This week at Davis, our intrepid expeditioners bring you out onto the Amery ice shelf, take you around our site services, for pre-dinner nibbles in the CPC building, introduce you to the smiles behind VLZ Davis, celebrate some anniversaries and introduce you to Jimmy H, the Davis ping pong champion and field training officer.

Science: On the Amery

Over the weekend and Monday a team from Davis returned to AM06 to download the data from the phase sensitive radar systems that were deployed earlier in the season, and make some last minute repairs to ensure the equipment is ready for the long harsh winter on the Amery Ice Shelf. 

The radar systems are the latest in a suite of instruments deployed on the Amery that aim to give researchers detailed information about the structure of the ice shelf and how this changes over time.  At this site, the Amery Ice Shelf is around 600 m thick with several hundred meters of water below and is moving more than 300 m per year.

Adam C

Heat trace heroics

The ever vigilant plumbers and electricians noticed an issue with the heat trace cable on the sewer line this week. Not to be perturbed by the fact it was a Sunday, a crack team was deployed to investigate the issue, lest the sewer freeze and we ended up with a broken sewer pipe.

Geoff, assisted by Brendan, located the source of the issue and works began to rectify it. Once everything was back up and running, Ducky and Ash came along and made the final repairs to the pipe insulation and everything was right in the world again.

Fuel lines

The weather has started to turn a little bit colder here of late, but that has yet to stop the team working on the upgrade of the fuel pipe system around station. The new line to hook up the satellite fuel tank down at the reverse osmosis building is well progressed, with completion on that line due next week (unless we are rudely interrupted by the Aurora Australis!).

An evening in the CPC

Recently, the team in the CPC building (climate processes and change) were kind enough to host us for a casual afternoon of fun and frivolity. A lot of people on station had never set foot in the ‘strange yellow building up the hill’ so this was a welcome opportunity to see how the team up there contribute to the scientific work of the Australian Antarctic Division and its partner institutions. 

All three of the staff housed in the CPC building were on hand to conduct tours, explain experiments and let us get hands on with some of the equipment. Thanks go out to Adam C, Peter L and Theo D.

VLZ Davis

Over the last five months, there are two people who have shared the responsibility of being constantly vigilant.

Sleeping with one ear honed to the crackle of a handheld radio is second nature, as is long days keeping track of the rest of us.

They are our station communication operators, Linda M and Robyne C, aka VLZ Davis (their callsign) and they remain an integral part of the big picture and of that they can be proud. Plus, who else will print the puzzle and papers each day?

This week, we speak to Linda and Robyne.

Q) What do you do when you're not here at Davis manning the comms desk? (Over.)

Linda: “Air traffic controller”

Robyne: “Hard to say really. A bit of RAAF air traffic control, a few years as assistant winemaker, some fun as a project administrator, and not sure what next.”

Q) Where and when have you been a comms operator with the Australian Antarctic Division?

Linda: “Casey: summer (2013/14)”

Robyne: “ Casey: summer (2010/11), Mawson Commonwealth Bay Commemorative Voyage (2012), Mawson Resupply (2012)”

Q) What are some of your responsibilities here at the comms desk?

Linda: “Keeping watch over all groups off station including aircraft, boats, vehicles and people using a variety of communication methods — VHF radios, HF radios, satellite phones.”

Robyne: “Overseeing the many hours of flying activities, the short bursts of boating, the random nature of field operations and station daily life.”

Q) What are some of the good aspects of the job?

Linda: “The job brings you to this fantastic environment”

Robyne: “The odd hours, the coming and going of people on station, the days when things get done and people are pleased and tired.”

Q) What challenges do you encounter?

Linda: “Expected to be a mind reader… :) and long hours”

Robyne: “Keeping yourself amused in between the coming and going of people and the times things get done.”

Q) What’s a good memory you take from this season?

Linda:  “Fabulous people I've met, riding quads on the sea ice through the bergs at start of season, iceberg boat cruises, two overnight trips with fabulous company: one to Trajer Ridge, and one extended walk to Sordsal Glacier.”

Robyne: “The elephant seals — they are like big, smelly puppies.”

Q) Anything else?

Linda: “Did I mention the fabulous people I've met?”

Robyne: “It’s addictive — the view, the weather, the good people, the good food, the seals…”

Copy that. Well thanks to you both, this is VLZ Davis. (Out.)

A happy anniversary

Doc’s Dozen

James H, Field Training Officer (FTO) and ping pong demon

James how many trips (including this year’s) have you done to Antarctica and what keeps you coming back?

This is my fourth summer season. I went to Casey in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and Davis this year. I really enjoyed the hectic pace at Casey (which is way more exciting than Davis — wink, wink nod, nod), but here there is no excuse not to explore with the Vestfold Hills at the back door step, but the food is the real reason! (Yes, it’s no wonder I am losing the ‘Doctor vs Chef’ competition)

What is it like being an FTO here and what is your ‘must have’ item that you pack for Antarctica?

Being an FTO is the same as any other station: always in the spotlight as a glorified ‘Food Tasting Officer'. I never leave home without hut booties and ear plugs!

If not an FTO what job would you do?

Yours! (I’m not sure if you mean as the doctor or the ‘Station Sewing Officer’ James?)

Best gig as a FTO?

Science support and cleaning up their human waste afterwards! Eating field rations is always a highlight, but my best experience was being chased by ircas in an IRB (inflatable rubber boat)!

What do you love about Antarctica?

The polar bears, narwhal and walrus, such amazing animals. (Note to self: delusional ideation with marked disorientation in time and place referencing fantasized Norwegian experiences.)

Who inspires you James?

Posh Spice. Ok, you got me, all of the Spice Girls. (Wow! Me too!)

What have you learned living in a small community?

Not to slam doors.

If you were a car, what car would you be?

Economical for me! I have a Mazda Bounty 4x4 which is not!

(I think we call it a Mazda Bravo here in OZ, Jimmy.)

I have noticed that you are a very competitive ping pong and darts player. Is this from all the practice down south or the product of a misspent youth?

Misspent youth with the ping pong, and picked up darts this year on station.

When do FTOs know when it’s time to hang up the compass?

When I physically can’t hold one! 

What is still on your FTO bucket list?

Walk from Davis station to Casey station unsupported in winter, stopping at Mirny or Bunger Hills on the way! (Goodness me. That is quite a walk there Jimmy!)

What is in store when you return to home?

Spraying gorse and fencing on a recently purchased block of farmland.

Well James, thank you for a very enlightening peep into the life and mind of one of our favourite FTOs here at Davis. So many unexpected insights. I think I might just refresh my notes regarding finding north and south from when I did field training with you though.