Monday, 20 October 2014

A weekend to remember!

For this blog post I had intended to go back into explaining more about working and living in Antarctica as opposed to 'playing' in the field like majority of my posts but this last weekend was possibly one of the best times I have ever had here and I feel the need to share it as best I can.

It all started on Friday afternoon. Myself and Sarah decided to get away for the weekend and relax at one of field huts (or shacks) that are dotted throughout the countryside. We settled on spending two nights at Platcha which is a smaller hut that is nestled beneath an ice cliff at the base of the plateau.

Since the days are getting very long at the moment (sun is rising at 0530, setting at 2130 and we have 'twilight' all night) we decided to depart station after dinner. It turned out to be a good move as literally five minutes after getting on the sea ice on our trusty Honda quads we were hijacked by three Emperor Penguins!!

Empies are a rare sight at Davis as we have no adjacent colonies but we do get the occasional one wandering past if we are lucky...

And Sarah and I were very lucky! These three Emperors were the most vocal and unafraid Penguins I have seen so far. We have strict rules about approaching wildlife down here which everyone adheres to but there are no rules if the animals approach you, and approach they do. Since the wildlife here have virtually never been hunted by humans they let their curiosity take over and seem to enjoy checking out the humans as much as we like being around them! After they got bored of us, they proceeded to inspect our transport and then continued on their merry way. It was definitely a moment to remember!

They really are massive birds!

Inquisitive too!

The next day we awoke to blue skies and no wind which is a rare especially around Platcha as it is usually battered by Katabatic winds rolling down from the Plateau.


Not a bad spot for the afternoon!

We had a great day walking around the hills of the area and enjoying the sunshine.

Lake Bisernoye

Some of the ice was amazing

Sunday's weather was the same as the day before so we got away early to attempt to find some Weddell Seals which are pupping at the moment in the Fjords. We struck gold near Brookes hut and found a number of seals, most with pups lounging around a small island. Some pups looked no more than hours old and the local Skua population was keeping a close eye out for any scraps!


Ready to pop!

We made it back to station in good time where preperations were underway to take advantage of the weather and do one of our 'Davis Radio' shows out amongst some Icebergs! Stu, Kernal and myself loaded up a Hägg with all the recording equipment and hit the ice one again with the surprisingly easy task of finding a photogenic Iceberg to set-up in front of. I realise I have mentioned it a few times but the weather was incredibly good! It was still -13c but completely bearable without gloves or a hat because there was no wind and plenty of sun. It was the icing on an already great weekend and one I will remember for the rest of my life!

Surreal Darts..

The view from my mic

The 'Davis Radio' team for 2014!

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Rauers

As I have mentioned in a few previous blogs, something that I consider to be one of the biggest highlights of wintering in Antarctica is the chance to be part of a Traverse.

This year we had the opportunity to load up two Hägglunds, a RMIT Traverse 'Caravan' and Sheers traverse sled with eight people and their equipment for a week or so in the Rauer Group of Islands.

Hägg on the Glacier

Part of why I am so passionate about Traverses is the journey. Being out in one of the most inhospitable environments on the earth, relying on your machinery, equipment and your team is quite exhilarating. Getting to the Rauers involves spending a lot of time on the Plateau and crossing Glacier tongues (with crevasses and slots) and steep ice ramps.

Blue and Black inside a Crevasse!

Large ice crystals from inside a Crevasse

Strangely enough, the Rauer Islands are a stark contrast to the hills of the Vestfolds. The Rauers seem to be composed of more 'sedimentary' type rock (if there are any Geologists reading this I apologise for my lack of knowledge) and there aren't any of the large black Dykes that criss-cross the Vestfolds. I don't know if its just because I have been cooped up indoors for too long but I actually find the Rauers quite breathtaking.

Top of the Macey ramp

Top of Macey Peninsula

A Quartz vein??

It was quite strange coming across this rock formation on Filla Island!
Interesting rock formation!!

Rusting rocks!? Don't tell Clive Palmer...

Mars or Antarctica?


A 'Football' sized garnet boulder.

I wont go into too many detail about this trip, I'll just let the pictures to the talking...

Milky Way and a baby Aurora Australis

Accommodation on Filla Island

Backlit Bergs

Some stripes of Jade in this one!

Layla found an interesting one!

Sarah at the 'Tiger Jade' berg

Exploring day

The Plateau/Ice Cap forms interesting cloud formations

Sarah at Brown's Glacier

Adam waiting for a Penguin

The Team: Val, Dave, Sarah, Me, Layla, Adam, Craig and Alyce

Apparently Lichen loves the cold and wind of the Plateau

More Mossy stuff, almost fluro!

Wind scour with some Moraine, didn't find a Meteorite though.

Sarah admiring another Iceberg

The Summit of Lookout Islands

The Sorsdal Glacier from Lookout

The real reason for the trip was for Sarah and Alyce, our science girls, to do some never before achieved winter sampling of the lakes in the area. Although of the 22 lakes that were sampled only 3 were actually liquid and would provide a sample containing 'Biomass' (creatures/bugs/things to you and I) still, any data gained is valuable in learning about the creatures that live in these sorts of environments.

Alyce, Val and Sarah hoping to strike liquid water!

More sampling


Yep, -13deg IN the water, its pretty salty...

All up we spent 8 days off station due to unfavourable weather and the team coped brilliantly and with no incident, it was a trip to tell the grandkids about, that's for sure!

Our camp, from the left: The RMIT, Hägg refuelling area, an Apple and a Smartie.

The view from the crapper.

Inside the Smartie

The morning to head back home.

Ready for home!