Albino penguins in Antarctica

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation sends professionals to look after the huts.
The Mawson’s Huts Foundation sends professionals to look after the huts.

WALKING in Antarctic blizzards, observing an albino penguin and witnessing the creation of a huge iceberg were just a few of the highlights for Peter McCabe on his month-long trip to Cape Denison.

The Pottsville carpenter spent a month over Christmas camped at the Antarctic outpost – one of the windiest places in the world – carrying out maintenance on Sir Douglas Mawson’s historic huts.

It is not your average working holiday, but it gave Mr McCabe a chance to visit one of his favourite places for a fourth time

Mr McCabe travelled to Antarctica with another chippie and a doctor, and was later joined by an archaeologist and an object conservator.

Their job was to prepare for next year’s centenary of Mawson’s expedition to Antarctica.

Mr McCabe, the expedition leader, said the trip was a success.

“It really was, because at one point there, when there was that French helicopter crash, the whole thing had been called off,” he said.

“So from that, to getting five people down there was pretty good.

“One of the key jobs of conservation this year was to bring back the rudder from Mawson’s aeroplane/air tractor.

“Mawson’s team left it in the ceiling space before the airplane was abandoned in the snow.

“We managed to do major repair work on the transit hut and managed to get the aircraft rudder home.”

The group was forced to go outside in blizzards to make sure tools hadn’t been blown away, and to ensure their doorway didn’t become iced shut.

A leucistic (albino) penguin was spotted – and has been seen at the site for a number of years – but it is not known if it is the same bird each time.

Most of the greatest Antarctic explorers have worn facial hair and Mr McCabe took the opportunity to regrow his impressive beard on the trip.

“I think it has got to be experienced at least once, and it makes a difference,” he said. “It traps a lot of body heat around your face and also protects it from the snow when the wind is blowing.

“The last time I shaved it off, while I was down there, it felt about 10 degrees cooler.”

The most spectacular moment of the expedition was when an iceberg broke free with a crash and sent a 20-minute pulse of swell into the bay, causing the local wildlife to flee in terror.

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