Hello everyone. For those of you in Melbourne who are experiencing their own deep freeze, we send warm wishes and the best of the week so far. Our infrastructure team are on cranes and scaffolds checking fire systems and installing ducting. We raise a flag to our flag officer Kevin M, take you into the world of ‘Team Dieso', head out onto the sea ice on quads, find a ‘lost’ expeditioner and meet another of our team through our Doc’s Dozen.


Green store maintenance

Green store maintenance is one of the most important, amongst the rest of the important maintenance tasks that we undertake here on station. This is why when annual fire protection checks need to be done and it is taken very seriously. We don’t want to watch all our supplies going up in the one BBQ. The green store is not only where all our food is stored but all our spare parts, toiletries, tools and other home comforts are kept. Hence the IMPORTANCE of keeping these checks up to date and functioning well, with still six months before we can get anything in or out of station.

Wastewater treatment plant 

Works continue in the wastewater treatment plant. Ducky this week finally got to help put up his first piece of duct work, and wasn’t he pleased with himself! The ceiling works are progressing well with more insulation and plaster installed. Stopping up and painting will follow which will allow further duct, pipe and cable tray to be installed.

Flag officer

Every morning and every evening, almost without exception since 12 November last year, Kevin M has dutifully attended his secondary role as the station’s flag officer, raising and lowering the Australian flag and, when the occasion has warranted, the flags of other nations and ships who have visited Davis including the ANARE, Indian, Russian, Chinese and American flags. On a sombre note, it is by the flying of the national flag at half mast that the Australian Antarctic Division also recognises its staff who have died whilst on expedition — a duty Kevin also attends to.

The role of flag officer requires someone with a good memory, an ability to follow the established protocol (regardless of what others may think the protocol is) and a willingness to attend every morning and every evening with the coming and going of the light. Without a word of complaint, day in and day out, Kevin has fulfilled this role quietly and competently. He has our thanks and a guarantee that for the coming weeks of no direct sunlight, his role will become a whole lot easier!

Team dieso — an update from the diesel mechanic’s workshop

Currently we have the Cat 962H loader in the workshop undergoing a 250 hour service and the yellow Hägglunds having some wiring upgrades carried out by Greg B (a.k.a Birdman).

Search and rescue exercise on station

A feature of the emergency response team (ERT) calendar is regular station and field based exercises that complement the refresher trainings conducted throughout the year. This Monday, Davis held a station based search with all expeditioners taking part in one form or another.

On this occasion, the scenario was that a member of the trades team had not reported to work, nor been seen for breakfast. A subsequent search of his living quarters revealed no sign of him. The search and rescue (SAR) alarm was then activated and an emergency muster in the station’s mess held. From there, the team was divided into search teams coordinated by an incident response team comprised of station management, communications and a member of the SAR technically trained team.

The search teams were assigned areas of the station to search in an order of priority determined by the information available about the ‘lost’ expeditioner. This information was supplemented by additional information found in clues located throughout the station by the search teams, ranging from his radio, to information about his work plan and a message to a colleague.

As dawn began to break, the teams had narrowed their search pattern down to an area below the living quarters. Keen eyes spotted our wayward colleague and he was quickly brought in from the cold, after which the team settled in for a debrief of the exercise. This was a great opportunity to review lessons learned, both in how we may conduct a search and how to improve the trainings themselves.

Quad training

Along with the Hägglunds tracked vehicles, the station quad bikes are an indispensable piece of kit that gets us from A to B within the station operating area once the sea ice has been proven well and truly safe for vehicle travel. Expeditioners undertake practical quad bike training prior to departing for Antarctica and again during their field travel training once they have arrived on station.

Now, as conditions enable greater travel off station, we undertook a refresher training on the quad bikes organised by our team of diesel mechanics. ‘Team Dieso’ took us through pre-checks on the bikes, essential kit, basic maintenance, quad recovery methods and finally a ride out onto the sea ice in front of the station to practice sea ice drilling (to take measurements) and quad bike operation.

This was a great way to end the week and a very useful trial run for those of us considering extended trips out with the bikes in the coming weeks.

North bound

Following a series of sea ice measurements around Davis station that confirmed the ice was now fit for vehicle travel, a group of search and rescue (SAR) technically trained expeditioners headed north on quad bikes to prove the route between Davis station and Bandits hut.

Beginning after smoko on Saturday morning, Aaron C, Dennis B, Marc M and Scott W drove northwards along the coast and then into Shirokaya Bay where they overnighted at Brookes hut. The following day, they headed northwards once again and along Long Fjord before taking Pioneer Crossing over and inspecting the entrance of the line to WoopWoop. From there, the group proceeded to Bandits hut for lunch, returning to station that afternoon by the coastal way point line.

In all, the team undertook 30 sea ice measurements during their trip proving a number of routes north from station that can be used operationally and for recreation trips. The trip was also instructive in revealing the challenges of getting a quad started in below freezing temperatures, and how best to rug up and keep warm on long drives.

A great success fellas! Thanks for your efforts.

Doc’s Dozen

 Alex R, Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) Technician

Alex this your first trip to Antarctica and what lured you here?

It certainly is! Well, I boarded the P&O Aurora in Hobart thinking I was heading for a cruise of the Pacific Islands but I realised a little late that it was the white one, and not the red one, I was meant to get on. Joking aside, I have always had a goal of reaching Antarctica to experience living in such a remote and beautiful place with a small group of people. Antarctica is the next best thing for a rocket engineer who dreamed of stepping foot on Mars when he was a kid.

What is it like being a BOM tech here?

Despite the name, we don’t get a great deal of time handling high explosive. The Bureau of Meteorology has been a fantastic way to really see Antarctica. Of the many daily tasks required from a BOM tech, the observation of the weather forces me to step outside and really watch the way the climate and environment is continually changing down here. From launching balloons in roaring winds to repairing remote weather stations, I reckon it’s the best job I have ever had.

If not this job, what would you do Alex?

Once you have worked in Antarctica and caught ‘the bug’, it seems difficult to imagine yourself doing anything else.

You seem to have had a wide range of jobs in the past, what has been your favourite?

As an electrical engineer I have been lucky enough to have been involved in many interesting renewable energy projects and start-up companies over the years. I suppose, apart from the obvious cold-climate answer, my favourite past project was working on the construction of an algae biofuel refinery in Townsville. To this day, I am still learning from the immense challenges that presented themselves on that project.

Best experience in Antarctica so far?

Where to begin? My two day survival training to Brookes hut showed me the stark beauty of the Vestfold Hills. Following our walk we had a chance to sit on the ‘sundeck’ and kick back with a beer. Being the only humans around for miles, and at the bottom of the world, is an incredible feeling.

What do you love about Antarctica?

Aside from the amazing beauty and interesting wildlife, I would have to say that my number one love is the quiet. On a calm day, I just stand and stare at the scenery with not a sound to be heard. I find it gives a great sense of peace, especially when you have had years of jet setting and busy city life.

Who inspires you?

I suppose my father inspired me into science and IT in the early days, which has driven me into my current line of work. Over the last decade my true inspiration has come from my wife, who brought me out of my shell so many years ago and taught me a new way of life.

What have you learned living in a small community?

The three P’s. Patience, positivity and presents.
(Doc. Hmmm, I like the presents part of that!)

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

Although I recently sold my Land Rover Defender, it summed me up in a nutshell. Small frame, a chassis that doesn’t rust but probably the car with the most maintenance requirements you will ever own! It will get you through some of the toughest and most extreme environments, but when you need it to start in a shopping mall car park, the ignition dies.

(Doc. As a fellow unfortunate Land Rover owner, I know exactly where you are coming from Alex.)

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

Ninja IceI took someone’s advice back in Hobart (Tasmania), who said to me: “Finish packing and then take out half of what you have and leave it behind”. I packed light, but I brought a short list of essentials. Among them, I have found my ten pairs of Ninja Ice gloves to be the perfect balance between dexterity and warmth. I am very glad I packed them!

If you could be someone else, who would it be?

I have always believed that we are who we make ourselves to be. So, despite many years of hard lessons, I wouldn’t want to be anyone else but me. Well, maybe the front man in Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.

(Doc. Great band Alex. I always really loved Animal on the drums.)

What is in store when you return to home?

I am lucky enough to be a father of three beautiful daughters, so I plan to return to my regular Dad duties and find a new job. This trip to Antarctica has taken my career in a different direction, so I will just have to see what new opportunities present themselves upon return to Hobart.

Great interview Alex, thank you so much for your thoughts and reflections. I would enjoy the peace and tranquillity while you can with three girls waiting at home.