This week at Davis: the Doc interviews herself in the Doc’s Dozen, we celebrate two birthdays, beards on base, Oktoberfest, Cat5 cable, damper testing, and what may be our last aurora pics for this year.

Doc’s Dozen with Jan Wallace

Antarctic Medical Practitioner/Emergency Response Team/Hydroponics Team/Station Seamstress/Coffee and Froth Maker Supremo/Coffee Machine Minder/Drambuie Connoisseur/Cherry Ripe Slice Maker (additional qualifiers added by the editor)

Over the year I have had the pleasure of interviewing many of our summer and winter expeditioners. It has been fascinating to learn so many new and interesting things about the people you thought you knew so well. Who would have known that Timo is preparing for intergalactic war or that Mel has a morbid fear of rats? It is a bit of a shame that some of the more interesting replies were censored by the editorial staff! All good things must come to an end, so they say, and I have come to the end of our little group, the Davis 65th ANARE.

The station has made it quite clear that I should be subject to the same scrutiny as everyone else and answer my own questions. So here it is, the final instalment of Doc’s Dozen 2012!

Jan, is this your first trip to Antarctica and what attracted you here?

I visited the Antarctic Peninsula on a mega jolly medical conference in 2006 where I met up again with Dr Des Lugg. He had interviewed me previously for this position and encouraged me to think about re-applying. After that meeting I began brushing up on my surgical and emergency medicine skills and, lo and behold, here I am. I have been drawn to the continent from the moment I heard my husband’s stories of adventure from his expeditioner days.

What is it like being a doctor here?

Being the doctor is very different to normal medical practice. If I am very busy doing actual medical work then something is very wrong on station. Most of my time is spent maintaining the medical facility which is the equivalent of a small country hospital. I now have to do all the things that I would normally write a request slip for, such as x-rays and blood tests plus I get to be the dentist as well.

Every month I do a health check on the expeditioners and also analyse our drinking water and effluent plus conduct medical research for the Polar Medicine Unit.

If not a doctor, what job would you do?

I would like to be an international travel writer, but without all that tedious airport business or long haul flights.

Best gig as a doctor?

Flying around East Timor last year in a Blackhawk helicopter checking out the district hospitals with some US Navy doctors. (…and they’re paying me for this as well? SWEET!)

What has been your best experience in Antarctica Jan?

Flying deep field over the Princes Charles Mountains in the very early morning light, then circling around between the 10,000ft peaks to land on a blue ice glacier. I felt like a giant bird flying into an ancient ice kingdom that belonged in Lord of the Rings.

What do you love about Antarctica?

I wanted to come here to live and breathe Antarctica in a way that is only possible if you stay for an extended period of time. I love the challenge of living in a place that by all rights should be uninhabitable. The great beauty here goes without saying, but it is also a place of solitude and a rare opportunity to reflect and evaluate your life.

Who inspires you Jan?

The human race. You should never underestimate a person’s capacity for change.

What have you learnt living here at Davis?

I have learnt an enormous amount about male behaviour. I thought I knew a fair bit about it already but what an eye-opener! That constant testosterone driven jostling and wrestling that is entirely focused towards being the strongest, biggest and the best. They just can’t help themselves! Kinship is tested, blood is drawn, and all of this purely to attract and claim the female of the species. Yes, you can learn a lot watching elephant seals. The boys on station are absolute gentlemen of course.

If you were granted one wish, what would it be?

An end to human suffering in all its forms.

So Jan, if you where a car, what would you be? 

I think I am very much like my own car, a 1999 green Toyota Camry sedan. It is a bit ‘last century’, not a very fashionable colour and has a few dints and scrapes on the duco.

Having said that, it is in good nick for its age (it has been well cared for), it is family orientated and very reliable. However, under the bonnet is a surprising V6 engine with plenty of guts and power to get you out of trouble when you need it.

Of course what I would LIKE to be is a classic British Racing Green MG MGB with flashy chrome wire wheels!

If you could be anyone else, who would it be?

Being myself is just fine. I have a very fortunate life, but I would really like to be a musically talented, all singing, all dancing version of me.

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

An endless embrace from my husband and children plus playing spoons and cups of Lady Grey tea in bed.

Maybe the last aurora

With the dark hours fast disappearing, Tom went out to capture what may well be the last aurora that we will see in all its glory for this year. 

Two birthdays

This week there were two birthdays on Saturday which means twice the cake, twice the calories. Still, it was worth it!

Coffee cake for Ali and black forest gateau for Mark Baker.

The Cat5 cable

People never ask me what my favourite piece of IT equipment is (mainly for fear of a totally uninteresting answer), but if they were to ask me it would not be a sleek and stylish server with lots of flashing lights, nor would it be a complex network of replicating databases. If someone were to ask I would answer, “the simple Cat5 network cable”. Four pairs of unshielded wire wrapped in a plastic coating, this stuff appears in just about every computer network on the planet. 

Our cable comes in boxes of 500m and can be spooled out to your desired length. At Davis we have kilometres of the stuff, maybe hundreds of kilometres, all sitting there patiently waiting for your information to arrive, not questioning why you haven’t been around overnight and never requiring a reboot or a software upgrade. They never ask what the expeditioners are downloading. They just pass the information on without question.

But the subtle, non-spectacular personality of the Cat5 cable hides it’s true strength: reliability. When diagnosing a network problem, the cables in the walls are the least likely thing to be at fault.

So ‘This week at Davis’ readers should be thankful for the Cat5 cable.

Greg Wilson, Davis Communications Technical Officer


To celebrate the start of October, our resident German and this week’s Saturday slushy decided upon Oktoberfest, a celebration close to most expeditioners hearts.

Not only did we enjoy some specially crafted beers from Master Brewer Chris, we also were treated to some delicious German food as well.

(Ed. note: Oktoberfest traditionally runs from late September to the first weekend in October.)  

Damper testing

Don’t believe the smile! ‘Cause this isn’t the most fun job.

Testing the fire dampers involves sticking your hand inside an often small duct, unclipping the fragile bulb, and, if the louvre is in good nick, getting your hand squished against some sheet metal.

That’s the easy bit.

Next is to reset the louvre, one handed, and clip the bulb back into place.

Then there is the dust. Don’t get me started!

Beards of the south

When you think of Antarctica you think of three things. Huskies, Mawson and beards.

Unfortunately the first two are no longer with us, but the beards are alive and well! Whilst many of our crew are sans facial hair, I've decided to ask the hard hitting questions to my fellow facially follicled friends.

Lincoln Mainsbridge: weather guru, cheesy Tuesday movie boss, Deputy Station Leader and gym rat. “Antarctic is the one place you can grow any sort of facial hair you want and no one cares. Plus I hate shaving. I started the Wolverine chops in July 2011, but then sold them for $50 each on the ship. Kept clean, shaved until New Year’s and have been growing them since then. Best part of having a beard? The warmth, the catching of stray food, the leaving of beard hair all over the station, the joy of stroking it. The women would grow one if they could and the blokes, well they're just missing out on a great opportunity!”

Rob ‘Angry’ Cullen: Station Mechanical Supervisor, keeper of the diesel, land-line lover and Mac user. Has had a beard before we even came to Antarctica, obviously a lover of the bush ranger look. “Call me sexist but I have a strong preference for women without beards.Sadly it seems as if women have lost their evolutionary preference for bearded men, but then again, I don’t understand women.”
Tom Luttrell: Senior Comms Tech, time lapse guru, iPhone lover and a man who can turn a beard on and off like a switch. I swear some mornings he is clean shaven and by mid afternoon it’s like he’s been in the deep field for months.
Tom’s beard creations are mainly born out of laziness. His current growth has been cranking for only “a month or two”. The best part of his beard is “the warmth it brings and a little added extra flavour!”.

Dr Nick Chang: LIDAR guy, a real Dr Nick, drummer extraordinaire, Fluffy’s successor. Dr Fluff had an impressive beard. Is this what drives him with his own chin creation? As the drummer in the Davis band ‘The Burnt out Winterers', Nick’s chin warmer is needed for extra coolness factor whilst performing on stage.