Davis — the home of stunning skies, button pushing electricians, would be carpenters, and the brown blizzard!

No sun but a colourful sky none-the-less

The day after a storm and the sky ablaze with colour despite the sun’s reluctance to rise above the horizon. Only a week to go!

Doc’s Dozen with Cathie Young

Cathie Young

Technical Officer (Engineering) / Emergency response team / Workplace Health and Safety Representative

Cathie, you are one of the station’s Antarctic veterans with all four stations under your belt. What keeps you coming back and will this be your last trip?

This is probably not my last trip but you never know what the future holds. Being an Engineering Technician working for the Bureau of Meteorology, there is never a dull moment. The skill set that you need is diverse and the job is challenging. I keep returning for the experience, the locations, the work, the remoteness, the wildlife, the views, the place.

What has been your best experience in Antarctica?

I will have to think of one that can be put into print. (...hang on a minute, didn’t you meet your husband down here?) How about, just being privileged to see, work and live in Antarctica. I love everything about it, including the resourceful people it attracts.

What has been your most memorable engineering maintenance work?

Once again, quite a few, but maybe leading a traverse in near blizzard conditions to Cape Poinsett Automatic Weather Station (AWS), finding the engulfed AWS, the weather clearing long enough to recover the AWS from the snow using a bulldozer and chainsaws, refurbishing the AWS then deploying it on top of three 44s so it would be easier to find next time.

Cathie, what is your favourite climate and your most exciting weather moment?

Diversity in climate, from Darwin and Alice Springs in the Territory, Bicheno and Cape Grim in Tassie, Giles in WA, the Lockyer Valley, Proston, Charleville and Willis Island in QLD, Belmont and Vermont in VIC, to Nericon and Armidale in NSW and of course Mawson, Davis, Casey and Macca. Everywhere is different and worth experiencing. Still have a few more places to see.

Most exciting weather moment?

Once again there have been a few, but maybe…on a dirt road in a school bus out the back of Lake Wyangan, NSW, with skies so dark the sun was obscured, then the rain pelted down and the road turned to slippery mud but the bus driver managed to do a fantastic job of keeping the bus on the road whilst fishtailing down the road for about a kilometre to a sealed road.

What has been your most memorable balloon release?

The only time I release meteorological balloons is when I am working at an Antarctic or subantarctic station. There have been several memorable balloon releases, but probably doing an Ozonesonde release at Macquarie Island in 2001 where after releasing the balloon, the Ozonesonde dropped and nudged its way through the tussock, then dipped down to Buckles Bay Beach before tapping a surprised elephant seal, then tested the waters with the radiosonde antenna before ascending on its way to 30 km. Unfortunately, I think it was photographed.

Just between you and me, who has the best balloon skills in the Met team here at Davis?

The most impressive story of a balloon release this year was Linc releasing an 800gm balloon early one morning in 20 knot ENE (~70 degrees) winds. The balloon went backwards towards the balloon building and wrapped the radiosonde around one of the guard rails whilst the balloon hovered near the shed doors, before snapping the radiosonde string. The balloon hurriedly departed in front of a speechless Linc. (A speechless Linc...I don’t believe you!)

Who inspires you?

My husband, my parents and my family. People who are willing to have a go and try to do something they aspire to do. Positive, considerate, and 'able to think outside the square' people.

What have you learned living in our little Davis community?

Treat others how you would like to be treated, with respect, consideration and kindness. Oh yes, and remember to look out the window and enjoy where you are and what is around you, but also appreciate the efforts of family and friends who are at home supporting you.

Is it a coincidence that the met building has the best view on station?

No, that was due to good planning and operational requirements.

What kind of car are you Cathie?

Something that is reliable, practical and economical. Perhaps a Toyota Camry, but then again, maybe something with a bit more momentum: a modified 1937 Fiat Topolino, initially small, quiet and reliable but able to roar. (I have really started to notice the difference between boy answers and girl answers with this question. What does it all mean?)

What has been your favourite fancy dress night so far this season?

Titanic night.

What is in store for you when you return home?

Lots, the list is very long and there is so little time in a day.

A big thank you to Cathie, our station mover and shaker extraordinaire, for a most considered and informative interview, and for the priceless low-down on the goings-on in the world of Met.

Vestfold Hills on the move

The Vestfold Hills on which Davis is built (all 400 Km2 of it) are a mixture of unconsolidated, unsorted rock debris of all shapes and sizes left behind by the retreating East Antarctic ice sheet, plus ice shattered basement rock, part of the underlying continent.

For most of the time the majority of the Vestfold Hills lie exposed with very little snow and ice cover. This means, when we do get the occasional descent blow, a great deal of this material becomes entrained in the strong winds.

Last weekend, we had a blizzard with winds gusting up to 87 knots at times. Nothing to make a fuss about when compared to Casey and Mawson standards, but when the snow and ice supplies were exhausted the winds picked up dirt, grit and larger pieces of rock which were then thrown at the station causing widespread damage. 

We awoke to a station surrounded by sand dunes with a freshly laid dirt plain where the sea-ice had been the day before.

The carpenter’s apprentice

I spent the day with Chris, our carpenter, this week. We counted up a few planks of wood for the annual stock-take, then made a dispensing box for disposable gowns for the doctor.

Ali Dean, Station Leader

Storm damage

Storm damage included broken rear windscreens for several loaders, containers blown over, and all northeastward facing surfaces severely scoured.

A day in the life of a Davis sparky

It’s not all icebergs and snow petrels. Nope. Today was fire testing day. Playing hide and seek with little plastic discs is always fun. Living in the middle of nowhere, fire detection is vitally important and nobody realizes that more than the happy expeditioners here at Davis. Not once do they complain as their pagers or fire alarms get set off for the thousandth time that day as we sparkies go in search of every detector and fire panel on station.

Of course, fire detection isn’t our only job on station. There’s plenty of other toys to play with like our reverse osmosis plant (which is shutdown over winter) but still good fun to play with if for no other reason that it annoys the plumbers (“Hi, Joe”).

And then there’s the new cool rooms in the basement of the new LQ, another important piece of equipment. Most people don’t understand just how important refrigeration is down here where temperatures are often well below zero. Have you ever had ice cream that’s so cold it bends your spoon when scooping it out of the tub? It’s really annoying.