So, we lost the KBA ten kilometre challenge to Casey, but hey, we cooked up many feasts, gathered friends from the Chinese ship Xue Long and the Indian station Bharati, lowered stretchers off cliffs, held pool and darts competition finals, conducted an exclusive interview with the Davis ‘Ice Cream Tsar’ and recovered a fallen NASA Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna. Just another week at Davis.


Reported as resembling “the torch for a cubist statue of liberty, a high-concept chandelier and a monster sound system” the ANITA III (short for Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna III) was referred to by one scientist as a “splendidly improbable beast”, and was the focus of undoubtedly one of our most interesting field projects to date.

Launched by the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (NASA) based at McMurdo station on 17 December 2014, the ANITA III cruised across Antarctica suspended by a balloon at an altitude of 37 — 38 kms, observing approximately 1.5 million square kilometres of ice in its search for high energy neutrinos.

By their nature, neutrinos interact with very little out there prior to their contact with the earth’s atmosphere and therefore, once detected, enable scientists to “probe the universe”, identifying the “highest energy astrophysical accelerators in the universe” which, if detected will “signal the nature of the unknown sources of the highest energy particles and their accelerators known in the universe”. This carries significant implications for our understanding of the laws of physics and the nature of such things as black holes.

The interaction of these neutrinos with ice produces electrons and positrons that generate radio bursts reflecting off the ice and out upon the hyper-sensitive instrumentation of the antenna. With its copious amounts of ice, Antarctica has been referred to as the “biggest neutrino-detection laboratory in the world”.

But what goes up must come down and in early January, as part of a broader collaborative agreement, Davis station was requested by NASA through intermediaries at McMurdo station to retrieve the structure’s priority instrumentation.

A team was quickly assembled, led by our senior field training officer (FTO) and comprising of two pilots, an electrician and an electrical engineer. Following a detailed briefing from our man at McMurdo, and an aerial recce by twin otter aircraft to locate the antenna and undertake a site inspection, the team accessed the site by helicopter and set about carefully recovering the instrumentation and transferring it back here to Davis.

Undertaken in record time, the success of the recovery project earned the team considerable praise from counterparts and most importantly provided us with more valuable experience in the planning and implementation of remote recovery projects which we are once again putting to good use.

To find out much more about this project well beyond the comprehension of this editor and to see the trajectory of the antenna, visit the NASA Long Duration Balloon (LDB) website.


The first, and biggest, part of the new waste water treatment plant (WWTP) equipment was installed during the week. This tank now becomes the starting point for the entire area. The WWTP was constructed in Germany to the exact dimensions of the room it is to be installed in here at Davis, so if this tank is in the wrong spot we could be in some trouble later. The plumbers have also installed the temporary heating system to keep us nice and warm over winter.

In the kitchen

This summer the team of three chefs have come together with a winning combination of experience and a diversity of backgrounds. Between them they have total of fourteen seasons working in Antarctica — with all three having done a winter — and at other stations on the icy continent. So they had a good idea of what it involves to cook for up to 90 hungry expeditioners from November to March. During the summer they would have produced some 22,000 meals and made enough bread and cakes to send a chill down the spine of any gluten intolerant diabetic.

It’s probably not surprising that when they’re not working they like a bit of time to themselves. Damien can be found immersing himself into a good book, Donna working up a sweat at the gym and Gavin riding a mountain bike around the station.

So what are the secret ingredients to a successful season? Team work, communication and most importantly a sense of humour. Judging by the quality of food and the laughter coming from the kitchen, they have gotten the mix just right.

Gav M

SAR training

Search and rescue (SAR) training continued this week with the team heading out to learn and practice installing rock anchors and lowering a patient in a stretcher down a rocky slope. Under the watchful eyes of Marty B and James H (field training officers) the team were successful in getting volunteer ‘patient’ Nick W down to safe ground multiple times. Once again the world can sleep safely knowing the Davis SAR team are on the job.

Enter the Snow Dragon

Following on from last week’s article 'Field work in the Prince Charles Mountains' we had the pleasure of hosting a visit from the CHINARE ship Xue Long (Snow Dragon). The main purpose of the visit was to collect the 700 kg of rock samples that were taken from the Prince Charles Mountains by the Chinese geologists.

In the spirit of friendship and cooperation the crew of the Xue Long invited us to visit their ship and we reciprocated with an invitation to their expeditioners and crew to come ashore and take a tour of Davis. All passenger transfers were undertaken by the Xue Long’s work boat, with the crew completing many round trips to transfer the 73 CHINARE expeditioners and 38 Davis expeditioners from ship to shore and back.

A great afternoon was had by all, with the teams exchanging gifts, stories and smiles — field team’s equipment and samples are safely in the hands of the CHINARE crew.

Visitors from Bharati station

Adding another layer of multiculturalism to life here at Davis this week were two groups of scientists from the nearby Indian station, Bharati, coordinated by their expedition leader Dr Saini. Like the visit from the Chinese group, tours were organised to show our guests around station. Many thanks to the representatives from science and the Bureau of Meteorology for hosting our guests.

Ten kilometre KBA challenge

On Saturday the second annual ten kilometre KBA challenge took place against Casey station. The idea was to get as many people as possible to run, walk, ride, row (not ski though, we don’t take the easy option) ten kilometres. The totals were tallied and divided by the number of people on station.

At the time of going to print the results weren’t clear — maybe by next week we'll know the winning station…

Or you could read Casey’s version of the story. 


Thursday night saw the culmination of three hotly contested competitions. The eight ball competition had been dragging on for a while so the decision was made to finish it and the darts comps on the same night.

Congratulations to Brett D who defeated Mark ‘Junior’ P in the eight ball, Dave B who defeated Chris G in the darts singles, and to Adam C and Dennis B who defeated Bill P and Mark ‘Davo’ D in the darts doubles.

Doc’s Dozen — carpenter interview

Doc’s Dozen with Mark Perry (AKA Junior), Carpenter, Davis Ice Cream Tsar, SAM Slum Lord

Is this your first trip to Antarctica Mark, and what brings you here?

Yes, indeed this is my first trip to Antarctica. A mate told me he was considering applying for a job in Antarctica which he saw on the internet so I had a look myself and thought I may as well throw an application in as well.

What is it like being a chippie (carpenter) here?

Being a chippie down here is great. I honestly didn’t know what to expect coming down here as I had done as little research as anyone almost could before heading down to Antarctica. The work is good and I’m lucky enough to be a part of an amazing group of chippies who all have a great sense of humour.

If not a chippie what job would you do?

This is a hard one as my current position as the station, ‘Ice Cream Tsar', is right at the top of my wish list though one position does come to mind: STATION LEADER. As station leader I would then have total power and control of all ice cream on station but more importantly I would make the person responsible for ordering all this light ice cream we have accountable for their actions.

Best gig as a chippie Mark?

The best gig as a chippie would have to be the diverse range of tasks that you are required to do. Most often two jobs are never the same hence I never get sick of doing the same thing day in, day out. Every day is different to the last, whether it is just a different location or a different type of sheeting to hang than the week before. My job is continuously changing and I eminently enjoy it.

Best experience in Antarctica?

Though this is a hard one, I would have to say that the iceberg boat cruise in the zodiacs would have to take the cake. Seeing some of the amazing colours throughout the icebergs and watching the Adélie penguins on Gardner Island feed their obese, yet forever hungry, young.

What do you love about Antarctica?

Well, back at Kingston (location of Australian Antarctic Division headquarters in Tasmania) I took part in a psychological test with a counsellor to ensure my approval to come down south. Doing as little research as I had, it was clear to the person doing the assessment that I had not done my homework on Antarctica or Davis station. She asked me clearly,”Well if you have no idea on what it’s like down there how do you know if you will like it or not?” Well, I can honestly say I love it. All the people down here are amazing, the landscape and wildlife is breathtaking and it was not until spending the time here that I realised and appreciated just how lucky I was to have this opportunity. I cannot put my finger on one thing that I love most about Antarctica, just the whole environment.

Who inspires you Junior, plus what kind of car would you be?

Malcolm Blight. The day I can kick an 80 metre bomb, my life will be complete. If I could be anyone else it would be Malcolm Blight.

(For those too young to remember, Malcolm Blight is a legendary Australian Football League player of the 70s and 80s.)

As a car, I would be a stock standard Toyota Land Cruiser that needs not much maintenance and drinks a lot of fuel (food and ice cream).

What have you learned living in a small community?

Coming from a small community town and a family of four other siblings, which consist of an older sister and two sets of twins (which I am one of) I learned a lot about sharing and caring. For example, if there was a nice packet of chips around you DO NOT wait till everyone else arrives. You devour as much as you can in as little time as possible and disappear without a trace. Mostly the same goes in small community living though I have learned that consideration and patience is a must and that not all rumours are true.

(Hmm, those feeding rituals seem vaguely familiar to me Junior.)

Junior, you have a few more jobs and titles here at Davis. Could you explain what ‘SAM Slum Lord’ and ‘Davis Ice Cream Tsar’ mean?

Ice Cream Tsar means I am in control of which flavour ice cream is to be served with each dessert and how much. It is within my power to punish those who I see abusing or misusing the ice cream as I see fit and I am responsible for ensuring that it gets put into its resting ground at the end of each night so that it may not melt.

Slum Lord: once upon a time a landlord of SAM (summer accommodation module), Bryce, decided to abandon his position and move up in the world to the LQ (living quarters — the posh accommodation). SAM was rapidly spiralling out of control and it quickly developed a seriously bad reputation and was referred to as a cross between Ramsey Street and Housos. I took back control of the public housing apartments, since which, real estate valuations have gone through the roof and SAM is now referred to as somewhat of a Summers Bay.

Junior, what is the true nature of your relationship with ice cream?

Well I believe that my relationship with ice cream began at a very young age. As I was growing up, both my parents were ridiculously obsessed with feeding us all healthy food and not so much ice cream or treats. As I grew, I began to rebel against these wishes and secured quite a sweet tooth for ice cream. It seemed fair that those many years of going without required some catching up on. Since moving out of home and now living with my lovely fiancé Ashlie (who feels the need to limit me to five litres of ice cream a week) I believe we will be reassessing our ice cream arrangements before my arrival back home. 

Junior, why do you have the nickname of ‘Junior’? Is this appropriate and are you happy with it?

Two people come to mind — Brendan and Ducky — when I think of my new name Junior. One day Brendan decided that there were too many Marks (four) on station and that he was going to come up with a new name for me. To my surprise he turned and said, “Junior, your name can be Junior because you're the youngest Mark on station”. Later that week I confided in Ducky telling him how one of my good mates from home has the name Junior and I was unsure on my feelings about it. With good intentions Ducky then went forward to Brendan telling him of my situation. Brendan did not see this as a valid reason to stop but more of an inspiration to enforce every person on station to address me as Junior. In all honestly, I love my name and I will never forget Junior on Davis station.

What is in store when you return to home?

Once I return home to Tasmania, I wish to mow the lawn around my home at least three times in 24 hours, visit Cold Rock (ice cream parlour) on a daily basis, hang out at the pub with my mates and somehow find time to marry my fiancé.

(Junior, I hope your beautiful fiancé gets a bit more attention than your, albeit beautiful, grass.)

Well, what an amazing insight into the stormy goings-on in SAM and the power wielded by the resident Ice Cream Tsar. Junior, thank you so much for your full and frank revelations. I may just look at taking up residence in SAM — it sounds very appealing under you new management.