Saturday, 12 April 2014

A belated yet healthy new post!

Well things have been moving along fairly slowly here, mainly due to the weather. Over the last couple of weeks we have had regular snowfalls and one full blown Blizzard. We almost had another Blizzard, I say almost because to officially have a Blizzard the weather needs to meet three separate conditions over the course of an hour. The conditions are as follows: 1. Temperatures below 0 deg (yep, we are doing that easily) 2. Visibility less than 100 meters (tick that box) and 3. Wind speeds of over 68kph. And yes, believe it or not, our wind dropped to 65kph in the 56th minute of the hour. During our 'real' blizzard we had a highest wind gust of 124kph!

Couple of photos of the aftermath

The SMQ (where we sleep)


I know what everyone is thinking "but he is in Antarctica, of course it will be snowing, windy and cold" but Davis actually has an unofficial title of the 'Riviera of the South'. Even though we are the southernmost of the Australian stations (closest to the South Pole) we typically have nicer weather. Couple that with the kilometers of frozen Fjords and cozy field huts dotted throughout the hills it makes for a pretty enticing place.

MMmm comfy, yet cold!

The Elephant Seal intersection

Today in my building feature I'm going to show you what is possibly the most important building here for some people. Tucked away up the back of the station near the MPH are a couple of unassuming containers linked together that contain one of Davis's biggest secrets!.. ..Greenery!

We have a Hydroponics setup which is able to supply station with just enough fresh food to be a continual reminder of what we could be consuming copious amounts of if we were back home.

Hydro is tended by a caring and passionate group of volunteers and after slipping up there to take some snaps of the 'little darlings' I can see why. The building is kept at around 20 degrees and has a tropical humidity especially compared to the 'desert' outside. If I wasn't so 'gardenly challenged' I would be keen to get up there more often myself.

Lots of green things!

More things growing and stuff

Obligatory Gnome

Now this is my type of vegetation!

Little Tomato's, so well behaved!

I think the couple in the background 'fell off'

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Not all Milk and Honey

From what is portrayed here on my blog and seeing photos and information from other people who are working in Antarctica you would be forgiven for thinking we are the luckiest people on earth.

The truth of the matter is this place has one major flaw. The elephant that seems to be in the corner of every room is the realisation that coming here for work means spending large amounts of time away from friends and family.

Sure, we are being paid reasonable money to experience one of the most extreme and yet beautiful places left on earth. We have a chef that cooks meals for us 6 days a week. We drink free beer that is brewed here on station ourselves. We have lights in the buildings that turn on and off as we enter and leave. We have Internet, reasonable phone services, radios and GPS that are all open to any use. We are allowed to get out in the field, travelling over frozen sea ice on Honda quads and specially designed Hagglund over-snow vehicles for weekend trips away to fully equipped field huts. We have access to a regularly updated library and a cinema with reclining Italian made leather chairs. We have darts, pool, board games, Wii's, Playstations and a full set of musical equipment with more lighting gear than some touring bands have access to...

But none of this can fill the hole left by friends and family.

Everyone that travels down here for work realises this but it doesn't make it any easier when you realise what you are missing out on being away from home for such long periods with it being practically impossible to return home.

Congratulations to my sister Alyssa and her partner Rhys on bringing their beautiful daughter, Evie Rose Hortle into the world. You should be so proud, you three have bought everyone so much joy, I can only imagine how you all must be feeling!

Mat, Ash, Debbie and Paul living it large on the Hahn Ice 'Back in Nam'

Congratulations to Tim and Bianca McCall on their marriage. Looks like it was a perfect day!, you guys deserved it, well done!

Shame I missed your Bucks too Tim! I heard everyone had a ball!..

Congrats to my old friend Nick Rundle on another big title! Keep smacking 'em mate!

Josh, why did you have to wait till I left to get Sofia rego'd again!? Haha!

Despite how privileged I feel living and working down here, not a single day goes by that I don't think of everyone back home. For all those people linked to someone doing work like this, keep it up, we all need it more than you realise!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Latest happenings

One of the great things about Davis is we are within comfortable helicopter range (around 80kms) to the Larsemann Hills where there are currently 4 stations from other countries. The Russians have Progress I (which is now abandoned) and Progress II, the Chinese have a station named Zhongshan, the Indians have Bharathi and Romania have a very small station called Law-Racoviţă which was donated to them by Australia in 2006. Due to this proximity we get occasional visits from the other countries and last weekend we had 20 Indian expeditioners flown over by the Russians and Koreans (who are contracted to do air ops for the Indian program).

Its great to see some fresh, friendly faces and our visitors always seem to enjoy the guided tours of our station and of course exchanging gifts!

The Russian helicopter in particular was very interesting. They were using a civilian version of the Kamov KA-27 Helix. It uses 2 sets of rotors that spin in opposite directions which means it doesn't need a tail-rotor.

Whichever angle you look at it from, its a pretty impressive machine!

The building that I am featuring this time is one of the more distinctive buildings on station, the ANARESAT dome!

This oversized golf ball looking structure houses our satellite that is used for the Internet and majority of our communications to the rest of the world.

It is actually constructed from numerous odd shaped panels made from a canvas type material which bleed light when you are inside and make a pretty great photo!

The dish contained inside can rotate around to maintain the best contact with the communications satellites.

Lately the weather has been changing and we have been getting a bit more snow. It makes the station look much nicer and a bit more like Antarctica instead of a mining camp...

Even though it has been snowing more, we are still getting sunny days and swings in temperatures (from -12 to 0) which melts the snow then refreezes overnight leaving some pretty cool icicles! 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Winter is coming...

On the continent we really only have two distinct seasons. Summer and Winter. The weather of course is vastly different between the two but the main reasoning behind only having two seasons is due to the work and science programs.

Summer is busy. There are lots of people on station building and maintaining things and carrying out various science and research programs. Typically at Davis there are about 80-90 summering expeditioners (this year there was only 61 due to the helicopter crash early in the season)

On the other hand, once the ship returns at the end of 'Summer', it collects majority of the personnel and leaves a skeleton crew to keep the station maintained through the winter months and ready for use once the following summer comes around. This year we have 21 wintering expeditioners.

HDR of the 'Orange Roughy'

The Aurora Australis arrived last week to do a small resupply, pick up 43 summering personnel and drop off 3 extra winterers.

D6R3 being delivered on a jet barge

So in the space of 2 days we have gone from 61 people working on busy programs to 21 people spending the winter maintaining what we have. Its a bit of a change.

While the ship was at anchor, majority of the round-trippers and Mawson Station personnel came ashore to stretch their legs and have a look around and I was tasked to take a group to a walk to the old Elephant seal wallow.

Every summer the amazing male Elephant seals come ashore to moult. Davis itself is the site of an Ele wallow but a few hours walk away is a very old site where the seals have been coming for thousands of years and have worked the landscape into trenches where they lounge around together.

The seals themselves are fascinating and have a huge list of amazing abilities. They are the largest living carnivore (even bigger than Polar Bears). The males can be six times heavier than females. The males, like what haul out at here Davis can weigh up to 5 tonnes and measure 7 meters long. When diving they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes and the maximum recorded dive depth is over 2km deep (2,133m)! They are considered better divers than most Whales!

Adult and Pup

I'm sure if it wasn't for the smell it would be quite cozy in there!

Piggy in the middle

The night the ship leaves at the end of a summer is always emotional. 40 odd people that we have been living with for the last few months and have got to know as good friends are taken away and the 21 left on station wont see another face for 8 or 9 months! 

It deserves a good send off...

Waiting for the send off

Ill leave you with a before and after picture of our Muster board, the board is used for tracking the whereabouts of all personnel in case of a fire or search and rescue incident...