This week at Davis: 30 November 2018

WARNING: may contain Weddell seal cuteness

Seal spotters

Weddell seals are currently hauled out into the Long Fjord area north of Davis research station.  Their final 2018 survey was completed recently, with summer field biologists Kris and Erica surveying a long-term monitoring area to add to our knowledge of abundance, distribution and phenology (the study of life events and their influence by seasonal changes) of the local breeding population. 

Some spectacular Davis weather provided perfect survey conditions, with 178 seals, including 66 pups, recorded on the fast ice near their access holes. Some pups are now getting quite large – stacking on several kilograms a day (!!) from their mother’s rich milk – and will soon be weaned.

Weddell seals have been tagged in the Vestfold Hills during previous studies, and sightings of these beautiful tagged animals provide some valuable insights into individual survival, breeding and movement. 

Over the course of an exhausting 10-hour day, five tagged seals were spotted, and photographs of the small tags taken to help obtain the unique ID number. After consulting the tagging records back on station, one of the seals spotted last week was tagged in 1987 and is now 31 years old!

Weddell seal pup
Weddell seal pup...definitely not the shy type
(Photo: Kris C)
Sleeping Weddell seal
A hard day on the ice
(Photo: Kris C)
Hagglund in front of dolerite dyke
Lunch break to admire the landscape
(Photo: Kris C)

We got ourselves a convoy

Through the eyes of a dieso's first season....

As the warmer weather is soon set to dispose of the sea ice runway in front of Davis Station, it's time once again to move man, machine and critical equipment up to the Davis Plateau ski landing area.  Affectionately known as ‘Woop Woop’, our strip of blue ice sits proudly on the polar cap. To get to it requires meticulous planning and attention to detail to execute a not-so-casual 55km drive over sea ice and snow. Our epic convoy included two groomers, each towing equipment and a new generator van, along with a Hägglund and two quad bikes in support. 

Our merry band of travelers Steve, Ross, Jen and Dane departed Davis station at 7am in glorious conditions, heading out across the thick sea ice guided through the iceberg maze by our two quad-mounted FTOs Marty and Mark. We smoothly weaved our way past magnificent icebergs, spying the occasional seal popping out of an ice crack for a sneaky look…and we're sure someone must have packed the penguin magnet as many would happily waddle over to stare in bemusement whenever we came to a stop.

After covering a huge section of coastline and setting a short section of cane marker placements, we bid farewell to our trusty FTOs as they turned for home, and made our own way up onto the stark-white, barren but *awe inspiring* plateau…the photos of which appear like a child’s finger painting compared to being lucky enough to experience it in person. 

As we continued, the honeymoon period was clearly over as we quickly faced deteriorating conditions for the remainder of our journey. Sleds were disconnected, machines safely parked up and gear transferred to the Hägglund (which had significantly less snacks than the morning) for a drive back down to the coast. 

It was a bumpy old ride as we came off the plateau and jumped into the helicopter for a short, but memorable flight across the spectacular Vestfold Hills and back to station - perfectly timed to arrive for another amazing dinner served up by our beloved, hard-working chefs. All-in-all the day was a huge success spent with awesome people, and definitely one I won’t forget.​


Plateau ski landing area set-up
Arrival at Whoop Whoop
(Photo: Dane E)
Weather conditions
Changing weather en route
(Photo: Dane E)
Groomers and Hagg
A slight pause
(Photo: Dane E)
Sea ice traverse
Rollin' convoy
(Photo: Dane E)
Holy berg
No drive through service available
(Photo: Dane E)