This week at Davis: 10 March 2017

With the ship leaving last week, we're in our first week of winter. As a result, we're starting to 'winterise' buildings and get into new work routines.

Davis Team Tradie 2017

The last time we spoke I think I was telling you about our visitors from nearby nations that drop in from time to time in the summer months. Now that the last ship of the season has departed our shores, we aren’t expecting to see anyone for the next eight months as we head into the winter period of our expedition. With numbers now reduced to 17, I would like to talk about a fairly significant group of expeditioners numbering seven in total which is the Davis infrastructure team of 2017.

We are an eclectic bunch, brought together from all corners of Australia including country WA, Minnipa in South Oz, Geelong the land of the cats (footy team), Jervis Bay – if you’re into sharks, Devonport for those lovers of 'The Ferry', Adelaide SA, and Townsville.

Between us we have 148 years of trade experience to share and as far as Antarctic experience goes the numbers add up to eight summer seasons and seven winters not including this winter which we will soon be able to add to the total.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being an expeditioner is when you get to know every one of your team members and spend time finding out what makes them the people that they are and what they have been up to in their lives prior to heading 'south' to this place we all call home.

To be an expeditioner I think you have to have a certain amount of let’s say adventurousness in your blood and, after all, that’s why we are here. There are so many personal accounts and experiences to mention but a few are that we have a Tae Kwon Do World Champion amongst us and an avid deep water diver that doesn’t mind the company of sharks!

Many of our members have hitchhiked and travelled extensively abroad and some of the favourite places that bring back fond memories are the highlands of France (skiing of course), Mostar in Bosnia, bungee jumping off the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland, surfing and snorkelling in Hawaii, Obersee Lake in Germany and also living in the snowfields of Canada for 16 years. We are all eagerly waiting in anticipation for the slide shows of these accounts, and more, as a way of sharing our stories with our own little community for the relatively short time that we are together.

Of course with such a large group we are involved with many communal roles and all members of the trade team make up part of the emergency response team (ERT) in some form or another including fire chief, breathing apparatus team members, first responders, Hägg drivers and pump controllers.

I hope you have enjoyed a bit more of what it means to be an expeditioner and some of the core functions we all provide every day to make this place we call home, a very special place indeed.

Until next time…

Tony (deputy station leader, building services supervisor and plumber)

Tony is in the workshop, wearing a protective suit and a breathing mask
Tony - plumber
(Photo: Tony D'Amico)
Barry is working inside the electricians workshop on station. You can see tools lining the walls.
Barry(B2) - sparky
(Photo: Tony D'Amico)
Rhys and Bryce are roped up during cravasse rescue training.
Rhys (chippie) and Bryce (sparky)
(Photo: Tony D'Amico)
Darren (Shoey) is out in the hills, in his outdoor gear, harnessed up for cravasse rescue training.
Shoey - plumber
(Photo: Tony D'Amico)
Sharky is wearing his outdoor gear, out in the Vestfold Hills. Also harnessed up for crevasse rescue training.
Sharky - sparky
(Photo: Tony D'Amico)
Fitzy is descending an ice cliff during crevasse rescue training.
Fitzy - plumber
(Photo: Tony D'Amico)

Measurements at Deep Lake

The past weekend Lötter and I paid a visit to Deep Lake, a hypersaline lake located in the Vestfold Hills. Lötter, as the electronics engineer, needs to visit Deep Lake once a month to take measurements for researchers back in Australia.

The Vestfold Hills are characterised by saline and hypersaline lakes, which formed around 8000 years ago when areas of the Antarctic continent started lifting due to a process called isostatic rebound. Seawater was trapped on land and these seawater lakes remained isolated from the ocean ever since.

Deep Lake is defined as hypersaline. It is almost ten times more salty than sea water, and very rarely freezes over winter. It is also a closed lake, and does not have a surface outlet for the water. Deep Lake is unique amongst the hypersaline lakes, as its surface is located approximately 51 metres below sea level. The shores of Deep Lake are the lowest accessible point on the Antarctic continent. The lake is also a very significant climate indicator, and researchers have been using the Deep Lake water level as a 'State of the Environment' indicator since 1976.

To do the monthly measurements, we left Davis station on Saturday 4 March, armed with our survival packs, a thermometer, a few cameras and our map of the Vestfold Hills. To get to Deep Lake we traversed the western side of Dingle Lake. We also hiked on the western side of Lake Stinear, and after about 10 kilometres we reached the shores of Deep Lake.

The day was overcast with winds of 10 knots and air temperature of −4°C, the water temperature of Deep Lake measured 0°C. Many of the freshwater lakes around the Vestfold Hills have already started freezing, but Deep Lake remained liquid as it will remain for most of the year.

We spent the night at Brookes Hut, where we had great views of Long Fjord, with a small seal and a rogue Adélie penguin coming to visit us early Sunday morning. At 11:00 we were packed up and returned to Davis station, where we were welcomed back by large groups of Adélie penguins and an enormous Weddell seal on the route home.

Daleen (Met technical officer-engineer)

A view of Deep Lake from the rocky shoreline. The water is unfrozen and the sky is dark grey.
Approach to Deep Lake.
(Photo: Lotter Kock)
Lötter is squatting down on the lake's edge. A short distance away from him is a pole in the lake from which you can read lake height.
Lötter measuring Deep Lake water temperature.
(Photo: Daleen Koch)
A photo of the measuring pole in the lake.
Long term level measurements.
(Photo: Daleen Koch)
Daleen can be seen walking along the rocky slope of the very large Lake Stinear.
Hiking back past Lake Stinear.
(Photo: Lotter Kock)

Getting ready for winter

With the departure of the Aurora Australis the winterisation of the summer accommodation block or SAM as it is affectionately named here was started this week.

A group effort involved removing anything left behind, wiping down walls and shelves and general cleaning of the rooms and bathrooms. The cleaning out of the cold porches in the living quarters was also completed which accumulated in a cage pallet of boots, coats, fluorescent vests and the occasional pack.

Work on site services continues with annual checks and repairs where needed. This mainly concerns our heat trace system which is on the majority of the piping here, this prevents the pipes from freezing over the cold winter months and is controlled and monitored from the station building maintenance control system (BMCS).

Barry B2 (electrician)

Six members of the trades team are standing around in the corridor of the SAM building working out a plan of attack prior to clean the area.
Team meeting before cleanup.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
Two men look like they are fighting over a tissue box.
Who's doing tissue duty?
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
Bryce is lying down on the pipes of the site services. In the background is Prydz Bay and icebergs.
Bryce and a site service repair.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
A group of expeditioners outside the living quarters building cleaning up.
Clean up at the living quarters. The cage pallet was eventually filled.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)