This week at Davis we celebrated Easter, counted seals, saved potatoes, and waded through plenty of snow, all in addition to the steady tempo of infrastructure and science activities taking place, and with time to rest over the holiday period. Happy Easter to all of you at home.

Snowed under

This week we have seen the unusual phenomenon (for Davis) of plenty of snowfall and very little wind. With the following results:


Easter morning, and our team of expeditioners emerged from their bedrooms to find that the intrepid Easter bunny had made it to Australia’s southernmost Antarctic station during the night, leaving little white paw prints up and down the hallways and an assortment of chocolate eggs at each door.

Filled with wonderment and sugar, our expeditioners made the most of the day by breakfasting on hot cross buns fresh from the oven, and enjoying an extended break after a very busy period whilst thinking of home.

Thanks to all those who made Easter what it was.

Sealy the seal counter

When on station, you'll often find yourself undertaking jobs that were probably never on your original terms of reference. All part of the job.

And so it is for one of our skilled team of diesel mechanics. Mr William S, aka ‘Sealy', aka ‘Sealy the Seal Counter'. Having taken over the role from a departing summer expeditioner, Sealy dutifully walks down to the waterfront every day and takes a count of the elephant seals remaining on station. His survey area is divided by the road down to the wharf. Any found on the left are counted as in the wallow, and to the right, on the beach.

This year the numbers peaked at 98 seals. Now as the sea ice hardens and more seals begin their journey off station the numbers are beginning to dwindle.

This afternoon, fortified by a delicious lunch, we accompanied Sealy down to the waterfront wading through knee deep snow in some places. As Sealy noted, making this journey to and fro each day, particularly after heavy snowfall, is a workout in itself and not without its challenges. Sometimes just finding the seals is tricky. No doubt the hard work is appreciated by those tallying the figures as part of a longitudinal study.

Today Sealy counted 42, with a last minute addition popping its head through the sea ice off the wharf.

Thank you Sealy. In the name of science, we salute you.

Spud squad

Each week, in addition to their professional roles, expeditioners undertake ‘Saturday duties'. These duties include a variety of tasks around station to keep the place clean and well maintained. On occasion, additional Saturday duties might be prescribed. Last Saturday, it was actions stations in the basement of the LQ. The situation was dire. Our potatoes were sprouting and immediate action needed to be taken to de-sprout and rescue the stock.

Enter the ‘spud squad', a highly trained crack force of expeditioners whose job it was to save the station supply of potatoes, and have a good ol’ natter at the same time.

Many hands make light work and the job was done in a matter of hours.

Doc’s Dozen

Nick W — Aircraft Ground Support Officer (AGSO) aka ‘Ginga Ninja’ and ‘Beard Season’ supporter

Nick, how many trips have you done to Antarctica and what brings you back here?

This is my second summer in Antarctica. Last season I was an Aircraft Ground Support Officer (AGSO) at Casey station. This season I’m the Senior AGSO here at Davis.

Initially it was the thrill of adventure and the extraordinary that led me to apply for the AGSO position, it became more than that. It sounds cliché but, it’s the people you meet along the way and share the experience with that makes the journey what it is.

The work is exciting, dynamic and challenging and I feel very privileged to be a part of Australia’s Antarctic program. Plus it’s a great ‘ice breaker’ at the bar, pardon the pun. (Very daggy pun but it might just work for you Nick! I can remember a handsome young man offering to show me his Antarctic pictures once.)

What is it like being an AGSO here and how does that compare to your normal work in the RAAF?

Parts of my work with the RAAF as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer are very similar to that of an AGSO, other parts could not be more different. Often in the RAAF we find ourselves working in isolated environments in small teams and in harsh environments, not so different to the life of an AGSO. On the other hand in Antarctica I catch a helicopter to work and ride a snowmobile, quite a different commute.

If not an AGSO what job would you do?

Philanthropist is still a possibility.

Best gig as an AGSO?

Flying around Antarctica is incredibly special, many expeditioners don’t get this opportunity and as an AGSO it is becomes a part everyday life.

Best experience so far in Antarctica Nick?

An evening last summer, watching the sunset over the Vanderford Glacier with a glass of sticky date pudding and some great friends. Shout out to Jane, Blair and Linda!

What do you love about Antarctica?

It is hard to look past the natural beauty of Antarctica, endless views of icebergs, glaciers, penguins and seals. It sometimes feels surreal that we are actually here.

Who inspires you?

My mother. She is a successful business woman and also contributes to the community through humanitarian and public advocate work. (Lovely sentiment Nick. Always be good to your mother.)

What have you learned living in a small community?

Tolerance is key, confront issues and fill up the milk jug.

If you were a car, what car would you be? Now what sort of aircraft?

Car: RV1 Valiant, naturally. Aircraft: C-130J-30, staying true to my roots. 

What is the ‘must have’ item that you packed for Antarctica?

Hair comb and a smile.

You have been the driving force behind the Davis ‘Beard Season’ campaign. Can you tell me a bit more about it and what motivated you to promote it here in Antarctica?

'Beard Season’ is an initiative to promote awareness of melanoma through facial hair. The moment I heard of Beard Season I thought of Antarctica where growing a beard is somewhat a tradition. Beards not only give great protection from the weather, especially the harsh UV experienced, but they also look good. Really good. 

We have held a photo shoot here at Davis of the bearded locals and I must say we got some fantastic shots. We are hoping to feature on the Beard Season website in the near future.

What is in store when you return to home?

Straight back to the family farm in western Victoria for Easter and the PR campaign begins with an obligatory slideshow presentation on a makeshift screen out camping. Catch up with friends, make up for lost time, missed birthdays and Christmas, from there I will make my way back to Sydney to start work with the Air Force in May.

Great interview Nick and great work on the Beard Season campaign. Have fun back with the RAAF and tinkering with those Hercs. Hmmm…I wonder if I found the right order code I could get one of those for us here at Davis?