This week at Davis: 13 October 2017

This week at Davis we're exploring the icebergs in interesting light, celebrating the return of the Adélie penguins, servicing our field huts and enjoying Oktoberfest.

Station update

This week at Davis we’ve been exploring the icebergs under dark snow clouds. The moody grey skies provide some of the best light to view the bergs in, as the ice shows its true colour: a pastel baby blue. Any cracks also reveal colours you don’t see anywhere else: a florescent violet blue and intense turquoise, which saturate your eyes and make other colours pale in comparison.

Out amongst the icebergs we’re also starting to encounter some Adélie penguins. These are the males returning to their nest sites from last summer. They are here to rebuild their nest before the females arrive in a week or so, which is when things will get noisy and raucous in the colonies, with birds fighting over pebbles and partners. The flying birds are also slowly arriving. The first Antarctic petrels were spotted on the weekend, majestically gliding around the towering icebergs.

The heavily pregnant Weddell seals are also starting to give birth. The first pups were seen midweek out in Long Fjord. One was delivered in front of our eyes, which was quite an experience to see! The brand new pup was all floppy and a loose bag of skin, trying to suckle but a bit snagged by the umbilical cord which was still attached. Eventually things got worked out and the pup took its first drink of the very rich milk which will fatten it up in no time.

Work-wise we’ve started our hut maintenance program. Seven of us went out to the huts lining Long Fjord: Brookes Hut, Platcha Hut, Ace Lake apple and Rookery Lake apple. During the visit each hut had its electrical, gas and communication systems checked. Huts were also cleaned (even vacuumed) and replenished. They now look better than ever and ready for summer. Later this week the huts along the Ellis Fjord area will also be visited and serviced.

Finally, Lötter has been finishing off his remote seabird camera servicing. Just in time with the Adélie's now arriving to start their breeding season.

Kirsten (Station Leader)

The dark grey sky and flat light bring out the pastel blues of the icebergs. This berg also has a jade stripe and a cave.
The dark grey sky and flat light bring out the pastel blues…
(Photo: Barry Becker)
The horizontal lines of snow deposition are visible in this giant iceberg.
The horizontal lines of snow deposition are visible in this giant iceberg.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
A group of Adélie penguins are resting on the sea ice. Kirsten is kneeling to the right and a blue berg is behind them.
The first Adélie penguins arrive. They are marching over the sea ice…
(Photo: Barry Becker)
The Adélies start walking towards Barry B1. Kirsten is in the background.
The Adélies start walking towards Barry B1.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Cracks in the ice bergs showing their almost fluorescent violet colour in the dull grey light.
Cracks in the ice bergs showing their almost fluorescent violet colour in…
(Photo: Kirsten le Mar)
An iceberg  with the pink hagg.
The dark grey clouds move on and the sun peaks out.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
With the reappearance of the sun, the patterns in the windblown snow are visible.
With the reappearance of the sun, the patterns in the windblown snow…
(Photo: Barry Becker)
The sun finally peaks out and lights up the side of an berg.
The sun finally peaks out and lights up the bergs.
(Photo: Kirsten le Mar)
Barry B1 and Lötter at Gardner Island where Lötter is servicing the Adélie penguin monitoring cameras prior to the birds arrival.
Barry B1 and Lötter at Gardner Island where Lötter is servicing the…
(Photo: Kirsten le Mar)
A brand new Weddel seal pup with mum. The pup is only minutes old.
A brand new Weddel seal pup with mum.
(Photo: Kirsten le Mar)
The two Häggs loaded up with supplies (visible through the open rear doors) to carry out the hut maintenance job.
The two Häggs loaded up with supplies to carry out the hut…
(Photo: Kirsten le Mar)
Fitzy, Bryce and Daleen taking a break at Brookes hut, post cleanup.
Fitzy, Bryce and Daleen taking a break at Brookes hut, post cleanup.
(Photo: Kirsten le Mar)

Oktoberfest at Davis

Once a year there is a celebration of libation and that is Oktoberfest. It all started with a royal wedding and now it is the largest festival in the world. This year is the 184th Oktoberfest, but it's also the 207th anniversary, ten points if you can figure out how.

Now, Oktoberfest traditionally starts in the third weekend in September and ends the first Sunday of October. You may be thinking 'How does that makes sense?' It doesn't! I decided it should start in October here at Davis station this year and so it did!

I spent a lot of time brewing different beers this year, over 50 different types but one in particular was special, my Märzen. Märzen is beer specially brewed for Oktoberfest. Well, sort of. Märzen originates in Bavaria (around the 16th century) and was brewed in March (März in German is March) when the temperatures were right. It's a dark brown/amber, full-bodied, and bitter lager. So it was then kept until late summer (in the cool cellar) and was then wholly consumed in October.

So, never having made one before I came up with my recipe and 'put it down' (brewers slang for making the batch and putting it in the fermenter) in late February in preparation. After fermentation at 10°C, racking for clarity and then Lagering at 0°C for two months, it was time to bottle it and put it in storage for another four months until Oktoberfest. Well it was worth the wait because it turned out a treat and I think I hit the nail on the head with the recipe. Delicious!

This year's Oktoberfest we have 30 different beers to taste test, enough for one every day for the whole month! Thirty days has Septem… Well, OK, we miss one day. In actual fact, we aren't going for the whole month, just a week. Friday and Saturday we made extra special by serving traditional fare as well, smoked pork belly, Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, Sauerbraten, Sauerkirsch pudding (what's with the Sauer?) Kasslers and, of course, pretzels.

Rhys our wintering chippy was kind enough to make up some tasting paddles that held port glasses that I have been using to serve the taste testers in and they really look the part!

Marc (Brewmaster and Mechanic)

Marc (Brew master) is pouring five different coloured beers onto a sampling tray for those in the Bar to try for Oktoberfest.
Marc (Brew master) pouring a selection of his specialty Oktoberfest beers.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Sixteen small glasses containing beer ranging from black, to brown, to orange and gold in colour, sit on the Bar table with a view of sea ice and a sunset out the window.
A cross section of some of Marc's specially brewed beers for Oktoberfest.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
A beer tasting board with five small glasses of beer ranging from very dark stout to golden honey coloured beer.
A beer tasting board with some of the Oktoberfest beers to sample.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
The team in the bar, enjoying Oktoberfest.
The team in the bar, enjoying Oktoberfest.
(Photo: Barry Becker)