An ice free site in the Vestfold Hills near Davis research station has been selected for the proposed Davis aerodrome.

Three locations were considered during the investigations for Antarctica’s first paved runway, based upon prior field work.

  • A ridge site — a rocky, elevated plateau 4.5km north east of Davis research station.
  • A site in Heidemann Valley — adjacent to and east of Davis research station.
  • A coastal site — 2.5km north east of Davis research station.

A scoping study considered criteria such as the topography, ground conditions and potential environmental impacts, and the operational needs of the proposed aerodrome at each of the three sites.

Davis Aerodrome Project Manager Stuart Gibson said the ridge site was selected as the preferred option in 2018.

“Our investigations showed that the ridge site has more favourable topographical, environmental and geological conditions,” Mr Gibson said.

“We’ve been able to design the alignment of the runway to suit the prevailing winds and topography of the site.”

“Another important reason for selecting the ridge site is because its location and alignment will minimise disturbance to wildlife populations in the region, such as penguins and seals.”

“The ridge site is also a large rock outcrop with a thin veneer of soils which limits susceptibility to permafrost ‘heave’ in freezing temperatures and makes it more stable.”

Scientists and surveyors are continuing to build on the Division’s understanding of the site and surrounding region.

“We have a dedicated field team at Davis station investigating the ground and sub-surface conditions, construction needs and potential impacts of the proposed aerodrome.”

Ecological surveys are providing baseline information on the presence, abundance, distribution, and seasonal variability of key species, which include lichens, mosses, algae, microbes, birds, seals and marine life.

These surveys will inform the impact assessment for the project and the longer-term monitoring program.

The Vestfold Hills are predominantly ice-free and cover roughly 410 square kilometres.

The footprint of the proposed aerodrome and associated infrastructure is approximately 2 square kilometres.

The Australian Antarctic Division will address environmental impacts and develop mitigation measures in line with legislated requirements. Public comment is currently invited as part of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) (EPBC Act).