New life for Platcha

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This week at Davis: 21 October 2011

Nestled on the shoreline of Breid Basin on Long Fjord at the foot of the Antarctic ice plateau is an important refuge known as Platcha Hut (or huts). The original Hut was positioned at this location to enable the Bureau of Meteorology researchers to investigate a wind 'phenomena' called hydraulic jumps (basically when katabatic winds or gravity winds blow down the slopes of the Antarctic ice plateau and shoot vertically upward after being redirected by the sea wind to create air turbulence, to produce what appears to be a stationary wall of drift snow or clear air turbulence when the wind does not carry snow – a remarkable feature to observe).

So in the early years, balloon releases along with synoptic weather measurements were conducted from Platcha Hut. The passage of time saw a modern, larger hut built to comfortably accommodate four people for the night – whereas only two people could sleep in the original hut. Later a 'dunny' was annexed to the old hut, but the strong almost daily katabatic winds blowing from the plateau have over time caused considerable damage to the door and framework of this aging outhouse. Unfortunately, the old hut interior had severely deteriorated over the journey of time and eventually became the default 'dunny'.

Craig Ingrames, under the guidance of Chippie Ricky Besso, developed a plan for a new toilet and took on the challenge to construct a pre-fabricated 'water closet' during his own time. Further it was decided to clean up the inside of the original hut to make it more useful. Moreover, the other established field huts like Bandits, Brookes and Watts all had their 'outhouse'  attached to the hut proper – mainly as a safety net to avoid expeditioners wandering from the refuge should nature call during bad weather! These three field huts were also originally established to conduct field science – biology, geology, geomorphology, geodesy and other – and importantly provide safe refuge for expeditioners on important recreation time – everyone needs to get away from the station from time-to-time to recharge their batteries.

So with the objective of commissioning the new 'dunny' annexed to the main hut and a renovation rescue for the interior of the original small hut, Ricky and Craig recruited Ray to wield a paint brush and headed out to Platcha Hut for several days to complete the task. Fortunately, clear sunny skies with 'negligible katabatic winds and no hydraulic jumps' facilitated the mission, as did timely visits by other groups delivering additional materials and even donuts – and an earlier visit by Shane to relocate the gas bottles!

With the renovations completed we headed to the Woop Woop airfield camp for a night while the paint dried, before returning to Platcha to clean-up, and we finally pointed the Hägglunds toward Davis for the mandatory shower. Platcha Hut is now in good shape in readiness for the influx of new expeditioners about to sail south on the Aurora Australis to relieve our crew, and possibly for a team of Russian geologists conducting research in the Vestfold Hills during the summer.

Ray Morris

Platcha Hut
Setting up for relocating the Dunny
(Photo: Ray Morris)
Platcha Helideck
Smoko on the Helideck
(Photo: Ray Morris)
Platcha Hut
the Dunny in Place
(Photo: Ray Morris)
Ray Morris
Old Hut, Old Ray, New Paint
Bried Basin
Vista of Bried Basin
(Photo: Ray Morris)
Woop Woop
A visit to Woop Woop
(Photo: Ray Morris)
Rick Besso
Rick, Pleased with the job
(Photo: Ray Morris)
Besso , Morris, Ingrames
New old Door, Old Old Blokes
(Photo: Ray Morris)
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