A trip to the Rauers & spring in the Vestfolds

Traverse to the Rauers, take two

With the successful traverse of the first team to the Rauers to prove the route, a second team of six expeditioners (Gav, Jeff, Mark, Paul, Bob and Pat) geared up for the traverse at the end of September and to take the opportunity to service the sea bird nest cameras on Hop Island. The crew left early on a fine morning, only to make it as far as the edge of the plateau before a mechanical problem with one of the Haggs forced a return to station for repairs.

Two days later, the repairs completed and a weather window open, the traverse went well, although smoothly would not describe the eight hour bumpy ride over blue ice and sastrugi to reach the south ramp at the Rauers to access the sea ice. The crew made for Filla Island to make base camp, having intel from the first crew of the lack of access to Hop Island due to the sea ice blowing out. A very comfortable set up for the four nights, with the use of the Apple, the “Ribit” van and a polar pyramid as the accommodation.Whereas the first crew had several days of idealistic weather (sun, no wind, clear nights), the weather remained grey, windy with occasional snow — more like spring in Antarctica. The benefit of this was that the deep blues of the plateau ice became more pronounced and allowed for some great sunsets. Nothing quite like enjoying an evening meal around a Tilly lamp outside, with the snow settling on everything and everyone.

After servicing the cameras on Hop Island, the crew took the time to explore the incredible coast line around the Rauers. All were hoping to see the return of the wildlife during the visit, but in the end, this was limited to a group of Weddell seals along a lead in the ice and some Snow Petrels. The penguins are yet to make a return to the Rauers!

The return of the wee beasties

The fourth of October marked an auspicious event in the Davis zoological calendar — the return of the wildlife to our immediate shores.

Wildlife is sparse at the best of times, but it is nonexistent over winter. Look, even a blowie would be welcomed occasionally, and I know how much paperwork that would entail. Rich, Bob and I were on Gardner Island tending to the cameras when a pair of Adelies was spotted in the distance on the sea ice. So like Paul Revere riding to announce to the American Independence fighters “The pengies are coming, the pengies are coming…” we rode to all corners of the station to prepare the Davisians for the onslaught.

And come they have — from zero to thousands in the space of a week.

Cute little critters the Adelie are. Watching their antics over stone-gathering and robbery is quite comical. Naturally the skuas have appeared to lend a hand, Little Red Riding Hood style. Not to be outdone the Weddell seals have returned to the fjords to pup and there have been reports of snow petrels too. There are no seals out the front of station on the beach, yet. The elephant seals are obviously still sorting out their harems and the bachelor boys probably haven’t given up yet to drift south with their libido in tatters…

So there you have it. The cycle of life returns and we welcome it with open arms.

Doc Mal (for the last time this year from Davis).

Preparing for the start of summer

With the departure of Voyage 1 from Hobart, the station activities have switched to preparing equipment, services and facilities for the arrival of aircraft and resupply. Our diesos have been out most days on the sea ice in front of the station building a skiway for the planes to land on, and as expected, as soon as they finish grooming it nicely, the snow starts to fall again and the wind picks up. All fun and games in the life of dieso land.

Buildings are being brought back into services and the facilities checked for any issues from the winter. So the sparkies, plumbers and chippies are popping in and out of buildings all over the station. It looks to be a full house this summer, and a fairly big resupply.

On that side of things, the food stocks have lasted really well and Rocket still manages to produce superb treats on Saturday nights with the remaining ingredients in the pantry. We are, however, coming down to the last of the eggs and a few other items, so everyone is looking forward to resupply. It will be great to have fresh fruit and vegies again (not taking away from all the great food produced from hydroponics this year)…

A day walk in the Lichen Valley area

With the long days back, trips out to explore the hidden treasures of the Vestfolds are again back on the agenda. This week, the Riviera weather allowed for a day trip out to Lichen Valley, which is located between Pioneer Crossing and Platcha Hut. Tim, Bob, Nick and Rich headed out from the Pioneer Crossing end of Lichen Valley. A variety of multi-coloured lichen thrives in the valley, which is rare in Antarctica. At the end of Lichen Valley, we climbed Luncke Ridge to stop for lunch, to be presented with spectacular views of Long Fjord, Breid Bay and the Plateau. Traversing the ridge, we crossed a number of valleys and frozen lakes to complete the circuit. To add to this great day, on the way home to station, we were all treated to streams of Adelie penguins crossing the sea ice as they make for the breeding grounds along the Vestfold coastline. A great way to relax before and enjoy the Spring.

Signing off with my last post for winter — it’s been a pleasure to share it with you.

Dr. Bob S.