This week at Davis: 17 February 2017

This week at Davis we've been finishing off our search and rescue training, having a good time with our Indian neighbours and we held an art show.

SAR training

'Winter is coming.' – The Stark motto from TV series Games of Thrones.

With the end of summer fast approaching, the wintering search and rescue (SAR) team have been busy completing their technical training, when and where the weather will permit.

With two excursions to Trajer Ridge under our harnesses, we have been building and honing the skills required to perform actual rescues, such as ice and rock anchoring, rope and pulley systems, along with fieldcraft, stretcher use and patient care.

That is the rescue portion of 'search and rescue'. While one may be tempted to glorify this segment (it's a lot of fun!), the search component of SAR is as (if not more) important, since you cannot rescue someone unless you can find them. For searching we have conducted many scenarios and training sessions which have culminated in a simulated a SAR event in the local area, Sentinel Knoll.

Sentinell Knoll is not far from station and is a likely place for the exact sort of scenario to occur, someone out for a walk falls and breaks a leg. Sounds simple enough, but in Antarctica nothing is ever simple! We call that the 'A factor!' Just locating someone a short distance away can be a real drama.

After running through the entire scenario from start to finish, you can appreciate just how difficult a real SAR can be, especially in trying conditions. All in all, it was a great training day and we successfully rescued an errant expeditioner down a rock face. 

Safely home in time for a semi–late dinner!

Marc (Mechanic)

The nine members of the SAR team: Sharky, Lotter, Rhys, Shoey, Fitzy, Bryce, Tony, Marc & Jock.
The SAR team (L-R): Sharky, Lötter, Rhys (kneeling), Shoey, Fitzy, Bryce, Tony,…
(Photo: Marc Mills)
The lads are standing on the ice, learning how to anchor in rope lines in order to abseil down the ice cliff.
Learning about abseiling.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
Four people are at various stages down the steep ice face of Trajer Ridge.
Descending Trajer Ridge.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
The edge of Trajer Ridge. Some people are standing on the ice ridge, while others are at the bottom, having abseiled down.
Trajer Ridge edge.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
Six people are walking up a steep ice slope.
Learning to walk up steep ice slopes.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
Sharky is strapped into the stretcher, which is being pulled up the ice cliff using ropes and pulleys. A rescuer is with him.
Sharky being hauled up the slope in a patient recovery exercise.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
Ice climbing up the ice cliff. You can see the person is wearing crampons and using an ice axe to pull themselves up.
Ice climbing with crampons and an ice axe.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
The SAR team are standing below a rock cliff while the FTO shows them how to install anchor points into the rocks.
Learning how to install anchors on a rockface.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
Four people are assisting with putting a patient into the stretcher during the rescue exercise.
Putting a patient into a stretcher.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
Two people are on the rockface with the patient in the stretcher as it is being hauled up to safety.
Pulling the stretcher up the rockface.
(Photo: Marc Mills)

Field travel training

Armed with a compass, survival pack and a few bags of digestive cement as food, the team of distinguished Antarctic explorers, Darren, Sharky, and myself embarked on a two day trek across the mighty Antarctic mountain range, the Vestfold Hills. Circling and watching their every move, like a wise old skua waiting for a young emperor chick to stray from the huddle, Gideon the field training officer supervised the proceedings.

Although most points in the previous paragraph are totally exaggerated, Antarctica will always be an extremely high risk environment and training is of vital importance. Field travel training is one element in an array of disciplines learned by the expeditioners. These not only allow us to do our work safely and effectively, but also get out and about to see and experience this wonderful continent.

The team departed Davis by helicopter and was flown to Platcha Hut. From there we navigated to Trajer Ridge over Stalker Hill, one of the highest peaks in the Vestfolds standing proud at 144 metres, and through the snowy valley on the banks of Lake Zvezda.

After a momentous night of sleep in blaring bivvy bags and no morning coffee, the expedition was aptly prepared for day two of the trek. The terrain was somewhat more civilised and the group made great ground, arriving at the Crooked Lake apple (hut) at about noon after a hop, skip and jump over the mighty Tierney River. After a quick cup-a-soup, coffee and some chocolate bars the helicopter arrived which ferried Gideon, Sharky and I back to Davis. Darren still had some fight left, and was met by Sam for a few more days of fun in the sun.

Lötter (Electrical Engineer)

Sharky, Gideon and Darren are sitting on a high rocky outcrop, overlooking a long lake with snow drift around it.
Sharky, Gideon and Darren take in the view.
(Photo: Lötter Kock)
People with packs are crossing over a section of lake. Going from one boulder to another.
Navigating Crooked Lake.
(Photo: Lötter Kock)

Our Indian neighbours visit

There are many to mention but one of the most rewarding experiences as an expeditioner is the privilege to work alongside people from all walks of life that share a common interest.

At Davis last week we were fortunate enough to have a visit from our colleagues from the Indian Bharati station which is located south-west of Davis in the Larsemann Hills. Our visitors arrived by Squirrel helicopter with South African crew and also on a Kamov helicopter which included the Ukrainian crew, scientists, engineers, doctors, Subrata (the Station Leader) and Mahesh (the Voyage Leader).

On arrival our guests were treated to a morning tea in the living quarters and then a tour of the station which included the science building, water production plant, green store, medical facility and power house. The tour was led by our resident geologist Al, along with Trevor in a very loud and popular hat, Matt our senior AGSO and Esther, a vet, who gave a very interesting explanation about our elephant seal colony which is starting to make its presence known at Davis.

Our visitors were amazed at our facilities and station surrounds and appreciated the expanse of our infrastructure, as the Bharati station is essentially one building with all facilities included within.

Like all good things the visit unfortunately did come to an end, but it was such a pleasure to share a meal with our colleagues, compliments of our amazing chefs, and a sample of the Vestfolds finest home brew. With a cheer to David Boon and Sachin Tendulkar our visitors bid farewell and will hopefully visit our shores again in the near future.

Tony (Deputy Station Leader)

Our doctor, Ralph, is standing between the two Indian doctors, inside his medical clinic. They are on a station tour.
The medical doctors touring the surgery.
(Photo: Tony D'Amico)
The bar is full of happy people watching the cricket on a big screen.
Watching some cricket in the bar.
(Photo: Tony D'Amico)
Groups of people pose for photos in front of the Kamov helicopter on the helipad.
Photo session on the helipad.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Many people are seen in silhouette against the blue sky and Kamov helicopter, sitting on the helipad.
Great day for a visit.
(Photo: Barry Becker)

Davis art show

Way back at the beginning of the summer season the Social Committee convened, and it was decided that we should include an art show in the Davis social calendar. None of us knew if there were any budding artists on station. All we knew was that the odds were good that we were surrounded by a talented group of people, and surely some of them had a creative bent. Months went by. People were encouraged to get creative. Nothing much was said, and as the organiser of the event, I started to get nervous. What if nobody had any interest in contributing to an art show?

I needn't have worried. In the lead up to last Saturday, I was delighted to be pulled aside with the whisper, 'I have something to contribute' on many occasions. Then the day dawned and the artwork started flooding in. My oh my we are a bunch of talented people! Mayor of the hobby hut, Seamus, stole the show with has many creations out of wood and glass, some with historical Antarctic connections such as wood from the Aurora Australis. A number of the ladies on station displayed Seamus' wearable art in the form of all the glass jewellery he has been creating this season.

Another hobby hut regular, Rob, showed off his amazing woodwork creations of mirror frames, aeroplanes and a model tractor. A number of photographers showed off their skills with the natural environment, there was the odd drawing and painting and some stunning metal work, but woodwork really won the day. Bowls, bottle openers, clocks, picture frames, salt and pepper shakers and candlesticks had all been made with care and skill, and were marvelled at by the rest of the Davis family.

Then for the final work of art that brought the whole show (and station) together – the “Safety Dance”. Produced, choreographed, filmed and edited by Adon, Dave B, Sam, Rohan and Dors it was a months long project that included everyone on station dancing the same deft moves, combined into one great, entertaining video clip. It is a celebration of the season we have had, and of the great people here at Davis – and it's just a little bit arty.

Rachel (Forecaster)

A bowl carved from layers of laminated plywood. It looks stripey as a result of the wood used.
Vas' plywood bowl.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Three bowls of different sizes, made from blackheart sassafras timber.
Nev's blackheart sassafras bowls.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
A metalwork clock, shaped like a spider's web, with a swinging spider on the pendulum.
Seamus' clock with swinging spider pendulum.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Rachel's three pencil sketches of wind eroded rocks from the Vestfold Hills. And Mark's clock in the shape of Antarctica.
Rachel's drawings of rocks from the Vestfold Hills and Mark's Antarctic clock.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Two lamps, made from stacks of wooden rungs from a ship's ladder, with bulbs with architectural filaments.
Seamus' lamps with wood from the Aurora Australis.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Danny's handmade beer bottle opener made from blackheart sassafras.
Danny's beer bottle opener in blackheart sassafras, with other items.
(Photo: Barry Becker)