight next station (NMS37 - which was occupied in the autumn as Patience camp). John G, sked to VLV Mawson Radio again with the Vaughan.
Gillies : Fairly heavy drift this morning upset the system slightly, just have to wait. Getting the tent organized a bit better. Drift slowed down and stopped. Ian, John and Syd went up the top but visibility not much good. Could see tent at Station 2 but not Patience camp. Visibility improved at about 1930. JM and Syd went up for another look but NBG.
Gillies : Radio: 2115 sked okay with Vaughan, no drift tonight only wind makes the drift. OIC wanted to tell JM how to fix the theodolite but JM says to wait until we get back. OIC thinks we may be at Fischer because he did not read the last message to Natmap properly.
Ian Wood signalling with sun Heliograph.
Little : Windy day, drift flying in the morning. It was heavy and impossible to do anything so we just sat in the tent reading and talking. Had breakfast still in our sleeping bags and remained in them for the rest of the morning. The tent was made of black material so that you can sleep during summer when the sun is shining all the time and to read you have to run the Tilley lamp which also then supplies heat.
At night all your gloves and socks are put up in the tent apex and then just before I go to sleep I get mine down and put them down the bottom of the sleeping bag. As soon as the lamp and stove is turned off, ice crystals begin to form inside the tent, by morning the wall is white with snowflakes.
One of the side-effects of a blizzard is that the tent, vibrating in the wind, causes the ice to fall off the walls and you sleep in the snow fall. If you put your head inside your sleeping bag your breath condenses and ices up on the bags. I generally wear my hat to bed and if it gets too bad I pull the protective canvas bag over my head. The tent has a heavy floor of rubberised canvas and then you lay down a sleeping mat which is made of bats of plastic foam 10 inches wide and 1 inch thick and two bats wide and six long. There are a couple of inches between each bat and this allows the mat to concertina up for packing.
The sleeping bag consist of a nylon inner as a sheet, two New Zealand Fairey-down sleeping bags, one inside the other and an outer protective canvas bag. I have never been cold in them and generally you are too hot when you first go to sleep. Before lunch the drift died away till it was only about 2 feet deep, the top of the tent and vehicles were in clear sunny weather with only the ground hidden by swirling flood of drift. Snow drift about 2 feet high had built-up around sledges and vehicles but it seemed that although the wind was just as strong, there was not much snow left to be blown along as drift.
After lunch the wind had dropped and there was no drift so we walked up to the top of the Dome. John said it had changed a lot since he was there in the autumn as all the snow had blown away leaving blue ice with snow field crevasses between them. There are about a dozen slots up to 50 feet wide and a fairly spectacular. The ice is probably 2 000 feet thick and a buried mountain underneath causes the ice to flex as it slides slowly over it and when it cannot flex enough it splits and the crevasse is formed. As drift is blown along it forms a bridge over the top and except at the edges is fairly strong, a probe with our ice axes will generally produce a hollow drumming noise.
Saturday 7 October 1967
Manning : Light drift swirling, Ian and I are away early in Number 7 Snow Trac for reconnaissance to locate beacon at Patience camp. Sun came out and caused much sastrugi shadow. Unsuccessful day, there are no markers, the rolling ridges are all very nearly the same and I am only going by memory. Very frustrating as I must find a point to close the angles off. Arrived back at camp 1830, Snow Trac went very well indeed; the travelling across sastrugi lines all day is a strain.
Gillies : Some sod woke me up early this morning so I think it must have been my turn to cook the breakfast of porridge and trim. Katabatic strong but no drift. Syd and JM go up again but still can’t see the Patience campsite so Ian and John left after I made some soup and heated some rolls. They took a sledge and a drum for a beacon. No luck finding last section. Worked around preparing for trip home. JM and Ian arrived back without the sledge, left it down the road. Radio: 2115 sked with Vaughan. Bill Butler asks Syd about a refrigerator problem.
Little: Windy in the morning, but no snowdrift, as there hasn't been a snow fall recently. The constant wind from the south-east and south have blown all the loose snow leaving only blue ice. John and I went up the Dome after breakfast looking for the last station he put in on the original trip from Church Mountain but we could not see it in the field glasses or the T3 telescope.
It is a 44 gallon fuel drum 12 miles east of Frustration Dome but might have been blown away although it was tied down securely. So John decided to go out in the Snow Trac, find it and mark it more clearly. He took the old sledge we brought out loaded with petrol plus a drum and an old Li Lo mattress and headed east at 1400. A cycle wheel was towed as the distance had been measured in the autumn to be approximately 12.2 miles, they went 12 miles and started searching to the sides, but the visibility was not good and eventually they left the sledge there and headed back. We were on the Dome again looking through the theodolite telescope and saw the Snow Trac on one occasion but it went over the ridge and out of sight. When told on the radio that they were heading back we walked down the Dome again and started cooking tea, they arrive back at 1915. The mark must be found so the horizontal and vertical angles can be read, so tomorrow John will try again.
On this run in the Snow Trac John removed all extra items from the vehicle and carried only survival gear just enough for a few days, so that if it broke down we would come out the next day or allowing a few days for possible bad weather. A ration pack contains 12-man days of food so two could live for six days and in a blizzard and not working you could manage on half rations. We have been living from ration packs but also have some extras such as fresh meat and bread rolls and bacon. Generally, at night we have soup thickened with HF6 or bacon then meat and vegetables, dried potato and peas, we brought Bournvita also and a little extra milk and sugar so we have had plenty to eat.
Generally, on dog trips only the ration packs are used but with vehicles extra rations are always taken. The ration packs are made by Simpsons in Melbourne and all the items are in plastic bags, HF6 bar in compressed packets, with four sledge biscuits, powdered milk, sugar, salt, pepper, coffee, Deb potato plus tins of butter concentrate, honey, vegemite etc.
The cardboard ration boxes covered with linen sewn up and dipped in wax, they are very good to pack and take plenty of knocking about. They are scientifically balance for protein fat content etc. and a small tube of vitamin pills makes up all deficiencies. The night became very windy with the old tent thumping away but no drift, we have to two new pyramids on the Snow Tracs and don't have to worry about the tent.
Sunday 8 October 1967
Manning : Extremely high winds all day confined to tent.
Gillies : High wind last night so no one goes out to look for anything. Radio: 2115 sked not too good, more business about fridge.
Little : Very windy but no drift, sun shining brightly. Sitting in the Snow Trac with sunshine through the window it is quite pleasant. Outside the wind would be 60 to 70 knots at least, wooden boxes which were outside the tent have all blown away if empty. Did a little reading and writing in the Snow Trac; the others were still in the tent. I tied a thermometer to the tent guy rope and our temps have been around ‑10°F for most of the time. When John did the first trip out here he had temperatures of -30°F and only a few weeks back when the first recovery trip was made one night was particularly cold and measured as low as -40F but it was below that overnight and estimated ‑50 F.
Now with the sun shining more than half the day it is putting heat into everything. Previously if you chip off the small piece of ice and put it in your mouth it would freeze your lips and tongue until it finally absorbed enough heat to melt it off, but now provided it is a small piece you can melt it away mate immediately. John's first trip must've been pretty tough as they were all new to the conditions, except Ed who was there in 1964. Their main fault seems to be that they had too much gear, spare parts, ropes, crampons, sledges etc. so the machines had to work too hard and therefore broke down often.
With the low temperatures the vehicles were very hard to start and as they had been hastily prepared to get away in the autumn, not everything worked as it should have. I had far too much work to do early in the year and all that I could do for them before they left was to check that everything worked and I check the batteries.
Since then I have overhauled the starter motor and the generators on the two which were then at Mawson and they both have been overhauled mechanically so nothing is in doubt. Used the phone radio for the 0915 sked, reception was bad but it was too windy to start up the AN/GRC-9 radio outside. I had a call from Mawson for me. The temperature there most of the day was 22°F and they were worried about the meat in the refrigerators which are turned off. I said there wasn't enough gas in the outside fridge to run it and told him which valves to turn on the inside fridge and then transfer the meat from the outside fridge.
Time passes quickly here and the stove or Tilley lamp warm the tent nicely while the wind outside was thumping away madly at the tent. The old Polar Pyramid is certainly a wonderful tent. Its four Dural poles and all its guys plus the fact that it is a foot below snow level and the removed snow piled up around the flaps makes it just about immobile. This particular tent has been standing here for months and it's about 3 feet under the snow level.
Monday 9 October 1967
Manning : Good day, wind has died off. Ian and I got off early and located the missing station, then fired flares and had radio sked with Syd up on the Dome and flashed a Helio to see if he could see us. Erected a beacon made out of an old sledge brought from Mawson for that purpose and a couple of drums. Returned to Frustration and read angle between M2 and newly erected beacon, sighting to the Polar Pyramid tent at M2 as drum beacon not visible.
After tea Syd and I went up to Dome to do an astrofix and had to wait until 2300 when the VLV sked was eventually terminated after protracted discussion and advice to Mawson on refrigeration problems. First star visible at 2145. Completed astro and returned to tent at 0100.
Gillies : Hooray they found station today. Syd can see tent at Station 2 and sledge at Patience camp. Syd put pitons on line with the beacons from theodolite.
Ian and JM arrived a couple of hours later. Carried battery down, JM and Syd went up and did Horizontal angles okay. Syd and JM have just arrived back from doing astrofix at midnight.
Should be able to head for home tomorrow. Cleaned out AN/GRC-9, sprayed CRC on switch. Tried it for 2100 sked receiver wouldn’t work so went to Vaughan in tent. Radio sked: 2115 Syd and JM on Dome, me in tent working VLV on Vaughan. More trouble for Syd on fridge.
Little : Woke to a sunny day, slight wind so John and Ian headed off east in the Snow Trac to find the last station marker. Sledge was abandon last trip at the 12 mile mark so they should be able to find the marker working out in circles from the sledge. John G and I went up onto the Dome as a Snow Trac headed east and we watched them till they went over ridge and out of sight. I set up the T3 and could see the tent 17 miles to the west as the visibility was very good. So swinging the telescope down until I could see the ice on the Dome I crossed a few slots and drove in a piton online. Now on a poorer day John could set up the theodolite and point to the piton and swing up to the horizon and possibly make out the tent in poor visibility. We had a radio scan and they said that they had found the station marker and were going to build the beacon.
I have looked to the east previously but haven't seen anything so after checking I asked John for a signal flash. It couldn't be seen by eye but I picked it up through the telescope and also saw the Snow Trac further to the south than expected. They stood the sledge up on end, with the petrol drum at the base and nailed a Li Lo mattress across the top. This was plainly visible but I put in another ice piton online just in case visibility was poor.
They hurried back in the Snow Trac and John and I went back up in time to read the angles between the beacons east and west.
On the completion of these angles that was the completion of the Tellurometer lines from Onley Hill to Church Mountain except for an astrofix on the Dome. We came down for tea and as it was getting dark about 2000 we walked back up before the stars came out. We used the radio for time check for WWV (the United States Bureau of Standards short wave time signal transmitted from Fort Collins Colorado). We set the chronometer and stopwatch going about four sets of horizontal angles were read at precise times to 8 stars spread evenly around the sky. From these observations the actual position of the Dome on the face of the earth could be determined.
A similar astrofix will be observed at both ends of the traverse line from Rivett to Béchervaise. Ian has previously driven a Snow Trac out and placed a Lucas lamp and battery as a back-marker so that all the angles can be read to the same point.
The wind was on and off all night and John had the theodolite behind a canvas screen to break the wind but it was still very cold. Finally finished at midnight so packed up and came down over the slots to the warm tent. It was too late to be starting a Snow Trac to recover the lamp so John said we would get it tomorrow. Apart from a few angles still to be read from Onley Hill that completed the Tellurometer survey. All that remains to be done now was to pack all the gear and reach Mawson safely. John still wasn't happy and said he couldn't be until all the information had been sent to Melbourne, it's been a long job but it looks like the end is in sight now.
Tuesday 10 October 1967
Manning : Packed up gear and dug tent out of ice along the base, Very unpleasant work with high wind of 60 knots. Syd and I went up to Dome, a real battle in the wind and secured the drum beacon before leaving. Departed 1330 towing Number 2 Snow Trac on sledge behind Number 7 with Ian driving and Syd driving Number 8 pulling two lightly loaded Norwegians. Slow but good progress, drift being whipped up by gale force wind. Arrived at M2 1530 to find a 5 foot tear in the tent along a pole line with tent flapping widely and a smaller tear in the inner tent. We had planned to camp here as the drift was persisting, but on seeing the state of the tent decided to try for the living caravan at survey camp, just this side of Fischer. Continued on and refuelled at M1 where we had depoted a drum on the way out and arrived back at the caravan 1930.
Gillies : Up early wind blowing like hell but clear sky and no drift, so JM and Syd went up to anchor drum over trig point. After I was woken up to make breakfast. Ian and I dug most of the tent out. We left about 1130 arrived at Station 2 at 1500 and found the tent badly torn so packed it up and headed for Fischer caravan. Filled up with petrol at Station M1 at 1630. Hairy trip over icy areas with sledges swinging in the high wind and slope.
Our last sledge turned over when its edge went into a small slot. The other Snow Trac came back after a while and helped us get it upright and repack the sledge. Still very dicey on lots of blue ice. Since we went out, a lot of snow has been blown away. Arrived at caravan at 1930 very much relieved.
Radio: 2115 KB wanted to know where we were and when we would be home. Must have had a bad day. Passed a couple of messages for KB and OIC. Said he had some long ones for us but would not send them.
Little : Woke about 0700 feeling tired, wind blowing fiercely outside but no drift. Had breakfast and then John and I, for the last time, walked over the slots up Frustration Dome going to make the marker more secure, as we had removed the fuel drum to get the tripod over the exact survey peg.
On top the wind was really howling, we drilled three holes in the ice and push canes through holes in the bottom of the fuel drum in the ice, it felt very secure at that. It was a strange day 60 to 70 knots of wind, bright sun, no drift, visibility was very good. The icebergs in the sea ice and the mountains to the west being more sharply visible than ever before. We headed back down against the wind and it was hard going, bent low and pushing with the axe. Reached the camp and found Ian and John G busy digging out the tent, each shovel loosened more snow which went swirling around in the wind. The snow had turned to ice on the tent flaps and had to be chipped off with ice axes. The four of us lowered it and roughly rolled it up and loaded it onto the sledge, and we were off. Leaving Frustration Dome to keep what remained; a sledge with only the drawbar showing, Jerry cans batteries, ration packs, boxes marker flags etc.
Ian pulled one sledge with the Snow Trac on it and I had two sledges one loaded with our gear and the other with recovered gear. The wind was behind us and the loads pulled very easily, we stopped at Polaris camp and checked over the gear there, but left behind a dog sledge, boxes, rope, Jerry cans etc.
We left there heading for the tent at Station M2 and made good time. Over some slotted blue ice my sledges were blown sideways onto the slots but didn't break through. The Snow Trac then moved on its sledge to one side, so I raced up to warn Ian and it was chained down again more tightly. We headed along the long valley towards M2 and saw many marks from the previous trip along the valley, past the flag I put in and rose up on the ridge on which Station M2 (NMS35) was sited. Soon saw the silver tent on top and it seemed to be billowing. On arrival at it we found both inner and outer tent were torn full length in the strong wind yesterday. One of the side guys ropes had come undone at the stitching and the fierce winds for the last couple of days had flapped it violently until it tore. We were going to stay there but would have had to put up another tent in the wind, and as we had made such good time with the wind assistance, we decided to make a dash for the Fischer caravan. Pulled down the tent and loaded onto my sledge and away we went.
There had been a 44 gallon drum to mark the station point but the wind had blown it away and could not be seen to windward for a couple of miles that we could see. Went to Station M1 heading slightly south of west to cut across the corner and pick up our outward tracks from Onley Hill. We did not see the tracks but could see McNair Nunatak and Anniversary Nunatak as well; indicating we were too far south. Soon picked out the glassy slotted icy dome of Russell Nunatak so headed for it, but the surface was blue ice with all the snow swept off it. As we were now heading north-west the wind was directly behind us and the sledges were getting blown past me and flailing madly on the cables.
I headed for all the patches of snow I could see to slow them down and make them trail behind, but suddenly they came swinging past me and went sliding sideways, hit a small slot and capsized. The rear sledge was upside down, Ian and John came back and we untied the ropes and turn the sledge back up and repacked it; taking about 15 minutes. Standing on the blue ice with nothing to hold, you just get blown away till you hit some snow. Continued on our way and reached the caravan at 1930 so that was the end of the Frustration Dome connection.
Wednesday 11 October 1967
Manning : High winds early temperature -10° F but wind decreasing and not as much drift. Syd and Ian went back to Station M1 (NMS34) while John G and I drove around to Henderson saddle and climbed Onley Hill to read horizontal and vertical angles. Vaughan sked at 1330 to establish visual sighting, unable to see their Helio as it was grazing an intervening snow ridge so they elevated it to a height of 7 feet and it was really good then. Read to Lucas Nunatak, Béchervaise and McNair Nunatak, and had a good Vaughan sked with Mawson at 1530 from the top of Onley Hill. All returned to caravan for the night. Intend finalising traverse with a Tellurometer shot to Béchervaise Island sometime later. Had sked with Mawson 2130 and asked to be picked up with D4 tractors when possible.
Gillies : Wind blew most of the night, still going strong early in the morning. Eased up so Ian and Syd went back to Station M1 to look for my kitbag which must have fallen off the sledge when it tipped over, but no sign either way.
JM and I climbed Onley Hill to read angles from Station M1 to Béchervaise Island and did those okay. Mark Forecast turned up, he drove up from Mawson to see if we were really on top after a sked at 1530.
When Mawson came on I was working Ian at Station M1. Read some more angles from McNair Nunatak to Lucas Nunatak then back to caravan where Ian said vehicles need looking at and were nearly out of petrol so we have to go back to Mawson tomorrow.
Radio: 1530 Vaughan from top of Onley Hill to VLV Mawson Radio sounded okay. 2115 AN/GRC-9 worked on long wire and Xstal switched to 1A instead of 3A worked okay. Asked for D4s to come tomorrow to bring gear home.
Little : Calm sunny day so John decided to read some angles from Onley Hill. Ian and I went in my Snow Trac to Station M1 (NMS34) via a direct route but broke a couple of slight bridges on the way out. Set up a Helio and John read angles to Béchervaise Island and Painted Peak, so we could have waited until John repaired the T3 at Mawson at it could pick up the drum at 17 miles but by us going out with the Helio to the station he could do it with the T2. At first John had trouble seeing the Helio as we had it mounted on a shovel handle having left the tripod at Frustration Dome. We attached it higher up on the Snow Trac and it was okay.
After John had finished the readings, we headed back by slightly different route to avoid the slots we crossed on the way out. Could make good time with just the vehicle carrying light survival gear, but drift was tricky and about a foot high in places which slows you down.
Reached the caravan before John M and John G who had to carry the gear down from Onley Hill and when they arrive they said Mark had paid them a surprise visit to the summit. Over the radio sked last night we asked for the D4s to come up tomorrow and take us back to Mawson and that was okay. It was a good trip and John M was very pleased to get the survey finished after so much trouble.
I enjoyed myself and am looking forward to the main spring trip which, because by that time it will really be a summer trip. Probably given another go at this trip John could have pulled it off first time because there had just been a lot learnt from the trips particularly in regard to vehicles.
Thursday 12 October 1967
Manning : Up at 0700 packing up dear. The D4 tractors arrived at 0900 with Kevin Reiffel (Padlock), Peter King and Eddie Lawson. After they had a meal we set off at 1100; Syd driving Number 7 Snow Trac and Ian in Number 8 Snow Trac with the D4s towing the caravan and sledges with Number 2 Snow Trac. Had to put brake‑chains on when travelling downhill on the ice, as sledges getting away, and careful driving needed especially coming down from GWAMM. Living caravan left up the top. Back at Mawson 1600 with trip very successful.
Little : Woke up at 0700 and after breakfast started packing up the gear, I decided to wait for one D4 to take the caravan and the other the Snow Trac and an empty Norwegian Sledge. At 0900 the two D4s appeared over Fischer and we were surprised by their early arrival. Found they had woken at 0600 after a fight with the cook didn't have any breakfast so the first thing they did was to cook a few pieces of our steak. Eventually we left, two Snow Tracs each pulling a sledge and headed for Fischer. Once on top we had to tie rope around the sledge runners so that going down the hill the sledges wouldn't run past us.
Padlock’s heavier load with the Snow Track on the sledge still tended to run away and he came down sideways most of the way. Over the blue ice, the ropes chopped away in 100 yards but on the downhill slopes patches of snow drift slowed down the sledge enough to avoid it ramming the rear. At GWAMM I got short lengths of dog chain from the assembled sledges there and put four around the runners. These tore into the ice and braked well as I had to pull the sledge downhill and it didn’t run away at all.
Reached Mawson and shortly afterwards the rest arrived. Not much change around the Station, after lunch, we went back to the vehicles and started on packing them. There is a mountain of gear on each vehicle and in the sledges. John has all his survey gear plus the extras we recovered from Frustration Dome and it requires many trips to carry it up to Rymill, the survey hut. All the field gear was dumped outside the field store and then as well there was personal gear, tools, spare parts, batteries etc. By 2100 we had everything unloaded, but not put away, field gear was mainly in dog sled boxes and the tents we put in Biscoe to be repaired. Sleeping bags were hung up in Biscoe, but there was very little ice in them as we had had mild weather and partially dried them a few times. The OIC send a press release about the trip and John was glad to have his Church Mountain survey traverse virtually completed. The vehicles had performed well and each covered over 200 miles, it had been a very enjoyable trip and looking forward to the summer trip. So, had a shower and crashed.
The final leg: Two days later, after the T3 had been repaired, the Church Mountain traverse survey was completed with the connection of Onley Hill to Béchervaise Island, as the origin point for the new Mawson geodetic network.
Final observations 11-14 October 1967.
The personnel engaged in the Onley Hill to Béchervaise Island connection were:
· Mark Forecast Met Observer
· Syd Little Electrician
· Peter Lockwood (Chippy) Carpenter
· Ian Wood Diesel Mechanic
· John Manning Surveyor
Saturday 14 October 1967
Little : John, Ian and Chippy went in the VW up to Onley Hill and Mark Forecast and I had to go to Béchervaise Island to do the Tellurometer measurement between these points. John left at 0915 and Mark and me at 1000, we loaded our gear onto a small dog sledge and man hauled it over to the island, as there is no means of transport on the sea ice. From the sea ice edge we back packed the gear to the highest point, 160 feet high, where the main Mawson survey point is located. It was chosen because at Mawson itself the ice rises steeply behind the Station and obscures most of the view of the Framnes Mountains range.
At the trig point, we set up the tripod and laid out the radio aerial for a sked at 1145. On the sked we arranged to have a Tellurometer contact at midday and after that measurements were taken either way until about 1315. The Tellurometers were put away and the theodolite used to measure the angles between the points. Through the theodolite telescope I could plainly see the marker beacon on top of the hill and people walking around. I was using a T2 theodolite but John with the larger T3 at 12 miles he could see the 2 inch water pipe marker drilled into the rock. I mounted a 5‑gallon drum on the marker pole and secured it with a scaffolding clamp and wire. This will make the pole more visible in future in bad lighting conditions as the island cannot be reached in the summer when the sea ice is gone. Mark had to go back to do the 1500 Met observations and the OIC came out to help bring back the gear. Mark carried the Tellurometer in a pack and the OIC and I sledged back the rest of the gear, including a radio and battery which had been over there for months during astro observations. I had taken over a pair of crampons but the OIC had not. The sea ice was icy so we each wore one back.
The sea ice is alternately smooth blue ice and patches of snow, the sledge slides effortlessly over the ice but has much friction on the snow. Back at the Station by 1600, after returning the survey gear I checked the fire extinguishers in the D4 and the caravans before they leave tomorrow. The Church Mountain survey is completed now as it has been tied back to the origin point of the Mawson geodetic network.
Overview : Completion Phase
This third phase in the saga of the Church Mountain survey, saw the completion of the over‑snow survey traverse from Gustav Bull Mountains to the Framnes Mountains, then the final leg Béchervaise Island and Mawson. The survey traverse was sucessfully completed and the remainder of depoted equipment and Number 2 Snow Trac recovered.
The success of this trip of 20 days went very well due principally to the rebuild of the Snow Tracs at Mawson. This reflected much credit to Bill Butler, Ed Lawson, Syd Little and particular to Ian Wood. The spring weather was much better than the autumn survey trip, when 20 days alone had been lost tent bound in bad weather. A surprise downside was the initial poor performance of the survey equipment, most of it had suffered from the impact of a cold winter while depoted at Frustration Dome (near NMS36) where temperatures were below design specifications.
Trouble was encountered with the electronics of both Tellurometers, being out of frequency alignment in the 1F strip. These caused the party to return to Mawson where the problems were rectified by the skill of Chris Simpson, the Auroral program electronics engineer.
The precision Wild T3 theodolite also suffered with the focusing prisms on the optical micrometer train becoming loose making it unusable, (this had also happened to another T3 during 1966). The T3 was later semi-stripped and the prism realigned at Mawson. Fortunately, a second T2 theodolite had been carried and with care was able to complete the missing angles. The survey was completed to the normal second order traverse standards used by National Mapping in Australia with the same precision criteria using multiple theodolite pointing to targets both vertical and horizontal with 15 separate settings on the theodolite graduated horizontal circle and in the micrometer.
This time the work area was closer to Mawson and the resources of the Station were also readily available enabling an easy return to service the Tellurometers. It was again very helpful to use the Station personnel with D4 support to position the party near Fischer Nunatak and to provide pick up on request.
The survey this time proved to be so much easier than during Autumn with warmer tenperatures usually down to -10°F. This was complimented by dependable vehicles, battery chargers and improved radio communications using Vaughan mobile radios, usually with laid out dipole wire aerials.
To me the work of the team of four was brilliant and the unselfish efforts of the other three members of the party was outstanding. Ian Wood, as on previous winter recovery trip had brought the machines up to field operational standard before we started and was able to maintain them in the field without any drama, well done Ian, it could not have worked without you.
John Gillies gave great support in keeping the communication systems running with a variety of equipment, frequencies and aerials. This required radio problem mysteries to be resolved to ensure that lack of communication did not interfere with the survey progress.
John Gillies’ ability to make use of the Vaughan mobile radios was a benefit not available on previous trips. As well John G had the physical capacity to cope with back packing, crevasse dodging and freezing on the survey points and life in crowded tents.
A wide range of support on this trip was provided by Syd Little, with his electrical knowledge and his mechanical capability. He oversaw the charging of all batteries, which had been such a bug bear for me in the autumn. (I could not even start that Briggs and Stratton charger earlier). But even more importantly his quick expertise in handling a precise theodolite and making distance measurements using Tellurometers provided outstanding support to the survey. His years of scouting and outdoor climbing and skiing in the Snowy Mountains, provided him with the background to be able to enjoy being out on the polar plateau ice. He coped with the unexpected and quickly understood topographic descriptions of the lie of the land of the polar plateau with its micro valleys and ridges and ice domes, needed for working the high survey points (with many predictable crevasses). Syd was a key person on the trip but saying that does not do justice to the contribution of the others. All three support members were outstanding and I deeply appreciated the unselfish effort put in by everyone to make this part of my survey program a success.