This week at Davis: seasons changing, a chat with a Met Observer, preparations for a trip to the Rauers, snow clearing around station and some magnificent station views.


With no trees here it is sometimes hard to tell if there is a wind blowing or not, especially when there is no or little snow to blow around. The flags help in that respect. At least you can tell if there is a breeze when they are hoisted.

On station we have a Flag Officer and it is their job to raise the flags to celebrate events or to commemorate occasions or people. We raise flags for Australia Day and ANZAC Day, when there is a ship arriving, and when we are visited by representatives of foreign countries to name just a few reasons.

Doc’s Dozen — Stephanie MacDonald

Met Observer / Emergency Response Team / Fire Team / Band member / Hydroponics team / Librarian

Steph, is this your first trip to Antarctica. What is it like being a Met Observer here?

Five years ago while living in Alice Springs, I decided that instead of thinking about working in Antarctica, I would make it happen. Since then I worked towards a job with the Bureau of Meteorology and now I am here.

Being a Met Observer in Antarctica means you are one of the busiest people on station…

With the hours we work, we are usually up before most people and one of the last to bed, but we do get lots of time off for jollies. It’s great to be the one in charge of calling blizzards.

If I wasn’t a Met Observer and I could have any job in the world, it would be working with giant pandas.

Best gig as a Met Observer and best Antarctic experience?

Best gig is definitely working in Antarctica. One morning I woke up at 5:30am and walked to work. As I looked up in the sky there was a beautiful aurora occurring and the moon was on the horizon, and just then I saw a meteor burn up in the atmosphere. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to just take five and remember where you are.

The best Antarctic experience is being able to experience events and see things that not many people ever see or do. For example, six weeks without seeing the sun, or the opposite in the summer, quad bike riding over frozen sea ice, organising a weekend away from station with great people and experiencing the real Antarctica.

What do you love about Antarctica?

The great life-long friends you meet who will forever share this experience with you and who understand what it is really like down here. I also love that animals here do not fear us. In fact, they are just as curious about us as we are of them.

Who inspires you Steph?

My family inspires me. They are always encouraging me to make goals and pursue them and are always there to support me through my many crazy adventures.

What have you learnt about living in our little Davis community over the winter Steph?

You learn a lot about your fellow expeditioners, sometimes more than you would like, like the inner workings of their bodily functions, and what you don’t know gets filled in with imagination and tales.

(Oh to be so lucky! Unfortunately being the doctor here means that I do not have to use my imagination to be familiar with the bodily functions of some of the expeditioners here!)

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

To live the rest of my life loving what I do.

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

Well, I’m not really a car person so this is a tricky question, maybe something fun, tough and classy, like a gunmetal grey Mazda 3.

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

No one else. It has taken me 27 years to become this person and I’m pretty happy with who I am.

Steph, what has been your favourite theme night this year?

That would have to be the Murder Mystery Night. Everyone participated, got into character and seemed to have a great time.

I think you have one of the most interesting previous occupations of anyone here (reptile handler). Can you tell us about that?

Being a reptile handler was one of the most interesting and exciting jobs I’ve had. I would interact and handle some of the largest pythons, most venomous snakes and some of the cutest lizards in Australia. They really do have individual personalities and being bitten was just part of the job and it was usually my fault.

(…Ouch! I hope it wasn’t one of the venomous ones!)

The Met people this year have a lot of nicknames for each other. Could you explain them please?

The Bureau tends to attract certain types of people and because we barely see our fellow workers, we don’t know their real names, so we make up nicknames to disguise this fact.

Super Pleb (Linc) is here just so I have someone to blame if things go wrong and because he has a bit more weight on him than me, he can help me walk to work through 87 knot winds.

The Tech Pleb (Cathie) fixes all the things that the Super Pleb breaks so I can do my work.

(So Linc’s constant claim that he is “flat out” is completely without foundation and positively misleading? Surely not!)

What is in store for you when you return home?

I will be spending a lot of time with my family and friends and Barkley (the family dog), then head over to Canada to visit my sister and her fiancé and to spend up big in New York.

Thank you for your thoughts today Steph, I certainly know who to call now when I find a pesky tiger snake in my back yard!

Davis road works

As time is ticking closer to resupply, preparations are already underway clearing roads, storage and parking areas of heavy snow drift and blizz tails so we can bring winterised vehicles back into service as well as making some room for inbound cargo ready for one of the busiest weeks of the Antarctic season when the Aurora Australis arrives.

So on Saturday afternoons over the past couple of weeks Scotty (aka Mr Plough), Chris and Angry teamed up together with the help of the D6 dozer, excavator, 950 loader and the Mack truck to help remove several tonnes of snow from our major highways and intersections.

Trip preparations

A great deal goes into preparing for any trip at Davis, especially those that are further afield.

Over the past month the Davis team have made ready to undertake two trips to the Rauer Islands, just the other side of the Sørsdal Glacier (next door really) but they may as well be Vostok at this time of year.

To get there we have to go the long way round! Up towards Bandits hut at the top end of the Vestfold Hills first (in the opposite direction), along Tryne Fjord then up onto the plateau and around to the glacier, across the Sørsdal Glacier where the crevassing is relatively narrow and benign, down onto the sea ice again at the Macey Peninsula and across the sea ice to Hop Island. As the crow flies it is barely 40 kms but overland it is over 100 kms over sea ice, plateau blue ice, and glacier ice, each requiring a different set of skills and equipment!

Station views

On those good days there are always plenty of cameras out taking pictures around station.

The following are a few taken recently after heavy snow falls.

Surface hoar

There are sure signs that the seasons are changing despite the absence of green at Davis. Increasing UV levels indicate the ozone hole is beginning to appear again, and the appearance of interlocking ice crystals or surface hoar indicates the sun is now starting to make itself felt and warming has slowly begun.

Surface hoar is a form of frost that typically forms on snow drifts overnight. The snow warms up during the day in the sun then, at night, the surface cools and water can evaporate from inside and recrystallise on the surface. By morning the snow surface is covered with a layer of faceted ice crystals that are both intricate and delicate.

More on surface hoar