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...



Tuesday, 11 February 2014

In the summertime....

Something that is always a highlight of an Antarctic summer is boating and this year has been no exception!

After waiting for a record-breaking amount of time for the sea ice to blow away, the time has finally come to put the IRB's in the water and go chasing some Penguins, Seals, Icebergs and if you are lucky enough, Killer Whales!

We use inflatable Zodiacs with Yamaha 2-Stroke engines for many reasons such as weight, reliability and simplicity.

Finally seeing the Icebergs up close again just reminds you how colourful things can be when you are usually surrounded by white snow and brown rocks!

Saves swimming around!

Some of the colours are amazing!

Prydz Bay is literally teeming with wildlife! Between porpoising Penguins, slothful Seals, swooping Skuas and gigantic GP's there is always something to photograph!

Weddell Seal enjoying the sun.

They still keep a close eye on us.

The Adelies are so fast shots like this are just fluked

Penguin highway to the water!

Hawker Island near the Sorsdal glacier is a nesting ground for Giant Petrels. These petrels rival Albatrosses in size and can be quite nasty and opportunistic.

GP munching on a young penguin

Skua wants some too!

Alas, we eventually had to head home and we done so via the Sorsdal glacier and one of the icebergs it calved off during last winter.

This iceberg is 2.36km x 650m and contains around 400 million tonnes of ice! note the little red dot of one of our IRBs in between us and the berg!

Sorsdal Berg

Here is the glacier that the berg originated from.

Sorsdal Glacier

Since it has been so long since my last Blog (sorry guys) quite a bit has happened on station! We have had Australia Day, including the renowned Australia day swim and this years Davis Art and Craft exhibition!

First up, the swim!

Swim between the flags...   ...and ice.
 First in the water. Note the stick held by Stu in the dry suit. It was for cracking up the thin ice before everyone ran in.

"Swim" is a pretty liberal use of the word...

I wonder what just dipped below the water line?
 Then we had an Art and Craft show. Just because we can I guess. There were some amazing 'offereings' and everyone was blown away by the talent of some people!

Adventure Time! :)

One of my pieces. Its an 8-Bit style drawing of all the wintering guys.

Webby's plane. Hopefully see it in the air soon!

And thats about it for now! Ill have another one to go again soon, may even be about the ship coming to get the summerers and leave us 21 crazy folk for the long, cold winter...