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This week at Davis: 4 November 2011

Something a bit different for this week's Station News. I thought I would tell you about my mate Doug, affectionately known as Dougie: skinny as a rake handle, put a WW1 tin hat on his head he could pass for a roofing nail, but make no mistake he is a fit bloke.

I take great pleasure in wandering to the mess at 5.30 am, cup of tea and toast in hand, to sit down to the morning papers. They are always there laid out in perfect order, making a great start to the day, compliments of Doug. Wandering over to my early morning pilates training I pass the station leaders office where I see  Cookie surrounded in a mist of freshly brewed coffee, waiting for Doug to deliver the cryptic crossword. 'It pacifies my mind,' says Cookie: an important job for Doug from which the whole station benefits.

Apart from his normal duties as Communications Officer he is also a theatre nurse, storeman, deep lake data collector and year book coordinator. He drills the ice every week: you can see him load his drill box either on a sled to walk out in summer, on the quad in the gloomy days of early winter or in the back of the Hagglund in the later days of a warming spring. So far this year his drilling programme has drilled in excess of 180 sample holes through 160 metres of ice over a period of 27 weeks. This is all in between his other work programs. This work is important to the Antarctic Division and has been an ongoing project for more than 20 years.

I have done a few walks with Doug since getting to Davis and a typical walk would go something like this: me laying warm and comfortable in my double lined sleeping bag top bunk, outside it's as dark as the inside of a tin can with the lid on, −20 degree C wind whistling across the guy wires holding the hut down, rattle rattle click the gas heater is on, clink clink milk in the muesli bowl, I sneak a look at my illuminated watch (4.40 am), scrape scratch, out slides the slops bucket from under the sink, smell of toothpaste with the contented sigh of teeth receiving a morning workout, god I ask myself does he have to do his teeth this early, sneak another look at my watch (4.55 am), lay there  in pretence of sleep, door slams, clack of footsteps on the floor boards as he wanders out to visit the open end of a plastic bag. I look out from under my warm hiding spot to the glint of a burning candle reflecting its yellow glow off the frozen window. There's my mate Doug with a hot cup of tea and enquiring smile. 'I am ready to go when you are.' I look at my watch: its just turned 6.00 am so I brace myself for another walk over every hill we find, every valley we traverse, plus snow ridges (we have walked a few). Loaded up with ample supplies of Old Gold chocolate, we head off mostly in the swirling darkness. I have learned not to drag my feet when on walks with Dougie, I was a bit slow getting up one morning but by gum I am not slow anymore.

As a community we all benefit from the actions, talents and extra work put in by others; it is this extra effort not asked for, not expected but given freely that makes the year and the company a success for all. My mate Doug has gone a long way down that path.

Doug McVeigh and Bernd Kaifler
Doug and Bernd at Trajer Melon
(Photo: Rick Besso)
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