Midwinter has passed, but don’t rush the sun!

The ‘days’ are getting longer, no hurry though.

Midwinter has come and gone. Sacrifices have been made to the pagan gods (through the Midwinter Swim, as well as much feasting and celebrating). Now we wait for the sun to return. Officially our first sunrise will be July 10th, which happens to be a special day on station because one of our fellow expeditioners is celebrating his 60th birthday that day. Yeah, you know who you are, and we love you for it ol’ boy.

But wait, don’t rush that sun!

Life at Davis over the last few weeks has been a new experience for almost all on station (with only three previous wintering expeditioners out of seventeen). The opportunity to live in an area where the sun doesn’t actually rise is pretty special, and even more so for an avid amateur photographer. The extended hours of twilight (about 5–6 hours each day), has given rise to a plethora of picture perfect moments. It’s hard to capture everything in a single picture, and even harder to put words to those pictures, so I will just let the images do the rest of the talking on this one.

Work on Magnetic Island generates some deep thinking

Just after midwinter, our resident scientist/engineer Dr Bob, our medical practitioner Doc Mal and myself headed out to Magnetic Island (a few kilometres northwest of station). We were off to service the cameras used to monitor the Adelie penguins over their summer breeding time. We arrived on the island under light from the setting super moon and some pretty amazing twilight coming from the non-present sun, still two weeks away from returning its warmth over the horizon.

Walking past the tiny piles of rocks that the Adélies collect for their nesting partner, we were reminded of the remoteness of where we are. Even the penguins are smart enough to leave this place in the depths of winter… what are we doing here?

But the answer to that question is simple; it is much safer and less intrusive to conduct the maintenance for these scientific projects when the wildlife is not here. This reduces our disruption to their summer breeding cycles, and in turn, helps us understand their natural behaviours.

Of course this comes at a cost for us wintering expeditioners, as we are constantly at battle with the cold, the wind and the isolation — but let’s be honest, we love it!

Kazak and Hawker Island trip

Engineering Specialist Dr Bob, our Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) Observer Gavin and the Ninja Comms Operative (me) headed out on a mission to service the cameras and AWS (automagic weather station) on Kazak and Hawker Islands. Kazak Island is right down near the Sørsdal Glacier, the camera and AWS data is used for studying the ice forming and blowing out throughout the season. As it happens, the ice must have blown out about a week before we got there because the solid, one metre thick ice gave way to ice only about 120mm right on the edge of the island, and just a bit further out — open water! This was my first real chance to see the front of the Sørsdal Glacier ‘up close’ (about 1500m away), and it was an amazing and breathtaking experience. Ice cliffs over a 100m high, dropping away into open water… something we haven’t seen at Davis since the start of March.

We were staying at Watts Hut for the night, so we ducked over to Lake Druhzby to get some more night shots on the amazing cracked freshwater ice. This time we were treated to clear skies, giving rise to a brilliant Milky Way star field and some pretty average Aurora Australis. But when we got back to the hut, the heavens exploded and the Aurora Australis went crazy for about 20 minutes, long enough for us all to get some classic shots!

On day two we headed to Hawker Island, which is an ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area), the terms under which only two of us could be on the island at once. Bob and I went ‘ashore’ to service the three cameras setup to study the Southern Giant Petrels that call it home. Once this was completed, Bob stepped off the island to let Gavin come get some sneaky pictures as well. The island is home to up to 40 breeding pairs; we were lucky enough to see five of these magic birds on the day.