Davis is ever busy, offering up a great interview with a repeat expeditioner Dave, pics from two trips, the Davis post office, a follow up on the tarn story and Oktoberfest with homebrew. Prost!

Doc’s Dozen

Dave B, Winter maintenance building services supervisor (BSS), Deputy Station Leader, Mahjong Monday master member, ‘59'ers club member

Dave, can you actually remember how many trips you have done to Antarctica? What keeps you coming back to the ice continent?

This is my third winter, first at Casey 2009, second at Macca 2013 and now at Davis 2015. I also have had two summers at Davis, first in 2007/8 and then 2011/12. I keep coming back because where else do you get to do, see and experience the multitude of things (that we sometimes take for granted) while working in one of the most challenging and rewarding environments in the world?

Doc: Wow! I’m impressed, that you remembered the dates.

What is it like being the BSS here?

It can be very rewarding, it can also be flat out, hurry up and wait all in the same day. Mostly you rely on the skills and attributes of the team you are given, and the rest of the time you make it up in the hope that you are seen as wise rather than misinformed.

If not BSS/chippie what job would you do?


Doc: Fair enough!

Best gig as a chippie?

Being employed!

Dave, what do you love about Antarctica and what have been your most memorable experiences here?

Where do I begin? Every day on Macca, helicopter flights at Davis to some of the more remote locations, walking in the Vestfolds, the vibe that comes with a Casey summer. I love the journey across the Southern Ocean, the bigger the seas the better (depending on which vessel you are on!) the environment, long nights and even longer days, calm sunny days at Davis, blizzards and the plateau at Casey, the wildlife, landscape and freedom of Macca, but most of all it’s the people.

Dave who inspires you?

Forrest Gump. If you are going to commit to something do it to the best of your abilities, and don’t let others get you down. I do find it a bit harder to run like Forrest though.

Doc: You are not alone there Dave.

What have you learned living in a small community Dave?


As our current brewmaster, what has been the stand-out batch of the year (or is it like children where you love them all for what they are and don’t have favourites)?

They are like children, but loving them all has consequences, that extra kilo or three might be attributed to my nurturing nature. (Refer to ‘must have’ question.) It has been a great year in the brewery, with everyone answering the call at bottling time, along with the effort that Marc Mills has put in in the area of innovation, experimentation and research has been outstanding.

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

Anything second hand: you can tell it has been to the panel beaters a few times, the engine has been tampered with, by the bloke next door who is a shop front designer by day, and did a two week DIY course online, some of the running gear is worn and creaks and clunks at times, it’s hard to get started in the mornings, but reliable! 

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

The correct fitting pants (two sizes bigger than what you are wearing before you get on the ship). Please refer to brewing question!

As one of the three expeditioners on station born in 1959, can you enlighten us about the ‘59'ers club (its status, privileges, influence and power etc.)?

Being the baby of the group gives me the opportunity to refer to the others in this elite club as the ‘old blokes'. We have regular club gathering to discuss relevant issues of the day such as pensions, superannuation, retirement, what ailments are giving us the most trouble; why don’t young people understand that you need to hear and understand the lyrics in songs to truly appreciate the gifted composers and musicians’ talents, and we have our music loud because we are getting hard of hearing, not because we need to feel the music vibrating through our head phones to be able to appreciate the music of Burl Ives, Kamal, Tom Jones and the Bay City Rollers. As the three ‘59'ers, we have not been awarded with any special privileges, status or power, this has appropriately and deservedly been given to the one person that has wisdom, AGE and beauty on their side and can remember some parts of the 50s. 

Doc: I can’t imagine who you can possibly be referring to there David.

How have you managed to cope spending a second winter with our Birdman?

My friend Greg is not that hard to manage or live with, just give him something shiny and he will be happy for days. 

Doc: Of course, we all do love Birdman when he is happily twittering away.

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

Why would I want to be someone else? I strive for excellence, set my goals high and are happy and content with average. (Sound like my school reports.)

Doc: Good philosophy Dave. A wise man in medicine once said ‘Perfection is unattainable, strive for excellence but sometime you have to be content with good enough’.

What is in store when you return home Dave?

Taking my 88 year old mother to Norfolk Island for a holiday, trying to fit back in to family life and resuming my place at the head of the hierarchy in the home (possibly have to start at the bottom there) and work. 

Doc: Well Dave, I think you may have come up in the pecking order now that the cat has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Absolute pearls of wisdom there David. I like to think of the ‘59'ers as a bit like a big fly wheel. It might take a bit of effort to get the speed up, but once they are up and running it takes a lot to stop that power and momentum.

Day trip to Woop Woop

Last Friday morning, a team led by Scott W headed off station in a Hägglunds tracked vehicle under crisp blue skies to the Davis Plateau ski landing area, otherwise known as ‘WoopWoop'.

Alex, our resident Bureau of Meteorology technician had Met instrumentation to inspect and maintain in preparation for the coming summer season.

Scott, Ducky and Geoff were all busy inspecting the infrastructure on site and undertaking some maintenance and repair work to ensure that the resources up there would be ready to accommodate work groups over summer as part of the upcoming flying program. 

Rauers traverse

With 'Team 1 Traverse' limping back to station for repairs to the Blue Hägglunds tracked vehicle, ‘Team 2’ leapt into strategic planning as a weather window for a couple of good travel days could be two days away. Pre-cooked packs of food, water, survival packs, safety equipment, summer and winter sleeping bags, snacks and extra equipment filled the two Häggs close to the brim.

An early start rolled the Häggs towing the RMIT van and a sled of fuel, complete with a portable toilet, down the graded slope out of the station. The blue Hägg led the way with Aaron, Millsie, Ducky and Birdman, and the Yellow Hägg followed right behind with Sealy, Vicki, Kev and Damian. Eight intrepid expeditioners set off for an adventure over the Sørsdal Glacier to lands and islands rarely visited in the Rauer group.

Our journey will take us 130 kilometres the long way around over the Sørsdal Glacier to islands just 30 kilometres away as the crow flies. Well into the trip we could see in the distance the mammoth Sørsdal Glacier, a gleaming block of ice scraping its way to the ocean. Our task was to crawl over the top and down the other side to pocked glistening headlands of deep blue ice. As we bumped and rolled our way to the massive edge of the glacier, team leader Aaron walked ahead in his harness probing for crevices hidden by fresh snow in sections where towers of ice festooned like shuffled playing cards, seemingly ready to swallow a Hägg and its contents.

With roaring diesel engines, the blue and yellow Häggs towed their reluctant trailers to the top of the glacier. Behold: a scene to the east, an intense naked and raw wilderness of boundless ice to the South Pole. To the northwest, sea ice and islands of icebergs like Lego blocks bobbing in a cream caramel only to be broken up with the islands off the Vestfold Hills nurturing Davis station, our home for winter.

Pushing further forward over the glacier, Millsy and Sealy steered the Häggs slowly over a precipice of ice to a panoramic view of distant coastline and more glaciers jutting into the sea ice like cream coated meringue. Down and down we travelled, chains deployed to keep the trailers from leading the procession to the icy headland. Our next challenge was to find the route down the 400 metre long Macey Headland, one access to the sea ice and then onto Hop Island. With our hearts beating to the tune of the diesel engines, a steep snow covered ramp some 500 metres long was no challenge for our tough tracked Hägglunds. Once on the sea, we set the waypoints for Hop Island, our home for the next six days. It was now ten hours into the journey and we were keen to reach our destination.

Steering our way through arched icebergs and a few seals, our Hop Island retreat was finally reached. A melon and a smarty were home for the next few days. The next day we were blessed with good weather and took off around the island group, checked on Filla Island apple hut refuge and continued on hopping to inspect the north ramp access to the islands. After some time travelling amongst sea ice locked islands we found a 100 metre bank of snow leading to north ramp. Up the blue Hägg went easily reaching the top of the bank. Soon we were on the pimpled ice headland and followed a route up to another waypoint. So, with successful access to the north ramp now proved we turned the Häggs around and headed back to Hop Island.

The next two days, we were held hostage by 50 knot winds and blowing snow, huddled inside the smartie hut drinking lots of tea and eating our hearty meals. Day five saw Birdman and Sealy venture out in light winds to change the memory cards in special cameras taking photos of rookeries and nesting sites for Antarctic petrels and fulmars. Aaron tied on the crampons and practised on a nice gentle slope next to the smartie.

With light winds and a favourable forecast, we packed the Häggs and headed for station. Halfway up the north ramp, katabatic winds picked up and slowed our progress to crawling. Occasional glimpses of the way ahead decided our fate for the night and that was to camp on the headland in the Häggs. After a great night’s sleep for four of us in the RMIT van, we headed off at first light up the icy slope. The squeaky clean rubber tracks scrambled for a toe hold on the unforgiving pimpled texture of the deep blue ice — at times the tracks broke traction — then we slowed the revs and inched forward once again. Once back en route we pushed on to Davis station for hot showers and comfortable beds.

An amazing adventure was had by all, and the Rauer traverse was completed yet again by Davis expeditioners.  

The Birdman

The Post

One of the secondary duties on station we haven’t yet discussed is that of Postmaster. A great responsibility it is being the Postmaster on an Antarctic station, albeit not all that busy.

During summer, the Davis Postmaster receives and processes mail coming in and out on the voyages at the beginning and end of the season, as well as processing mail received from and for the other stations nearby, particularly the Chinese and Indian stations. During winter things are pretty quiet as you might expect (with there being no visitors for eight months and all). This gave Vicki (our Postmaster) time to catch up on mail due out this coming summer — some of it written by our own expeditioners, some received for other stations during the last ship’s visit in March. The rest: a mix bag of requests by philatelists (those people engaged in the study of stamps) for envelopes marked with special rubber stamps, cachets or signatures specific to Davis station.

In this age of electronic communication, there is something quite touching about opening a carefully worded and faultlessly polite request from a perfect stranger from another country whose quest it is to secure correspondence from the farthest most reaches of the earth.

Refilling the tarn

A few weeks ago we brought you a story about the emptying of the tarn. This week, the story continues as a large part of the infrastructure team went on roster to conduct the tarn refill. A hole in the ice was drilled, a pump was deposited just off station, and hoses were laid all the way up to the tarn.

Eventually a large amount of fresh sea water will, over the coming summers, be converted into potable water using the reverse osmosis system. The job isn’t done yet, but it’s well under way.


It is said that Oktoberfest, a large festival held annually since the early 1800s, was moved to late September to enable patrons to make the most of the last of the warm weather as the European summer draws to a close and sitting outside in a beer tent becomes less appealing.

Well, sitting outside here, even in the current fine weather still remains fairly unappealing, so our Oktoberfest was held across last weekend. Commencing with a beer tasting on Friday evening, the crew were treated to a selection of many of the fine brews made during winter, which culminated in a grand German dinner on Saturday night (with a sausage and beer recovery brunch held on Sunday).

With the support of the stations brewmaster and assistants, Marc and Alex R put together a fine feast of German cuisine that prematurely hardened the arteries and broadened our horizons on the things you can do to cook a chicken.