Hi everyone. Brrhhh! It’s been a cold week here and the crew have kept warm out on the site services and quads, sending balloons off, testing the water and traipsing around the station catching the aurora lights. But nothing warms quite like a good whisky in the belly!

The weather in May

When people learn you have been to Antarctica or are going (again) they often say ‘But won’t you be cold?’. My usual reply is that if you have the right gear, and the buildings are very well heated, you're often warmer than back in Oz. I've felt colder in Mt Gambier when it’s 14°C than I do here at 4°C.

However, all at Davis would agree, last weekend was cold. Saturday it reached a maximum temperature of −30.2°C during the day, falling to −37°C overnight. Sunday was a slightly warmer −25.3°C, but that evening the temperature fell further reaching −39.0°C in the early hours of Monday morning. This set a new record minimum temperature for May at Davis. The previous record was −38.3°C on the 23rd May 1964. The coldest temperature ever at Davis recorded is -41.8°C on the 27th April 1998. -39°C was close enough.


Winter works: part 1

The infrastructure team have had a busy time this week. On the project front, Aaron has been working outside installing temperature sensors and associated supports for the new pipe work going in to the wastewater treatment plant. Ceiling works are continuing in the main part of the building and the ceiling for RMU6 (ring main unit, electrical) has begun.

The maintenance team have been keeping things ticking along, including repairs on the hot water heater in the workshop office. The biggest task this week though has been the leak that was found on the potable water return line. This meant three guys from the plumbing team (Ducky, Davo and Brendan) braving the elements to make some repairs to stop that pesky water inside the pipe getting out and turning into even peskier ice.

Locating the actual source of the leak took longer than was hoped for and required some modifications to the sheathing and insulation of the pipe. With the help of Geoff W and David B, the heat trace was reinstated and a temporary solution for the insulation and protection of the pipe was devised.

A job well done in what turned out to be deteriorating conditions.


Following on from last week’s trip to the north of the station to assess the sea ice thickness, a crack team of intrepid explorers (Geoff, Sealy, Ducky and Brendan — aka ‘The A Team') were dispatched for the task of checking the ice to the south of station. The goal was to get to Watts hut via Ellis Fjord and back again in time to partake in the whisky appreciation evening.

It was a rather cold trip for the team, with temperatures dropping to −36°C, and down to −48°C with the wind chill factored in. All waypoints were drilled and measured, as were some extra points where the conditions warranted. Watts hut was reached with no problems at all, allowing the opening of the route for further operational and recreational trips.

The team was very happy to get back and have a nice cup of tea to warm up at the end of a pretty cold day.

Water testing

Antarctica is one of the driest continents on earth, and despite the fact that we are surrounded by snow and ice, water supply is a major infrastructure issue on station.

At Davis all our water for the entire year is produced by the reverse osmosis plant that runs for a few weeks during the summer. The water is stored in large tanks and provides all our water for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

One of the regular public health duties of the station doctor is to check the quality of our drinking water. Samples are taken from various points around station and checked for conductivity (saltiness), turbidity (cloudiness), pH and bacterial growth. All of these results are entered into the State of the Environment database every month from all the stations.

Healthy expeditioners keep the doctor happy (and it is a good excuse to play with glow in the dark lights).

Whisky a go-go

On Saturday 16 May, expeditioners from Davis celebrated World Whisky Day with a Whisky/Whiskey appreciation evening.

With outside temperatures of −33.2°C and a windchill of −47.2°C , the evening was held in the station’s mess, the tasting comprising of over 20 types of whisky/whiskey from the personal collections of the expedition team, each one lovingly presented by its ‘caretaker’ with a profile of its history and qualities. Each bottle was served up with a complement of fresh ice extracted from a frozen freshwater lake not hours before. Long time whisky connoisseurs and newcomers to the ‘water of life’ were taken on a journey, each discovering something new to appreciate.

A great evening was enjoyed by all.

Pics: auroras and sunsets