While the cat’s away edition: this week the Adélies return, a look at Platcha hut and the ‘jolly kings’ are at it again.

They're back!

That’s right, the annual influx of chickens in tuxedos has begun. Mischief, mayhem and smelliness begins now.

Platcha Hut hydraulic jump

One gets to know the huts in the vicinity of Davis quite intimately after a summer and winter or two spent roaming the Vestfold Hills. I thought it would be interesting to find out a bit more about each of them starting with the first permanent field hut in the Vestfolds (according to my sources), Platcha hut.

Platcha is situated in an extemely handy spot at the base of the plateau just to the south of Breid Basin a few metres above the shoreline. The locale is easy to reach by helicopter in the summer and is a decent walk over rough terrain from station for the keen. In the winter, it is one of the first to be visited once the sea ice forms and is thick enough. From Davis quads or Hägglunds, head along a waypointed route that follows Long Fjord to Breid Basin.

It is also a good place to walk out from. The hike to Trajer Ridge takes in some spectacular scenery at the plateau/rock interface, including an plateau ice amphitheatre which is a good spot to sit and have lunch.

The hut itself sleeps four in bunk beds with room for two in the recently renovated (2011) Met hut (the original Platcha) at the back.

In the early 60s the original hut was manned continuously by teams of two for a few weeks at a time. They were tasked with making meteorological observations and, while in residence, N.T. Lied of Lied Bluff fame witnessed a rare phenomenon known as an hydraulic or katabatic jump. Lied described for the first time the meteorological conditions experienced either side of the feature in a scientific paper.

Simply put an hydraulic jump is where the wind coming down the plateau meets an impassable barrier, an atmospheric feature, that blocks it and diverts it straight up. At Platcha he described a 300 ft vertical wall of blowing snow that could be walked up, to there being reasonably calm conditions on the Vestfolds side of the wall with near blizzard conditions on the other side.

Although I have been to Platcha in a variety of weather conditions I have yet to witness this. Luckily there are still a few weeks until the ship gets here!

Platcha Hut construction

The present Platcha hut was built in 1982. Jan Adolph in Kingston kindly forwarded the following information relating to the construction from the station log following his 30 year reunion of the Davis ‘82 crew on Stradbroke Island. Jan himself was involved in the drilling of the foundations early on in the construction process.

The prefabrication of the hut was undertaken in the vehicle bays of the workshop between the 31st July and 20th August 1982. The panels were cut and the scaffold tube support drilled. Following completion of this stage the log records celebratory drinks were held in the workshop.

During the remainder of August, the interior fit-out commenced and during the first days of September the floor sub-structure was transported to Platcha in minus 35 degree C temperatures.

A trailer for transporting hut panels was built on the 4th of September and on the 6th and 7th the hut panels were transported by skidoo and erected.

On the 9th of September the internal fit-out was transported to Platcha and by the 16th of September the hut was completed and ready for occupation which was a mammoth effort by the wintering team of 1982.

Jan also relates ‘Nearly the whole station participated in the project in some way. The driving force was probably the DHC Foreman, Dave Paine. Most of the fabrication was done by the DHC tradies, assisted by the doctor, Tony Dick, and “Woger” Welsh, the Radio Tech. Most of the work was done after hours and on weekends. The erection was done on “jolly” days.'

The hut log book, which resides at Platcha, holds more detail of the huts erection. To read a fuller description of the work done you will have to visit.

The plaque now on the hut was sent down in 2007/08 after the 25 year reunion of the ‘82 ANARE in Hobart. It was made by Dave “Bucko” Burrows, the DHC Plumber.

In more recent years, a cold porch, balcony, bench seat and luxury toilet with skylight have also been added making it a very comfortable place to visit in the depths of winter (as long as the gas heater works).

We're sure the ‘82 team will be pleased to hear their efforts are still appreciated year after year by successive ANARE expeditioners.

Jolly kings are at it again

It’s that time of the year, where the season is ending and the ship is getting closer and closer every day. The ‘Three Amigos’ (Darryl, Greg and Steph) are taking advantage of every opportunity to get out and see more of the Vestfold Hills. Last weekend saw us taking the quad bikes out for a spin up to Watts Hut. The first night we saw what could possibly be one of the last Auroras we’ll see for the season as the daylight gets longer and longer.

The next day we took our time exploring the frozen fresh water lakes on our way to Boulder Depot. From here we were walking to a place called Cataract Canyon, where the Sørsdal Glacier meets the Vestfold Hills. After a slight navigational error by our cub scout (which saw us having lunch overlooking what we now know as ‘false’ Cataract Canyon), we eventually found the real Cataract Canyon, much more impressive.

The weather gods were kind to us all weekend giving us gorgeous blue skies and little wind. We are already busy planning our next jolly.