This week at the station

This week at Davis: 5 July 2013

The ‘days’ are getting longer, no hurry though.

Midwinter has come and gone. Sacrifices have been made to the pagan gods (through the Midwinter Swim, as well as much feasting and celebrating). Now we wait for the sun to return. Officially our first sunrise will be July 10th, which happens to be a special day on station because one of our fellow expeditioners is celebrating his 60th birthday that day. Yeah, you know who you are, and we love you for it ol’ boy.

But wait, don’t rush that sun!

Life at Davis over the last few weeks has been a new experience for almost all on station (with only three previous wintering expeditioners out of seventeen). The opportunity to live in an area where the sun doesn’t actually rise is pretty special, and even more so for an avid amateur photographer. The extended hours of twilight (about 5-6 hours each day), has given rise to a plethora of picture perfect moments. It’s hard to capture everything in a single picture, and even harder to put words to those pictures, so I will just let the images do the rest of the talking on this one.

The meteorology hut sits on the right with a blue and gold twilight sky behind.
Twilight panorama showing the Met outlook over Prydz Bay
(Photo: Rich Y)
The waxing three-quarter super moon rises over station
The waxing three-quarter super moon rises over station
(Photo: Rich Y)
An iceberg that looks like Cradle Mountain  stands on the horizon in the midday twilight
The Cradle Mountain berg stands proudly in the midday twilight
(Photo: Rich Y)
The twilight makes the icebergs look bright blue with a pink sky behind
More bergs, more amazing light
(Photo: Rich Y)
The new living quarters surrounded by ice.
The new living quarters, stoic against the winter cold
(Photo: Rich Y)
Building silhouetted agiainst the multi-coloured sky
Heli-hut last week before heading out off station
(Photo: Rich Y)

Work on Magnetic Island generates some deep thinking

Just after midwinter, our resident scientist/engineer Dr Bob, our medical practitioner Doc Mal and myself headed out to Magnetic Island (a few kilometres northwest of station). We were off to service the cameras used to monitor the Adelie penguins over their summer breeding time. We arrived on the island under light from the setting super moon and some pretty amazing twilight coming from the non-present sun, still two weeks away from returning its warmth over the horizon.

Walking past the tiny piles of rocks that the Adélies collect for their nesting partner, we were reminded of the remoteness of where we are. Even the penguins are smart enough to leave this place in the depths of winter… what are we doing here?

But the answer to that question is simple; it is much safer and less intrusive to conduct the maintenance for these scientific projects when the wildlife is not here. This reduces our disruption to their summer breeding cycles, and in turn, helps us understand their natural behaviours.

Of course this comes at a cost for us wintering expeditioners, as we are constantly at battle with the cold, the wind and the isolation – but let’s be honest, we love it!

Red Hagglunds parked on the sea ice with Turner Island in the foreground
Red Hagg watches the super moon set over Turner Island
(Photo: Rich Y)
Piles of small rocks collected last breading season for nesting Adelie penguins
Rock piles collected by the breeding Adelie penguins
(Photo: Rich Y)
Ice bergs stuck fast in the sea ice
Ice berg alley out off Magnetic Island
(Photo: Rich Y)
Observation camera, complete with solar panel and tough pelicase protection
Observation camera
(Photo: Rich Y)
Man wearing hat and big scarf to keep his face warm.
Dr Bob all rugged up
(Photo: Rich Y)
Dr Mal peering out of the Hagg at the bergs and the twilit horizon
Dr Mal peering out of the Hagg
(Photo: Rich Y)

Kazak and Hawker Island trip

Engineering Specialist Dr Bob, our Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) Observer Gavin and the Ninja Comms Operative (me) headed out on a mission to service the cameras and AWS (automagic weather station) on Kazak and Hawker Islands. Kazak Island is right down near the Sorsdal Glacier, the camera and AWS data is used for studying the ice forming and blowing out throughout the season. As it happens, the ice must have blown out about a week before we got there because the solid, one metre thick ice gave way to ice only about 120mm right on the edge of the island, and just a bit further out – open water! This was my first real chance to see the front of the Sorsdal Glacier ‘up close’ (about 1500m away), and it was an amazing and breathtaking experience. Ice cliffs over a 100m high, dropping away into open water… something we haven’t seen at Davis since the start of March.

We were staying at Watts Hut for the night, so we ducked over to Lake Druhzby to get some more night shots on the amazing cracked freshwater ice. This time we were treated to clear skies, giving rise to a brilliant Milky Way star field and some pretty average Aurora Australis. But when we got back to the hut, the heavens exploded and the Aurora Australis went crazy for about 20 minutes, long enough for us all to get some classic shots!

On day two we headed to Hawker Island, which is an ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area), the terms under which only two of us could be on the island at once. Bob and I went ‘ashore’ to service the three cameras setup to study the Southern Giant Petrels that call it home. Once this was completed, Bob stepped off the island to let Gavin come get some sneaky pictures as well. The island is home to up to 40 breeding pairs; we were lucky enough to see five of these magic birds on the day.

Dr Bob and Gavin on quads heading south to Kazak Island
Dr Bob and Gavin on quads heading south to Kazak Island
(Photo: Rich Y)
Dr Bob and Gavin drilling thorugh the sea-ice. The quad bikaes are parked next to them.
Dr Bob and Gavin drilling the sea-ice
(Photo: Rich Y)
Sea-ice camera set on a tripod on Kazak Island
Sea-ice camera on Kazak Island
(Photo: Rich Y)
Panorama of the huge cliffs of the Sorsdal Glacier from Kazak Island.
Panorama of the Sorsdal Glacier from Kazak Island
(Photo: Rich Y)
Dr Bob and Gavin working on the automatic weather station
Dr Bob and Gavin working on the AWS
(Photo: Rich Y)
Aurora and Milky Way star field reflected in Lake Druhzby
Aurora and Milky Way star field reflected in Lake Druhzby
(Photo: Rich Y)
Gavin, Dr Bob and Rich lying on the frozen fresh water lake. Light from a torch shines on their faces in the dark.
Gavin, Dr Bob and Rich on Lake Druhzby
(Photo: Rich Y)
The great colours and peaky surface of the cracked frozen fresh water lake
Blue-tinted cracked ice of Lake Druhzby
(Photo: Rich Y)
A magnificent colourful Aurora with a bright green sweep in the sky above Watts hut
The Aurora Australis explodes above Watts Hut
(Photo: Rich Y)
Cameras set up on tripods on Hawker Island to observe Southern Giant Petrels nesting area
Cameras set up on Hawker Island
(Photo: Rich Y)
Four Southern Giants Petrels blend into the rocks.
Four Southern Giants Petrels, can you spot them all?
(Photo: Rich Y)
Southern Giant Petrel at rest on Hawker Island
Southern Giant Petrel at rest on Hawker Island
(Photo: Rich Y)
This page was last modified on 16 December 2010.