David Carstens’ Church Mountain Diary
Dog Sledge Journey September 1962
Dog Sledge Journey from Mawson to
Church Mountain & Mount Rivett
Starting Date: 25 August 1962
Personnel: Self, Ross Harvey, Kevin Miller.
25 August 1962 (Saturday)
The sledges had been packed by the previous night and one had been towed to GWAMM using Snow Trac. (Ross and I did this.)
We started to get underway after breakfast as planned, and after some short physiology measurements by Dr Wigg a start was made harnessing the dogs to the two spare (empty) sledges for the run to GWAMM. At the same time the Snow Trac was got underway to tow the second sledge up the hill. For all this there were many willing helpers. Left Mawson at 10.30 AM (Mawson Time) and departed from GWAMM using dog power at 11.30 AM. Temperature at Mawson was -29°F but it was a fine clear morning.
The dogs set off at a great pace on the blue ice at GWAMM but were rapidly slowed down by patches of snow.
The dogs pulled well when their feet were on snow but feet on blue ice and the sledge on a steep up-grade of sastrugi, there were many stops with much urging of the dogs and sledges by the three of us. [That is us pushing the sledge.]
The sledge loads were at a maximum of over 1 000 pounds per sledge and did a good job considering the steep slopes.
By 4 PM we had covered 7 miles from GWAMM and the dogs and men had had enough. Also, the weather during the afternoon was most unfavourable. Wind and drift was most uncomfortable on the face and hands while the rest of our body was sweating.
We decided to camp for the night here, at the foot of a steep incline 2.5 miles from Fischer. The dogs were tied down then we started to erect the tent. Much trouble was experienced in an increasing wind and eventually we broke a tent pole. (Polar Pyramid, with Dural poles.)
Rather than try to erect the Beche Tent [emergency] in the high wind, estimated as over 50 MPH, we decided to leave the dogs and walk to the caravan (based) at Fischer.
[Subsequent note:- Mawson Recorded to 80 MPH.]
We were all exhausted and had a tough time walking into the wind to Fischer. We arrived there in the dark at 8 PM approx. Fortunately visibility was good all the way. All of us were frostbitten on the face and fingers and clothing was iced up from our perspiration caused by our exertions on the steep slopes during the day.
We spent an uncomfortable night in the caravan, mainly due to our wet clothes.
Sunday 26 August 1962
Rose at about 8 AM and the wind which had blown most of the night had now abated. We had a hurried breakfast and walked back to the dogs. All was in order as we had left it except one end of the ‘Blacks’ dog span had come adrift and the dogs had got at the seal meat on the sledge. We also discovered that a sleeping bag had blown away during the night, although it had been secured the previous night.
As the steepest part of the climb was still ahead, we unloaded all the seal meat, 880 pounds, and then proceeded on to Fischer Nunatak. This next 2.5 miles was as much as the dogs could cope with today and we were also in much the same condition, as it was continually necessary to push the sledge.
Radio Sked was held with Mawson at 6.30 PM (1230Z) and we announced our trouble and requested a Snow Trac bring us a new tent, sleeping bag, two ice axes and to pick up the seal meat left on the way.
We had a good meal of steak, dehydrated potato and peas, and mushroom soup and turned in at 8.30 PM looking forward to a good night in the caravan now it had warmed up.
Monday 27 August 1962
Quite a comfortable night in the caravan. I slept well but Kev and Ross did not. Rose 8 AM and cooked breakfast, watching the weather expecting to make a start about 10 AM (0400Z). Held Radio Sked at 0330Z with Mawson to find the Snow Trac had left with our replacement gear and was going to follow our track to the east.
However, about this stage drift began to blow and, although it was light ground drift, we decided to wait, at least until the Snow Trac arrived. This was at 0440Z.
The situation discussed, it was decided to rest for the day, depot the seal meat five miles east using the Snow Trac, thus giving a good fresh start tomorrow. I think tonight we show the benefits of today’s spell as we were really run down after the climb to here. Our clothes have dried out to a respectable condition again.
I travelled with the Snow Trac to depot the seal meat so I could have a look at the country ahead. I had been out that way before but in heavy drift and did not see much. Conditions along here are certainly more favourable than we have struck so far. Retired to a good warm dry bunk with a 20 knot + wind and a temperature -29°F at about1445Z.
Tuesday 28 August 1962
Strong wind blowing at Fischer caravan. Temp -24°F. We had breakfast and cleaned and packed up. By this time the wind had abated a little. We harnessed the dogs and were away by 1440Z. It was now quite pleasant travelling but we could see belts of drift towards Russell Nunatak, to which we were heading.
The dogs made 3.5 miles, to where the seal meat was Depoted in 40 minutes. The extra load then slowed them down. It was necessary at all times to have somebody ahead to lead the dogs. The surface all day was mainly snow with six inch sastrugi with some patches of white ice. By skirting the dome to the north of Russell Nunatak we saw only a few minor slots. Our heading of 107°T was at 110° to the direction of the sastrugi.
We eventually ran into the drift we could see earlier. It had persisted all day. It was only ground drift and we continued for about 3 miles after we struck it. This brought us to 9 miles from Fischer at about 3 PM.
We put out the dogs for the night and erected the tent. This time we had little trouble in wind speed about 20 knots.
It was very cold and although the tent was a haven from the wind, it could not be classed as comfortable. As this was our first night together in the tent things were a bit haphazard. But a good meal of HF6 and potato was a help. All turned in about 1539Z, satisfied with the day’s effort.
Wednesday 29 August 1962
The wind howled most of the night, and the morning brought plenty more, complete with cloud cover and drift. And also, a dog fight on the spans. The white team managed to pull out one end of the span and had attacked Winkin. Also, Nils had gotten himself free and had enjoyed a feed of seal meat and had brought a piece of meat back to his girlfriend Snooky. After making amends to this situation we had breakfast and settled down for the day as it was impossible to move in the conditions, both wind and visibility. The temperature was also against us, being -30°F read, in the entrance to the tent.
An uncomfortable, impatient day was spent in the tent. The dogs were fed and preparations made for Radio Sked starting 1000Z (4 PM). Every operation takes a long time, even opening the tent entrance is a ten minute operation. The Primus was burned continuously. Without it conditions became unbearable.
Our evening meal was had at the record rate of 1.5 hours, being dehydrated meat pack, potato and chicken soup, all mixed together.
There no let-up in the wind by sack time, in fact it seemed to gain in intensity.
Thursday 30 August 1962
Last night was most hectic. Sleep was impossible for worry about the tent in the high wind. Ross was the worst sufferer, because I dozed occasionally after the tent had failed to up-root itself after the first two hours of buffeting. Kev seemed to snore peacefully but assures Ross and I that he was treated to music from both of us.
At 2000Z (2 AM) there was a decided drop in the wind. This heralded a mass furore from the dog lines; a good indication of better weather. While Ross dressed to investigate, I opened the tent entrance (both jobs of the same duration). Ross’s investigations showed that Snooky was off the line, had had a meal and was parading along both dog lines to the general excitement of the dogs. By the time Ross was back in the bunk trying to warm up, the wind had dropped completely and all was remarkably peaceful. I slept well until 1200Z (6 AM), although Ross did not and Kev had a headache.
At 0200Z gusty winds had sprung up again and by the time I had got myself outside the tent 20 foot high drift was blowing again. The sky was clear however.
We were confined to the tent for the day again. With return of the Bliz the dogs were quiet again but seemed comfortable curled up and covered in snow.
The most depressing part of being in the tent all day is the gloom. It was designed for midnight sun sleeping. Our white tent was the one damaged first night out.
The wind tried every trick in the book during the day. Speed hard to estimate. It probably sounds worse than it really is.
Preparing meals and cleaning up occupied most of the day.
The dogs were fed, in the heaviest drift yet, at 1000Z approx., but the sky was clear.
At only 20 miles from Mawson after six days, our logistics are starting to look a bit haywire.
We have heard Mawson for the last two Radio Skeds but they have not heard us. Because of drift static. The effort is too great to try again tonight, in the same conditions.
The gloom of the tent is indicated by the haphazard writing above. I have just got nearer to the lamp.
Ross cooked meal and we all turned in early. The wind was starting to show signs of abating at this stage.
Decided tonight that we would return to Mawson, starting tomorrow if the weather permitted.
Friday 31 August 1962
The wind dropped right away at about 2 AM. All slept very well by comparison with the previous night; but it was still cold.
The improvement in the weather was heralded by another dog fight on the spans. The result of this was that Orhog was now a cripple. Two dogs now out of action, Winkin and Orhog.
It was too cold to sleep at 5.30 AM (Mawson Time) 2130Z, and I looked out at the weather. The wind had dropped so that there was only ground drift – temperature -12°F at 8 AM.
We decided to pack up and head back for Fischer. I cooked a breakfast and when it was daylight, 0200Z, we got outside and started to pack sledges. Got away at 0500Z and it was most pleasant running with the wind behind in spite of the drift. With only six dogs working in each team, and the two cripples trailing, good progress was made. The dogs really enjoy this work after a spell on the lines.
We depoted the seal meat at Depot E, 5 miles east of Fischer Nunatak (Precisely 107°T, 5 statute miles.) beside the two drums of petrol. The balance of the distance to Fischer caravan was made at a rollicking pace and we arrived there at 0900Z approximately. It was still drifting and we tied the dogs down and fed them and settled into the comfort of the caravan.
Contact was made on the 1230Z Radio Sked to announce that we had abandoned the trip and would be at Mawson tomorrow night.
Kevin cooked chicken & rice curry using tinned dried chicken and we had rice and prune sweets. Very enjoyable in the caravan after being cooped up in the tent for meals.
Pleasant night. Still light drift. The dogs have settled down well. Temp -10°F.
Saturday 1 September 1962
The morning proved fine with light wind and drift squalls showing on the horizon. Watched the drift squalls while we prepared to leave, in case they indicated worse to come. Got away at 11 AM (0500Z), satisfied nothing serious in weather conditions. It was drifting slightly at Fischer Caravan by then, but the plateau towards Mawson was clear.
After a speedy descent of the steep snow slope from the caravan with the dogs in their normal excited state at first start, one of the sledges, Ross in the lead tried to steer his team away from the patch of slotted blue ice at the foot of the hill and in doing so the sledge built up a sideways momentum on the steel sideling and was rolled over twice when it struck sastrugi. This resulted in snapping every upright of the bridges of the sledge along one side.
This seemed the last straw. It was not possible to repair the sledge in the day, so it was eventually decided to leave the sledge, tie the team down on the field span and all three return to Mawson in spite of the fact that we were only a mile from Fischer Caravan. We lightened the second sledge to avoid a similar catastrophe.
The plan was to return in the morning and retrieve the sledge and dogs and equipment by vehicle.
The remainder of the run to Mawson was uneventful but tiring work, this time the difficulty in holding the sledge back on the downhill run. The brake had to be operated forcibly all the time, the team would do nothing but pull their hearts out against it.
The returning team was the Blacks and Orhog limped home with his team. We walked Winkin rather than leave him out for the night.
In spite of our short absence of a week, much shorter than planned, most of Mawson was out to welcome us home and many willing hands once more assisted with the necessary dog work.
It was good to be back on the Station in spite of the disappointment of the trip.
Sunday 2 September 1962
Ross, Kev and I left in the Snow Trac at about 10.30 AM (0430Z) and arrived at Fischer to find all in order except that two dogs were off the span. There appeared to have been a friendly fight, but most of all Johnny was missing his mate Winkin.
The gear was loaded on the half-Nansen sledge and the dogs tied on a long lead and attached to the vehicle. We set off at a great pace, the dogs leading the vehicle with great gusto.
However, they could not keep up the pace and soon became entangled in the line. Finally, Ross loaded them all onto the sledge, tied down, and he and Kevin sat with the dogs. The dogs took a while to settle to this method of travel, but soon appreciated its advantages and mostly went to sleep.
Arrived Mawson at 3 PM (1100Z) and all gear was unloaded. Once again it was a beautiful afternoon at Mawson, while the weather was quite uncomfortable at Fischer Nunatak.
This completed this phase of the trip – successful only in showing that what the old hands say is quite correct. If only we did not have to learn by experience!!
At this stage the next step is uncertain.
Dog Sledge Journey from Mawson
to Church Mountain & Mount Rivett
Personnel: Same as first trip:- David Carstens, Ross Harvey, Kevin Miller.
3 September to 8 September 1962
This week at Mawson was spent repairing the sledge, deciding on the chances of making a second attempt, and finally packing the gear to do this. Also, it was necessary to have treatment and rest for frostbite, especially nose and fingers.
It was hoped we may get away on Saturday 8 September but moderate weather conditions decided us to wait an extra day. This was an advantage in allowing some final preparations and also, I was able to read some angles at Azimuth Island on the Islands Triangulation.
Sunday 9 September 1962
I rose at Mawson at 8.45 AM (Mawson Time) and the weather was still uncomfortable. Temp -4°F with strong (35 knot) wind. We decided to wait until 11 AM to decide (sic) whether to attempt a start or not. We were anxious to have a good patch of weather for a start this time.
At 11 AM (0500Z) the wind had dropped and the sky was blue, so we decided to make a start.
[Note here. This is reasonably normal for katabatic wind to cease towards mid-day.]
All volunteers mobilized. We were using two Snow Tracs to haul all the heavy gear to Fischer Nunatak and the dogs would haul the two sledges lightly loaded.
Peter Trost, Mumbles Walker, Reg Wakeford, Frosty McDonald and John Freeman travelled in the Snow Tracs to send us on the way and assist with transport.
The dogs performed well up the steep slopes with the light loads, and made good time following the Snow Tracs. The trip took about three hours. Conditions were OK for the trip but it was drifting at Fischer Nunatak when we arrived.
Orhog and Winkin had been replaced by Iggy and Blizzard. Iggy did not settle into the team for a start but Blizzard was OK. Johnny seemed to miss his mate Winkin.
The dogs were tied out. In spite of the light loads they were still tired. Eight of us had a cuppa in the caravan; then the Snow Tracs left and we loaded the sledge boxes.
A bag of seal meat was found to have been left at Mawson and it was arranged for that to be brought up early tomorrow morning, by the Snow Trac again.
Radio contact was made with Mawson at 1230Z Sked, just to prove the radio.
Kevin cooked a large meal and we started to turn in feeling comfortable at 1500Z. It was still drifting fairly solidly at this time.
Temperature measured through the ventilator of the caravan (very intrepid) was -15°F. Height at Fischer by altimeters was 2 300 feet.
Monday 10 September 1962.
0200Z rise at Fischer. Fine day. No drift. Light but complete cloud cover. While Kev cooked breakfast, Ross and I started packing sledges. John Freeman and John Phillips arrived in Snow-Trac with seal meat and also a drum of kerosene for Fischer Caravan. This had been requested on the evening Radio Sked.
We completed our breakfast and with the help of the two Johns were packed, harnessed and away by 0440Z.
The dogs were slightly surprised at the heavier sledges but we still had the seal meat to collect 5 miles out before the load was complete.
We reached the seal meat depot at about 0630Z, had coffee and loaded.
The dogs still pulled well but tired more quickly, so we had more frequent stops. [This was welcomed by men as well!!] We finished the day at 0945Z after having covered about 9 miles. Both men and dogs tired. We must be near our last camp in this vicinity but it was hard to see in semi-whiteout when we stopped.
Setting up camp proceeded smoothly until it was discovered that I had neglected to pack the top guys for the tent. We had to construct a makeshift model and then progress reverted to normal. Still overcast, 15-20 knot wind when we turned in at 1130Z. The pressure lamp we are using this time is a boon.
Note August 2017:-This is Camp 1.
Tuesday 11 September 1962.
Woke at 8 AM after having a restless night myself. The wind was blowing and sounded bad in the tent, so while we were thinking of getting up I went back to sleep, not waking until 10 AM (0400Z). I suppose the others had slept as well as I, and I needed this extra. My cold feet did not wake me for the two hours.
When we stirred this time, daylight was apparent through the tent. An inspection outside proved a good day, overcast and windy, but not whiteout. The sun was clearly visible through the cloud and threw a shadow on the astro-compass.
Breakfast and break camp took 2.5 hours and we were underway. It was up hill all the way, and although the dogs worked well they hesitated always on lumps of sastrugi which inevitably stopped the sledge. I have shouted myself hoarse today and my left leg, or rather knee, is painful.
We made only five miles today but were tired out after it. Setting up the camp took 1.5 hours, quickest yet. (Located old camp 100 yards to S E, that is about 100 metres South East.)
Tent was up in good time for the Radio Sked. Radio conditions were poor and no contact made. Mawson was heard calling but the signal was very weak.
We followed the Sked with a good meal which warmed us up well. Turn in time was 1530Z (9.30 PM). Wind still blowing 15 to 20 knots having dropped during the last hour. Temperature estimated -10°F.
Note August 2017:- This is Camp 2.
Wednesday 12 September 1962
Radio contact on 0430Z Sked with Davis. – Poor.
They could hear us but not read us although we could hear both Davis and Mawson well. Message passed All OK.
The day started with a strong unpleasant wind. It had drifted through the night. Ross got under way at 1200Z and we all emerged as room permitted after that. Breakfast and packing took until 0545Z when we got away.
The dogs did not perform well today, probably due to the drift and glazed snow on which they could not grip. The wind would occasionally blow them sideways on these surfaces. We made only five miles before stopping in heavy drift at 1000Z.
Because of the high wind we pitched the tent first, only to find the drift cease, although the wind remained. The Radio Sked proved the most strenuous part of the day. Cranking the generator for two Skeds, for the length of time necessary to prove that neither Mawson nor Davis was getting us very strongly; although they were heard by us on both Skeds.
Thursday 13 September 1962
Radio 1230: Mawson loud and clear. Unable to contact them on Frequency 4040. 1430Z: Davis and Mawson loud and clear. Unable to contact.
Good day’s run today. Rise and shine at 0200Z (8 AM Mawson Time) (and sunrise).
Cool in tent but everything proceeded as normal. All packed and away by 0545Z. Light breeze only, all day, and clear blue sky. The dogs performed well in this weather. It shows that the dogs like drift even less than we do, just by comparing yesterday and today. Made 10.5 miles for the day. Stopped at 1030Z.
Good surface all day, only very minor ice cracks sighted. Still only light breeze when we turned in.
Note August 2017:- This is Camp 4.
Friday 14 September 1962
Awoke at 8 AM, 0200Z, to find light wind blowing drift, and complete whiteout. Decided not to move although by 0500Z conditions were improving and were actually clear by about 0900Z in the afternoon.
The wind had howled overnight which was disappointing the conditions when we went to bed last night.
Tonight, the weather is even better with only a faint stirring of the wind.
The day was spent sleeping, eating and talking. We talked mainly of motor cars. I wonder when we are home whether we will then talk mainly about dogs.
On the whole, the day passed reasonably quickly. Feed time for the dogs was pleasant with the three of us walking around outside in our tent gear.
Radio Sked with Mawson at 1230Z produced no contact although we could hear them.
At 1430Z Davis was contacted and we passed our position.
Turn in about 1600Z.
Saturday 15 September 1962
Good fine day. Started off overcast but turned out one of finest days and we also achieved the most miles. We covered 12.1 miles according to our cyclometer. We had our last glimpse of Mount Henderson shortly after leaving Camp 4 and have seen no mountain or rock since.
Some standing wave clouds ahead could have been over Church Mountain and associated peaks. But it seems just a bit far away yet.
The dogs performed well all day today, being much happier with the increasingly lighter loads. It was fairly level going most of the day today. The only notable feature was while crossing a long low ridge we encountered two 4 foot wide slots. There was a great deal of minor slotting in the vicinity but only up to six inches wide. Ahead tonight when we stopped at 4.15 PM (1015Z) is a prominent slotted dome.
Radio tonight was unsuccessful. 1230 Sked, I apparently did not connect the generator cable securely and nothing could be heard. 1430 Sked produced no results although Ross heard Davis call him once.
The pressure lamp, a great boon for light and heat, is playing up and the fumes are hard on the eyes. Ross attempted to fix it tonight but had little success.
All very tired tonight but pleased with the days run. Turn in started at 1530Z. Sky then overcast. Let’s hope OK again in the morning.
Note August 2017:- This is Camp 5.
Sunday 16 September 1962
Radio: Missed 1230Z Sked as camp was not set up in time. 1430Z Sked we could hear Davis and Mawson but they did not hear us. (On 2, 4 or 5 Mgs.)
The day started with reveille at 8.15 Mawson Time (0215Z) and it was overcast, snowing and whiteout. Decided that by the time breakfast was over conditions may have improved.
This proved to be the case but we did not move off until 0645Z. The sun was just visible and the sastrugi was visible. We had our best days run, 12.5 miles in spite of the overcast. But, of course, we had no wind to contend with.
We crossed the most crevassed area so far, starting at about 3 miles east of our Camp 5. (67°56′S, 64°32′E) There was a prominent dome about 3 miles to our south here. These slots should be very easy to negotiate even by vehicle, provided they were seen. Largest was 8 feet wide and we only determined four of this order. The remainder were 6 inches to 12 inches wide.
We stopped running at 1030Z. By then it was again completely overcast and we were running blind. However, we were well past the crevasses.
Also, a snow shower started when we stopped and it has been snowing lightly ever since.
Had an excellent meal concocted by Kev using HF6 Bar, chicken noodle soup, potato and dehydrated beef.
Turn in by about 1600Z (10 PM).
Note August 2017:-This is Camp 6.
Monday 17 September 1962
Radio: Contact made on 1230Z Sked. Position and two Met Synops passed and seven telegrams received. (QRX Three more, 1230Z tomorrow). [Please refer to Appendix for details of Q-codes and call-signs.]
No move today. This was disappointing as it was windless the whole day. The visibility was very poor however and it was snowing occasionally. As the day turned out we perhaps could have steered the course by magnetic compass but that would have been tedious work. It is frustrating to spend the day in in the tent when there is no wind.
However, the day passed quite quickly with Ross repairing dog harness and the pressure lamp. I tidied up the food box contents a bit and sorted out the navigation box. Kev got his Met Obs into stride with two Synops on our (first) Radio Sked with Mawson.
Highlight of the Sked was whizzers [personal messages]. I was luckiest with four, Kev got two and Ross one. Wonder who the next three are for. Time ran out before they were received. Energy for cranking the generator was not far behind at running out. Kev and I cranked in turn for 35 minutes.
Dogs seem very fit today. Fed on seal meat tonight.
Temperature today between -6°F and -10°F.
Wind rising tonight. Hope this does not mean trouble with all loose snow lying around. Turn in 1600Z.
Tuesday 18 September 1962
Did not awake until 0245Z. A look at the weather prove what had been guessed. It was drifting, but the wind speed was not high. By the time we had eaten the drift had lessened considerably and Ross and Kevin packed the sledges while I made up the thermoses of lemon drink and packed up inside the tent.
By the time we were harnessed and ready to go the drift had ceased. There was a little wind but the sun shone brightly. Temperature was -21°F.
It was warm running and we had a good day’s run. Sighted the peak of Church Mountain ahead after about three miles. We could see it for a mile then it disappeared when we went into a valley.
It is in full view tonight together with a large mountain to the north, identified as Mt Marsden.
Eventful period was when we headed directly for Church Mountain across the top of a dome or ridge. This was the first such feature which we had not avoided by steering north or south of it. The inevitable happened. It was well crevassed with slots up to 30 feet wide (one sledge and a half). I paced another as 16 feet.
These crevasses were firmly bridged and we raced across in great style after Kevin had gone ahead on foot, probing for the firmest bridges. This area was 0.8 mile wide.
In spite of late start and crevasses, we made 13 miles today. It was heartening to have the mountains ahead and fully in sight when we stopped tonight.
Snow was scarce when we started looking for a camp. We had run on till 5 PM (1100Z) because the weather was so good. We picked a small patch of snow in a firm area and pitched camp quite successfully.
Radio: The late running time meant it was not possible to keep the 1230Z Radio Sked and the 1430Z Sked was blanked out by a Radio teletype signal from Wilkes. Ross heard one call from Davis through the interference.
Kev led most of the way today and must be tired tonight. Ross is tired and I am sure I will sleep well also. The temperature is -21°F again tonight and the frost line in the tent is nearly 2 feet high as compared with 1 foot on previous nights. I hope the sleeping bags will cope. These are becoming noticeably ice up.
The dogs hardly seemed to be tired tonight and performed well during the day. Late turn in tonight, 1630Z.
Note August 2017:- This is Camp 7.
Wednesday 19 September 1962
Radio: Excellent contact Davis 1430Z on Frequencies 4040/5835: Position and Weather reports passed. Arrangements made QRX 1430 Tomorrow. VLV / VLZ 5835. ALV / M 4040.
Spoke to Davis on phone; strength 3-4 which proves AN/GRC-9 works after all.
1230Z Sked not kept due to not having tent erected in time.
The days run started poorly but not badly. We had a cold night’s sleep. The temperature on going to bed was -20°F and was -23°F at the obs in the morning. Rose at 0245Z (8.45 Mawson).
It was drifting and semi-whiteout at breakfast time; but by the time the gear was packed it seemed OK to travel so we pulled down the tent and moved off. The drift continued throughout the day but was seldom more than ground drift. The temperature of -20°F makes conditions very trying Sweating inside windproofs and face and hands, when exposed, freezing. Bliz masks are a must.
Church Mountain was visible all day and we covered 10.6 miles.
After we pitched camp for the night, the drift lessened considerably and the mountains to the north of Church Mt. were visible. We should be about 10 miles from Church Mountain tonight which means we will arrive there tomorrow.
A batch of large crevasses, well bridged, was passed 3 miles after Camp 7, just to the north of a prominent dome.
Extra precautions to keep feet warm are the order of the night. Turn in will be about 1630Z again tonight.
Note August 2017:- This is Camp 8.
Thursday 20 September 1962
Today we reached Church Mountain. Our cyclometer shows we have travelled 101.1 miles from Mawson. We believe ourselves to be the first ever to visit this area by ground and all feel a sense of satisfaction. The mountain is a magnificent piece of rock jutting almost perpendicular from the ice on the west side where we are camped. It is not a huge feature but stands about 600 feet above us by my estimation. We are camped in a snow patch to the west of the westerly end of the mountain.
The day’s run was 11.6 miles but was most uncomfortable. Temperature all day never above -25°F and a 24-30 knot wind with drift to harass us.
The wind was too strong at this temperature to start the Astrofix although the sky was cloudless when we arrived and at night. I elected to get some rest and hope for better conditions tomorrow.
We were all cold by the time camp was set up and the tent warmed up slowly. A good meal helped and although the frost line was still about 2 feet high in the tent, we all feel warm at turn-in time, 1700Z.
Radio: Nil QS0 Mawson. Fair Contact Davis. Passed Position and Weathers. QRX tomorrow 4/5 Megs.
Friday 21 September 1962
Awoke 8 AM (0200Z) and wind was blowing so stayed in bags until 0300Z. All had had a good sleep but the cold was beginning to get at the feet. Cooked breakfast and made a start on Astrofix by 0530Z. It was very cold with a light breeze. Temperature -22F; no weather for theodolite work; but it had to be done.
Everything went wrong. The heavy duty lighting set would not show a glimmer of light, the eyepiece fogged in seconds, and after much bother not being able to find stars, the fault was discovered to be in the Bulova (Watch). We were unable to get a time check last night or this morning and I calculated the time from its losing rate. Ultimately Ross got WWV [the United States Bureau of Standards short wave time signal transmitted from Fort Collins Colorado] on the AN/GR-9 and we found that over the last three days the watch had only lost 3 seconds. [The normal rate was a loss as I remember. This was always a constant but above normal expectations, following an accident in which I dropped the watch onto rock.] I was able to locate a few stars when these faults were remedied; but magnitude 2 stars were difficult with a combination of wind shake and fogging; mainly fogging. While the lighting set was being warmed to get some life from the batteries the circles of the Kern [with only external lighting] were hard to read, causing most unwanted delays in the cold conditions.
The most frustrating part was when stars were located and the observation could not be completed because of cold fingers; usually frostbitten.
Finally, I observed six stars by continuing until 1800Z, observing four night stars. [Others needed to be found in daylight.] Temperature at 1800Z [about midnight] was-30F and I had all but one finger on the right hand badly frostbitten. It is quite painful even now holding the pencil. I wonder how the fingers will be tomorrow.
Ross has some very sore fingers already. Maybe I am catching up on him. [Ross suffered the cold using the Morse key, operating the radio knobs and attending to huskies, especially harness.]
We are noting that the food packs could have more volume in them. We have finished the extras brought with us; and although we find the ration packs tasty, crave for extra at each meal.
Today has been a bit of a drag for the others and especially Ross who had little to do. Kevin booked for me. Ross searched unsuccessfully most of the day for time checks. Of these we got two.
The Primus has run all day together with the pressure lamp. [This was to keep the tent warm for booking, radio operation and for me to warm up after observing. Hands over the Primus was the regular need.]
Radio: 1430Z Sked. Both Davis and Mawson. Strength 5. Only QSO Davis (VLZ) who advises QRK ½ QSB. Passed position & report but unable to pass mobile weather. QRX same time tomorrow.
Turn in tonight 2000Z equals 2 AM Mawson Time with the prospect of a cold night but satisfied that results have been obtained for the Astrofix.
Tomorrow we hope to climb Church Mountain and get a connection to the peak by Triangulation.
Note August 2017:- This is Camp 9.
Ross Harvey at Church Mountain 22 September 1962. David Carstens photo.
Looking north with Ross Harvey climbing Church Mountain on 22 September 1962 with Mt Hinks and Mt Marsden (left) and Mt Kennedy and Mt Rivett (right) in the background. David Carstens’ photo.
Saturday 22 September 1962
Another big day today and I am now feeling very tired. Wake up cold at 8 AM (0200Z), lit Primus and dozed for an hour in comfort. Wind was blowing strongly but by the time we had eaten it had dropped. Temperature at 0600 obs was -24°F.
I did a check sun shot for azimuth and read angled for connection to the peak.
We then all set out to climb to the peak to read the angle at the top and have a look at the peak.
In all we spent about six hours trying to climb, without success. I am afraid we had some hair-raising experiences on the steep rock faces. We took some bad risks considering our lack of experience and equipment. I was struck by a dislodged rock, on the chest, after it had just whizzed past my face.
The angle at the top could not be read, nor any bearing to the features to the north. Murray, Scullin Monolith, and Mounts Rivett, Kennedy, Hinks & Marsden were clearly visible.
Cairns were placed on the saddle where we climbed onto Church Mountain and on the peak at the centre of the northern arm. In the first mentioned cairn, various mementos of our journey were left. The main one was a brass plaque stamped: This mark was placed during a dog sledge journey from Mawson by David R Carstens, Ross L Harvey and Kevin Miller. September 1962 - NMA/S/65. [The Astrofix coordinates were: 68° 02’ 22.5” S 66° 04’ 01” E.]
We returned to the tent by 1330Z and I read angles from the other end of my baseline to connect to the peak.
Ross took stock of the Dog Food supply and found we had food for only 12 more days. We have man food for 24 days. Our run to Rivett will have to proceed smoothly but we will give it a go.
Kev did his Met Obs and prepared the tent.
Temperatures are low again tonight -30°F at sunset, 1400Z.
Our search for lichens today was not very productive, a lot because we were pre-occupied by sheer climbing. A few specimens were collected however and will be passed on to Rex Filson. We made an amateur appraisal of the geology and collected specimens.
It is now Mawson Midnight 1800Z. Kev is doing a Met Obs and we are about to turn in after a late meal caused by our late arrival back from climbing and the Radio Sked.
Radio: Received Mawson and Davis quite strongly. Mawson reports VLV/M QRK 1/0. Nil heard of Davis on 4040. Request VLV/M QSY 5835 then VLZ reads us QRK 3.
Passed situation & intentions, 3 Mobile Weathers and received Memo from Mike Lucas. QRX 1430 Tomorrow. [VLV/M is the Mawson Mobile Radio Station.]
Mike Lucas’s message read: Well done Dave, Ross & Kevin, give the church bells a victory peal.
Kevin has just reported the temperature as -31.6°F; and so, to bed.
The White Team leaving Church Mountain on 23 September 1962, from front: Ian, Chomper, Sputnik, Johnny, Shasta, Flash Harry (at back left) and Blizzard at side on right. David Carstens photo.
Sunday 23 September 1962
I woke at 8 AM (0200Z) and lit Primus. We rose one after the other and I cooked breakfast. Normal routine packing up the camp but we were not away until 0700Z. Two dogs, Flash & Peter had been bitten in fights on the line. Peter was in a bad way and could not work all day. Flash seemed OK when he warmed up.
The days run was towards Mt Rivett and we travelled 14.5 miles to fall short by about 2 miles.
The run was most hectic being downhill on blue-white ice. The brake broke on my sledge which made matters considerably worse.
It was cold all day but face masks were not necessary for the first time as the wind was behind.
The scenery today was worthwhile. The two monoliths to the east look very spectacular and Rivett and associated peaks are very scenic.
After setting up camp a quick meal was had, prepared by Kevin, just in time to keep the 1430 Radio Sked.
I started observing stars at 1600Z. Much trouble was had in the cold temperatures. Even the heavy duty ANARE lighting set had to be warmed during the obs because I could not get enough light from it. The lens fogged badly. Temperature was -31°F but fortunately only a light breeze – 5-10 knots.
Radio: VLV and VLZ heard QRK 2-3. Unable to effect QSO on 4/5 Megs.
Finally, to bed at 2030Z.
Monday 24 September 1962
After the late night I did not wake until 0300 and then only because Ross woke and lit the Primus. I had spent a cold night but the others were OK. I guess I was chilled from observing.
As soon as I was dressed, I went out and observed angles to the surrounding features and to the Photo Reference Point.
Ross and Kev cooked breakfast and when it was ready I came back into the tent. After breakfast, Ross and I laid out a 900 foot baseline and I completed the angles to refer to the PRP.
At Church Mountain, Ross had found we had 12 days only of dog food left. There was 24 days of man food.
For this reason, the Astro at Rivett was rushed and we did not spend the time going right to the mountain. The Obs Station would be about 2 miles southwest of the southern end of Rivett.
[We were in fact to the west of Mt Kennedy for the campsite and Astrofix. The Astrofix station was NMA/S/66 and its coordinates were: 67° 51’ 35” S 66° 13’ 36” E.]
The mountains here form most spectacular scenery, especially as we departed today and from vantage points the whole panorama was visible.
I hope some photos come out. [Some of them are included here.] Photography is a cold pastime and is carried out in a rush at these temperatures.
I did not use the survey camera because of the extreme cold. It is too difficult to operate.
The Kern theodolite performed beautifully in the cold. I had no complaint with the performance of the instrument.
The day’s travel, which did not start until 0800Z, (2 PM), was most exciting at times. A couple of badly slotted domes were crossed. The sledge without the brake was hard to handle at times and was capsized twice within five minutes on a steep sideling. These are the only capsizes so far on this trip. No damage is apparent to this sledge, but there is a broken stringer on the other, Ross’s sledge.
We covered 13.7 miles today but this amounted to only about 10 miles forward motion. Stopped at 1215Z, just in time to set up camp before the Radio Sked.
Meal was had after the Sked, cooked by Kev while I wrote up the diary. Time now 1620Z (10.20 PM Mawson Time) and we are just about to start eating. Radio Sked finished at 1515Z including a time check for the Bulova.
It will be turn in ASAP after we have eaten.
Radio: Mawson just audible 5 Megs. Davis VLZ QRK 2/3 advises VLV/M QRK ¾, 4040, then severe QRM. Requests QSY 5835. Unable to effect QSO this frequency. No message passed.
Time now 1700Z. We have finished eating a large meal. We find we all feel hungry and, as we have an excess of man food over dog food, have made Ration Pack last three days instead of four days. Perhaps it is the cold that makes us want so much; but the normal quantities do not satisfy.
Hope to be in bed by 1800Z (Mawson 12 Midnight). The wind seems to be increasing outside at present.
Tuesday 25 September 1962
Today was our best day, both weather and distance travelled. The wind was blowing but only 10‑15 knots when we woke and while we packed; but soon after we were under way, it dropped. It was possible to feel the heat from the sun on our faces all day. We were not under way until 0700Z approx and covered 16.5 miles by 5 PM [1100Z]. A day like today really makes sledging worthwhile.
It was a pleasure making camp and it was possible to stitch a hole in the tent and for Ross to mend the harness with bare hands.
Temperature is still low. -22°F in the morning. -16°F when we stopped.
The wind is certainly a critical factor at these temperatures. It is good to know that it will be behind us from now on.
The track today was good, a few slots but not as many as further inland, on our outward track. We are, on the average, six miles north of our outward track.
The wind is blowing again now but not very strong.
Radio: Fair contact with Davis at 1430. Present position passed and requested they advise Mawson: Mt Rivett Astro completed Sunday and that we are homeward bound. Unable to pass Met info because of interference at Davis.
Turn-in at 1700Z.
It appears we will have to watch our supply of kerosene. The cold weather is responsible for great inroads on the supply: 8 days kerosene and 8 days dog food left. 64 Miles to Fischer.
Wednesday 26 September 1962
Woke 0210Z, lit Primus and packed sleeping bags. Light drift was blowing at this stage, but by the time we had eaten and went out to pack the sledges, the drift was quite heavy. The sun was still visible however and we packed up the camp. Got under way by 0615. It was decidedly unpleasant in the drift with temperature -16°F, however. As the wind was from S.E. and we were heading just north of west, it was not unbearable. And we made good progress. In all we covered 19.3 miles today. We were out of the drift for about the last 5 mile. Looking back tonight, there appeared to be still a lot of drift blowing where we had come from.
It was quite pleasant pitching camp again tonight with only a light breeze blowing. We are about eight miles north of our outward track and today the surface was quite good; but more crevassing was evident than further inland. The crevasses were well bridged and not as large as some we had seen inland. There would seem less chance of avoiding these slots today, supposing tractors were being used. They are however quite safe with dogs. It is necessary to bear in mind that the drift made it difficult to fully appreciate surface conditions today, and slots were not seen until right on them.
The dogs are working well with the lighter loads. It is difficult to get the teams to work in unison. The rear team either lags or runs up beside the other sledge for no apparent reason except whim.
The brake on the Whites sledge, from which the prongs broke on Sunday, suffered further disaster today. The remains, which were slightly effective in controlling the sledge, decided to part. A rope brake was rigged and proved effective. It consisted of a V of rope dragging behind the sledge in a similar position and mounting to the normal brake. By standing on a knot in the end, the sledge could be stopped, especially in snow.
After the drift stopped, it was possible to see the sea-ice which is dotted with a multitude of icebergs. One of exceptional size is on the horizon.
With our long run today, we are in a favourable position again. Only an extreme period of bad weather can embarrass us now. Dog food and kerosene are not so much of a concern. We have hopes of being back at Mawson on Saturday night, and this is my birthday.
Radio: Contact made Davis. Position passed and informed them everything OK. VLZ QRK51 VLV/M ½ Davis QRM. Met unable to be passed.
Pit [sack] time for tonight should be 1700Z.
We travelled until 1200Z tonight so had to eat after the Radio Sked.
Thursday 27 September 1962
During the night heavy winds sprang up. At about 3 AM (2100Z) we guessed them at 70 MPH. This wind was still blowing in the morning and was accompanied by heavy drift. We slept until 0400Z when I rose and brought in the tucker box and cooked some oatmeal. The others stayed in bed. When the meal was finished about 0600, I went back to my bag and slept again.
At (3 PM) 0900Z the wind suddenly dropped. We decided to give it a go and run on late, missing the Radio Sked. We packed up as quickly as possible, not worrying about food or drink but taking four chocolates for sustenance.
We were under way by 1030Z and the weather was good. Light cloud cover and sometimes a light breeze, but no drift.
We ran on until 1315Z covering 10.3 miles.
Soon after stopping the wind began to blow again, and by the time we were putting up the tent, was blowing about 40 knots and it was drifting heavily. Fortunately, the temperatures have risen and it is now -10°F.
Ross is cooking tea at present, time being 1545Z.
It is a slow process and tonight there was no Radio Sked.
Kev found an old radiosonde today.
The surface has been good but a few crevasses were crossed. We make no endeavour to avoid these because they were well bridged and the sledges are OK. It is obvious where these crevasses will be every time: on domes and ridges; but it is easier to take the short way with dogs.
Radio: Missed Sked tonight by running to 1315Z.
Friday 28 September 1962
Made bed by 1800Z last night and had a good night’s sleep. The wind was showing signs of dropping at this stage, and by this morning was down to a light breeze. There was no drift, but it had clouded over and the sun was just visible at the time we moved off. It was clouded right over to the west where we were heading.
As the day progressed, whiteout conditions prevailed but we made good progress. I don’t think there were many slots; but perhaps we just did not see them. We were away by 0645Z and stopped running at 1230Z, covering 19.75 miles.
We had in mind to try to make the extra 10 miles on to Fischer Nunatak Caravan; but with the whiteout, drift starting, and the fact of wanting to make sure of the Radio Sked deterred us.
We notified Mawson of our position (via Davis) and told them we could attempt to reach Mawson via the north end of Mount Henderson.
Let’s hope the boisterous wind, which is blowing at present, blows out and we have a fine day for our last run. Distance will be about 20 miles. It is proposed to rig the spade as a replacement brake on the sledge with the broken brake. The rope brake we are using is adequate on the snow but for the descent on blue ice from Henderson to Mawson would not be adequate.
Meal was had after the Radio Sked again tonight so late to bed.
We have decided that the 12 Man Day Packs are actually 9 Man Day Packs for our purposes except for excess of butter and perhaps cocoa (and coffee). We have been using lemon drink for the thermos and while running so this would account for the excess of beverage. Quantity of potato seems excessive compared with meat blocks (HF6) which are short. One per meal does not add much flavour.
Another fault has caused us annoyance: - the onion powder container has been broken in all but one ration pack, the contents of the broken containers covers everything in the pack, imparting its flavour. None of us like onion powder anyway. A couple of the salt containers, made of similar material, were also broken.
Temperature this morning was -10°F and this morning -5°F. So, it is really warming up.
Radio: Good contact with Davis. Fair contact with Mawson. Passed present position & ETA Mawson tomorrow.
Saturday 29 September 1962
What a way to spend one’s birthday; especially as last night it seemed we would be back at Mawson. The wind, which was blowing when we camped last night, increased in strength and we had a full scale bliz on us, which lasted all day today.
This is the worst weather we have had and it is frustrating to be so close to Mawson. However, with our supplies running out, better here than further out.
I cooked the oatmeal this morning while the others stayed in bed. Meal started about 0330Z and finished 0600Z. It was really uncomfortable just to reach out and drag the Tucker Box into the tent.
We all then slept out the afternoon until it came time to see and feed the dogs.
This was really uncomfortable. Ross and I dressed and went out. The wind had fortunately abated and visibility was about 10 yards. The temperature was not low but the wind and drift got in all our clothes. This was not so noticeable until we returned to the tent when it melted and/or covered the floor where we brought it in the door with us.
The dogs needed digging out but, although iced up, seemed comfortable and were quite vociferous at feed time.
The attention to my personal necessity of nature was by far the most uncomfortable I have had yet; and also, the quickest.
After drying out a little in the tent [the snow melting in the relative warmth] we talked until 1400Z when Ross started to cook tea. Owing to the excessive use of our quota of meat blocks we are sampling the flavour of egg and potato with some Bonox, which we had as an extra. All are hungry in spite of the day’s inactivity.
The wind is still blowing but at present not as strongly as last night. All hope, of course, that it continues to abate.
Because of the difficulty involved and the extreme unlikelihood of contact because of drift static, Radio Sked was not kept today.
After eating we talked and read to fill in time and to make ourselves tired so we can sleep. Time now 1700Z and the wind has been fairly quiet for the last few hours. There is hope for tomorrow yet.
Flash Harry and sledge heading home on 30 September 1962 looking over Goldsworthy Ridge to Fang Peak and Mt Parsons in the David Range in right background. David Carstens’ photo.
Sunday 30 September 1962
I am sitting in the office desk in comfort to write this. The trip is over, we are back at Mawson with all in good order and condition. The welcome home was marvellous and since we arrived at 6 PM (Mawson Time). We have done plenty of talking. Time is now midnight and all are petering off to bed.
Our day started earlier this morning. Rising at 0100Z, as the wind was not blowing, we were anxious for a good start. After we had eaten there was a little drift blowing but we packed up. The dogs and tent took no little digging out; but we were moving by 0515Z.
Our heading was set to travel via the north end of Henderson and it was a most interesting and successful track. A few large crevasses, well bridged, were encountered but gave no trouble.
The spade was fixed on No 1 sledge as a brake before we struck blue ice. By travelling to the north of Henderson we avoided about five miles of blue ice and two very steep slopes.
The descent to Mawson was very hard work but uneventful except for a couple of instances where the sledges gathered too much speed on the blue ice.
We covered 22.76 Miles today, our record run, Kevin led on foot for twenty of these miles.
It is a shower for me now and then de-code a sheaf of telegrams which were waiting for me.
We left camp this morning at temperature -5°F and arrived at Mawson at temperature +16°F and we could feel the heat.
It is good to be home.
While we were away messages were received from ANARE in Melbourne wishing us luck & congratulating us on reaching our destination.
This is the end of the Field Diary as recorded in the carbon copy book in duplicate.
This occupied from Page 10 to Page 63.
On page 100 is another message. This was sent from the field when we were in trouble on our first short venture towards Church Mountain:
For Lucas (Friday 31 August). Our situation is Fischer Nunatak caravan. Returned to here today from camp 9 miles towards Church Mountain. Were blizzed in there for two days. Because of small margin of food supplies with major part of the trip ahead have decided to return to Mawson.
Have received your broadcasts. See you tomorrow.
Another message was received in the field while at Church Mountain. Copy mislaid at present but the message generally was:
Congratulations. Give the Church bells a victory peal....Lucas.
A report for the trip was written (longhand) by me and the OIC, Mike Lucas, typed it into multiple copies. This report was, filed in the OIC’s office and includes the full daily diary and a route map fully annotated with key features. I hold one carbon copy. This copy is a project for me to (belatedly) convert to a digital record.
This digital copy of the Field Diary was commenced in 2011 and completed to here in July 2017 with further minor edits in February 2018.
Q-Codes used in this Diary
How do you receive me? (1=Bad, 5=Excellent)
Is my transmission being interfered with? (1=Nil, 5=Extremely)
When will you call me again?
Are my signals fading?
Can you communicate with…(direct or by relay)?
Shall I change transmission to another frequency?
Radio Call-signs 1962
Mawson station mobile