Davis celebrates, grows vegetables, makes fresh water, erects a climbing wall, welcomes visitors and much more.

Green fingers

Hydroponics in Antarctica is a wonderful place to be on a cold morning. With room temperature somewhere around 25ºC and the smell of tomatoes in the air.

The outgoing 2011 winter crew left us with some tomato seedlings about an inch high in November. They have flourished into fruit-producing plants over 3 foot high in just over a month. Our cucumbers are coming along well, as are our varieties of lettuce, rocket and silverbeet.

With the daily roster of Hydro Helpers checking on ‘the babies’ we are hoping to harvest a record amount of produce this year, and maybe even take out the Antarctic Biggest Vegetable award 2012.

Stay tuned!

Kapitan Khlebnikov parks in the ice

Just before Christmas, Davis station was visited by the MV Kapitan Khlebnikov, a Russian icebreaker/cruise ship.

All onboard walked ashore as the winds were gusting to 60 knots — far too strong for the helicopters to fly in. We may be labelled ‘The Riviera of the South’ but it is Antarctica after all is said and done.

Station members conducted tours, informative talks and presentations to keep the guests entertained.

Our resident seal didn’t seem too fussed though!

One of the guests, Vic Watt, was a cook at Davis back in 1976. He shared some stories from back in the day, gave us a history lesson and was keen to see how the station had developed.

After a day on station our guests trekked back out and boarded the ship to cruise to their next Antarctic destination.

Social climbers

The new Green Store climbing wall is now taking shape, with the main supporting structure completed and panels being fitted as I write.

Many excited Davis crew members are suspended in anticipation of the finished product. It promises to be outstanding on the face of things, with a realistic and uneven ‘rock face’ finish towering to 9 metres, that will surely make it the envy of all Stations

We hope to harness some of the crew’s energy, and maybe rope a couple of them in to help with the setting out of foot/hand holds.

Thanks for all the ongoing hard work from the dynamic Rod Besant and Brent Dennett who, although faced with a few hitches, have not given up and have found it a welcome change of direction from the norm.

Matt Morley BSS

The great fire extinguisher round-up

One of the first lines of defence in the event of a fire is the humble fire extinguisher.

With a quick response the early stages of a fire can be extinguished, preventing the loss of property and life.

It is for this reason that the integrity and mandatory annual checks of these vessels is paramount in ensuring that, if the need arises, they are ready for the task.

I was given the task of conducting an annual check and changing outdated vessels that require pressure testing every five years. Part of this process is checking vessels are fully charged, have a tamper-proof tie in place, are tagged, properly mounted, have signage in place, are clear of obstructions, that any changes of brand, type, capacity, weight empty/filled are documented, and determining what will be required for re-supply.

To give you an idea of the logistics here currently at Davis — at the station, field huts and plant we have 441 vessels in place, with sixteen different brands, six different types, and twelve different sizes. It’s a bit like the different type of shrimp and the different methods of cooking it, as described by Bubby in the movie ‘Forest Gump'. They are specific to the location installed, and range in capacity from 1kg to 50kg for higher risk areas.

This mission took me to every nook and cranny — from the depths of the crowbar to flying over the peaks of Hop Island.

All in a days work for a plumber at Davis…

Regards, Geoff Lavers

Christmas at Davis

The story so far… Episode V

On a continent far, far away we once again meet our intrepid expeditioners, in that cold harsh climate they call home. It is a hard and taxing lifestyle with many ups and downs, but none are more committed to the cause than the brave souls at Davis. This week they have found themselves with a range of diverse encounters, but none fear more than the feared and dreaded Christmas lunch. It is here we pick up our story.

First came the arrival of Santa himself, and alongside him his trusted and most valuable sidekicks Randolph and the Elf. After arriving on his one-reindeer-powered sleigh, all on station were awed by the power with which Randolph can muster. The expeditoners were then tasked to allow Santa to interview each one on the goodness they had shown that year, and were rewarded handsomely for their efforts.

At once the mood on this outpost in the far reaches of Antarctica became lighter and, dare I say it, festive. The preparations began for the lunch — the chefs (whom had been working tirelessly for the past week in preparation for this very event) almost began to dance around the kitchen with their helpers whilst onlookers stood back in awe of the finery with which they were being bestowed.

As avid readers of these adventures you will understand the amazing feats our heroes accomplish every day.

Until next time dear friends… To be continued…

Boxing Day trip to Brookes hut

After the excitement of Christmas a break was needed. Led by Greg Wilson, Nick Chang, Joe Glacken and myself (Darryl Seidel) headed off for a relaxing overnighter at Brookes hut. Setting off late morning we arrived at the hut mid-afternoon, after passing by Lake Stinear and Deep Lake. With no set plans for the evening Darryl taught the guys the fine art of ‘hand and foot canasta’. With team Chang/Glacken never having played before, they took to it like a penguin to water. After setting up a nice lead 3 hands into the match, team Seidel/Wilson decided enough was enough and mounted the comeback move, catching the others unawares (and Joe with his “foot” of cards). Sure enough a protest for a recount was ordered by team Chang/Glacken, but Seidel/Wilson would have none of this as Grandpa Seidel wouldn’t approve, and therefore after labelled ‘the canasta cheats’.

The next day, after a nice day-after-Boxing-Day lie in, the team replenished the water by melting snow and left the hut, heading for Davis and exploring some lesser travelled parts of the Vestfold Hills. With hawkeye Greg always on the lookout for exciting rocks to take pictures of, to show off to our resident Geologist/Station Leader Ali, we eventually arrived back on station just in time for a crayfish, ham and cheese toasty for dinner.

Russia comes to Australia

On the Friday before New Year, the RV Akademic Fedorov (an ice-strengthened vessel currently resupplying the Russian station Progress II in the Larsemann Hills around 110 kms from Davis) sent one of its Kamov KA32 helicopters to Davis with 12 people on board.

Among the visitors were five geologists headed by Nikolay Alexeev. These scientists are currently staying at Watts Hut and Crooked Lake Apple while mapping along the southwestern margin of the Vestfold Hills.

Also in the group was the new Station Leader at Progress Station, and Dr Alexander Frank-Kamenetsky (a physicist who has collaborated with several Australian scientists, including Dr Gary Burns of the Australian Antarctic Division, who worked with him on the Solar Linkages to Atmospheric Processes (SLAP) project).

Dr Frank-Kamenetsky is currently the Head of Operations for the Russian Antarctic Expedtions (RAE), based on the RV Akademic Fedorov. Aside from overseeing the Russian programme this year, he will visit all the Russian stations over the course of the season.

RO is GO

On the 30th of December, Scott, Daryl and Steve pressed the ‘plant on’ button and successfully started the Reverse Osmosis RO for the 2011–12 season.

This is the 4th year of water being produced by the machine. At the time of writing, 4 days later, it has produced 315,000 litres.

It will continue to fill the station storage of 1.4 million litres until late early February when the tarn freezes over again.

New Years celebrations

Greetings from the sunny shores of Davis station. You may wonder what we get up to on a special occasion like seeing in the New Year. Like most people back in the real world it is time for fun and amusement, and while some intrepid folk headed for the hills most thought there is nothing better than a costume party.

The paparazzi enjoyed taking snaps of everyone from Catwoman to warlocks, but the colour of the night was definitely orange, with a cast member from Conair, Tom Travolta and Geoffro our peace-loving hippy. A scrumptious feast and nibbles provided by our talented chefs kept everyone fuelled up as they danced the night away to the music of the talented local band ‘Kiss The Fish’

A great night had by all!

New Years away from station

After some late changes to the original group — due to some people pulling out and some others joining in — Frank, Mike, Cathie, Francis, Matt and David set out for New Year’s Eve at Brookes Hut, a short 4 hour stroll from Davis.

The weather was perfect, even by Davis standards, with positive temperatures and a welcoming cool breeze in the valleys along Lake Stinear and Deep Lake.

As with most walks there were all different pack setups for different people: some like Mike carried a small light-weight pack; Frank, Matt and Francis had larger bulky packs; Cathie had a little extra weight due to the treats she had thrown in for the New Year celebrations; and David, who had been late signing on for the walk, took an extra of everything, just in case.

As is the tradition on these walks, there is always someone with a small fluffy penguin, teddy, rodent or critter strapped to the back of their pack. Not to be outdone, as you would expect no less of a BSS, David brought his Christmas gift from home along. The debate started even before the walk as to exactly what it was. A penguin, puffin, duck or chicken were the main guesses, although chicken was soon dismissed, as we all know no chicken product is permitted off station to prevent diseases such as bird flu and the like spreading to the native bird life. The gift was bought as a penguin, but it was described as a puffin on the label. It still looked like an Adelie but was referred to for the rest of the trip as a duck and duckling, as you do. On the way, there were sounds of people behind David chuckling as the feet and head of the duck and duckling flapped, and kept rhythm with David’s steps.

The New Year was seen in by all at the hut in fine spirits and, as was the tradition back in Mawson’s day, with a proposed toast to Queen and country along with wives and girlfriends they may never meet.

We all turned in at a respectable hour in preparation for the planned walk on New Year’s Day to Lied Bluff. Cathie, Mike and Frank decided to Bivvy out, leaving the snorers in the hut… as it turned out there were more snorers outside than in.

On New Year’s day the weather was even better than the previous, thanks to Cathie (always pays to take a BOM representative with you in the field because they control the weather here at Davis with their balloons that they send up, with fine weather in some and bad weather in others, or so the story goes).

Those not full of youthful enthusiasm stayed at Brookes and passed the time reading, playing cards and resting along with the duck and duckling.

For Matt, Frank and Francis the walk to Lied Hill was well worth it, with the view from the top breathtaking and the weather goddess (Cathie) supplying perfect weather.

Another relaxing night was spent in the hut with Cathie, Matt and Francis deciding to bivvy out.

An early start for our return to Davis meant Cathie could meet her work commitments and the rest of us could freshen up and reminisce about the trip. We also spent time working out the story that we will tell our grandkids about New Year’s Eve and seeing in 2012, when we braved the elements and, just like Mawson, spent time living on the edge.

PS Never taking that Duck out again — 3kg — could have carried more important New Year supplies like face paint, had it not been for that Puffin!