This week at Davis: 9 June 2017

This week at Davis we're visiting frozen lakes, servicing penguin monitoring cameras, renovating bedrooms and making ice cream treats.

A crooked trip to Watts

A few expeditioners and I took advantage of the calm winds and clear skies and got off station on the weekend. Barry (B1), Barry (B2), Bryce and Richard all joined me on the quads as we made our way to Watts Hut for the night.

With temps pushing well below −25°C, it was pivotal to have all the riding gear up to scratch and working properly. As B2 found out, breaking his helmet’s heating visor a mere 500 metres from station. Riding at 30 km/h (the Division's speed limit) with your visor up in freezing temps isn’t the greatest of activities. But B2 reveled in it by the looks, not complaining once.

Once making it up Ellis Fjord to Watts Hut with time to spare we made our way onto Lake Druzhby, a fresh water lake that has frozen over the last few months. Giving us a breathtaking sight of crystal clear ice, with frozen bubbles in it and a master piece of cracks giving a surreal look into the frozen lake.

After a couple of hours taking numerous photos, I think B1 had taken 400+ at this point, we retired to the hut for some warmth and to get ready for the night time antics.

Once the afternoon twilight had completely gone and the moon had risen, we made our way back onto Lake Druzhby to set up an LED light. We drilled a hole in the ice and placed the light down into it. The ice lit up in a magic blue that spread for metres and metres, finding its way along the giant cracks in the ice. We were even lucky enough to get a slight aurora during all this, even a sneaky asteroid lit up the sky as it burnt up in the atmosphere.

After a great night we started our Sunday by spending nearly two hours trying to get out our quads to start as the engine oil doesn’t like such extreme temps. Once all the bikes were started we made our way to Crooked Lake for some more sightseeing, another spectacular day with great weather and scenery. We visited a few gorges and climbed a rather large hill to get a look at the plateau and the rest of the Vestfold Hills.

After making our way around most of Crooked Lake we made our way back to station, back to the warmth.

Shoey (Plumber and Balancing Technician)

Barry (B1) is lying on the lake ice taking photos of the cracks in the ice. You can see a couple of quad bikes parked on the ice as well. Behind B1 are the Vestfold Hills and twilight skies.
Barry B1 taking photo number 359.
(Photo: Darren Shoobridge)
Bryce and Shoey are seen in silhouette against a night sky with a bright moon.
Brucey (Bryce) and Shoey cascaded by the moon.
(Photo: Darren Shoobridge)
An LED light has been placed in a hole in the ice which has lit up all the cracks - great for photography.
Trying out the LED light in the cracks of Lake Druzhby.
(Photo: Darren Shoobridge)
LED lit cracks in Lake Druzhby with a sneaky green aurora overhead.
LED lit cracks in Lake Druzhby with a sneaky aurora.
(Photo: Darren Shoobridge)
Auroras reflected on the lake ice. A bright moon is also present.
Auroras reflected on the lake ice.
(Photo: Darren Shoobridge)
The frozen ice of Crooked Lake in twilight. Lots of cracks are seen in the beautiful clear ice.
Crooked Lake in twilight.
(Photo: Darren Shoobridge)

Winter penguins at Gardner Island

This week at Davis I was fortunate enough to accompany Lötter, our electronics engineer and science support extraordinaire, to Gardner Island to inspect the penguin cameras AAD deployed there a few years ago. We left Davis just after morning tea, to make use of the little light we have left after the sun set for the last time the previous week.

Gardner is a small rocky island about 4 km from Davis station, and hosts thousands of Adélie penguins. Its original name was Breidneskollen, and the island was first mapped by Norwegian cartographers who used aerial photos from the Lars Christensen expedition in 1936. The island was renamed after Lionel Gardner, a diesel mechanic at Davis in 1958.

The cameras monitor penguin nest sites on Garner Island. It is part of a longitudinal study that helps AAD researchers study Adélie penguin arrival and departure dates, and also helps them monitor breeding success and mortality rates.

There are three cameras operating on Gardner, each using a chargeable battery and solar panel combination to operate. The cameras are located in a small pelican case and mounted on a tripod. Designed by the Division's Science Technical Support team, the system uses Canon DSLR cameras which operate with a very efficient power regime to extent the battery life.

We retrieved three SD cards that contained 17GB of photos, which was uploaded to the AAD seabird team in Hobart. Each of the three solar panels were cleaned by removing excess ice build–up. Lötter also replaced the desiccant bags that removes excess moisture from the enclosures.

Unfortunately we did not see any living Adélie penguins on the island but the low light offered us some nice views of Prydz Bay and our winter home, Davis station. The only penguin in sight was wearing a warm Carhartt jacket and walked around with a camera toolkit.

Daleen (Met Technical Officer – Engineer) 

An orange sky with a setting sun. Our last sunset until the 10th July.
The last sunset at Davis until the 10th of July.
(Photo: Daleen Koch)
Opal, the pink Hägg, out on the sea ice.
Opal, our pink Hägg, out on the sea ice.
(Photo: Daleen Koch)
A remote penguin monitoring camera, set up on Gardner Island. It looks like a plastic case on a tripod with a solar panel at its feet.
A remote penguin monitoring camera, set up on Gardner Island.
(Photo: Daleen Koch)
The view of Davis from Gardner Island in twilight.
The view of Davis from Gardner Island in twilight.
(Photo: Daleen Koch)
Lötter in action, servicing the remote penguin camera.
Lötter in action, servicing the remote penguin camera.
(Photo: Daleen Koch)
The line between our older sea ice and the newly formed sea ice from the last blizzard.
The line between our older sea ice (left) and the newly formed…
(Photo: Daleen Koch)

Bedroom makeovers

With the days now having mostly twilight as we edge closer to midwinter the refurbishment of the Davis accommodation rooms has recommenced. Each expeditioner gets their own room which is well equipped with a comfy bed, writing desk, well lit area and storage space.

Everything has to be stripped or dismantled before the real work commences which involves plastering all the holes, new paint, new blackout curtains moving power points and installing new lighting. Some people will be changing rooms while all this activity takes place but it's time for a makeover to give it a fresh, modern and better look than ever.

Barry (Electrician)

The old room layout with a desk, bookcase, bed and window.
The old room layout.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
The bedding and furniture is dismantled in preparation for the renovation.
So it begins.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
The room has been cleared of furniture. The electricians can now start making holes in the walls for cables.
Time to make some holes.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
The room now has many holes and cables hanging out through the walls, indicating that the electrical work is almost done.
Electrical almost done.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)
Rhys (carpenter), fills in the holes left by the electrician.
Rhys (chippie) filling in his time.
(Photo: Barry Balkin)

Kitchen capers

It’s amazing down here how the little things can create quite a stir. Something as little as a choc top ice cream can almost cause a meltdown on station. Having produced some choc covered ice creams with a chewy Nutella surprise and nut filled waffle cones for a recent cinema experience, little did I realise how popular they would become. 

As supplies decreased the few addicts started a countdown and the games started, game I should say of 'hide and seek' for the last one. Addict 'one' hid the last one. The said cone was found but not by the hider. Photographic evidence was taken to show off to the hider.

Hider, let’s call him B2, wasn’t going down peacefully and came with a plea, please make one more.

This was 'discretely' pulled out at a station gathering much to everyone’s surprise and jealousy and prompted a freezer search. To keep the cool we now have a supply of many delicious flavours to choose from. Perhaps with a secret stash somewhere.

Ice creams sorted I can now re–focus on getting things ready for the midwinter feast, one of the biggest days of the year on station. Kicked off with some macaroons and other sweet treats, and have lots of planning ahead. Watch this space.

Kerryn (Chef)

Fitzy is in the kitchen, holding a home made choc top ice cream. He looks very happy as he has scored the last one.
Fitzy eating the last choc-top and creating ice cream envy.
(Photo: Rhys Francis)
The latest batch of choc tops: banana and mint choc chip.
The latest batch of choc tops: banana and mint choc chip.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)
Colourful macaroons in the making (yellow, purple, pink and green), cooling down on baking trays.
Macaroon magic.
(Photo: Kerryn Oates)