This week at Davis, we meet electrician Josh, do science in a tent two kilometres from station, and showcase recent field expeditions.

Nick’s cartoon of the week

Stories from the field always provide Nick with good ideas for another humorous illustration. Inspired by unconfirmed reports where three expeditioners couldn’t get the gas working in a field hut and thought if they huddled around a torch they’d warm up — not sure how true this is.


This week we have been working on the sea ice about two kilometres from station. The aim of this trip was to collect samples of the microbes within the marine environment for genetic analysis. To achieve this we filtered hundreds of litres of water onto fine filter papers, and collected small water samples.

While out on the sea ice we have been working in a MWS (mobile work shelter) which allows us to stay warm and prevent our water from freezing (as much as possible).

The MWS is a sled that has an insulated tent over the top. Since the start of winter the trades team have done a great job helping us to modify this set-up (which we used through the summer months) to allow us to work under the dark and cold (<-20°C) winter conditions. Some of these include adding lighting, heating, heat tracing pipes and adding an external tank to the power generator to allow it to run overnight, keeping our MWS warm (well above 0°C anyway).

Working out on the ice, we found that the cold had many hidden challenges. The obvious ones, such as the water freezing in the hoses, trying to do delicate work in large gloves or us getting cold were expected, however the fact that none of our machinery (compressor or generator) would start in the cold, or that the hoses, ropes and cables become very brittle and inflexible at these temperatures were unexpected, and made working more difficult.

Despite these challenges, we were able to work in our heated mobile lab for the five days and successfully collected our samples.

Sarah and Alyce

On the job

Val, the station’s only plumber — and a very popular one — was kept busy during the week checking on and isolating plumbing to one of our older huts. Whilst it was a barmy −32°C, Val was happy to take a three second break for the camera before getting back to finishing the job as quickly as he could.

Who’s who on station

Josh Foster — Electrician

What did you do before this?

I grew up on a large farm outside Bundaberg, when I left school my first job was with a local sugar mill as an electrical apprentice. I also worked as a refrigeration electrician for a local firm before signing up with an underground coal mine in the Bowen Basin. Before starting my contract with the Australian Antarctic Division I was based at the Bowen Basin mine for five years as an electrician and maintenance trainer.

Why Antarctica?

Like we all say, “Why not?”. To be able to combine work and have an amazing experience is what I was after — you can travel the world many times over but to work and be part of a team in such a rarely travelled environment is unique. Before coming here I’d seen many stunning photos ofAntarctica and now I’m seeing it firsthand.

Previous Antarctic experience?

No, not even close. Bundaberg and Bowen Basin are worlds apart, not to mention the 70 degree celsius difference in temperature.

How do you spend your time down here?

I have many hobbies and interests — you can usually find me in the workshop in my spare time working with timber and metal. I’m a bit of a gym and social junkie. If it’s happening, I’m there — watching a movie in the cinema, darts, pool, and anything social.

How would your friends on station describe you?

Definitely loud and full of energy. I enjoy being in the middle of all the shenanigans. I’ve been told my laugh can be heard through very thick glazed windows and walls.

What do you miss the most?

Family, friends, warm beaches and fresh fruit.

Best thing about being here?

The never ending sunsets are stunning although now that we’re in the middle of winter the sunrises and sunsets roll into one and last a few hours. The uniqueness of Antarctica and station life become ‘normal’ such as seeing icebergs, penguins and riding quads on sea ice, then you realise, it isn’t normal, it is unique and very special. I still remember the first time I ventured off station with Tim (2013 Wintering expeditioner) and experience Watt’s hut, Trajer Ridge and the Sørsdal Glacier for the first time, and the 24/7 daylight and ambient temperatures. It doesn’t get any better than this.

In the field

Despite the lack of sunlight, three groups ventured off station during the past week, and they were:

Group 1 : Sarah and Alyce, all in the name of science traveled an impressive two kilometres from station, daily, to their mobile work shelter in the sea ice.

Group 2 : Stu, Josh and Dom in the name of work and fun traveled to Brookes, Platcha and Bandits hut over a three day period.

Group 3 : Narelle, PJ, Dave and Val traveled in style (a warm Hägglunds) to Platcha hut for a weekend sightseeing tour.

All returned happy, healthy and hungry.