This week at Davis: 17 March 2017

This week at Davis we've had a kitchen makeover, planted our hydroponics garden, been on the radio and had our winter team photo.

Opening of the hydroponics building

'It's alive! It's alive! IT'S ALIVE! IT'S ALIVE! BY THE NAME OF GOD, NOW I KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE GOD!' - Victor Frankenstein

Ok, maybe that's going a little overboard, but this collection of parts thrown together is the newly completed hydroponics system! It is finally up and running, after many fixes and work–arounds we have it going. With no leaks and the flows balanced, it was time to plant it out.

Instead of planting seeds and then growing them into seedlings before placing them into the channels, I made the decision to seed–up directly into the channel and fill the system immediately. It would take an extended period of time to grow the 360+ seedlings needed to fill all available positions, so this way we should get a lot more produce, a lot faster.

Since that would have taken me two days to do by myself, I sneekily chilled some beers down (by leaving them outside for two hours) and lured the rest of the Davis team to the 'hydro' building with the promise of refreshments on Friday afternoon. My ploy worked. Suckers! Actually, I just thought it would be nice if everyone had a hand in planting some seeds, a little ownership if you will. With the help of the whole team, every position was planted out in just an hour and the system had its inauguration.

Thanks to everyone who was involved with building the system, and helping to plant it out. Cheers!

My plan is to run the GoPro in there for 90 days and make a timelapse of the herbs and salad greens growing, it should be great! I will keep you posted.

Marc (Mechanic)

Bryce, and electrician, and Shoey, a plumber, are seen working on the electronics and plumbing systems in the growing channels of the hydroponic chambers. Everything is new and built from scratch.
Bryce (sparky) and Shoey (plumber) help fit out the hydroponics building.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
Richard, Sharky, Rhys, Fitzy, Kirsten, Rob and Tony are all planting seeds within the growing substrate that then get put into the growing channels.
Richard, Sharky, Rhys, Fitzy, Kirsten, Rob and Tony all muck in to…
(Photo: Marc Mills)
Having planted the seeds, the gang are milling around chatting and snacking, waiting for the others to finish planting before the official inaugural opening takes place.
Post-planting Sharky, Kirsten, Kerryn, Richard, Jock, Shoey and Fitzy wait for the…
(Photo: Marc Mills)
Nine people are standing around smiling and with a drink in hand, having just celebrated the official opening of the Hydroponics building.
Cheers! The seeds have been planted and the hydroponics building officially opened.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
The hydroponics channels are bathed in magenta light which is optimal for growing conditions.
The light conditions for growing crops.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
A close up of the squares of growing medium which are now full of seeds and labelled. Here we see herbs: maroram, oregano and thyme.
The growing medium, now full of seeds and labelled. Now we just…
(Photo: Marc Mills)

Kitchen makeover

Some people say that the chefs have the hardest job on station. I’m not sure about that and don’t envy those that have to work in the waste treatment plant!

The three chefs worked hard over summer, feeding the 90+ people on station and on days I’m sure we made enough food for 140 and it was still all consumed. All this takes a toll on the kitchen. So with all the summerers having sailed over the iceberg encrusted horizon, it was all hands on deck for the 17 winterers to give the kitchen and everything in it, a good scrub and pressure clean, including floors walls and anything that stood still for too long.

The other motivation behind this activity, was to install two new ovens and a bread proofer. Everyone jumped at it with a positive attitude and great enthusiasm which was fantastic. It was a great day of teamwork, joviality and hard work with a cold lunch. Eight hours later, everything was replaced, returned or in its new home, now looking clean and shiny, with the ovens just needing connecting. Luckily we counted on Plan B from the start and all sat down to a BBQ and salad dinner.

Thank you to everyone for all their efforts involved with the kitchen makeover. It’s been an exciting week in the kitchen with the new equipment and the hydroponics building being planted out and 'opened', I wonder what next week will bring?

Kerryn (Chef)

Barry, Shoey and Bryce have pulled the dirty old stove out from the wall and are about to start cleaning it. The rest of the kitchen has been gutted for cleaning.
Barry B2, Shoey and Bryce with the old stove.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Three people are seen cleaning the floor in the gutted kitchen. Tony is power washing the tiles, Rhys is scubbing with a broom and Kirsten is vacuuming up the water.
Scrubbing and power washing the kitchen.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
The stoves have been scrubbed clean and are looking shiny. The equipment is back in position after the makeover.
The scrubbed equipment looking clean and shiny back in position.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Two brand new ovens are in position, stacked on top of one another. They have red lights when turned on and look fancy.
The two new ovens in pride of place.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Freshly baked pies out of the new oven. They look delicious.
The proof is in the baking! Pies from the new oven.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)

Davis station culture

A silly thought occurred to me the other day – what is culture? What does it even mean? So I looked it up. 'The ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society'.

Well put dictionary!

But what I was really thinking is 'why am I here during winter and why are these people here too?' What unites us to come here when there is the rest of the world to explore with all the cool stuff you could possibly want (especially broadband internet)? Are we jigsaw pieces that fit together as people, or even to this place? I like all my fellow winterers, but we are all very different. Pick any category – different ages, different sexes, different jobs. Even when we share an interest, say football, we like different teams. Music? Sure, we do have common favourites, but explore someone’s entire collection and try and say you like or know everything they have. Not everybody likes chocolate (shocking, I know) or alcohol, yet we all get along quite well.

So if it is not us singly is it us collectively that makes us unite? Is it our 'culture' to be a group on the edge of civilisation? When I first applied to go to Antarctica I never once thought, 'Gosh I bet I will meet some awesome people there'. No, my main thought was 'I wanna see icebergs and cool stuff and see what it is really like'. But not only did everything I saw blow my mind, so did my fellow expeditioners. So when I re–applied it wasn’t just to see more and cover the bits I missed first time round, it was to be with, and part of, the people that make the culture here what it is.

So what is the culture of Davis, the home of a mere 17 souls for eight months, in ridiculously low temperatures and minimal daylight? To be honest I am not sure yet, but I can see it forming.

We are hardworking, but we are laid back too. We chafe at the rules, but respect the intent and the need for them. We love to laugh with each other, at each other and at ourselves. We love our chef, even though she is trying to kill us with so much good food. We love our brewmaster because he makes the beer! And slowly we are developing a rhythm. Scary Sunday movies, music Mondays and Game of Thrones every other waking minute (please help us, there are only six seasons!).

So what is the culture of Davis? It is us, the strengths of 17 individuals added to each other making us all stronger. It teaches us about each other and we learn to respect those differences that can open our eyes to a wider world.

And we will need it.

Winter is coming.

Rhys (Chippie)

Marc is standing in the bar having just poured himself a draught beer that he made. He has a big smile on his face as he is about to take his first sip.
Marc (Millsy), Brewmaster extraordinaire, sampling his own product.
(Photo: Rhys Francis)
Kerryn the chef is standing in the kitchen behind the bain marie which is full of delicious food.
Kerryn, MasterChef, most beloved by all on station.
(Photo: Rhys Francis)
The winter team back row (L-R): Kirsten, Ralph, Sharky, Rob, Lotter, Kerryn, Marc, Bryce, Jock, Tony, Barry B2, Fitzy; front row: Barry B1, Shoey, Daleen, Rhys and Richard. In the background are the resident elephant seals and newly formed sea-ice in the bay.
The winter team back row (L-R): Kirsten (station leader), Ralph (doctor), Sharky…
(Photo: Barry Becker)
The team of 17 winterers arranged around the Davis sign post.
The winter team.
(Photo: Barry Becker)

Radio interview with the ABC

There is an ABC local radio program that has been broadcast for over 30 years. It is called 'Australia All Over' and is hosted by Ian McNamara on Sunday mornings from 6 am. He talks live to people all around Australia or ex–pats living overseas.

Last Sunday morning at around 2:15 am local time I phoned him to say g’day. It’s not every day that someone phones ABC radio from Antarctica.

At that time of day it was pitch black, light snow was falling and the temperature was around −6°C. I enjoyed having a chat to him and explaining about some of the lifestyle aspects of living in such a remote place. There was general discussion about how cold it will be (down to −30°C or less), how we find our way around station when there is a blizzard (ropes called blizz lines), where people come from (all over Australia and overseas) and whether there are other Antarctic stations nearby (Chinese, Russian and Indian bases are all within 100 km).

I enjoyed four and half months on Macquarie Island during the summer of 2014/15 so Ian was also interested to hear about my experiences there.

Family and friends are all interested to know what it is like to be living and working at a place like Davis. I hope that my interview has made more people sit up and take notice about the amazing place that we are lucky enough to be occupying for a whole summer and winter period.

My interview can be heard at the start of this podcast at ABC.

Rob (Station communications technical officer) 

The wharf has a number of shipping containers on it, has a nice cover of snow and there is a pink sunset in the distance.
Sunset over the Davis wharf.
(Photo: Robert Bonney)
Newly formed sea-ice is present in clumps in the bay. Davis station is in the background.
Sea-ice starting to form in Prydz Bay.
(Photo: Robert Bonney)