Tellurometer Report Mawson 1962


Report on Tellurometer Operations Near Mawson

January - February 1962


The use of the Tellurometer at Mawson in January – February 1962 resulted in the measurement of seven lines in twelve and a half days. Not all these measurements were complete, but a minimum of thirty cavities were developed on each measurement. Only one line was measured in the reverse direction, one set of 30 cavities in one direction and three sets of 31 cavities in the opposite direction. Of the twelve and a half days, two were poor weather during which it was not possible to get to Tellurometer stations. After the twelve and a half days bad weather prevented further work and the ship was anticipated to be leaving Mawson two days later. The bad weather was also responsible for delaying the ship.


The coldest temperatures encountered during the field work were 15º Farenheit on the dry bulb. Operation of the instruments at this temperature seemed to be satisfactory.


The crystal oven took 45 minutes to warm up, this seemed to be a very constant time.Some of the controls showed signs of stiffening, especially the roller type controls on the side of the instrument. For use further inland or in colder temperatures it wouldbe necessary to lubricate suitably.


The clothing worn by the operators bears some consideration. The clothing normally worn at changeover time was quite adequate for the work carried out this year. It did become quite cold after standing for a couple of hours but with a bit of activity it was easy to warm up. This clothing consisted of three layers of woolen clothing, overalls and windproofs. Wet-cold boots were used.



As we approached Mawson arrangements were made with Mr Styles, Expedition Leader, for the carrying out of the Tellurometer work. He agreed to make available, right from the first day, the men and transport to carry out the work as expediently and safely as possible.


Taking into consideration that no man should be left on his own in any situation, and that two vehicles must travel together for any journey inland, the average number involved in a days field work  was six. This includes Goldsworthy and myself. When using the motor boat or Army DUKWs (for over water visits to offshore stations) this number went to eight. Wireless and emergency rations and camping gear were carried at all times in the vehicles.


Special safety precautions had to be observed in using the Motor Boat ANARE II in the open water, both to Béchervaise Island and Rookery Island.


The ship's boat stood by for emergencies. After the Nella Dan left for Enderby Land, the islands were visited by using two Army DUKWs travelling together.


Although radios were carried as a safety, more often than not they caused long delays in departure while the technicians made them work; and then rarely did they function in the field. The most important radio, however, that on ANARE II, was satisfactory.


Travelling to inland stations (ten to twelve miles) is most time consuming. Preparation of vehicles and occasional repairs before leaving, coupled with actual time of movement, accounted for about six hours per day on an average. Climbing to and from stations with packs took another two or three hours. Three hours had to be allowed for a measurement to allow for warming up of the instrument and the delays in tuning when ground swings became excessive. The cold also contributed to the slowness of operation and on occasions a break was needed to warm one's body by some activity. It is interesting to note that the coldest day was the one most pleasant for work. Good results were obtained this day. Temperature was 15.4º F at the top of Rumdoodle Hill; but there was no wind and the sun was shining.


The day by day programme appended will indicate the rate of progress, weather conditions and other organisational difficulties.


The Instruments

The instruments performed very nicely without major field adjustments. All ventilation holes on the instrument case were covered with masking tape, and with this precaution the crystal oven started to cycle at forty-five minutes. Cycling of the oven proceeded normally during the measurements.


It was necessary to adjust modulation on all but one day on the master, but modulation remained constant on the remote. Frequency adjustment was made on each occasion of setting up.


A freshly charged battery was used for each measurement, and no trouble was experienced in having enough power right throughout the measurement. There is a constant discrepency between the readings of the regulators of Master and Remote. The remote readings always appeared higher. Regulator reading at switch on for Master would vary from 65 to 70 and at switch off three hours later would be 50-55. The Remote showed the same drop but regulator readings were between 80 and 90 at switch on. [A subsequent note gives the explanation that different power packs were responsible for this variation.]


It was made the general practice to tie the instrument down with guys.


It is suggested here that a headphone to replace the handset on the Tellurometer would be a great boon in the cold. Provision of telephone facilities must take into consideration the necessity for a parka and woollen caps.


Ground swings were to be expected in the terrain. The first line to be measured, Rookery to Béchervaise, was mainly across open water. To start the measurement steady readings were obtained; but a wind sprang up and ruffled the water surface and the display on the cathode ray tube began to oscillate and was finally broken down completely. At this stage I did not try a series of other cavities, but abandoned the station because of the rising wind. A subsequent measurement of this line, with calm conditions and also a large iceberg midway between the two stations, provided much more satisfactory results as far as ground swings were concerned.The mean of three results on this second occasion gave a value of 0.10 feet longer than that of the first result.with high ground swings.


The inland station at Painted Peak on Rumdoodle I felt was too high. The resulting high clearance over surrounding ice could have caused large ground swings. Due to climbing difficulties little attempt was made to improve the position of this station and satisfactory readings were obtained.


The use of a helicopter around these mountains may have been an advantage; but I feel that the wind currents and narrowness of the ridges may make the operation of helicopters very hazardous. Work with helicopters would speed up the operationby depositing man and gear on the ice at the foot of mountains or as close as possible to the access route. A helicopter would be most helpful in reconnaisance of stations if available. [Notation here in 2012. Subsequent work in 1962 showed that better access to these inland peaks by vehicle, and more particularly by helicopter, was available from the east side but was beyond the familiar access knowledge of our helpful guides and drivers from the 1961 Mawson Party. This would have saved much hard climbing.]


(For the measurement Mt Henderson to Rumdoodle it was necessary to drive to Henderson, 10 miles, retrace tracks 7 miles, then travel 8 miles away from Mawson again to get to Rumdoodle. Henderson to Rumdoodle is about 7 miles direct. To do this work in the day it was necessary to split the vehicles, having each travelling alone, a practice which is not encouraged, this is, however, reasonably safe under the circumstances.) [Later in 1962 this single vehicle practice was confidently applied.]


The use of the psychrometer proved a troublespot. Lower temperature thermometers will be required in future. Results were obtained with the whirling psychrometers but we were at the lower limit of the scale for dry bulbs on hand. The Bendix psychrometers were not used because at no stage did the temperature rise to the minimum of these instruments, 30º Farenheit. It had been anticipated that temperatures at the time would have rised to 40º Farenheit.

David Carstens’ 1962 Tellurometer measurements (later referred to as the Mawson quadrilateral).

Diagram prepared by Paul Wise 2018.



It is important to realise the significance of the assistance and cooperation of the expedition members in this project. Mr Styles and the OIC were most helpful in making necessary manpower available. This was not always easy, as manpower is at a premium at changeover time. At no stage was the work held up by lack of assistants or assistence. On one occasion the engineers worked till 11pm to prepare a Weasel (oversnow vehicle), which had a broken track, so an early start could be made next day.


It was not possible to have the same field party each day. Consequently it was only on two occasions  that I had the same booker. It was necessary to train a new man for each station. However where possible one of the electronics men from Mawson was made available as booker. Although they were not needed in a professional capacity, it was helpful to have a booker with this knowledge.


Time did not permit completion of all station details. It was considered more important to concentrate on the Tellurometer work alone. Vertical angles still remain to be read, this will be carried out with the cooperation of a suitable instrument man during the year.


Finally, I would say the Tellurometer is successful in operation under summer conditions, and it would appear that there is no reason that it should not perform well at lower temperatures.


David Carstens


11 February 1962



David Carstens operating MRA-1 Tellurometer on Painted Peak with

John Phillips booking.


Notes made on 14 Feburary 1962

(Covering period 11 to 14 February 1962)


The bad weather cleared on 12 February. In anticipation of this and because the ship was delayed in Enderby Land, further work was planned with the Tellurometer. It was hoped to obtain the measurement Henderson to Rookery.


On the 12 February the DUKWs were required for transport of scientific equipment to Parallactic Island and so were not available to go to Rookery Islands. As a baseline is required for this scientific work the opportunity was taken to do a measurement of this line, parallactic to Mawson, with the Tellurometer.


On 13 February there was no vehicle available for the inland work. The measurement Henderson to Rookery was planned for 14 February but the arrival of the ship at Mawson prevented putting the plan in operation.


Reference the Regulator recording differences, in Paragraph 3 of Instruments, it has been found that the different power packs were responsible for this variation.


Duplicate Field Books of the work so far have been prepared and are returned to Melbourne.


David Carstens


Mark Single (left) with John Phillips and MRA1 Tellurometer on Painted Peak.

Programme of Work Carried Out at Mawson 1962


Thursday 25 Jan.

Arrived at Mawson 11AM. Tellurometer equipment unloaded during afternoon. Preparation for morning trip in hand.


Friday 26 Jan.

Boat loaded for Béchervaise Island but long radio delays cause departure delay till after lunch. Depot gear on Béchervaise. Proposed journey to Rookery Island cancelled.


Saturday 27 Jan.

High winds. Rookery Island impossible. By Weasel and Snow Trac to Rumdoodle to reconnoitre. Climbed Rumdoodle Hill but drift started and could not see. Unable to return to Mawson, Drift. Camped at Rumdoodle.


Sunday 28 Jan.

Drift continued and it was impossible to return to Mawson in morning. Achieved during PM.


Monday 29 Jan.

To Rookery Island in ANARE II. Disembarked Remote Party at Béchervaise Island. Completed one set of fine readings as far as possible. Returned to Mawson by 9PM, leaving island by 6PM because of threatening weather.


Tuesday 30 Jan.

Measurement Henderson to Béchervaise Island. Remote gear depoted at Béchervaise Island. (2 sets Fines).


Wednesday 31 Jan.

Measurement Rumdoodle – Béchervaise. (One set Fines).


Thursday 1 February 1962.

Depot gear at Mount Henderson. No time to get to Rumdoodle and obtain measurement. Snow Trac breakdown. Arrived Mawson 9.30PM. Changeover Night. (Handover fom 1961 party to 1962 party.)


Friday 2 February 1962.

At Mawson reorganising gear ans recovery of Snow Trac. Ship departed for Enderby Land.


Saturday 3 February 1962.

Measurement Henderson – Rumdoodle. (One set Fines.)


Sunday 4 February 1962.

Measurement Rumdoodle  - Rookery. (2 sets  Fines.) (Used Army DUKWs for Rookery.

Monday 5 February 1962.

Measurement Rumdoodle – Béchervaise. This duplicated a previous line but 2 sets of Fines read.


Tuesday 6 February 1962.

Measurement Béchervaise – Rookery. (Three sets Fines.). Working in conjunction with Sealing Party. (Note: as in food for dogs.). Bad weather forecast.


Wednesday 7 February 1962.

High Winds Started. First day. All equipment back at Station. In Office.


Thursday 8 February 1962.

High winds and drift. Office.


Friday 9 February 1962.

High winds. Drift continues. In Office.


Saturday 10 February 1962.

Planned trip to Paallactic Island. (Combined with measurement.). Cancelled. Wind abating but not enough.


Sunday 11 February 1962.

Parallectic work again postponed. Weather improving.


Monday 12 February 1962.

Measurement Mawson to Parallactic Island for Scientific Section. Self on Nightwatch duties.


Tuesday 13 February 1962.

Some sleep and prepared duplicate field books. Arranged to measure Henderson to Rookery next day.


Wednesday 14 February 1962.

Proposed Henderson – Rookery cancelled due to arrival of ship (back from Enderby Land) and proposed deparure by late afternoon.



D.R. Carstens









Equipment List


On Station

Also Available


Atmospheric Tables


Charger for Batteries


Screw Drivers

Biro and Pencils

Charger accessories

Battery (ies)

Psychrometer (Low Temp)

Magnetic Compass

First Aid Kit

Power Pack



Emergency Rations

Tellurometer Spares

100 foot steel tape

Tie Down Ropes

Sleeping bags

Carrying Straps

Field Books


Tent or Tarpaulin


Star Drill or Rock Drill

Yukon Pack

Ice Axe & Crampons




End of Report Written at Mawson 1962


David Carstens at Mawson Station Trig.



Copy of my full diary covering the same period plus addition days appended here for comparison and more detail.


Note: There is some discrepency in the reference to Changeover. Is it 31 January or 1 February??. Or was it hand over on 31 January and party on 1 February and I missed both??. Not of any consequence! But the detail in the full diary adds interesting activity and involvement. Note that Bob Goldsworthy was involved in Station changeover work when not on Tellurometer operations.


Tuesday, January 23

Left Davis 5.30am. Sounding Watch commenced 6.30am by me. Two hour shifts worked till 6pm, one each by each member of the team. After 6pm water was too deep.

Ship started to roll a bit at night but conditions still good.


Wednesday, January 24

Steaming for Mawson. Ship rolling a bit. Fine day.

Film at night. I only watched first reel - Jerry Lewis.

Looked at my slides through John Freeman's projector. Found all close-ups out of focus ie. Last two films no good. (One in Melbourne and one on trip.)


Thursday, January 25

Awoke for breakfast to find Mt. Henderson and other ranges looming. Within 20 miles of Coast. We were almost at Mawson. Sounding watch had been neglected because we had been told to expect to arrive Mawson late at night.

Arrived Mawson 11am. Ice broken out of harbour by ship. Goldsworthy and I landed by 3pm complete with all Tellurometer equipment. Organisation proceeded Poste-Haste to commence.


Friday, January 26

Katabatic blowing in morning. Boat loaded with all gear for Béchervaise Island including food and sleeping bags for emergencies. Radio hook-up being organised caused delay. Ready to move at 11am except for radio. Arranged early lunch and left by 12.30pm. Deposited gear at Béchervaise but not enough time to return to Mawson, reload and go to Rookery. Boat loaded for Saturday while Goldsworthy and I set out Rhombic Aerial. Slept ashore.


Saturday, January 27

Ready to leave by 8.15 for Beche and Rookery. Rising winds prevented movement. Unsafe to venture outside harbour. Completed setting out Rhombic Aerial. Special Weather Forecast from Met indicated rough weather, so decided to attempt trip to Rumdoodle as a Reconnaissance. This was approved by Don Styles and I left at 1.30pm. Prior to leaving Dave Trail and others arrived back from field trip. Climbed to ridge behind Rumdoodle caravans, snowing started and we could not see the coast. High wind and drift prevented return to Mawson so spent night in caravans. (4 ships crew also).


Sunday, January 28

Rose at Rumdoodle for 6.30am. Sked with Mawson. Unable to get through. Waited for break in weather. Made some tea and had bread and jam. Second Sked at 7.30am unsuccessful. At 10.45am, start made to get back to Mawson. Good going till Corridor between ranges and then visibility varied from 30yards to seeing the mountains. Drum Markers hard to see. Made Mawson by 1.30pm after much guesswork navigation. No work at station unloading as weather was bad. Organise (next steps in the program).


Monday, January 29

Weather clear and fine forecast. Organised to go to Rookery Island, dropping two off at Béchervaise Island on the way. Finally left at 8.45am (6.30am start organised). Arrived Rookery 12 noon. Had food and went to top. Got measurement down to Cavity 6 and suffered fadeout. Packed up and returned to Mawson. All arrived back 8.30pm. Gear still depoted at Becharvaise. Batteries OK.


Tuesday, January 30

Organised for Henderson - Béchervaise measurement. Some trouble with vehicles. Eventually went to (Mt.) Henderson in single Snow Trac. Bob Wyers, Mike Lucas and self. Stiff climbing but got good station and good measurement. Back to Mawson 9.30pm.

Completed two sets of fine readings between 2pm and 7pm. Instrument behaving well except for ground swings.


Wednesday, January 31                     (Cable Gale - Report)

Official handover of Station 6.30pm. I went to Rumdoodle and Goldsworthy to Béchervaise. Hard climbing to Peak at Rumdoodle. Ground swings or other interference caused great trouble. Only one set of readings done and as it was getting late we decided no use persevering with poor conditions. Back 9pm. Missed official handover.


Thursday, February 1

Tried for 7.30am start. Did Slushy duties till 7.15am but then the vehicles were not ready. We did not finally get away until 9.30am. Got to Henderson and started for Rumdoodle in hope of having time to do measurement. Could not locate way back along track so returned to Henderson as we had no radio contact. Set out for Mawson Snow Trac abandoned, missed trail. Missed the Changeover Party. (Not recorded, but returned to Mawson in second vehicle, the Weasel).


Friday, February 2

In station organising for next trip inland and for repair of vehicles.

Some calcs of Tellurometer done. Nice weather but stay in station was essential.

Prepared schedule of work up till Tuesday 6th for O.I.C..

Ship to Amunsden Bay.


Saturday, February 3

Measurement Henderson to Rumdoodle. 7.30am start from Mawson. Actual start 8.15am. All in Weasel and Sledge. Lucas, Jacka, Williams, Goldsworthy and self. Retrieved Snow Trac; and Jacka and I went to Rumdoodle while others proceeded to Henderson. One set of fines obtained. Time running out or second would have been possible. All returned to Mawson by 9.30pm.


Sunday, February 4

To Rumdoodle, Mark Single and John Phillips as assistants and for indoctrination. Radio contact no good. Made first Tellurometer communication at 3pm after 7.30am breakfast and 10am start from Mawson. Goldsworthy in DUKWs to Rookery Island. Completed double measurement to Rookery by 6pm. Nice day. Camped at Rumdoodle that night. Goldsworthy to Mawson.


Monday, February 5

Goldsworthy to Béchervaise Island from Mawson. Self and Phillips back to top of Rumdoodle Hill. First contact not till 12.30pm. Completed double measurement by 3.30pm. Returned to Mawson after tidying up Caravans at Rumdoodle and fitting some gripping studs to Snow Trac.

Cold windy day on top of mountain.


Tuesday, February 6

Rookery - Béchervaise. (Master at Beche). Departure 10.15am after holdup with radio. (Scheduled departure 9.30am.). Travel by DUKWS. Self and Booker off at Beche and Goldsworthy on to Rookery. DUKWs on sealing operations around Rookery. Started measurement at 2.45pm. Completed 3 sets of fines by 5pm. Lower cavities very poor to no good. (4 1/2 – 2 1/2). Back to Mawson 8.30pm. Good measuring weather but quite cold.


Wednesday, February 7

Strong winds all day. Tellurometer gear stacked in field store by Goldsworthy. Self on reduction of results etc.

Organised some briquettes for hut. Spent evening reading and listening to records in the recreation hut.


Thursday, February 8

Drift snow started in morning about 5am. Continued with added intensity during the day. Not very cold and the snow was wet and uncomfortable. Worked in office all day. Reduction of field work, organising office, sorting out Psychrometry tables for meteorological reductions, etc. Goldsworthy making duplicate field books. Drift continues at night.


Friday, February 9

Still drifting in morning; and it continued all day. Spent day in office on Computations and wrote report on Tellurometer operation. Results of Tellurometer Measurement of Armstrong’s line most satisfactory only 3” (inches) difference in 9 miles. Film on at night but I did not go.


Saturday, February 10

Morning dawned fine but overcast. Possibility of trip to Parallactic Islands finally squashed due to high wind. During morning I inspected possible track to Plateau past Riometer aerials. Helped on Water Supply after lunch. Much time wasted with frozen hoses. Russian ship arrived just before lunch and unloaded aviation fuel during afternoon. Russians entertained on shore until 6pm. Ship departed by 7.30pm.


Sunday, February 11                                          8am – 11pm

Rostered for measurement Mawson to Parallactic Island for Parallactic camera baseline. Trip cancelled because of high wind and forecast of drift conditions. Worked in survey office correcting and writing Tellurometer report into triplicate letter book. Organised and helped in repairs to the chimney in Rymill Hut, and attended organising meeting at 5.30pm. Completed writing report at 11.30pm.


Monday, February 12                                                  8am - nightwatch

Tellurometer Measurement to Parallactic Island; organisation and measurement taking most of the day.

I started nightwatch at 12 noon and fitted in burning off of latrines with the measuring; The Tellurometer was used as a radio link for the construction personnel at Parallactic. Nightwatch proved busy but uneventful. Telegram from Kathryn during day.


Tuesday, February 13                                                 12noon - 1am

Changed to M.B.T. at midnight. I was on Nightwatch. Did my washing. Slept from 8.30 till 12 noon. Duplicated and checked Tellurometer field books. Duplicates for R.T.A. (Return to Australia).

Started to organise trip for measuring Henderson to Rookery. Reorganised due to arrival of ship Wednesday and requirement for revision of station map. Worked late to prepare reports and letters.


Wednesday, February 14                                    8am-10pm

All day preparing for departure of ship. Reports finalised, lists of survey office equipment, sorted and packed Tellurometer equipment.


Wrote letters and also brought up to date the station plan. Goldsworthy preparing lists in triplicate and packing. Meeting with Don Styles, Graham Maslen, Mike Lucas, Fred Jacka, Dave Trail, Bob Wyers, Ian Landon-Smith and self, re proposed field traverses. Ship loaded but stayed in harbour overnight.


Thursday February 15               Start of 1962 Party Year at Mawson

Self out to Henderson to check track and accessibility of various points. Accompanied by Ortwin Bode to check on Met. Caravan. Ross Harvey, Radio and Barry Woodbury, familiarisation. Located and backloaded weasel track; unable to place BMs (Bench Marks) as hoped. Had to leave in hurry, anticipating whiteout. The Ship departed about midday while we were in the field. We arrived back at 7.30pm.


Friday, February 16                                            8am-8pm

Part of morning in office starting tidy up and sort out. Camp duties for rest of the day; namely shifting of Russian fuel to Gwamm, in preparation for final transport to Russian Airfield. Two D4s were coupled together to haul articulated sledges to top of steep hill. Main trouble was bogging in the snow. Back to Mawson for tea 8pm.


Saturday, February 17                                                8am-7pm

Nearly all day in Rymill, living and office hut. Started sorting out in office and got onto the hut in general. Cleaned out shower handbasin etc. and threw out a great deal of rubbish. Ian Landon-Smith and self on this job.

Helped load sledge for transport of Russian (fuel) drums. Ding at night Bob Nelson’s birthday. Film - Belles of St Trinians.


End of Extract