This week at Davis: 16 January 2009

There are many cogs turning to keep the Davis Antarctic summer programs ticking along as well as they are this year.

Crews from many companies include:

Helicopter Resources Skytraders with the CASAs
The Canadian Basler crew with the Basler BT-67 The British team with the Twin Otter

And last but by no means least, the tireless AGSO (Air Ground Support Officers)

The Helicopter Resources crew include Captains Leigh H, Dave P, Chris W and Peter C with their supporting engineers Jeremy D, Peter G, Tyson and Hylka K. These men have tirelessly assisted so many of us with field programs, providing transport and delivery of personnel, equipment and fuel to many locations.

Their aircraft here this year have included two twin engine Sikorsky S-76 As and three single engine Eurocopter AS 350 BA Squirrels.

Pilots beside one of the S76 helicopters on the Aurora Australis helipad.
L-R Pilots David P, Leigh H and Chris W beside one of the S76s on the Aurora Australis helipad.
Photo: Chris W.
Squirrel helicopters depart the Aurora Australis.
Two Squirrels depart the Aurora Australis.
Photo: Chris W.
Helicopter crew in Davis Station green store with Squirrel helicopter undergoing routine maintenance
The current Helicopter resources crew L-R Peter C , Hylka K , Jason W, Dominic O, Chris W, Leigh H, and Tyson gather in the green store where one of the Squirrels is having a routine makeover.
Photo: Ashleigh W.

Engineers prepare an S76 helicopter for departure from the Aurora Australis.
L-R Engineers Jeremy D and Peter G. prepare an S-76 for departure from the Aurora Australis.
Photo: Chris W.
Helicopters on the Amery Ice shelf providing support to science field work
Science support on the Amery Ice shelf.
Photo: Chris W.

Helicopter pilot checking a Squirrel helicopter at Davis Station helipad
Leigh H checking things twice.
Photo: Chris W.
Squirrel helicopter hovers while fuel is loaded into a sling
Sling loading fuel.
Photo: Chris W.

Pilot with Squirrel helicopter at Platcha Helipad.
Chris W awaiting further instructions at Platcha Heli pad.
Photo: Dr. Madeline W.
Pilot with science personnel, from Davis Station, in the field.
Leigh H with science personnel in the field.
Photo: Chris W.
Helicopter Pilot and Engineers at davis Station Helipad
Helicopter Resources pilot Peter C and engineers Tyson and Hylka K return from assisting on the boats.
Photo: Chris W.

The Skytrader crew here include Captains Troy F, Rod R with supporting engineers Rob P, Andrew C and Roger S.

Their task has been that of support for AGAP, the various science programs, flights between Davis and Casey stations and to depot fuel to the various refuelling sites.

Their aircraft, a CASA 212-400 EADS, is a twin engine high wing light utility. The maximum takeoff weight being 8470 kg with maximum fuel capacity of 3040 litres. It can carry up to 16 passengers with the average carrying-weight of 600kg between Casey and Davis.

Interestingly, EADS also owns the Skybus A319 flying into Casey at present, again flown by Skytraders.

CASA Pilots make a snowman whilst the engineers refuel.
CASA Pilots Troy F and Rod R make a snowman whilst the engineers refuel.
Photo: Rob P.
CASA Pilots and Engineer at Davis Station
L-R Pilots Troy F and Rod R with engineer Andrew C by the Polaris.
Photo: Rob P.

CASA Engineer at work
Rob P, engineer, fine tunes things.
Photo: Andrew C.
Engineer working on one of the CASA -212 aircraft
Andrew C, engineer, makes a few running repairs.
Photo: Rob P.
Engineer working on engine of CASA-212 aircraft
Engineer Rob P harnessed for work on the CASA.
Photo: Ashleigh W.

Pilot boarding CASA-212 aircraft
Pilot Rod R about to alight his alight his trusty steed.
Photo: Rob P.
CASA-212 aircraft 'Ginger' about to depart Davis Station Skiway
CASA 'Ginger' about to depart Skiway with AGSO crew and engineers watching on.
Photo: Rob P.
Pilot beside CASA-212 aircraft 'Ginger'
CASA 'Ginger' with Rob P.
Photo: Ashleigh W.

The AGSO personnel of Jason W, Sharon L and Dominic O worked on the construction and maintenance of the two summer runways at Plough Island and Woop Woop, with Sharon moving on to facilitate air ground support for AGAP along with Scott A.

Aircraft Ground Support Officer crew at Woop Woop skiway near Davis Station
AGSO crew Dominic O and Jason W at Woop Woop skiway.
Photo: Chris W.
Davis Station Expeditioner wearing a Santa hat
AGSO Dominic O enjoys a bit of the station festive spirit.

Davis Station expeditioners by Deep Lake near Davis Station
AGSO crew Jason W and Sharon L by Deep Lake.
Photo: Chris W.
Davis Station Expeditioners by Deep Lake near Davis Station
and again … AGSO crew Jason W and Sharon L by Deep Lake.
Photo: Chris W.
Initially both the Polar 5 Basler and BAS Twin Otter were able to utilise the closer runway constructed on the sea ice at Plough Island only 4.5 km from station.

Transport to the runway via Hägglunds was possible while the sea ice was stable enough for travel, with a large amount of Helicopter support from station providing transport of personnel and cargo from station to the waiting fixed-wing aircraft.

In the meantime, another runway was being reconstructed and groomed 40 km away at Woop Woop up on the Plateau.

The sea ice at Plough Island was closely monitored until it was finally closed on 7th December when Woop Woop then became the sole runway.

British Antarctic Service Twin Otter aircraft with it's pilot and engineer.
The Twin Otter with pilot Alan and engineer Jamie.
Photo: Chris W.
Polar 5 Basler aircraft on the Plateau near Davis Station
Polar 5 Basler on the Plateau.
Photo: Chris W.

Polar 5 Basler aircraft at Plough Island.
Polar 5 Basler at Plough Island.
Photo: Rob P.
The tail end of the Basler aircraft
The tail end of the Basler.
Photo: Ashleigh W.

From here the CASA, Twin Otter and Basler were able to make their way to Grove Mountains enroute to AGAP North.

It was the Twin Otter's task to make the initial landing at AGAP North, delivering personnel and equipment necessary to construct a runway there. This was the immense value that the Twin Otter provided to the program in that it was able to make this initial landing on rough terrain, requiring as little as 100 metres to do so, while other aircraft required a groomed runway of 1 km or more for landing.

Both the Basler and Twin Otter completed their programs of providing support for the AGAP program despite unfavourable weather in the early stages.

Their time with us at Davis was memorable as they joined in station life. A fitting farewell was given by both aircraft on their final day, enabling the station to bid them safe travels one last time.

Basler's aircraft on final approach to land at Davis Station
Basler's final approach.
Photo: Mike Z.
Basler aircraft behind the Pineapple hut.
Basler behind the Pineapple hut.
Photo: Bill DeB.
Basler aircraft leaving Davis Station
Farewell to the Basler.
Photo: Mike Z.

Twin Otter aircraft makes a final pass over Davis Station
Twin Otter on final pass.
Photo: Mike Z.
Twin Otter aircraft leaves Davis Station
Twin Otter says its last farewells.
Photo: Mike Z.

As we followed the busy operations of the skyways, we also celebrated a significant milestone of the 65th Birthday of Leigh H. and 30 years of scientific support in Antarctica with Helicopter Resources.

Leigh commenced the Antarctic leg of his career with Helicopter Resources in 1978.

That year the ship used to transport crew and aircraft was the Nella Dan. Three helicopters from Helicopter Resources, and a Pilatus Porter owned by Forrester Stephens of Essendon, Victoria were strapped down on the low exposed back deck of the ship, subjected to all the elements of such a voyage south.

For the Pilatus Porter at 30 miles off station the aircraft would be placed on the sea ice, the wings attached and off she would fly. Work carried out included high-altitude photography and the transport of the Husky teams to the various deep-field camps.

These field camps had been initially set up by the spring traverse from station, consisting of three dozers and the tractor train. They would take with them necessary supplies of food, water and fuel along with a generator van to power the living quarters, ablution van, if available, and a science van.

Once these camps were set up it was then Leigh's role with the helicopter to take scientists and their equipment to the work site.

The following Autumn a similar traverse would work in the reverse, taking the dozers and tractor train back to station to be winterised.

Between 1995 and 2000, Helicopter Resources took a break from the AAD program and supported some scientific research of the Germans, Italians and Pakistanis in such locations as Queen Maud Land, Terra Nova Bay in North Victoria Land and between McMurdo and the South Pole.

From programs involving the measurement of the Earth's magnetic field to collecting meteorites, Leigh's experiences of the great vast interior of the Antarctic continent continued.

When asked about the support of weather information in the earlier years Leigh explained that monitoring and forecasting weather was limited compared with today's high tech resources. Monitoring visual changes in the skies and the barometer were the basics used.

This paper, The role of the polar jet in modulating the surface weather around coastal Antarctica – A case study by Dr Neil Adams, of Hobart's Meteorology Bureau, shows some of the information available today and inherent concerns when looking at forecasting in such regions.

Throughout the aviation operations today, forecasts have been provided by the Davis Met team consisting this year of Tony Y, Michelle H and Tim B with the supporting observational team of Ashleigh W, Julian H and Andrew McG.

Weather conditions are closely monitored with the use of many aids including, satellite imagery, numeric models, upper atmospheric monitoring with balloon flights, and monitoring of surface conditions with local and remote automatic weather stations.

Detailed forecasts have been provided to the various aircraft for each of their proposed flights, assisting them in making careful judgement as to whether conditions were favourable enough to undertake such challenging work.

Another forecast provided was that for the station itself, detailing the current synoptic situation followed by a comprehensive four-day forecast.

On occasions some creative adaptations to the forecast began to emerge from the keyboards of Met, providing some entertaining reading as the synoptic picture was painted … some of the many examples:


Blizzard risk Davis: Low.

Situation at 2200 UTC Friday 19/12/08:
(to be sung to the tune of the Muppet Show theme)

It's the muppet show, with our very special guest star, my ninja master, yeeeaah!
A low to the northeast,
Will pass us by tonight,
While a trough to the west, moves to the right.

A deep low near Casey,
Extends a wispy shroud,
Of thin, but thickening, upper level cloud.

Stadtler: Sunday the cloud will break up.

Waldorf: I wish it wouldn't go.

Stadtler: The next two days look sunny.

Waldorf: I want another low.

And now winds have departed,
The summer's finally started.
It's time to get planes started
On the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational!
This is what we call the Davis show.

(Gonzo blows his trumpet)

Who could possibly be responsible for such poetic license, we ask … none other than Mr Tim B himself

Davis Station Met. Observer
Tim B aka 'Yoda' – accurate predictor of sea ice breakout.
Photo: Michelle H.

Another creation this time by Mr Tony Y bought about a bout of seafarers talk and sea shanties on station …


Blizzard risk Davis: Low.

Situation at 0000 UTC Saturday 10/01/09:

Avast ye bilge sucking maggots for this be today's forecaaaarrrrrst. Shiver me timbers but this cloud is hanging around like a hornswaggler from the mizzen mast, arrrrrrr! That pesky meso-low is heading to Davy Jones' Locker so the sun be coming out later but blow me down if there ain't more cloud a comin' on Sunday. Batten down the hatches me hearties for we are in for a blow on Monday and Tuesday or I'll be a scurvy dog, arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Davis Station Met. Observer
Tony Y aka 'ninja master' (of Yoda)
Photo: Michelle H.

BUT, where were we … arrrrrrrrr yes … aviation!

We cross to our neighbours at ZhongShan, the Chinese base …

Recently our goodwill ties were once again renewed with of an 'Alpine butterfly' with a visit from ZhongShan expeditioners. Arriving with their KA 32 Russian-built cargo-lifting helicopter, they assisted us with a heavy load that was most gratefully received.

Chinese heavy lifting helicopter
KA 32.
Photo: Chris W.
Chinese heavy lifting Helicopter
KA 32
Photo: Chris W.

KA 32 Chinese heavy lifting helicopter
KA 32
Photo: Chris W.
View of rear of KA 32 Chinese heavy lifting helicopter
Back view of KA 32
Photo: Chris W.

Chinese heavy lifting helicopter delivering a load at Woop Woop.
Our Chinese friends taking up the load at Woop Woop.
Photo: Chris W.
Heavy Load arrives Davis.
Heavy load arrives at Davis.
Photo: Chris W.
Chinese KA32. heavy lifting helicopter
Chinese KA 32.
Photo: Chris W.

With the smoothest of operations complete, several members visiting from the Zhong Shan station joined us all in a very warm thank you BBQ along with a Didgeredoo recital from one of our budding musicians.

Davis Station Expeditioners sharing a BBQ with visiting Expeditioners from the Chinese base ZhongShan
Our neighbours from Zhong Shan sharing a BBQ.
Davis Station Expeditioner playing didgeredoo
Paul C provides an Australian cultural experience to us all.
Photo: Bill DeB.

Till next week, warmest wishes from all of us at Davis.