This week at Davis we keep an eye on the sea ice, visit Hawker Island to see what the giant petrels are doing and welcome back a trouble-making lone elephant seal.

Sea ice monitoring

Throughout the winter, the sea ice is drilled weekly and a record is kept of the thicknesses at seven localities. While this task provides information for a long-term monitoring project on sea ice dynamics, it also tells us at this time of year about the condition of the ice for operational use.

  • Is it still growing?
  • Is it thick enough to drive heavy vehicles on?
  • Is it softening or becoming sea water saturated?

The sea ice is the way we can easily access the Vestfold Hills and the plateau through the winter so the longer we can use it the better.

The Hawker Island “in crowd”

Usually once through the winter the CPC engineer Adam goes to Hawker Island to check the three cameras trained on the southern giant petrel colony there.

If you're lucky enough, you get a closer than usual look at these wonderful creatures that look almost prehistoric with their tube noses and pale blue eyes.

During this year’s visit, under permit ATEP 12–13 4086–4088 Winter, we carried out a quick census while Adam attended to the cameras. We counted around 56 birds which included a mixture of juveniles and adults, with some obvious pairs already busy re-establishing their bonds and mating. 

Just in case

On Tuesday, we moved the RMIT van out to Airport Beach to provide temporary shelter for one of the projects over the summer. They will now have a cosy retreat if the weather changes for the worse and somewhere to make a cuppa.

Early ele

Lock your doors! He’s back and he’s fat. The wandering speed bump has returned to the middle of the wharf road again.

I thought I heard an elephant seal bellow as I left the operations building the other night but, as it was November, thought it was just wishful thinking (we do miss the noisy smelly ones when they depart over the sea ice at the start of the winter).

Last year, not long after the summer started, a lone elephant seal arrived on station. He made himself familiar with station even opening the workshop door on a few occasions. We think this is the same seal (only bigger as you would expect) with his internal time clock offset slightly from those of the rest of his kind. Most elephant seals start to arrive at Davis around Australia Day (January 26) to moult in the odoriferous wallows around the beach.

It’s great that we get to observe one of these wonderful creatures at close quarters again before we leave on the ship in a few weeks’ time.