This week at Davis a trip to Kazak Island, we meet Mel Ho — marine researcher, a feathered visitor, ice fishing, Hangar Rats and 80’s Quiz antics.

Kazak Is

One sunny Monday afternoon, Adam, Mark B and Mel made a trip to Kazak Island to download data from the Automatic Weather Station (AWS) and camera that is part of the Kazak Island coastal monitoring system.

They were a little surprised to find that the sea-ice on the seaward-side of the island had blown out, most likely a result of a blizzard that came through Davis two days prior. Although one member of the team was a little perturbed, they soon realised that whatever sea-ice that remained was still a whopping 1.4 metres thick and so, merrily went about their business.

After the downloads were completed, they jumped back onto the quads and went sightseeing around the Sørsdal Glacier (Mark B’s first time) and down Crooked Fjord. There was the promise of an elusive jade iceberg embedded somewhere within Crooked Fjord. However, after much technical quad riding through the Crooked terrain, they quickly realised that the elusive jade iceberg would continue to remain elusive for the timebeing. The sun was setting and it was time to head home for dinner.

Doc’s Dozen — Mel Ho

Marine research scientist / Hydroponics team / Dumpling Queen

Mel, how many times have you come to Antarctica and what attracts you back here?

This is my third time in Antarctica. I spent two summer seasons here previously in 2009/10 and 2010/11. The place itself is definitely the number one attraction.

Being a marine scientist here is fantastic, if I can look beyond the freezing water temperatures. Sticking your hands into sub-zero degrees water and tinkering around hurts a lot more than you think.

When I was little I wanted to be a volcanologist, but my mom said “no” because she didn’t want her kid dying in a volcanic eruption. (Volcanology’s loss is our gain Mel.)

Best gig as a marine scientist and best Antarctic experience?

Being in Antarctica as a summer scientist used to rate pretty highly — although I guess now my best gig would be scoring a winter on top of that!

In the 2010/11 summer, a bunch of us were on the IRBs collecting seawater samples and saw a pod of orcas (possibly seven, but I swear it looked like 17!) swimming about 300 metres ahead of us. It was absolutely surreal. Got that ticked off my list. I love how everything is stark and white and silent and sometimes peaceful.

I also love the fact that there are no rats in Antarctica.

Who inspires you Mel?

People who put themselves out of their comfort zones and make the best of their situations.

Mel, what have you learnt about living in our little Davis community over the winter?

Farting and burping in public becomes socially acceptable, I guess because there is no one to impress.

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

No rats in the world, ever. (Obviously Hangar Rats don’t count!)

So Mel, if you were a car, what would you be?

A Mini Cooper S — small yet fast enough to zip between cars while on the road, and finding parking spaces would be a breeze. (…I can’t believe how popular the Mini Cooper S is this year!)

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

Anyone who travels and writes for a living. I’m not fussed, I just want to see the world.

Mel your nick name is ‘Evilness', how did you get that?

I’m still trying to figure that out. I like to think that I’m a slander victim of Linc’s and that my good intentions were grossly misunderstood.

Where did you learn your wonderful Asian cooking skills?

I guess if you eat it enough you learn how to combine flavours and put a dish together. Most of what I know has been a result of observing family and friends while they cook as well as watching lots of cooking programs on TV as a kid. (Time well spent in front of the TV Mel, your prawn dumplings are to die for.)

Every week you head out and collect seawater samples. How much water are you going to bring back with you?

Since the start of winter I have collected about 80 litres worth of seawater. By the time we head back I think we will break the 100 litre mark (Have fun, Nick R!)

Mel, you have been prolific with your knitting this winter. What have you made so far?

A vest, two tops (a third in progress) a scarf, a neck warmer/cowl thing, a pair of wristlets for Cathie and a fail beanie which will have to be pulled out soon. I can be quite obsessive at times.

What is in store for you when you return home?

Lots of heat and humidity. I'll be flying back to Malaysia to spend Christmas and the Chinese New Year with my parents.

Well Mel, it has been a delight getting to know you a little better. Davis has enjoyed having its taste buds tantalized with your authentic dishes as we all watch those knitting projects progress.

Emperor comes to visit

This week we had a solitary visitor in the form of a young emperor penguin.

He came marching purposefully across the sea-ice and seemed to know where he was heading.

After a quick look around station he stopped for several minutes to allow photographs and then yawned and headed off in the direction of Amanda Bay, calling for friends as he went.

Weekend fishing on the sea-ice

On a sunny Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, Timo Viehl organised a small fishing party on the sea ice close to the station.

Along with the fishing permits, Joe Glacken, Mark Coade, Timo and Brigid piled into the blue Hagg and set out with high hopes of hauling in a few big ones for dinner.

A hole was drilled in the ice and we settled down on buckets for seats, drinking hot coffee and dangling our lines. Alas, despite a few good bites, we were disappointed and went home empty-handed — but enjoyed our afternoon ‘fishing’ all the same.

80s Quiz Night

Ferret and Steph treated us to another Friday Quiz Night — a chance to see how much really does sink in and remain on recall.

This second quiz had an 80s theme which brought out the truly bad mullet hair cuts and the rather garish and un-flattering clothing we all remember so fondly. The evening was again well attended with four teams of four competing.

With brains bulging with abundant trivia it was not surprising that Greg, Linc, Nick and Timo were the winning combination.

I was quite relieved to find that I had put most of the 80s out of my head — our team lost — obviously we are filling our heads with stuff worth remembering!

Davis Hangar Rats Competition 2012

The history of indoor model aeroplane construction by AAD winterers goes back many years, possibly to the beginning of the Cainozoic era, though the fossil record remains unclear.

This year 21 rubber-band-powered Hangar Rat kits by Fly-In were available at Davis; enough for everyone to have a go. Use of a sharp knife, wood glue, hand-eye coordination and an eye for detail are all that is required.

The actual competition was held in the Green store on Saturday, 15th September following a delicious barbecue dinner cooked by Joe and scrummy chocolate brownies made by Jan.

The judge was Tom Luttrell who made up the rules as he went along and awarded prizes for whatever he deemed as being prize-worthy on the night.

A great evening was had by all and the official results were:

  • Mel* 22.4sec. Diego Maradona Hand of God Award (for cheating)
  • Jose 22.0 sec. Engineering Excellence Award (overall winner)
  • Linc* 16.3 sec. Milli Vanilli Award (for cheating)
  • Ferret 10.5 sec. The Crammer’s Award (for last minute well performing entry)
  • Codey 5.7 sec. The Frank Sinatra ‘My Way’ award (for best modification)
  • Steph 3.2 sec. The Wright Brothers Encouragement Award
  • Ali 2.3 sec. Best In Show (best presentation)
  • Nick 1.5 sec. The Mexican Chihuahua Award (yes it is a Hangar Rat)
  • Cathie 1.3 sec. Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence
  • Timo 0.8 sec. German Engineering Efficiency Award (flew the least amount of time but also least amount of time spent in construction)

* Disqualified for not building own Hangar Rat.

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