Survey Report : Mawson 1965

MJ Corry



Up to the end of 1964, practically all ground control for aerial photography had been done by means of astrofixes in suitable locations. Some limited Tellurometer work around Mawson and Wilkes had been done during the summer seasons of 1961-2 and 1962-3.


In order to provide more accurate control required for the new 1: 250,000 scale topographical map sheets, it was necessary to extend the existing island triangulation and the northern Framnes Mountains trilateration as follows :



an accurate survey traverse was to run west from Mawson to Kemp and Enderby Lands using intervisible rock outcrops.




an accurate survey using a combination of triangulation and trilateration techniques was to be made of the Framnes Mountains immediately behind Mawson. All the major survey stations were to be beaconed, this task starting in 1964.




a survey traverse was to be run from Mount Twintop at the southern end of the Framnes Mountains to Depot Peak some ninety miles to the south east using stations situated on the snow surface of the featureless plateau that existed between the Prince Charles Mountains and the coast. If time permitted, this traverse was to be extended to the Stinear Nunataks and also closed back in the opposite direction to Mount Twintop.




an accurate astrofix using the latest American method or Ney's method was to be attempted at Bechervaise Island as an origin for this work.


Project (a) and part of (b) were carried out during operations of the ship mounted expedition to Kemp land during January and February 1965, and reference should be made to the report by Mr SL Kirkby covering these activities.


Part A : Activities


The main activities during the 1965-6 season were :

Indoctrination and preparation in Melbourne.

Ship voyage south.

Mawson to Kemp Land survey.

Autumn depoting trip to Stinear Nunataks.

Survey work in northern Framnes.

Winter activities including preparation for spring trip and camp duties.

Winter field trips to McNair Nunatak, Gibbney Island and Auster Rookery.

Astronomy on Bechervaise island.

Beaconing trip to McNair Nunatak, Van Hulssen Nunatak and Anniversary Nunataks.

Tellurometer traverse from Mount Twintop to Depot Peak.

Camp survey and photography.

Ship voyage along the coast east of Mawson.

Compilation of results.


Indoctrination and preparation in Melbourne

Duty with the Antarctic Mapping Branch of the Division of National Mapping commenced on 19 October 1964. The following week the indoctrination lectures presented by ANARE were attended as also was the week long course on caterpillar tractors a few weeks later. The remainder of the time was spent in familiarisation with and the checking of the survey equipment to be used, particularly the new model MRA3 Tellurometers. Much time was spent also checking and ordering materials required for this additional survey work. It was extremely fortunate that during this period, Mr SL Kirkby was preparing for the forthcoming Kemp Land survey, and appreciation should be extended to him for the assistance and advice, which he so freely gave. This seemed to set the coming season off on the right foot. Ship travel always imposes deadlines that are set and the assistance provided by the staff of national mapping in helping to meet this deadline is gratefully acknowledged.


Ship journey south

As in previous years, the surveyors were responsible for the maintenance of an accurate ships chart, to provide an accurate record of the journey, as well as assisting in echo sounding duties along with other expedition personnel. Fortunately, the number of survey personnel on the ship extremely lightened the somewhat arduous tasks. Some of the remaining time was spent in collecting and checking camping and survey gear ready for use in the forthcoming surveys.


MacRobertson and Kemp Land survey

The first two months of 1965 were spent conducting a Tellurometer traverse from Mawson to Kemp Land, along with Syd Kirkby and Rod Maruff from the Division of National Mapping and John Farley (Mawson 1964).


As far as the rest of the year was concerned, the experience gained in this period proved invaluable, especially in regard to conducting survey observations under Antarctic conditions.


Autumn depoting run to Stinear Nunataks

The MV Nella Dan departed from Mawson on the 2 March 1965 and the next fortnight was spent assisting in preparations for a tractor trip to depot fuel and food for the proposed Tellurometer survey in the spring. On trips of medium length, there has been suggested in some quarters, that depoting trips are not necessary.


From a survey point of view, it should be mentioned that the trip was invaluable as it enabled a good idea to be had of the terrain and extreme conditions, an important point for future planning. Navigation was rendered much easier as the tracks from the previous years’ spring trip were still visible and this allowed experience in this quarter as well as improving the marked route and revising the navigation tables. But the important factor was that it gave sufficient reserves of fuel essential for the survey trip in the spring.


As fate would have it, the spring trip left Mawson with sufficient fuel on the sledges for the trip without depending on extra supplies from the depots. However, the consumption rate of the vehicles was twice the normal rate which had been used for calculating the fuel requirements. This was due mainly to the heavy snow conditions requiring both tractors to double up or each tractor winching its tractor train most of the time. Thus, some of the fuel from the depots had to be used in order to complete this trip. Another point pf note was that the snow in autumn is much harder and consequently offers less resistance to the sledges than in the spring. Thus, in the spring the smaller the load, the more the time that is available for the scientific work.


It would have been preferable to leave earlier than the actual departure date of 19 March 1965 and use the extra time to make reconnaissance for the future spring survey work. Kirkby had suggested that using the old 1954-6 route south from Mount Henderson may prove more advantageous than the suggested route from Mount Twintop through Depot A and Depot B to Depot Peak. But the time spent on summer survey operations meant that only sufficient time was available to restock the depots, so it was decided to travel both ways on the established route thus dictating that the spring Tellurometer traverse had to follow this route.


Although the weather was extremely favourable for travelling, it did not lend itself for reconnaissance. The cold temperatures and the comparatively poor visibility did not allow a check to be made on the so called undulations sighted by Carstens in 1962; they were just not seen on the trip. It was only on the spring trip that the good visibility allowed the whole terrain to unfold and prove its true character of broad and fairly flat undulations.


The five man party using three caterpillar D4 tractors successfully completed the 360 mile trip in a record time of only 20 days. The depots at Twintop, A and B were restocked and a new route marked from Depot B to a new depot just north of summers peak.


Survey work in northern Framnes Mountains

The comparatively early return of the autumn trip and the mild weather conditions that still prevailed meant that a reasonable time was available to fix the position of Onley Hill with respect to the 1962 Tellurometer quadrilateral as requested by National Mapping. This was necessary to fix the azimuth of the Tellurometer traverse to Kemp Land. The Auroral Section had also requested that a new baseline for the Auroral Parallactic Camera with the terminal points at Mawson and Fischer Nunatak be determined. As Fischer was close to Onley Hill it was decided that the best way to do this work was to fix the position of Onley Hill and then connect the Fischer camera to Onley by use of Tellurometer and theodolite. It was also necessary to connect the Mawson camera into the geodetic system.


After waiting over a fortnight for the modification to the Snow Trac suspensions to be completed, the following work was carried out in May and early June 1965.



a beacon (manufactured by the 1964 Mawson surveyor) was erected on Onley Hill.



the position of Onley Hill was determined by observing the following horizontal angles :


Bechervaise : Welch Island to NM/S/76 to Onley Hill to Painted Peak.

Painted Peak : Bechervaise to Onley Hill.

Onley Hill : Painted Peak to Welch Island to Onley Hill.


Bechervaise beacon was very difficult to see from the plateau and a Lucas lamp was necessary for the Painted Peak observations.



a Tellurometer distance and simultaneous reciprocal angles from Onley Hill to Fischer camera were taken to connect the Fischer camera.



NM/S/76, a benchmark near the Mawson survey office established for levelling purposes in 1962, was connected to the existing geodetic network. From NM/S/76, a tape survey was used to connect the Auroral Camera.



Further Tellurometer measurements were not possible because of the non availability of a second vehicle and the rapid approach of mid winter and the associated colder temperatures which affected battery capacity.


Midwinter and early spring

The long winter night does not exist at Mawson; the midday sun at midwinter being a faint glow on the northern horizon. But midwinter and the period after is useless as far as survey work is concerned although the last survey work of the northern Framnes survey was done eight days before midwinter, but this was an exceptional circumstance.


As usual each member of the wintering party is expected to do their share of the general camp maintenance and domestic duties involved in running the station. Fortunately it was arranged so that these activities caused a minimum amount of interference with the survey work.


In comparison with most of the previous years, the surveyor did not take on additional duties such as dog handler, fire officer, official photographer etc, partly because of the heavy survey programme and partly because of the long absence of the surveyor away from the base. However, assistance was given by the surveyor with these jobs, where possible.


Much time was spent in the winter months, preparing for the spring Tellurometer traverse. Some of the preparations done were :



making of canvas covers for the new levelling starves and the Tellurometer manuals, the plastic covers of the manuals being prone to cracking in the cold temperatures.




construction of new modified beacons for stations in Framnes Mountains.




painting of survey boxes and cases the same colour, a bright yellow, in order to give a characteristic appearance. The steel ammo boxes were also labelled and numbered, to facilitate handling.




construction of foam rubber lined carrying boxes for the actual Tellurometer unit, to afford more protection in transit. Steel formers, to fit the pouches of the Tellurometer haversacks were made to offer greater protection to the headsets which are normally carried in the pouches.




construction of wooden carrying boxes for the nickel cadmium batteries for the Tellurometer. It had been found preferable to carry these batteries independently of the Tellurometer unit.




construction of towers and racks necessary for the elevation of survey instruments for the spring traverse.


As found out early in the year, the extra survey equipment was unable to be stored satisfactorily in Rymill, where the working quarters of the surveyor and glaciologist are located. To alleviate the storage problem the following improvements were undertaken :



construction of shelving in the passage of Rymill to provide a suitable storage area.




construction of a rack in the passage for holding the instrument tripods, which previously had been scattered throughout Rymill.




construction of a cupboard in the cold porch of Rymill to conveniently house photographic film at a suitable temperature.




construction of a large wall board for the survey office on which was mounted a number of the half million series maps covering a large area around Mawson. This proved invaluable, especially in the planning of trips.


Short field trips after midwinter


At varying intervals after midwinter and extending to September 1965, several trips of varying nature were undertaken.



an overnight dog trip to Gibbney Island mainly to gain experience for camping in cold conditions. The account of a well stocked depot there was proved to be incorrect and a small amount of supplies were depoted there for use by future trips.




a five day dog trip by four men to McNair Nunatak to erect a beacon of the modified type. Failure of the rock drill prevented the complete erection of the beacon, but the features of the modified beacon gave some satisfaction. The run home of 25 miles was completed in just over four hours.




two trips both by Polaris Sno-traveller motorised toboggans, to Auster Emperor penguin rookery for the purpose of census of the birds. The surveyor acted as navigator for both trips.




a short trip by three men in Snow Trac to Painted Peak successfully replaced the old small beacon by the new larger type.




another attempt to erect the beacon at McNair Nunatak was foiled by freak weather conditions. Three men left Mawson on a day trip by Snow Trac in ideal conditions. The weather broke after reaching Fischer Nunatak and by the time McNair was luckily reached, a blizzard of 50 knots was raging. The return journey was made by following the original tracks until near Fischer, the wind died off completely, but a couple of miles to the south, a curtain of drift indicated the blizzard was still raging there. On arrival back at Mawson, it was found that the wind hadn't risen above five knots during the absence of the trip. However, if nothing else, a satisfactory vehicle route was established to McNair Nunatak.


Attempt at accurate astrofix at Bechervaise Island

As previously mentioned an accurate astrofix was to be attempted using Ney's method. This method utilises the rate of change of azimuth of at least 3 stars to give corrections to an assumed latitude and longitude of the place of observation and an assumed azimuth to a reference object. Its main advantage is that it is not dependent on the knowledge of vertical refraction and had been used with success by United States Geological Survey.


The first series of attempts was soon after the return of the autumn trip using daylight stars. This proved unsatisfactory due to the frequent losing of the star being observed, because the method involved turning frequently onto a reference object. However, some results were obtained, but weren't sufficient to fulfil the programme. The April 1965 observations, although perfect in the regard of temperature, radio signals etc, were also handicapped by frequent stopwatch trouble.


The next attempts were during August and September 1965. Incessant bad weather restricted the number of suitable nights. It was found that the Wild T2 theodolite had to be used because the crosshairs of the Wild T3 were unable to be illuminated. The handicap this time was the absence of radio signals. Because of the accuracy sought, it was imperative that radio signals were received during the observations, but even the main Mawson receivers could not receive reliable time signals at the required time. Because of this, the astronomy could not be completed; at least an observation was achieved which was more accurate than the existing one at Azimuth Island.


Because of the presence of skilled instrument operators on the spring traverse, it was decided to attempt another daylight star observation at Depot Peak again using Ney's method.


The principle this time was to have two theodolites and operators; the sole purpose of the second theodolite being to track the star being observed. When required the azimuth (already orientated with the main observing instrument) and elevation could be given to enable the main observing theodolite to pick up the star quickly and easily. Unfortunately, the presence of high cloud and subsequent whiteout, coupled with the incessant delays caused abandonment of this attempt.


Whilst little practical experience of this method was obtained during the year, it would appear that once the problem of recovering daylight stars was solved, this method would be very satisfactory.


For observations taken in darkness the chief drawback, as was the case in 1965, was the problem of providing a suitable reference object. This would require an extra team of men manning a Lucas lamp or its equivalent.


Beaconing trip to proposed survey stations in southern Framnes Mountains

In order to complete the beaconing of the Framnes Mountains except for Lucas Nunatak, it was decided to send four men of the spring trip party using two Snow Tracs ahead of the main tractor train. The two groups were then to rendezvous at Mount Twintop for commencement of the main spring trip Tellurometer traverse.


The beacon at McNair was permanently erected, and beacons erected on Van Hulssen Nunatak and the western range of Anniversary Nunataks. The opportunity was taken to measure the Tellurometer distance – Mount Twintop to Anniversary was taken as well as completing some horizontal angles at anniversary. The destruction of the beacon at Mount Twintop meant that the complete horizontal angles could not be obtained at anniversary Nunataks.


The route taken for the 13 day trip was Mawson to Fischer Nunatak, thence by McNair Nunatak, Price Nunatak, Van Hulssen, Anniversary, Twintop. Recovery of a Snow Trac crevassed south west McNair caused three days delay and bad weather contributed to another five.


One Snow Trac broke down six miles from Twintop and proved to be out of action permanently for the remainder of the year. In spite of this the Snow Tracs performed creditably for this trip.


Tellurometer traverse from Mount Twintop to Depot Peak.

This traverse is the subject of National Mapping Technical Report No.7 and all aspects of the traverse are incorporated in it or in reports covering the performance of equipment.


Tribute should be paid to the eight other members of the traverse for their assistance and perseverance in what could appear to be a slow, uninteresting and frustrating trip. Special mention should be made of the members who were asked to perform very unfamiliar tasks and who did so with amazing results.


Camp survey and photography

The incredible transformation of weather conditions causing a rapid homeward run of the spring trip and the delay of the arrival of the MV Nella Dan meant a period of three weeks was available before changeover.


Most of the time was taken up with camp maintenance getting things in order for changeover. All black and white photographs taken during the year were developed and prints made, which were thought may be useful to the incoming surveyor.


A somewhat vague cable received during the year from Melbourne had requested that all significant physical features be marked on the station plan. It was presumed that this was the result of the lack of topographical information in Melbourne; this being very apparent when the question of the location of the proposed new workshop had arisen. Because of the limited time, tacheometry was used, but could not be completed due to an accident. However, escarpments were approximately marked on the plan, and many photographs taken, so that an idea of the features mentioned could be obtained in Melbourne.


Ship voyage along coast east of Mawson

It had been proposed that a fairly extensive survey, geological and aerial photography programme be carried out from MV Nella Dan along the coast from Mawson to Lewis Island after departure in February 1966. However, permanent damage to the Beaver aircraft on the journey south and the helicopter whilst at Mawson, curtailed this programme.


Advantage was taken of the recent ice breakout at the eastern edge of the Amery Ice Shelf to visit by launch Kista Rock near Mount Caroline Mikkelsen and an island near Lichen Island. Magnetic observations were the main achievements of these trips, the cloud preventing any astrofixes being made. An azimuth however was determined for the geophysicist at the second locality using the sun, the shots being taken thorough moderate cloud.


The impression gained at Kista Rock was that a Tellurometer traverse would be possible along the edge of the plateau in this vicinity. Good visibility to hills some twenty miles to the east existed whilst extension westwards was not quite so good, but mountains some five miles to the west existed. However, Mount Caroline Mikkelsen could be used, its extra height proving advantageous, but helicopters would be needed to reach the summit. Fisher (1957) states that Mount Caroline Mikkelsen and the Larsemann Hills are intervisible.


The delays left little time for other landings, but Davis was inspected and a quick walk in the Vestfold Hills taken.


Repeated bad weather left little time to remove the equipment from the remote weather station at Lewis Island. To avoid a storm, the ship had to put to sea, without landing on the island and sailed for Hobart which was reached on 11 March 1966.


Most members then flew to Melbourne on a special flight.


Compilation of results

Due to the ship returning to Macquarie Island straight from Hobart, little compilation of results was done until the MV Nella Dan berthed at Melbourne at the end of March 1966. The intervening period was spent in the Antarctic Mapping Branch, drafting reports etc.


The observations were reduced and submitted to the computing section in Melbourne for checking. Electronic computers were used for calculating heights and Tellurometer distances and for calculating geographical positions.


As the MRA3 Tellurometers were due to be transferred to the geodetic section for six months, it was necessary to instruct their personnel in the use of the Model 3s, their previous experience being limited only to models MRA1 and MRA2. This occupied several days and provided a welcome from the routine office work.


Public Relations

As in Australia, perhaps even more so in Antarctica, non surveyors often fail to appreciate the need for survey work, especially the accuracy which involves repeated observations, Tellurometers etc. The need to justify this work to these people is more necessary in Antarctica, as the surveyor is completely dependent on assistance from other expedition personnel not only in their official roles, but also in the form of company when the surveyor leaves the station.


Fortunately, generally all the Mawson 1965 party appreciated the situation in the end and three factors instrumental in this were :



the previous concentrated effort in Kemp Land during the summer changeover period in which a fair amount of work was achieved in a short space of time.




most of the early survey work in 1965 having a physical significance. For example, the erection of beacons, not only could be seen from nearby by eye, but also could be viewed at another station through a theodolite by expedition members, who could see for themselves the effects.




the opportunity to write an article in the midwinter magazine about the need for this work; the article also giving a general history of Antarctic surveys and details about the 1965 survey programme.


Future operations

The survey work completed during 1965 represents the first step in the second stage of obtaining ground control for air photography. This geodetic control will be progressively extended where practical to give more accurate control than that available from astrofixes.


After being involved during the year in firstly the highly mobile effort employing aircraft and secondly a longer effort utilising ground transport, the following personal comments are offered in the hope that they prove beneficial for future operations.


At present, with the equipment currently being used, both alternatives are uneconomical and unsatisfactory. The additional load caused by the extra survey gear and the need for at least two separate groups imposes extremely large demands on transport, that was just adequate for astrofixes when the load only consisted of a surveyor, an assistant and theodolite.


Certainly, finance is the limiting factor and, in this context, the Japanese have to be admired for their latest icebreaker equipped with helicopters and who have a tighter budget than the Australians.


Suitable aircraft provide the key to the whole question and Syd Kirkby has presented a good summary on this subject in his report on the Kemp Land operations. As Kirkby mentioned, the ideal solution would be the use of rotary winged aircraft, but utilising fixed winged aircraft as well may not be quite as effective especially if there is a lack of suitable landing areas. For a long range plan, an icebreaker similar to the Japanese Fuji equipped with helicopters (e.g. Bell Iroquois used by Australian Forces) would enable the whole of the coastal strip at least 200 miles wide, to be covered. By using an icebreaker, the length of the summer field season could be doubled to from mid November to mid March, and there would not be the problem of landing strips as required by fixed wing aircraft. The icebreaker in the winter months could be used as an oceanographical research vessel similar to the system used by the Japanese.


Part B : Equipment


The following equipment was used during the year. The separate report on the spring Tellurometer traverse should also be consulted.


Tellurometers MRA3 Nos.329 and 360.

Overall these gave excellent service, but in extreme temperatures (-20°F) some controls (especially the rings around the cathode ray tube) tended to become stiff. The longest time taken to reach operating temperature was 25 minutes. The microphone inserts of the headsets were originally troublesome due to freezing of the operator's breath, but this was remedied by covering the inset with a plastic bag. Personally, the standard headset seemed better than the special STC ones, but it was an advantage to have the spare headset. It is recommended that light metal formers be made for the pocket of the carrying haversack in order to afford much greater protection to the headsets when in transit.


The carrying haversack for the Tellurometer was disappointing in view of recent developments and the price of the instruments. The load tended to drag, instead of sitting squarely on the back of the person carrying it.


The manual as supplied is written primarily for the metric measurement with digital readout. Certain of the test figures given for monitoring voltages and current are incorrect when using the CRT readout unit, e.g. the battery consumption is up by an amp. Absence of this information caused considerable confusion at Mawson.


The internal nickel cadmium batteries proved to have insufficient capacity at the lower temperatures and there was considerable trouble in changing batteries in the field. In the end they were used with the external battery leads, resulting in a more convenient arrangement.


The special battery charger for charging cadmium batteries proved satisfactory, but the operating instructions were amended. Generally, it was quicker and more efficient to charge several batteries together in parallel for a longer period than the stipulated 3˝ hours. While the automatic timer cuts the mains supply off at the end of the prescribed time, the batteries are still connected and they will discharge unless disconnected manually. It would be preferable to arrange the timer, so that the battery circuit is broken as well. The charger was modified at Mawson to permit its use with the TAS battery charger as well as off the mains supply.


The Exide lead acid batteries proved to be of the right size and capacity, but the weight needs to be drastically reduced for carrying. Investigation of more suitable types would be warranted. The lead acid variety appeared to less temperature prone with regard to capacity than the nickel cadmium type and this fact is borne out by tests conducted by the Americans. It is recommended that heavy duty battery leads, similar to those manufactured at Mawson, be supplied for each Tellurometer.


Because of the construction of the model MRA3 with its printed circuit boards, it is recommended that a base spares kit No.2 be obtained. The kit includes spare printed circuit boards and faults could be easily rectified by simply replacing the appropriate circuit board.


As requested, a multimeter solely for the use of the surveyor was sent down for 1966 season.


As stressed by Kirkby and endorsed here, a quicker reading device is required for actually measuring the phase differences. Recently the Tellurometer Co introduced a dial readout unit, which can easily replace the existing CRT assembly.


An inspection of this unit revealed that it should speed up operation quite considerably. However, the following points should be noted before Antarctic use :



the zero setting unit as such may be unsatisfactory for use in cold conditions. A metal plunger is required to move inside a metal barrel and this could be prone to freezing and stiffening in cold weather. In any case, the knob of the plunger will have to be replaced by a larger type, to permit operation using gloves.




the present gap between the Perspex dial and the other metal ring probably would allow drift in. This may be avoided by cutting away the bottom segment of the metal ring to allow drift and melt water to drain away.



Wild T3 No.87103

Generally gave a trouble free service, but some troubles were experienced.



artificial light could not be directed onto the graticule.




the circle readings could not be clearly focussed to give clear defined lines. The instrument could still be used although probably not to full accuracy.




towards the end of the spring trip, the instrument became stiff and tended to stick. It is presumed that in the course of survey operations, drift had penetrated the instrument, melted and then refroze.




on one occasion only, there was a complete absence of light reaching the horizontal circle. The instrument was allowed to stand and half an hour later, the light had returned. No reason can be given for this phenomenon.


Wild T2 Nos.72000 and 72015.

Again, gave a relative trouble free performance but 72015 became very stiff in sub zero temperatures, particularly around the footscrews. One of the mirrors used to collect lighting for the circles became loose, and finally lost from its holder.


Care was taken with all optical instruments to prevent fogging due to condensation of the observer's breath.


The advantages of the T3 for geodetic work compared with the T2 clearly outweigh any disadvantages such as bulk etc. It is recommended that where possible, the Wild T3 is used for all second order work, particularly horizontal angles.


Levelling equipment

Levelling was not included in the 1965 programme, but several small levelling jobs were done around Mawson station. For this, the Watts Autoset level proved satisfactory.


The new 12 foot Watts folding staff was used on one occasion and found to be superior to the types originally supplied, but still suffered from instability in moderate winds. However there really wasn't the opportunity to give them a thorough test. For the remaining occasions not requiring high accuracy, an older Sopwith telescopic staff was used, in order to preserve the Watt's staff for pure survey work.



Generally proved satisfactory but an oversight was the failure to provide low temperature thermometers. Kirkby's suggestion regarding the determination of relative humidity is commended, but a more accurate determination may be possible using hydrographs, similar to that used on the spring traverse. A more robust type of hydrograph would be required.


Aneroid barometers

Generally satisfactory, until the spring traverse. Digital mechanism barometers have proved to be more satisfactory for Antarctic use.


TAS battery charger Model PG.200

Gave good service, but they seem to have a limited life. This may be due to the lack of spares at Mawson in 1965. In contrast to Kirkby's statements, the 240 volt AC could and has proved advantageous. The fuse holder could be improved.


Heliographs and Lucas lamps

Heliographs had proved a great success during the Kemp Land survey, but were not used for the rest of the year; opaque signals being used for practically all the lines.


Lamps were used on two occasions; once to identify Bechervaise Island for angle work at Painted Peak and the other unsuccessfully to provide a reference object at Painted Peak for astronomy at Bechervaise Island. A lamp virtually requires an attendant in the vicinity for reliable illumination.


Both the lamps and heliographs required a lining up procedure, a factor which prohibited their use in drift. Otherwise they proved extremely useful.


Bulova Accutron watch

When received this watch had already completed a year's service in the Antarctic and no trouble was experienced during 1965. The robustness of this unit is really incredible. As recommended by Carstens the watch was continuously worn on the arm, down to the minimum temperature experienced of forty six degrees [F] below zero.


Circumstances during the year did not permit an accurate check to be made of the rate, but it seemed that after adjusting the watch to the correct time, the rate would be higher for a couple of days, then the normal rate which showed a slightly fast tendency.


The leather watchband as supplied was unsatisfactory with poor stitching. An improved type would be of great advantage, but in any case, spare watchbands should be taken by surveyors.



Both Heuer split second hand stopwatches gave trouble. One tended to stick in random fashion and then restart making it completely unreliable. The other did not stick, but at times the small pointer indicating revolutions of the second hand, would fail to register. This wold always occur when the pointer was due to move from indicating 11˝ minutes to 12 minutes. It would move to 12 minutes, then jump back to the 11˝ minute mark and would continue this procedure every revolution of the large second pointer.


Nardin Deck watch

Had little work, its main purpose being used as a clock by the booker on astronomical observations, to safeguard against stopwatch reading errors.



The binoculars as supplied by National Mapping proved satisfactory in the warmer conditions, but tended to freeze up in subzero temperatures. Specially oiled replacements were sent down for the 1966 field season.


The general station binoculars supplied by Antarctic division, proved generally unsatisfactory for use, the only exception being the pair of ex-RAAF Kerns.


Navigational equipment

Generally, this equipment was in a poor state, after years of continued use. The only reliable prismatic compasses were those supplied by National Mapping for survey use. Two of the six Astrocompasses could classed to be in a workable condition, the rest being useless. ANARE was advised of this predicament during the year, but as replacements were not sighted during the 1966 changeover, this equipment could not be returned to Australia.



Unfortunately, trouble with the privately owned camera being used for black and white photography prevented many exposures being made.


The ANARE survey camera, that had been down at Mawson for a number of years, was used for terrestrial photography. It proved very unsatisfactory. The adaptor allowing it to be mounted on a Wild tripod was useless, so the camera just had to sit on the tripod. The limited movement of the levelling cams caused considerable trouble of levelling the tripod. A fair bit of mechanical trouble was also experienced especially the winder and shutter mechanisms. At time it was also difficult to get the levelling bubble to traverse.


A replacement 35mm camera was sent to Mawson in 1966, but doubt exists whether the same results can be obtained from a much smaller format without a graticule. A more modern and lightweight version of the ANARE survey camera could turn in better photographs useful for plotting.


The polaroid land camera was not used, mainly because of doubts of the process in the extreme cold. An attempt was made using infrared film as an experiment, but was unsuccessful due to a lack of information on operational techniques.


Despite verbal assurance from the Antarctic Division photographic section, there was insufficient photographic chemicals at the station, particularly fine grain developers. Future surveyors would be well advised to bring their own, particularly if much photography is contemplated.


The photographic paper supplied by National Mapping proved insufficient both in size and variety. Unfortunately, little knowledge about this was available before leaving Melbourne, but experience gained during the year led to a larger and more varied quantity being ordered for 1966. However, it would be advisable to have the 1966 surveyor's reactions and suggestions, before standardising on the amounts.


Facit calculating machine Model CM216 

This was taken for the 1964 season and although hardly used in 1964, proved to be of great assistance in 1965. However, on several occasions, jamming was experienced and this may have been due to the low humidity. Usually the jamming occurred in one of the locking devices in the machine that prevents a non routine operation from being carried out. The machine was successfully unjammed on each occasion; the first time taking several hours, and the later ones, a matter of minutes, as experience on unjamming was gained. The Facit proved too bulky for field use and was replaced for 1966 by a Curta.


Igloo tents

This modified and strengthened auto tent had been sent down for trial use as portable beacons. Although the idea was basically sound, the design of the tents left much to be desired. They were extremely hard to erect in any wind and over 15 knots became impossible as the fibreglass rods tended to flex very easily. The entrance sleeve was far too small to permit easy entry with Antarctic clothing.


Permanent beacons

Prior to leaving Australia, it had been anticipated that little beaconing would be necessary during 1965. On arrival at Mawson however, it was decided to continue the beaconing programme started by John Farley in the Framnes Mountains.


Farley had erected two types of beacons; one having 3 feet diagonal shaped vanes on a ten feet high centre pole, the other type similar but using 22 inch diameter circular vanes.


The following points concerning these beacons had arisen early in 1965 :



the smaller type beacons were not reliable for sights greater than eight miles.




the original dayglo orange did not give a high contrast target, and black would be more preferable.




the materials used generally too light for the strain imposed by the high winds.




it was preferable to attach guy wires to both the top and bottom of the vanes, to absorb the strain of the vanes caused by the wind.




it was preferable to assemble the beacon at the survey station with a minimum of effort, rather than carry the whole structure up a hill.


The first beacon erected in 1965 on Onley Hill was of Farley's smaller variety. The remainder consisted of a modified type based on Farley's large beacon but bearing the above points in mind.


The principle adopted was to manufacture the diamond vanes with three of the four vanes assembled together at Mawson. The other vane was carried separately to the site, as was the centre pole and the remaining materials. These parts had previously been marked, in order to facilitate matching of parts in assembly operations. After placing three rock pins for guy support, two guys from each pin were attached to the centre pole immediately to the top and the bottom of the vanes. The four vanes were easily attached to the centre pole, using bolts and struts were placed between the vanes.


A virtual windfree day had to be chosen for the erection, because of the tendency of the vanes to catch even the lightest breeze.


Preferably at least four men were required to carry the materials and the rock drill to the site and erect the beacon. These beacons could be sighted from 35 miles under good conditions.


Many improvements to the design are necessary. For future work it may be advisable to use four rock pins instead of three. Stronger cable, an improved method of splicing and the use of the stronger rigging clamps instead of the current turnbuckles, are advocated.


John Quinert (1966 Mawson surveyor) has suggested that the vanes be replaced by two fibreglass ones of similar dimensions to the vanes, and placed base to base to give the diamond effect. Whilst the idea would effectively lower resistance, an uplift due to the sloping surfaces may result. Cost would be an important factor and a method of assembling the structure from sections would need to be found, as the complete cone would be a bit unwieldy for convenient back packing.


Should the vane type construction be persevered with, a refinement may be to drill a number of holes in the vanes. This would not only lower wind resistance, but by drilling in a certain pattern and tapering the holes, strengthened the whole arrangement. However, from the point of view of strength, circular vanes may be preferable. Another suggestion is to join the vanes together in the field using a pop riveter in such a way that the whole vane assembly would be free to rotate around the centre pole assembly, thus avoiding rotational stresses.


Because of the shortage of suitable materials, a drum beacon consisting of two forty four gallon drums welded together was used on Depot Peak. Whilst very strong and reasonably easy to identify, considerable manpower was required to get it to the survey station. However, the idea lends itself to a modification, in which a drum type structure is assembled on the site using pop riveters.


Another suggestion is the idea of a wind sock attached to the centre pole. This would require prior knowledge about the relation of the point of attachment of the sock to the station mark.


Appreciation is expressed here to the Mawson engineering staff for the help received in constructing the beacons, particularly in making the extra materials required for the modifications, available form their own rather limited stocks.


Sundry materials

Due to the lack of knowledge of the contents of the survey office, particularly stationery, a sizeable quantity was taken down for the 1965 seasons. This certainly paid dividends, not only because of the stationery shortage on the station as a whole but some of the requirements were peculiar to the surveying work. To avoid wastage, it would be preferable to find out exactly what is required and what exactly is not required, before sending down new supplies every year.


One point that must be brought to notice is the failure of both National Mapping and the Antarctic Division to assume responsibilities to supply certain articles, as each division expects the other to supply these articles. A good example is supply of tools for beacon erection; National Mapping explaining that the supply of tools is the responsibility of the Antarctic Division, but the Antarctic Division explains that, as they are for survey work, National Mapping must supply these. Meanwhile, the surveyor leaves without the articles and is forced to borrow them on the station, if possible, or improvise. This is only a small point, but one that could be improved for future operations.


Radio receivers and communication

Two types of receivers for reception of time signals were :



a small transistorised receiver of ANARE manufacture with crystal frequencies on 10 and 15 MHz. Generally satisfactory, but needs to be a little more powerful for more reliable reception. However, this is a step in the right direction.




the older R209 receiver with 9 valves was tried in the poorer conditions, but without success.


The Australian time signal station VNG generally was stronger the WWVH [Hawaii] by virtue of the longer pulse. However it was very difficult to isolate the minute of VNG compared with WWVH.


Radio communications in the field proved unreliable and awkward. Except with a trained radio operator using CW [Morse]. Kirkby's thoughts on radios, expressed in the report on the Kemp Land survey, are endorsed here. The present field parties suffered because of this. The Americans claim that single side band has improved their communication reliability from 33% to 90%, using a 100 watt set weighing 41lbs or a 10 watt set weighing 21lbs.



In general, ANARE issue clothing proved satisfactory, but the necks of the ventiles proved too small to take a ski cap as well. After some practice, it was possible to use three layers of gloves and still operate survey instruments satisfactorily. The usual arrangement was silk instrument gloves then Norwegian rag wool mittens and finally trigger finger gloves. Sledging mittens proved useful for outdoors in prolonged cold. Thermal boots were very satisfactory, but it was preferable to use Mukluks in warmer weather or where much exercise was necessary.


A need exists however, for a suitable kind of face protection, which does not freeze up with the condensation of the person's breath. On the spring trip when pointing the theodolite into the wind for prolonged periods, temporary frostbite usually resulted, causing great inconvenience to the observer.


Supply of maps for Antarctic stations

Little mention has been made of this subject in reports of previous surveyors and the few following personal views may be of some assistance.


During the year it was found preferable to do all ground navigation on a large a scale as possible. The 1: 100,000 scale compilation sheets proved ideal mainly because :



features that may be useful are more likely to be shown clearly. This is of great importance particularly in cold weather.




the scale is large enough to conveniently plot dead reckoning, where necessary.




where established routes marked by markers are depicted on the map e.g. Mawson to the Amery Ice Shelf, it is easy to put the location and description of each marker onto the map. This proved to be of great assistance, especially for the tractor drivers who are familiar with the basic principles of navigation.


The 1: 500,000 scale compilation sheets were found to be useful for a good coverage and for use by pilots.


The effective use of the 1: 1,000,000 scale compilation sheets are probably restricted to long range flying (e.g. over 200 miles), and to areas where coverages of a larger scale are not available.


Fortunately, the 1965 Mawson party were able to procure the unused maps from the Kemp Land survey, and these were used to make up the otherwise deficiency in certain areas. Even so, it was necessary to make dyeline copies of some of the 1: 100,000 scale compilation sheets for use on the autumn trip because of the shortage.


In assessing supplies the following points may prove useful :



generally speaking, maps for use on trips longer than 10 days are usually in poor condition at the end of the trip, and are dispensed with, if supplies permit.




allowance should be made for any possible trip for the year to be provided with the best possible map coverage. Spare copies should be allowed, not only for emergency use on the trip, but for any search party that may eventuate.




maps are generally kept in more than one location to guard against destruction by fire.




the present policy of supplying all available maps of Australian Antarctic Territory is commendable, but some saving could be affected by only sending maps that are required and new editions; and also avoiding duplication of the 1: 1,000,000 and 1: 500,000 for the same area.


Possibly a basic requirement for Mawson could be :


1: 100,000 scale sheets of any areas likely to be visited for the year (e.g. Mawson 1965 would have a complete set of the coast from Kloa Rookery to Auster Rookery and south to Stinear Nunataks).


1: 500,000 or 1: 250,000 scale coverage of any area that can be approached by ground transport within a 300 mile radius of the station.


1: 1,000,000 scale coverage for the rest of Australian Antarctic Territory for emergency use. Usually it would be necessary only to supply new editions as required and the occasional other replacements.


Allowance should also be made for presentations to visitors and ships' officers.


At Mawson in particular there is an urgent need for folders for maps similar to those used by National Mapping. Four would be required - two for sets of 1: 250,000, 1: 500,000 and 1: 1,000,000; two for sets of 1: 100,000.


Two of the folders would be placed in the OICS office and the other two in the survey office. Key map diagrams for the front would prove very useful.


These folders would facilitate the handling of maps, especially in the aspect of trip planning, and depicting available maps to other expedition members.


Part C : Summary


The year 1965 saw a successful start to the overall programme to provide accurate ground control for aerial photography. Although completion of the full programme was not achieved, the amount done under the circumstances was extremely satisfying, both personally and professionally. Undoubtable the real reason for this was the complete cooperation, whether directly or indirectly, received from every member of the Mawson wintering party. One could not wish to be associated with a more helpful group of men. Throughout the whole year, even to the day that the relief ship arrived, the surveyor was in the fortunate position with the survey programme of just guiding the assistance and not having to carry out the task virtually singlehanded.


It can only be hoped that this assistance and cooperation continues for future survey operations to enable an early completion of the outstanding work.