Sunday, 29 December 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Santa even finds his way down here!

This time of the year is a time of extremes. It is obviously a time when everyone is missing their loved ones at home but it is also a time where everyone bands together to make their time here as enjoyable as possible! One minute you are pining for home and your family then the next minute you are sharing an amazing dinner and stories with fellow expeditioners and friends. To me, this time of year is the hardest yet also the easiest time to be isolated from home. If that makes any sense whatsoever?

The weather has also changed quite dramatically, at the moment we are getting lows of about -4 and daytime temps of around +1 which is quite bearable in workshirt and pants! I guess the 24hr sunlight is helping to maintain the heat. On the 21st of this month we had our summer equinox which is the longest day of the year and the longest day of the year at Davis is the same as the 5ish weeks before and 5ish weeks after it when the sun simply circles around and around in the sky. We haven't seen a sunset since early November! Its disorientating to wander outside at 2am and need to put on sunglasses and sunscreen!

Here is a photo of shortly before midnight on the 21/12. This is as low as the sun is getting!

As dark as it gets at the moment...

Last weekend I got the opportunity to head out into the field with Sarah and Alyce while they carried out some sampling of Deep Lake Tarn, Deep Lake and Lake Stinear. We hiked to Brookes Hut for the night then wandered around the Vestfolds the following day taking samples of Microbes out of the Salty, Stratified lakes. We were blessed with Bluebird weather and it was great to get out and about in that clean air!

Sarah at Brookes in the middle of the 'night'

Sampling at Deep Lake Tarn

Deep Lake Tarn has an interesting Algae growing in it and is like nothing else that I'm aware of in these lakes..

Deep Lake Tarn algae

Odd stuff...

Deep Lake itself. Its quite strange walking down into Deep as it is located 50+ meters BELOW sea level yet only a couple of Kilometres or so from the coast! Apparently it's salinity is only slightly lower that that of the Dead Sea! Might have to try having a dip in there!.... :)

Deep Lake actually looks quite inviting!

More sampling

Well that's about it for today, ill leave you all with a news story of a Russian ice strengthened vessel chartered to an Australian expedition to trace Mawson's first voyage that has been beset by ice and is in the progress of being rescued by the French, Chinese and our own Aurora Australis that was in the middle of resupplying Casey station!

Happy Holidays guys!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The good and bad..

Well, lets start off the latest happenings on a positive note!

Field training..

Every wintering expeditioner has to complete multiple forms of field training once on station. There is Survival training which is an overnight camp in an emergency shelter called a 'bivvy bag'. Field travel training which involves multiple days and nights out in the field navigating with maps, compasses and GPS (kind of orienteering), some do 48hr familiarisation training if they aren’t already familiar with this particular location then finally we do numerous SAR (Search and Rescue) training exercises in case of an unfortunate incident out in the field.

Field travel training this year involved Quad biking around the many Fjords of the Vestfolds, staying at Platcha hut at the base of the Antarctic Plateau, setting up a field camp and staying in a Polar pyramid tent and finally a sightseeing and navigation tour through 'Iceberg alley'. It was an amazing trip, we experienced most of the weather Antarctica has to offer, from icy cold winds and blowing snow to scorching sunshine that will burn any exposed piece of skin in the blink of an eye. Check it...

Platcha Antarctic Plateau
Platcha at the base of the Plateau

Fjord Vestfold Plateau
Fjords, Vestfolds and the Plateau

I wish I knew more about rocks...

Tryne Islands Iceberg Alley
Tryne Islands and Iceberg Alley

Crevasses Mars Bar
Anthea deliciously explaining how Crevasses form

Iceberg Fast Ice
Not a bad backdrop for some training!

Now for the not so great stuff...

As some of you may have heard, we had an incident with one of our helicopters recently. We had 2x choppers out in the field checking out a rarely seen Emperor Penguin colony out past the Amery ice shelf. On the return voyage they experienced white-out conditions which is an occasional problem down here and also a very disorientating effect where you can lose sight of the horizon and all surface definition.

One chopper clipped the ground while attempting to move out of the 'white-out' area. The other Heli landed nearby and proceeded to assist the passengers of the downed aircraft. Miraculously they were all breathing and were immediately stabilised by the second crew.

Meanwhile we received the call on station and proceeded to make plans for a rescue. Luckily we had 2x Canadian Kenn Borek crews stationed here with a Twin Otter and Basler DC3 fixed-wing aircraft. Most of the rescue can be read about here:

As expected an incident like this can affect the station greatly, which it did and has. From the outside it may look like these people are just work colleagues but in reality we had been through quite a lot together from training, living on the ship and at station and we knew every member on a quite personal level.

I also had a challenging and unexpected role to play as I am part of the Lay Surgical team with the job of assisting our Doctor with incidents such as these. I wont go into detail for obvious reasons but this was something I have never experienced before but I am very proud to be a part of. I was also asked to help monitor the patients during the medivac to Casey station where they were picked up by our A319 Airbus to be returned to Hobart hospital. 

It was nice to visit one of our other stations for a few days but it would have been better to be under different circumstances...

Casey Station Antarctica
The Antarctic circle divides Casey station and Wilkins runway.

The Airbus at Wilkins awaiting our injured expeditioners.

They have some impressive machinery up there!

Priscilla, Queen of the snow!

Our trusty steed. The DC3.

From any angle its a beautiful plane.

First class only. (on the way home)

Casey Station.

Safely home now (Davis)

Talk again soon!