Sculpture garden

Two expeditioners sit on the ground next to a sculpture outside.
Carpenters Jeff and Jim in the sculpture garden, May 2003 (Photo: J. Smith)

A sculpture garden was established at Davis in the summer of 2002-03 by artist Stephen Eastaugh, a position made possible by the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship. The sculpture garden was envisaged to be an ongoing enterprise, with additional contributions from inspired expeditioners.

If an expeditioner or visitor would like to add to the collection, he or she must liaise with the station leader and the Support Centre Environmental Manager. They will ensure that environmental assessment guidelines are followed, and that the artistic integrity of the garden is maintained.

Fred the head

Not far from the Davis meteorology screen, close to a short, steep bit of roadway running down towards the field store, an enigmatic, weathered face gazes northwards towards the islands and icebergs. The face belongs to a wooden head roughly carved on the end of a squared length of Oregon timber. He has interested and inspired expeditioners over many years.

Until this year his origins were obscure. Now as a result of publicity generated by Steve Eastaugh's creation of a sculpture garden at Davis incorporating the head (including a request for information published in the ANARE Club's journal 'Aurora') his history has been revealed.

The head was originally carved by Hans, a plumber who wintered at Davis in 1977. Hans recently wrote,

The wooden head has survived! Wow, pity about his name though, the head had a title, 'Man sculptured by Antarctica'. The head was carved in wood to be sculpted by the elements to become a token of our humanity in an environment that we have only just arrived in. He is a work in progress!

The Africans say that you leave a part of yourself, your spirit, in each place you camp hence the searching looks as we leave the campsite even when we have nothing to leave. The head holds my spirit of that stay. He looks out to the forests I left behind me, when I stand on the coast and look for auroras in the southern sky he was there to look back at me.

So he was not graffiti and definitely no joke, in the world of science and survival technology we created there he was a piece of humanity that might remind those passing by that they were not alone. For the bushwalkers among you I would describe him like a 'generator' of the feeling that comes to you when you have been seriously lost in the bush for sometime and you find a relic of aboriginal flint, that raises a chuckle, brings you back to humour giving you the strength to move out with direction. I found my year at Davis a most intense year of self development and we all leave that environment with minds sculpted by it.

After a while I returned to my little village, I got on with being a part of the community here with renewed vigor. The beauty of Antarctic base communities is similar to the one here, we all live here because we like the place and want be here.

John Gibson was at Davis in 1987, and photographed the head. He wrote,

I cannot place the old location of the head precisely, but remember it being above the old donga line near the old Metox building. There appears to be a bit of a knoll there, and Fred was close to the top, looking out to sea. For John, Fred became a 'touchstone', a place to have a sit and a think.

That original site is now probably buried beneath fill, somewhere just outside the present meteorology balloon shed, but the head survived. Carpenter Chris L. remembers in 1993 rescuing it from the building site and relocating it to somewhere the other side of the new meteorology building.However, it was taken down some time shortly after. Bernie K, meteorological technician, wrote,

Late in '96 I arrived at Davis 3 months earlier than my wintering compatriots. I was tidying up around the Met. Office when I noticed this old lump of wood lying partly covered in drift. I pulled it out and discovered Fred the Head… used as a pier under stored gas cylinders near the Met Office. I thought Fred was pretty cute, so I hid him away until the end of summer 1997, when I was due to head back to Oz three months later than my wintering mates.

The end of the trip brought some time to spare, so one day I took Fred out and placed him in a stone cairn that I built to hold him up… long stay winterers would understand this apparent eccentricity after nearly 500 days on ice. I aligned the cairn position so that Fred, when sighted along a line from the nearest corner of the Met Office, was due north and aimed his face in that direction. I think my general idea was that Fred's face would change and age as he weathered, and it would be interesting to see what he looked like in a few years' time. Not only that but he would be a good visibility and direction indicator for the Met Office, and another thought was that jolly-bound expeditioners could stand beside Fred, align compasses and see the REAL effect of magnetic deviation from true north and understand the navigation problems a bit easier.

Fred had a fair effect. People loved him and soon a small pile of rocks just beside him evolved into a seat. When I last saw him at the start of '98 he was looking well entrenched and it crossed my mind then that a couple more like him would be something different in the industrial landscape.

So Fred gave us a few laughs and his face will take on a very special look as he gets older. But he also has two very practical reasons for existence, and true north is the key. Fred helps align newcomers as well. We used to say that he was looking for the boat coming in to pick us up. Waiting, just like a burnt-out left over winterer.

Early in 2003, summering artist Steve Eastaugh wrote,

I was fascinated by an artwork I found here. Some years ago an unknown expeditioner carved a head from a weathered wooden pole, and planted it in a pile of rocks. It sits sadly overlooking the bay towards a home somewhere in the far north. My hope is to create an Antarctic sculpture garden by tempting others to construct more totems. The idea is to create some other vertical structures in this environment besides the antennas, flagpoles and windsocks situated all about the station.So Fred the Head, or Man Sculptured by Antarctica, has inspired a whole succession of expeditioners, and now a whole new garden of sculptures.

According to Bernie K,

Personally I think Fred has mystic powers above and beyond mere mortals and was a gift from the gods. Long may he reign in the sculpture garden… he is the true father of the sculpture garden and should remain as a tribute to patience, winterers, sentinels, waiters, watchers, and direction pointers. It's not ALL rocks, ice and machinery, Fred is there too, just because…

 

This page was last modified on 5 May 2003.