13 August 2010

Davis Station, Antarctica 68º35'S 77º58'E

Poster
Poster
Photo: Linc M

Davis Drive-In-Movie theatre opened last Friday for the first time, but certainly not the last.

Frank had been planning this for weeks. The day was not that great, cloudy, light snow blowing around, but skies trying to clear, and we were all pretty confident it would happen. The final call was down to the Comms team who were the ones setting up the power, projector and sound. Frank spent a nail-biting afternoon waiting for the verdict.

As night fell the weather suddenly improved, although the temperature stayed a low minus 22°C. After downing our malted thick-shakes, burgers and fries from Kim's Diner to the sounds of the Big Bopper and Elvis, the majority of the station (apart from those on fire watch), headed out along Nige's perfectly groomed highway across the sea ice to the Davis Drive-In.

Kim's Diner
Kim's Diner
Photo: Frank H
Shark sign
Pointer points the way
Photo: Mark P

The scene – a cleared rectangle with lights defining the margins in the form of candles in buckets. A big screen projected onto a near-vertical smooth snow-covered cliff face on Anchorage Island – a perfect setting for the world's most southernmost drive-in theatre (has there ever been one on sea-ice before?)

The night cleared and the milky-way lit the heavens, then, as if that wasn't enough, as soon as the movie started there was the aurora australis – to complement – or was it competition – as all those with cameras were out of the vehicles and clicking away.

Movies projected onto cliff face near Davis
Showing now on Screen 1 …
Photo: Zupy

It was hard to know where to look, at the display overhead, or at the screen! It was better than any glitzy Hollywood night.

Munching on popcorn and sipping on hot drinks from thermos flasks, we sat in the vehicles with the sound coming through the radios and just enjoyed the spectacle – what more could you ask for!

Aurora near Davis
Linc opts for the outdoor seating
Photo: Nick R
Movie projected onto cliff face near Davis
I agree he had the best view
Photo: Nick R

The choice of movie was not easy with so many different tastes. It came down to a late-night management-team decision – The Blues Brothers – how could you not like the music, or those car chases – a classic.

Movie projected onto cliff face near Davis
Just a little Respect from Aretha
Photo: Adam C
Aurora and movie near Davis
Aurora and movie near Davis
Photo: Nick R

We swapped out at half time with the fire team so they could enjoy the scene as well then all adjourned back to Kim's Diner for a nightcap before turning in.

Aurora and movie near Davis
Photo: Nick R

Recently Andy Burgess and I accompanied Adam down to Hawker Island to collect the three cameras and batteries that have been there for several months. These were deployed to take photos of the southern giant petrel rookery situated there through the breeding season. We had just received a permit allowing this as Hawker Island is an ASPA, an Antarctic Specially Protected Area (# 167). This time of year is ideal: the island can be accessed over the sea ice and as the breeding season is well over and the next yet to begin, there is minimal disturbance to the site.

As we have hardly seen a creature on station for the past few months it was a surprise to get there and find that there were a number of birds. A mixture of last years fledglings and more mature birds not overly worried about our presence at all. A few low passes to check us out then business as usual.

Giant petrels for all their size (they are the C130s of the Southern Ocean birds) are notoriously skittish and leave their nests and chicks quickly if disturbed. The colonies around Davis are believed to be right on the edge of their range so establishing cameras is a very non-invasive way of studying the habits and breeding success of these small marginal groups.

Southern giant petrel chicks on Hawker Is weather it out while waiting for a feed (taken 8th March 2010)
Southern giant petrel chicks on Hawker Is weather it out while waiting for a feed (taken 8th March 2010)
Photo: 2010 winterers

We secured the cameras then headed down toward the Sorsdal Glacier. Coming to it from the sea ice the glacier looks amazing, a vertical wall of shining blue ice and the fjord to the north of it a jumble of grounded and frozen-in icebergs and fractured ice frozen earlier in the year. Several trips have headed that way in recent weeks and the following images record some of the sights they have captured.

Ali and Andy Burgess looking toward the Sorsdal Glacier
Ali and Andy Burgess looking toward the Sorsdal Glacier
Photo: Adam C
An ice sculptured Mitre Peak
An ice sculptured Mitre Peak
Photo: Adam C
The Sorsdal terminus in the sunlight
The Sorsdal terminus in the sunlight
Photo: Nige C
Emperor penguin on belly
The only way to travel
Photo: Zupy
Emperors penguins near Davis
We three Emperors
Photo: Zupy
Emperor penguin
Love that sun
Photo: Nige C

Some strange things can turn up on the ice blown in by the wind.

Frozen sponge
Frozen sponge
Photo: Adam C
Pecten shell on ice
Pecten shell
Photo: Pete H
Sea urchin still with spines intact
Echinoderm still with spines intact
Photo: Pete H

This week while testing the thickness of the sea ice for the monitoring program Jeff and Nick came across three Weddell seals out behind Gardner Island that had accessed the ice through a widened tide crack. They were waylaid for some time while they watched the seals from a safe distance. The Weddell seals will start to pup soon in this area so hopefully we will be seeing more of them in close proximity.

Weddell seal testing the air
Weddell seal testing the air
Photo: Nick R

We had a practise run with our voting procedures today by doing a photo shoot for The Canberra Times despite the white out.

Voting at Davis station
Jeff makes his choice with Antarctic Returning Officer Pete supervising
Photo: Nick R
Davis Polling Place
Davis Polling Place
Photo: Nick R

We also had a thank you from Roseville School in NSW. The students of Year 5 talked to three station members a few weeks ago in a phone interview.

Year 5 Roseville School
Year 5 Roseville School
Photo: Henrietta Miller
Time-lapse photo of Davis night sky
Davis gets dizzy – the earth turning
Photo: Nick R

That's it for this week. Nichol's up next week with his edition.

This page was last modified on 29 May 2014.