This week at Davis: 21 April 2017

This week at Davis we're enjoying Easter, getting out on the sea ice, visiting the powerhouse and checking in on hydroponics.

A handmade Easter

With a long weekend approaching, some expeditioners chose to go away and some were bound to station with various duties. I thought I would offer some cooking classes for those who wanted to get in touch with their inner Martha Stewart.

On Friday, Rhys, Kirsten and Rob handmade hot cross buns, ginger bunnies and Portuguese custard tarts, ready for Saturday brunch and afternoon pickings. They went down a treat!

On Saturday I was joined by Bryce and Shoey. Together we had a pasta making session producing spaghetti, squid ink fettuccine and beetroot fettuccine and paired sauces to serve as Saturday’s dinner. Rob came back for a second go in the kitchen and handmade some beautiful Turkish bread and French sticks to serve as a side, to accompany the freshly harvested greenery from hydroponics. He is mastering the art of dough rolling. Everyone’s efforts were greatly appreciated that night with a bottle of red and lots of pasta slurping.

We woke up Sunday morning to find the Easter bunny had been, leaving a bag of chocolate joy hanging from everyone's bedroom door. Also to discover he is not yet house trained nor learnt to wipe his of paws of snow.

The weekend was rounded out with a walk on the sea ice on Sunday to stretch the legs and walk off the delicious Easter feast. What a perfect weekend.

Kerryn (Chef)

Rhys is in the kitchen, wearing an apron, kneading his hotcross bun dough out on the bench.
Rhys kneading the hotcross bun dough.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Freshly made hotcross buns, glistening with jam glaze and ready to eat.
The result.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Rob piping muffin mix into cup cakes.
Rob piping muffin mix into cup cakes.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Ginger bunnies, hotcross buns and Portuguese tarts.
Ginger bunnies, hotcross buns and Portuguese tarts.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Shoey and Bryce cutting the fettucini into ribbons as it goes through the dough rolling machine.
Shoey and Bryce cutting the fettucini.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Freshly made spaghetti, beetroot fettucini and squid ink fettucini drying.
Freshly made spaghetti, beetroot fettucini and squid ink fettucini drying.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Spaghetti carbonara, squid ink fettuccine with feta and beetroot fettuccine with homemade pesto.
Spaghetti carbonara, squid ink fettuccine with feta and beetroot fettuccine with homemade…
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Kerryn and Bryce are out on the sea-ice enjoying a walk. In the distance is an iceberg frozen into the sea-ice.
Kerryn and Bryce out on the sea ice.
(Photo: Bryce Daniel)

A few thoughts by Bryce

It’s my first winter season working for the Australian Antarctic Division, which means there are a lot of new 'first times' that are getting their first 'Bryce' experience.

It’s my first time working on power generation as an electrician. My first time living in a place where the ocean freezes over and elephant seals relax on the cold beach. My first time living in an environment where dressing up no longer means looking good for a night out on the town. Rather dressing up means getting as much clothing on as possible to stay warm and walk to the next building. The list goes on.

Most nights I sit in the comfortable living area and gaze outside to the beautiful icebergs and colourful sunsets on the horizon. A lot of the time my mind wanders back through the memories of our season so far. The excitement of arriving to station, the summer expeditioners, the warm days and walks through the Vestfold Hills with these new–found friends. It’s so strange to think that only six weeks ago I was sharing a drink with them in the bar, dinner with them in the mess and many a laugh as well.

Which leads me to the greatest 'first time' of them all. It’s the first time, and only time, that I will ever winter at Davis station with the sixteen members of my team. I would have to be truthful and say that I still don’t really know each of them yet. To go even further, I wonder if these people truly know me yet? To some people reading, I know this must sound daunting. But to the sociable, excitable and adventurous man that I am, it’s one of the reasons I’m here.

There are not many places where you get thrown into one of the most isolated places in the world with a bunch of strangers. Plus, they pay you for it and dangle in front of you all these added bonuses: cross country skiing, the potential traverse across a glacier, quad biking through the fjords to outlying recreational huts and the walks surrounding them.

Looking forward, I know deep down that this is how I’m going to get to know my fellow winter expeditioners. The experiences that we will share together and the adventures that we will go on. Learning together, sharing a beautiful aurora at Watts Hut, walking across the sea ice to Gardner Island and driving to Iceberg Alley on the quad bikes. These are the moments when our friendships will build. These are the moments when we will drop our guards and open ourselves to one another. When we will share more than just a laugh or casual comment.

These moments are the 'first times' which are yet to come. But so close on the horizon that I can’t help but get excited to experience them. An Antarctic, wintering expeditioner, first time adventure! 

Bryce (Electrician)

Bryce and Millsy are in the kitchen making a Saturday night dinner. Millsy si working with pastry on the bench. Bryce is working beside him.
Bryce and Millsy in the kitchen.
(Photo: Bryce Daniel)
A photo of the station buildings taken from the seaice. Behind the buildings is blue sky but it's early and still a bit dark.
Good morning station.
(Photo: Barry Becker)
Heading out on a walk over the seaice to Gardener Island. Three people are carrying backpacks and dressed in outdoor gear.
A trek to Gardner Island.
(Photo: Bryce Daniel)
A landscape shot of the brown hills of Davis with frozen sea-ice in the distance, surrounding islands.
The sea ice is here.
(Photo: Bryce Daniel)

Staying warm when winter is coming

Here at Davis we're a little off the main electricity grid hence we have the main powerhouse with four generators that supply power and heat to the station buildings.

The heat energy that is produced by the engines is captured through water heat exchange units and then circulated around the station via a complex site services system. The pipe and cable system is all above ground and often in the winter months will be buried under snow. The hot water enters each building passing through a heat exchange unit before circulating back to the main powerhouse to be reheated and start the cycle over: this runs 24/7. The number of engines that are running at any given time is related to the power load required.

The seals are leaving which is a sure sign winter is coming. The sea ice is thickening with each passing day and the elephant seals by the waters edge are ready to make a quick getaway as soon as they finish moulting. With ice now around the 50 cm mark, the seals have to travel over the ice rather than under it to reach open ocean. They disappear into the distance like black slugs, leaving their slimy trails behind them.

Barry B2 (Electrician)

The blue Powerhouse building is seen with a bulldozer and elephant seal in front of it.
The main powerhouse at Davis (with a visiting elephant seal).
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
Richard checking the flux capacitor on an engine in the Powerhouse.
Richard checking the flux capacitor on an engine in the powerhouse.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
Richard is in the Powerhouse, looking at dials on a control board, taking daily observations.
Richard assists the sparkies with powerhouse observations.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
The six big black fuel tanks out on the fuel farm on station.
Lots of fuel.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
A brown stain on the beach shows where the elephant seals are resting ashore. Out on the sea-ice you can see trails through the snow where the seals have moved out towards the ice edge, trying to find open ocean.
The elephant seals and their snail trails as they leave the beach…
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
Rob and Barry B2 are out walking on the sea-ice. Barry is carrying an ice-axe
Rob and Barry B2 out walking on the sea ice.
(Photo: Bryce Daniel)

Hydroponics update

It has been a month or so now since we started up the new hydroponics system and thus far it is working very well. We have been able to make several harvests already and were able to enjoy some delicious salads prepared by our chef, Kerryn. Any amount of green is a bonus and we have had a decent amount so far for such a young system. The tomatoes are growing very well and will require some attention with pruning away some of the leaves in order to get the best growth out of them and the zucchini plants are just taking over!

The exceptional growth we have seen so far can be put down to the careful monitoring from the guys rostered on for hydroponics duty, we keep the growing conditions within an optimal range. We check the system in the morning and in the evening to top up the water, adjust the pH and the amount of nutrients in the water.

The building system itself regulates the temperature to a balmy 24° Celsius, which is quite good, although you really need to remove all your cold weather gear when you go inside. Currently the humidity in the building is sitting around the 85% mark, so the air is quite wet and this is causing some condensation issues, but we are looking into what we can do to remedy this.

All in all, the new hydroponics system is doing very well, hopefully in the near future we'll have some tomatoes to show you.

Marc (Mechanic)

One room in the Hydroponics building containing lettuce, kale and herbs.
The herb, lettuce and kale side.
(Photo: Marc Mills)
The beans, zucchini and tomato room. There is lots of green growth and trellis on the walls.
The beans, tomoatoes and zucchini section.
(Photo: Marc Mills)