Hello everyone and welcome to another addition of ‘This Week at Davis'. Our intrepid reporters and photographers have captured life on our station here for those at home once again: in and around the workshops, out at the ski landing area, in the bar and out by the beach. This week we think, after some long weather delays we may be farewelling a number of our expeditioners. Amongst them we pay tribute to two comms riggers, John and Ron, who came for a month and stayed for Summer, and Andrew ‘Clobbs’ Davidson, a long time friend of Davis station and the men and women who have worked here. We wish all of them a safe journey home and we wish you at home a very happy and productive week.

Infrastructure this week

The project plumbers are about to tackle a significant part of the summer with the heating hot water for the new waste water treatment plant soon to be connected to the existing pipe work. The pipe has been run in to the new building and the ends terminate inside in a way that will make the connections nice and easy. All that remains is for a nice weather window and a clear schedule to do the final connections.

The old living quarters has known asbestos containing materials that need to be removed safely before any further works can be undertaken in that building. There has been work going on to construct and fit out a container to allow the crew to be able to decontaminate at the end of their shift. Geoff T. has been working on the plumbing, including the fabrication of a waste water tank.

Another one of the project jobs this season is to start running some permanent diesel fuel lines to three of the satellite settling tanks that currently need to be filled by tanker, operated by the diesel mechanics (diesos). By installing these new lines we will eliminate the risk of a fuel spill during these transfers. The work involves the digging of new culverts under the roads here — no easy feat when we’re sitting on 400 square kilometres of rock. Goldie has been out this week digging the second of these culverts, between the green store and the vehicle refuel point.

Speaking of the diesos, Marc M. was found this week to be spending some quality time getting to know the insides of the yellow Hägglunds. He has been working on lifting up the engine to install some new washers on the underside of the motor. I’m sure the hammer in the photo below was being used for good instead of evil.

Skiway preparations

We are anticipating a good amount of flying action this coming week after some rotten luck with the weather over the last few weeks, hindering many of our off-station field projects. The skiway has seen a lot of attention of late with some bad weather causing the AGSOs (air ground support officers) plenty of work under some tough conditions to keep the landing strip groomed and ready to send and receive planes.

Towering buddies

Having completed all of their projects at Davis and on the surrounding communications towers, the station’s two favourite communications riggers, John C. and Ron B. have been waiting patiently for their flight to Mawson station to continue their summer project. With the weather against us they've made great use of their time here, chipping in on a variety of other projects and handyman jobs.

They have been a brilliant support to the station and we will be sad to see them go. We wish them both very well.


The elephant seals are starting to make their way back in slowly increasing numbers. This gives us all on station the chance to get some great shots of these male seals making use of the beach here to moult and practice their fighting (and sleeping!) skills for later on in their lives.

Farewell to a dear Davis friend

With the weather today looking good for flying, it may well be last day on Davis station for one of the Australian Antarctic Division’s longest serving and well loved characters. Along with a number of other expeditioners, Andrew ‘Clobbs’ Davidson is scheduled to leave us after a very successful summer science programme. The principal investigator of a project looking at the effects of ocean acidification on marine microbes, Clobbs has also served as the science supervisor here on station and a member of the station’s management team. He will be dearly missed.

In the words of one of his colleagues: “Clobbs is an extremely hard worker with a very high work ethic, but he also cares a lot about the people he works with and is a great team leader, not to mention fun. He has done a lot for the marine microbial world — always pushing that it is far more important to study communities of microbes and how they interact, rather than looking at the physiology of a single species. The minicosms provide a great way to look at communities and it is a courageous step as the work is much more difficult and time-consuming than more simple experiments. I’m really glad that everything worked so well for him and the team this season.”

Recently, Brendan H. caught up with him for some reflections on his years down south.

Transcript of an interview with Clobbs

You've done a number of trips south during your career, can you tell me how many? And to where?

I've now had the honour of doing 17 trips to Antarctica. Some of these have been marine science trips but most of them have been to Davis. I got into Casey Bay on my first trip south in 1983 aboard the Nella Dan, I've got within about 30 kilometres of Mawson seven times but I've never been ashore at either of these stations. I have however been ashore at Heard Island for a couple of days (a jewel in the Antarctic crown), at Macquarie Island and have been lucky enough to experience some of the further-flung areas around the Vestfolds.

What was your first job/project on the continent?

My first season on the continent was in 1991 at Davis (surprise, surprise). I had just discovered that some phytoplankton species produced starting amounts of sun-screening compounds and had just started a PhD studying the extent to which this protected them from the higher levels of UVB damaging, short wavelength radiation that they were receiving as a result of the ozone hole.

What is your current role?

I am a senior research scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). I lead a small team into the study of plankton in the southern ocean. These tiny organisms are paramount to the function of the Antarctic system — eventually all Antarctic life depends on these organisms for food. Being so small they are intimately exposed to a changing ocean and the results of these changes will be felt throughout the biological system. My aim is to better understand the sensitivity of Antarctic life to the changes we humans are imposing, and to contribute to policy outcomes that may protect this extraordinary part of the world.

What are the biggest changes you've seen in the stations/people?

The people who come to Antarctica have changed little. They remain fascinated by the location, adventurous at heart, and committed to having fun and experiencing the world. The station has changed drastically. The accommodation is luxurious, the food sumptuous, the access to outside contact by phone and internet astounding: a far cry from a broom closet in the donga line or a quarter of a 20 foot shipping container to live in, WYSSA telexes once a week and food that could be better deployed for stopping off plaster.

Do you have a favourite station (Ed. Davis obviously!)? What makes it special to you?

The reason that I keep coming back to Davis is two-fold. Firstly it’s a great location with a vast diversity: ocean, lakes, ice, geology. But more importantly for my work it does not have the pollution that immediate waters around Casey suffer, and it also has excellent laboratories that support my rather over-aspirational scientific endeavours.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

I alluded to this above: there is an alga down here that forms balloon-like colonies. It was here again this season filling the water column (and our experiments) with tiny translucent spheres made up of thousands of cells. By sheer luck (read: misadventure) I found that this remarkable single celled plant filled its colonies up with a sunscreen. This sunscreen was much more effective at absorbing damaging, short wavelength, ultraviolet than the stuff we apply to protect ourselves from sunburn. My studies showed that it allowed this particular marine plant to out-compete the other species it grew with under high ultraviolet light. There’s something fascinating about being the only person in the world to understand how parts of the Antarctic system work!

Is there one item that you must have with you each time you're in Antarctica?

First it was my trusty Peterson pipe, then I had my partner here for a couple of summers, now — as a sign of the times — it’s my hearing aids.

What are your plans for the next phase of your career/life?

I have a great deal of science I need to write up. It’s one thing to study a system but you can only change the attitudes of people and the outcome for the region if you convince society and policy makers that there are ways that we can nurture this planet to a better future.

Any words of wisdom for the up and coming scientists hoping to follow in your footsteps?

Do this because it excites you — really blows your hair back! Not because its a job with a good wage and career prospects. If you expect the latter, it’s possible you may be bitterly disappointed.

And feel free to add anything else you would like to.

I just want to thank all you fine folks — the expeditioners of the last 31 years for making my Antarctic experiences so special.