This week at the station
This week at Davis: 28 January 2011
The week started with a new view at Davis this season: The sea ice broke up and strong winds blew the ice floes away from the station. Also, a new elephant seal was seen on the shore on Australia Day.The boating crew used the opportunity to activate the IRBs (inflatable rubber boats) and our penguin biologists took advantage of the boating crew familiarisation trip to hitch a ride out to Gardner and Magnetic Islands. They downloaded data from some “spy cameras” which are positioned on the islands to automatically take photographs of the Adélie penguin colonies. More good news is that the Summer Snorkeling program has commenced with the marine biologists a.k.a. “Snorkeling Girls” getting out and investigating the wildlife in the waters around Davis.
Field Travel Training
Part of the expeditioners' training for their time in Antarctica involves Field Travel Training. Most of the wintering crew’s expeditioners have now completed this training involving navigation and travelling in difficult terrain as well as camping out in the field.
While some loved the opportunity to spend time in the field off their regular work, others were very happy to return to the station after some quite demanding hikes.
This week we celebrated Australia Day in Antarctica! The day spoilt us with the finest weather as sunshine and no wind accompanied our big swim event. At noon, brave Davis expeditioners rushed into the water, closely watched by the careful eyes of the doc. Most enjoyed just a short refreshing swim, but some were even seen crawling and splashing around for a full minute or two.Some chose to warm up in the spa after the swim, but others just started to enjoy a delicious barbecue at the beach right away. To the sound of Triple J’s Hottest 100, the Davis Crew engaged in various activities playing Cricket, Frisbee and other sports.
And lastly from our Aggregate Aggravating Investigative Reporter Jenn……
Ten Questions with Bob “His Hotness” Heath
Legendary Canuk Training Pilot with Kenn Borek Air Ltd.
Q: How many trips to Antarctica Bob?
A: I have done nine or ten trips to Antarctica as a pilot for Kenn Borek and worked for the Americans, Italians and tourist ops at Patriot Hills. Seven years I have spent working with the Italians in Antarctica. I also fly in the Arctic and do grizzly bear, polar bear and Beluga whale surveys.
Q: What are you giving up to be in Antarctica?
A: Mexico. I had a holiday planned .......canned.
Q: If not a pilot?
A: Rock Doctor....I love rocks, when I am not flying in Antarctica I do not have to carry so much gear in the plane so have room to collect specimens....lots of specimens.
Q: Best gig ever as a pilot?
A: My first week flying in the Arctic I flew people from Siberia, Alaska, Eastern Arctic and Greenland for a week in just about every direction . The scenery and the people were incredible. The Russians are the most cheerful people with no money, the Siberians are disgustingly cheerful with absolutely nothing to be cheerful about, the Canadians are laughing all the time, the Alaskans grumble continuously and the Inuit from Greenland sing. They all have their different traits. Second best gig was the full Antarctic deal flying Kiwis from Scott Base to Cape Hallet remediating an old base. We saw Glaciers, mountains, seals and many varieties of whales. The country we flew through was seen by Scott's Northern party back in the day and pretty much no one else since. The weather was blue bird, we were spoilt rotten and the passengers were always ready and organised. And this other time........
Q: Best experience in Antarctica?
A: I took the photographer from Life Magazine to Dawson-Lampton Glacier. There were some North Face poster boys as the FTOs and we learned (badly) climbing techniques and crevasse rescue. The dispatcher at base was trying to get them to come back early but the photographer was looking for “The Money Shot” , the light was fantastic and they were not leaving! After hearing a loud “crack” I looked out of my tent to see a crevasse opening up right in the middle of the camp. Most things were hastily thrown into the Twin Otter and out they flew as the entire camp below became part of the crevasse. The weather closed in and we had to taxi the plane for two hours to get to a fuel cache and then spend twelve hours digging the drums out of the snow to refuel the plane. (We won’t go into the worst experience)
Q: First thing you will do when you get home to Inuvik?
A: I know that I will be walking my Fierce Arctic Bichon Sebastian for an hour or so. (Bob seems a little misguided about the meaning of the word Fierce, think miniature poodle)
Q: What is it like being a pilot in Antarctica?
A: One day a month on average actually feels like a work day. We do some long hours but you do not notice the time going by. We have good times, see spectacular things and meet great people.
Q: What is the best thing you have learnt here?
A: Being here is like an episode of “McLeod’s Daughters” but with snow. We never hear “ Not my job”. It is that small community spirit where people give so much of themselves, be productive and cheerful. It really cures you of having to do everything by yourself as everyone pitches in.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: Steve King really inspires me. He is currently a pilot at Rothera Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. He was the Fearless Leader on my first trip to Antarctica. He is a natural leader of people and an enthusiastic dynamic man. He seems to pull a small black cloud out of every silver lining that hovers about a meter over his head.
Q: If you could be granted one wish?
A: I would wish to do it all over again. I have been to the North Pole and the South Pole in the same year in the same aircraft, all over the Arctic and the Antarctic and South American Coast. I met my wife on a medivac flight and after some dining and dancing got married on that same plane (no, not on the same day). I went to Inuvik twenty years ago to set up an air ambulance and never left. Living the Life!