Time to get right off station

Traverse to the Rauer Group of islands

A last minute word from the Comms Ninja, stepping up for the chippies who forgot they had Icy News this week.

Over the last few weeks, two groups of six expeditioners have headed off station for a five day trip to the Rauer Group of islands. Here are some pictures and quick insight into the first of those trips.

Day one promised to be a long haul — with at least 10 hours in a bumpy, slow Hagg ahead of us. Even though the two huts at Hop and Filla Islands are only 27km (as the snow petrel flies) from Davis Station, the route we have to take is upwards of 127kms! We departed well before 6am, and by midday we had almost circumnavigated the entire Vestfold Hills region. We were well up on the ice plateau, but just inland from Cataract Canyon (south east corner), ready to cross the Sørsdal Glacier. We negotiated the crevasse prone areas and continued on our way up onto the plateau once again — a task made much easier when following programmed GPS routes. The views over the islands and down to the Brown and Chaos glaciers further south was magic, made even better by the stellar sunny weather with only 20 knots of wind (proven by weather observations taken by Nick). Unfortunately, from the plateau, it was clear that a lot of the sea ice had blown out in the previous week and we were not going to be able to drive our Haggs anywhere near the hut on Hop Island. So we headed direct to Filla Island and setup camp there instead.

What followed was another three days of magic weather. You could not have asked for anything better.

Blue skies, almost no wind, perfect for getting out and exploring the islands and admiring the many glaciers from a respectful distance. We were treated to remarkable sunsets, beautiful sunrises and a great display of the returning wildlife. We found dozens of Weddell seals loitering around the tide cracks, many of whom are preparing to pup in the next month. No young ones yet though.

With the calm, still nights, we set up the deck chairs and all sat around outside sharing tales of times past and our plans for the future. Unable to light a fire for warmth, we dragged a red nally bin into the centre of the circle, hoping for some psychological heat from it glowing red-ness. Whether it worked or not, we can’t say — but sitting out for hours on end in Antarctica as if we were camping back in Australia was a really special thing!

Deciding to break up the journey home, and aiming to avoid the predicted poor visibility on the plateau the next day, we headed for Bandits Hut on day four — what we then termed the North-Rauers Hut. For those in the know, Bandits is actually the furthest north hut we have at Davis, so ironically the furthest you can get from the Rauers and still be in operational limits! It’s a good thing we did too, because on our journey home on day five we spotted two young Emperor penguins. We turned off the Haggs and walked out and just sat down to watch these majestic birds. As we happily snapped off photo after photo the Emperor penguins made a bee-line for us, walking right up to only a few metres from two of the guys in our team. They checked us out and then wandered off on their merry way.

A perfect Antarctic moment to conclude a magnificent trip to the Rauers.

All six of us arrived back on station refreshed, revitalised and rearing to go. It’s a good thing too, because October is already proving to be flat out busy as we ramp-up into resupply mode. It’s only three and a bit weeks till the Aurora Australis arrives; bringing with it new staff, fresh food and other supplies, and taking home most of our winter crew. I say ‘most', because two of us are heading to Mawson, and one to Casey, for the summer to cover some outgoing winterers, while two are staying on at Davis for the summer, and one lucky fella is doing a whistle-stop tour of all three continental stations to conduct an inspection of the BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) facilities and equipment.

It’s been a fantastic year here at Davis, and as it draws to a close I can’t help but look forward to my next tour down here on the frozen continent.

Mawson 2015 anyone?