Saturday, 23 November 2013

The last few days

Damn busy! That's all I can say! I'm still totally exhausted so excuse me if this makes no sense. I will let the pictures do most of the talking... Oh and remember you can now click on the pics to enlarge...

It all started on Thursday. We got a radio call from a field science party that was in the process of watching their irreplaceable work shelters filled with their expensive equipment slowly sink into the water at Organic Lake. A combination of the recent Blizzard, warm temperatures and salty water (Organic is 6x saltier than the ocean) meant the ice on the lake started to rot and cause the shelters to sink.

Technically the tradesmen are down here as 'science support' so we got the job of going out to 'support' them... Without further ado we loaded a chopper up with some Hagglund recovery equipment and headed out into the field.

Tirfor winch

Organic Lake

Everyone chipped in to help!

One the shelters were on dry 'ice' the Helos came back in to sling them to safety!


Later than evening we got a group together to go for a walk to Gardiner Island where the Adelie Penguins have a rookery.

Davis Station

Gardiner Island

We had some other members try to join the walk but we had to turn them away since they weren't on the list.


Skuas. Think a giant Seagull...
The 'White' Adelie. He comes to the same rock in the same rookery every year but never has a mate.
White Adelie


Adelie Rookery

Adelie Rookery
There is one in every crowd!


Adelie Rookery

Then yesterday (Friday) I got asked to help take some cargo and equipment up to Woop-Woop which is our skiway on the Plateau. Its a pretty decent drive, about 10 hours driving over sea ice and then uphill to the skiway.
Hagglunds Prinoth


I managed not to crash into the DC3!
Well technically its a 'Basler' which is a DC3 with newer Turboprop engines.
Basler Twin Otter


Finally at Woop-Woop! 360deg views of nothing but snow and ice.
Woop Woop

Vestfold Hills
Coming back down the Plateau


Unfortunately our route home was littered with pesky icebergs that we had to continually avoid..


Jade Iceberg
So annoying...
Till next time..

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


...For the foreseeable future.

Davis station, which is Australia’s most southerly base is located in one of the largest ice free areas of the Antarctic continent known as the Vestfold Hills.

The Vestfold's have a few interesting claims-to-fame;

The first landing in the Vestfold Hills were by Norway’s Captain Klarius Mikkelsen and his wife Caroline on the 20th February 1935 which makes it the site of the first female to set foot in Antarctica!

The hills which cover an area of 411 square kilometres are dotted with around 300 lakes and ponds. Many of these lakes are like none other in the world. Some have water that is 10x as salty as sea water and never freeze, even in the -30 odd temperatures of winter.
Some are stratified which means they have distinct layers of temperature, salinity, oxygen and other factors which never mix.
Recently some have been found to host new species of Virophage which are viruses that prey on other viruses and there are also single cell organisms found in some lakes that can change between plants and animals depending on the amount of light and sources of food and energy around!

The hills also have an interesting feature called 'Dykes' which are dark strips of rock that seem to run in perfectly straight but random directions.

(Stalker Hill 2011)

Close by station during the summer there are a multitude of animals to be found. Many of the islands close by are home to Adelie penguin colonies where they come to breed. There are also numerous 'wallows' where male Elephant seals come to moult. Many of the Vestfold's Fjords and inlets make perfect locations for Weddell seals to pup and the rocky ground suits birds such as Snow and Wilson Storm Petrels and Skuas.

The station itself is located on the coast of Broad Peninsula. During summer it homes around 70-90 expeditioners. During winter the number drops to around 15-20. We have numerous buildings and facilities here which I plan on going into more depth about as the months progress.

(Station in the summer of 2010/11)

Anyway, Ill leave you all with a couple of pics of some weather we have been having over the last few days. Its surprising how quick the weather can change from -15 and little wind to -1 and a 120kph blizzard!

Linkway pre blizz
Same window during blizz

Next time will be bulk pictures hopefully! (I have a couple of field trips planned) :-P

Oh, and my pictures should enlarge when clicked on now...

Monday, 11 November 2013


...In a free cafeteria

Well we are finally at Davis and the difficulty of the voyage down certainly lived up to the hype. Overall we arrived 10 days behind schedule.

To begin with, immediately after departing Hobart we were faced with a procession of low pressure zones which bought the threat of 12 meter swells and difficult sailing conditions which didn't sound like much fun and could prove a baptism of fire for everyone on board. Luckily our skilled captain and crew managed to bypass most of the weather by heading directly south from Hobart which although made it more comfortable, it unfortunately slowed us down by a couple of days and was the beginning of our delay laden trip.

Although I was lucky enough not to get sea sick, getting around the ship was difficult with it rolling and pitching as much as it was. Some nights, the only way to avoid rolling out of bed was to grip on to the headboard and wedge your feet between the mattress at the end of the bed. The rough seas also claimed quite a few intrepid sailors meals and the sea sickness medication managed to 'zombiefy' the rest. Needless to say the first week or so was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

After our high sea hijinks we began to approach the sea ice edge which meant the swell calmed down and everyone was keeping an eye out for their first Iceberg and the abundance of Antarctic wildlife! 

It didn't take long to find out that the rumours of the thickness of this year's ice were true. It was an extremely hard slog. The ice which ranged in thickness from a light film on the surface all the way to 2m+ was covered in meters of fresh snow which had the effect of dampening the blows from the icebreaker and causing the ship to bog down and make ice breaking an extremely difficult task. We had flyovers from a Basler DC3 fixed wing aircraft from Davis and also used our helicopters stowed on board to try to find thin ice and leads we could use to make our efforts more fruitful. A copy of our voyage track can be found here and trust me, the close up views we had access to on the ship were far more depressing! Some days the drift of the ice (a speed of up to 1kt) would actually push us further away from our destination.

Eventually we got a lucky break and steamed into anchorage at Davis, then the station resupply started in earnest  My main task was assisting with refuelling our 12x 90,000 litre SAB (Special Antarctic Blend) diesel fuel tanks. At Davis this is done by means of a lay flat hose deployed from the ship on to the ice up to a distance of 4km from the station. Then the fuel is pumped in at around 30,000L per hour till we have all the fuel we need. This year we ended up with 750,000L which should do us till this time next year...   

Anyway, I had better finish unpacking my room. Ill leave you all with some piccies (not all mine)

Till next time! 

Leaving Hobart

Starting to get a bit 'choppy'

Starting to get a bit 'awesome' (Photo by Stefan Vogel)

Starting to get a bit 'Icy' (Photo by Katrina Beams)

Some wildlife...

A Giant Petrel. Quite an interesting bird that rivals the Albatross in size but spends quite a bit of time on land scavenging.

An Antarctic Petrel. These are substantially smaller than the 'giants' but are equally as interesting. Despite their size they seem at home in open water, gliding around like miniature Albatrosses!

And possibly one of the most amazing birds I've seen, A Snow Petrel. These are mainly found amongst the sea ice and shore of the continent. These are the only bird species to be ever seen at the South Pole which makes them the most 'southerly' bird!

And leaving you with a photo of all the expeditioners of V1 2013! (Photo by Bill DeBruyn)