This week we ate cake in support of cancer research, said farewell to the sun and took a look at station life for some at Davis.

Davis Biggest Morning Tea

On Thursday 24 May Davis held a Biggest Morning Tea to raise funds for Cancer Council Australia. Cancer Council Australia advises the Australian Government and other bodies on practices and policies to help prevent, detect and treat cancer. They also advocate for the rights of cancer patients for best treatment and supportive care.

Thursday morning break saw eager expeditioners tuck in to traditional scones with jam and cream, choc chip cookies, chocolate brownies, homemade Monte Carlos, carrot cake (baked from the award winning Davis Masterchef competition recipe) and hot ham and cheese toasties. Yum!

Our fundraising efforts saw $1000 being donated to this very worthy cause.

A day in the life of the Antarctic plumber

“I read the news today oh boy…” A day in the life of The Antarctic Plumber

 by Darryl ‘Ferret’ Seidel

Hi there. Many of you out there may have the belief that all we do down here is ride around on quad bikes looking at penguins and icebergs. For the most part this is true, but there is work to be done to keep the place up and running.

When you think about the plumbing complexities in Antarctica it’s no wonder why plumbers are the superior tradies on site. Its −30 outside yet the water still flows from the taps and the water in the toilet bowl isn’t frozen like in the Simpsons episode where Bart calls the South Pole. The buildings are warm, the Coke is cold and fizzy. Perfection. Here is a rundown of my day so far.

5:30am. Get up to see if there is an Aurora outside. Yep it’s also −29. Righto. So I rug up, grab my camera equipment and go set up near the Met (weather) building because they release a weather balloon at 6:15am and pm without fail. I attempt to take a test shot. @#$%! “No card in camera”. It’s still in my laptop. Right. Go get the card and try again. Success! Ok now to capture the balloon launch. 3…2…1… click. Where was the flash? The cold has just killed my batteries in my Speedlite. @#$%! Oh well. I'll just have to use the cameras built in flash, all the while our lovely Met observer is getting hypothermic. Try again. Sweet! ‘That'll do pig, that'll do'. Back inside to warm up.

7am. Tank house obs. Every morning we check the level of the internal 90,000L water storage tanks, of which we have 4. This is where water is delivered and circulated from. It is metered so we know how much we are guzzling.

8am. Over to Warren. (Warren is the brand of the incinerator, hence the nickname. Some nick names you don’t get to choose, isn’t that right Pooper?!). All waste that we can’t recycle, e.g. food scraps, some dry burnable goods, hydro clippings etc, we burn in our lovely incinerator. Most people on station have an understanding where rubbish goes but I swear over summer some people thought the fairies magically dealt with it. Warren has a “no refund” policy once it’s in, it’s in. Although some of the more interesting things to come out of Warren have been knives and forks, coffee mugs, batteries and a coffee plunger (nice one Jan). Over summer we were burning every one to two days, now the masses have left us we are down to weekly or fortnightly burns.

10am. As Chris ,our resident chippy and brew master, says, “Smoko on a Wednesday is the best 30 minutes of the week”. Wednesday is hot smoko day, more to the point, bacon and eggs with all the trimmings! Sausage roll Tuesday is a very close 2nd. Bacon is an awesome way to get over “hump day”.

12pm. After the morning duties it’s time to settle in to a job for the arvo*: cleaning filters on some of the heaters in the buildings. Davis over summer has a lot of dust and a lot of dust means clogged filters.

1:30pm. Hagg recovery training. When we aren’t on quads looking at icebergs we will be in a Hägglunds looking at icebergs. Yes there is always a ‘s’ on the end even if it’s singular. 1 Hägglunds, 2 Hägglunds, get it? Got it. Hägglunds are over snow, and anything else that gets in your way, vehicles that can carry 4 people in pure bumpy comfort. (Youtube them.) They float, most of the time, and provide the perfect transportation for us down here. The sea ice is now over the minimum 600mm thickness required to travel on in a Hagg so Rob ‘Angry’ Cullen and his dieso crew have been preparing the vehicles and recovery equipment for the masses to use.

4pm. Home time! Well technically I've been at home all day. Most days I'll visit the gym, our new indoor rock climbing wall, relax in the spa or watch a movie in our cinema. Yep, doing it tough here at Davis.

Q : How many plumbers does it take to change a light bulb? 

A: Don’t be silly, that’s a sparky job and we don’t want to lower ourselves to their level.

*Ed. note: For those of you not familiar with Aussie slang, ‘arvo’ means afternoon. 

Darkroom action

I love film as a medium. Digital is good, but there is nothing better than looking at real photos, holding them, studying them. So when I found out Davis has a dark room (we did have 2 but 1 was converted into a bin storage area. Damn you digital revolution), I promptly bought some black and white film that I could develop down here.

Film has been developed here for years by expeditioners long before we knew what the hell a megapixel or memory card was. I hadn’t done this since high school so about 12 years ago (year 10 I’d say). Needless to say my friend Google helped me out along with trial and error. The first bit is the hardest developing the film because it is done in total darkness, the rest is either done with a safe light (amber coloured low-wattage light) or with normal lights on. If you stuff the film up, that’s it. No prints for you. Thankfully, all went well.

Making prints is the easy part: safe light on, negative chosen, enlarged to the size you want, paper ready. Make the exposure then developer, stop bath, fixer bath, rinse. Easy, with trial and error of course. Surprisingly, I’m getting good results. Not every shot will be printed but shooting film gives you a better appreciation when you jump back on the digital train to take better pictures and not waste shots or take non-interesting or blurry photos. (There should never be a blurry digital photo in my books. Review it, delete it and take it again!) I really hope film doesn’t die completely. A lot of the professionals still use film because the quality is still much better than digital plus, retro is cool now. Isn’t it? 


Doc’s Dozen with Chris Hill

Chris Hill

Carpenter/Fire team/Search and Rescue team/Lay Surgical Assistant/Brew-Master/Band member/Logistics Officer

Chris, is this your first trip to Antarctica?

Well, no. I wintered at Macquarie Island in 2010 but our voyage went via Davis and I managed to get a night’s stay here at Davis during the stopover.

What is it like being the carpenter here?

It’s great. You get to work all over the station and you’re not always doing the same task. One day you might be working outside on a roof when it’s minus 20 degrees and the next day you could be painting the interior of the meteorology office and raiding the Tim Tams from their fridge. You never know what challenge might be waiting around the corner. (Yes, I have noticed you being a regular after dinner Tim Tam or Mint Slice aficionado!)

If not a carpenter what job would you do? (Mind you, from the list at the top you already have quite a few other things keeping you busy)

Test driver for Ferrari!

Best gig as a carpenter?

Being flown to work in a helicopter!

Best experience in (Sub)Antarctica?

There are many! Where do I start? Seeing the sky ablaze with an aurora for the first time, cruising amongst the icebergs in the IRBs plus visiting the massive penguin rookeries at Lusitania Bay and Hurd Point, Macquarie Island.

What do you love about Antarctica?

The ever changing weather and daylight/night hours, sunrises and sunsets, icebergs, plus working in a remote area so very few people have experienced. Well, pretty much everything. (Not much daylight after tomorrow Chris, we’re in the dark for the next 6 weeks.)

Who inspires you?

All my friends who have worked with or alongside of me during my time here and at Macca.

What have you learned living in our little Davis community, Chris?

I have learned to cut down on Tabasco sauce because there are only 12 bottles left on station for the rest of the season! (Hmmm, I notice that you can get personalised gallon jugs of Tabasco sauce for only $44.95. Maybe we should order one for Chris to come down on V2 at the end of winter?)

Chris, what is your favourite wood, and why?

Well, there is certainly a nice variety of woods out there, hard to choose, but my favourite would have to be a Callaway. I’ve driven a ball over 300 metres down a fairway with one of those. (No no no. Not that sort of wood!) Ahhh…we actually call that timber in the trade. (OK, please excuse me. What is your favourite timber Chris?) I do like the black heart sassafras that we have here at Davis and I also like Huon pine, both very nice Tasmanian timbers.

You are the Brew-master this year at Davis. What has been your favourite batch so far, is brewing something you have done previously and what gourmet brews can we look forward to later in the year?

My first efforts were as Brew-master during my winter at Macca. It is hard to pick my favourite batch.  They are all pretty good but I am looking forward to the boutique brews we ordered down on V5. There are a dozen different types ranging from Stouts, Bitters, Draughts, Lagers, Blondes and Ales, so a bit of everything and like all homebrews, we only bring them out on special occasions such as Midwinter.

If you were a car, what would you be Chris?

A Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. One of the fastest road legal cars on earth. Top speed of 431km/hr!

(Ha! So much for wanting to be driver for Ferrari!)

What is in store for you when you return home Chris?

Go to a warmer climate and thaw out for starters. I haven’t seen ambient temperatures over 20 degrees since 2009! Plus, I will do the usual catch up with family and friends and maybe catch up with some expeditioners from my time at Macca, and sitting on the back veranda with a cold drink in hand watching the thunderstorms roll in over the Blue Mountains.

Fantastic Chris. Now if you could just step over here for your photo, a nice smile for all the ladies out there! 

May sun

The days at Davis this week were diminishing in length quickly: today (Thursday 31st) 1 hr and 17 minutes long, tomorrow 56 minutes long and Saturday only 16 minutes long. On Sunday the sun will stay below the horizon and we will not see it again until July 10th.

In this short film, the sun is only up for a few hours and even then is very low on the horizon at about 2° above.

Trip to Watts

On the weekend of 25/26/27 of May, Darryl, Joe, Steph and Tom had planned a last hoorah outing to Watts Hut, up the top end of Ellis Fjord. Unfortunately the weather came in like it does on any weekend you plan on going away and started blowing 60 knots (90-100kmh). For this reason we stayed home over the weekend. BUT! Monday and Tuesday were absolutely stunning days so we went then, except Tom (he was MIA).

Quad biking over the sea ice following the set way points on the GPS and drilling the ice to check the thickness every so often, we soon arrived at Ellis Fjord Narrows (an amazing feature where the fjord bottle necks to about 100m wide. Both sides of the narrows are frozen solid. Where the tidal movement rips through it is open flowing water. Scary, yet pretty unbelievable. Everything else is frozen apart from this one small section of fjord. Thankfully our fearless trip leader Darryl (aka Ferret) and his incredible navigation skills avoided drowning a quad bike in this section. Continuing up the fjord to Marine Plain Apples for a quick warm up, cup of soup and some Old Gold dark chocolate, we reached Watts at 3:30pm, after sunset!

Watts is a beautiful hut perched on rocks between Watts Lake (fresh water) and Ellis Fjord (salt water). The night was clear and cold, embarrassing stories were told and left in the hut! Auroras were watched and photographed.

Just an overnighter, so the next morning (I lie. It was afternoon when we got up.) we explored the ‘frozenness’ of Watts lake and the incredible cracks and features in the ice.

We departed Watts knowing this was our last jolly before midwinter and still with some sunshine.