International darts match

Sean relays darts scores to the South Pole.
Sean relays darts scores to the South Pole.
Expeditioner about to aim a dart at a dart board.Freshly moulted Adélie penguins and two flying skuas, all soon to depart for the winter.Paula and Malcolm examine documents at Law Cairn.

31 March 2003

Sundays at Davis are generally days of rest though never of inactivity, even in winter and especially when the weather is fine. Last Sunday the weather was cool rather than cold (around −7) and without the wind, which is the real chiller. Conditions were inviting for outdoor recreation but first there was another engagement to be enjoyed.

Now that winter is here and ships and aircraft of all nations have departed northwards, we no longer have opportunities to meet our neighbours at the Chinese and Russian stations down the coast - but Antarctic international friendship extends further afield. We had accepted an invitation to play darts from the American base at the South Pole.

The emailed invitation was for 10.00 am on Sunday morning, our time. Antarctic stations are in different time zones, so although we would have preferred Saturday evening that would be inconvenient for others. In this inaugural round, there were three teams of three players from South Pole, three teams from Davis, one from Casey, and one team from New Zealand's Scott Base.

The game was '301'. In the first round we simply counted down to zero, but in the second game, demanding a little more skill, we had to start and end with a double. It was all coordinated over high frequency radio which posed its own problems. South Pole could hear Davis and Scott, but not Casey. We could hear South Pole and Casey but not Scott. Changes of radio frequency did not improve things, so scores were relayed through intermediaries, with South Pole maintaining the overall score board.

Sean had the radio set up on the Davis bar near the darts board. The floor was still wet after Dave M had mopped it, as it was his turn to do the morning cleaning, a job which we all do by roster. Some people were still eating their breakfast cereal. A few practice rounds were played while communications were established and the rules clarified.

Jeremy was the first player for the first Davis team, scoring a spectacular and extremely lucky 134. That put us in front in the first round, but although better players followed for Davis – Beacon, Jim, Cal, Mark, Sean, Dave P, Neil and Sharon - we were soon overhauled. The first game went to one of the South Pole teams.

The second game started more gradually as we struggled for a double to start. One of the South Pole teams was first off the mark, but Casey put in a couple of strong rounds and then finished quickly, winning the game.

Both games had been completed in little over an hour. Someone at Scott then humorously proposed an underarm match, demonstrating a long memory of a certain infamous cricket event some twenty years ago, but jokes aside it was time to end. In all our various time zones, we all had things to do.

After lunch, sea-ice monitors Jim and Sharon went out cautiously on skis on the newly frozen sea to make the first series of drill holes. They found the ice to be just thick enough for ski travel and nearly good enough for walking or skating. We should be able to open it to pedestrian travel in a few days, and for vehicle travel in a week or two.

Two other parties went walking along the rocky coast to see the wildlife for perhaps the last time this season. The elephant seal numbers are dropping as one by one they return to the sea. Freshly moulted Adélie penguins can also be seen walking out across the new ice towards the open water, although there are still small groups along the coast. Skuas still patrol the air, looking for sick or injured penguins to eat, but soon they will leave for the winter too.

I walked with Malcolm and Paula to Law Cairn, where a tin box holds copies of historic documents at the site of a flag-raising ceremony conducted by Phillip Law in 1954. He was then the Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, as well as leader of that expedition on the ship Kista Dan, making one of the earliest Australian landings on this stretch of Antarctic coast.

We got back just in time for dinner, made by Tony and Richard – physicist/engineers who usually study aspects of the upper atmosphere with sophisticated equipment, but who today took their turns in the kitchen. Shared community duties like this help to maintain the closeness and cooperative spirit of this little community far from the bustle of the outside world.