Hello everyone. Thanks for tuning in once again. This week at Davis, (probably the last before the big orange taxi comes to take our friends away)has seen us on roofs, taking water out of lakes for science and for storage, practicing our search and rescue skills, hosting Russian expeditioners and celebrating the end of our Summer season, all beneath an ever-darkening sky filled with the glow of auroras.

Lake sampling

For the last 18 months Alyce H and I (Sarah P) have been known as the lake sampling team. We have been working at Davis on Professor Rick Cavicchioli’s project titled: Monitoring Ecosystem Stability in Model Marine-Derived Antarctic Lake (and near-shore) Systems. This expedition builds on two previous summer expeditions (2006 and 2008), and the aims were to:

  • Monitor the microbial communities within lakes across an entire yearly cycle
  • Develop a further understanding of the microbial communities both within and between years
  • Predict how the communities within the lakes will respond to ecosystem change
  • Develop a new level of understanding about:
    • molecular mechanisms behind growth, adaptation and survival of microbes
    • interactions, gene exchange and evolution of microbial communities

In practice for Alyce and I here in Antarctica, this has involved collecting and filtering water throughout the summer-winter-summer, in all conditions.

The focus of our studies has been on three saline lakes — Ace Lake, Organic Lake and Deep Lake -and a marine site off Davis.

During our time we have sampled Ace Lake nine times, Organic Lake seven times, Deep Lake six times and the marine site three times. These sampling trips came in a variety of forms, ranging from a simple helicopter trip to bring water back to station for filtering, to towing a mobile work shelter and setting up the filtering gear on the lake ice for a few days, and man hauling 200 litres of water one kilometre uphill in knee deep snow (thanks again guys).

After collection (or when set up on the ice in the mobile work shelter) we filtered this water to collect the microbes within it. Each time we visited a site we collected between 70 and 400 samples (depending on how many depths were sampled at each lake). These included filtered biomass, and water samples ranging between one millilitre and one litre.

On top of our main sampling regime, we also took a one-off small sample from another 85 lakes around the Vestfold Hills and Rauer Islands. The majority of these were accessed by walking and filtering one to two litres of water at the lake. 

This has been a very rewarding expedition, during which we had to overcome many challenges associated with working in the isolation, extreme cold and changing conditions. 

We would like to thank everyone from Davis station, across the summer 2013/14, winter 2014, and summer 2014/15 for all their help. It is appreciated very much.

Sarah P

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning

Works on the waste water treatment plant (WWTP) are still moving along. This week the plumbers have installed some of the new duct work that will eventually provide outside air and, once treated, warm air for heating the WWTP and the tank house.

The duct and associated plant are still a long way from being connected and turned on, so the openings to outside were boarded up and screwed down to prevent any snow accessing the building. It was a great job to get done now in the summer season rather than later on during the winter.

Reverse osmosis shutdown

The last of the water for the year has been produced by the reverse osmosis (RO) plant. At the final count, approximately 1.66 million litres was produced this season. The last big job at the RO building is to ‘hibernate’ the plant. This involves cleaning and flushing the plant and then introducing some preserving chemicals that will be circulated fortnightly to maintain the membranes and seals over the coming months. Also included in the pack down was the removal of the pump and the supporting pontoons that bring the water from the tarn in to the building to be turned into potable water.

Search and rescue

Last Friday, the Davis wintering expedition team undertook a search and rescue (SAR) exercise developed and supervised by field training officers Marty B and James H.

The objectives of the SAR exercise included maintaining station business continuity, assembling an incident management and response team structure, planning a safe, effective and timely response to a SAR event and giving expeditioners practical experience in how to locate, access, protect, stabilise, transport and retrieve injured expeditioners and equipment from the field. In so doing, skills learned over summer in first aid, technical rope, navigation and radio were all put into practice.

The expedition team, both on station and in the field, were responding to a scenario where two fellow expeditioners had been injured several kilometres from station requiring a full SAR response with a medical component.

The exercise was considered a great success with expeditioners applying their skills well whilst also taking away many valuable lessons in how to plan and respond to a SAR incident in the future. A key lesson being that everyone on station has an equally valuable role to play in a SAR event, both in responding in the field and in maintaining the station’s operations.

Though we work actively to avoid this happening in real life, the skills are essential to have and require continuous reinforcement. Our thanks to the ‘patients’ Nick W and Alyce H and to the field training officers Marty B and James H for a very well prepared training event. Thanks also to those members of the summer team who supported us, including Linda M and Robyne C at the communications desk.

There will be blood

One of the tasks for the station doctor at the end of the summer season is the collection of blood samples from the expeditioners remaining for the winter. These samples will be returned to Australia on voyage three for processing.

The testing will screen expeditioners as potential blood donors if an emergency blood transfusion is required over the winter. Vitamin D levels are also checked so that extra supplements can be provided if required. Healthy expeditioners keep the doctor happy.

From Russia with love

On Sunday 1 March, Davis station reciprocated a recent visit of our expeditioners to the Russian station Progress by hosting a contingent of Russian expeditioners, led by Andrey Mirakin, their station leader.

Their team comprised of engineers, scientists, logisticians, and mechanics. All were guests for lunch and given a tour around Davis station, ending as all tours at Davis do, in the Vestfold brewery.

Many of their number will be wintering at Progress this year and it was an excellent opportunity to reaffirm our neighbourly ties and discuss the months to come.

Gifts and stories exchanged, the visitors boarded their helicopter and returned to Davis.

We wish them a very happy and safe winter down the coast.

End of summer season dinner

The summer season is coming to a close shortly, and the Aurora Australis will be back to retrieve the summer crew and to deliver the remaining two wintering expeditioners. Everyone decided that Saturday night would be the safest bet to hold the formal end-of-summer dinner. This was an occasion to celebrate all the work done by all members of the station during a hectic, but rewarding, summer season.

Prior to the meal, all expeditioners gathered in the theatre for a slide show presentation from each of the work groups on their activities over summer. The chefs prepared an amazing array of sharing platters for all to enjoy whilst reviewing and reliving the glory days of summer 2014–15.


The nights are slowly getting longer here, meaning more darkness during a lot of the night. This has been a great thing for the aurora watchers here on station.

Recently many people have been taking advantage of the dark hours and clear skies to try their hand at capturing photos of the aurora. It also explains why some people look a little more tired than usual at breakfast time.

Doc’s dozen

Doc’s Dozen questions for Gavin M: chef, fitness aficionado, apprentice concreter

Gav, how many times have you been to Antarctica? What brings you here?

This is my ninth season since 2004. Usually a big ship but sometimes a plane brings me here. (Note to self: revise this question)

What is it like being a chef here?

I’m fortunate enough to work with two other fantastic chefs, so it’s a great team. There’s plenty of variety from special dinners to cocktail parties to Sunday brunch, which makes the time fly by. But the best thing is interacting with everyone else on station during the day.

If not a chef what job would you do?

I would like to get involved in humanitarian aid and disaster relief. To somehow to be able to help those that really need it.

Best gig as a chef?

Working on a yacht sailing from Cairns to the top of Cape York. Stopping off at deserted islands to cook barbeques and then snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef: not bad.

(Not too shabby indeed Gav!)

Gav, with so many trips down south what have been your best experiences in Antarctica?

Oh so many, but camping at a twenty thousand emperor penguin rookery, climbing in the Transantarctic Mountains, visiting the South Pole, finishing my first marathon (all before I worked with the Australian Antarctic Division) and then the overnight hikes in winter at Casey station. I love the combination of such a diverse group of people, who all choose to be part of a small community in an extreme isolated environment. Then throw in the wildlife and scenery — not even Mars can compete with that.

Who inspires you?

Single parents, now that’s selfless dedication. Those that volunteer to make the world a better place and everyday altruists.

What have you learned living in a small community?

  1. Get involved with everything, because the more you put in, the more you get back.
  2. Have some empathy. You just don’t know what other people are dealing with in their lives.
  3. The glass is not always half full or half empty — sometimes it’s just a glass.
  4. Learn to forgive and then quickly forget.

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

A Peugeot 206 diesel. It’s a slightly quirky small car that’s not much to look at but with a motor that just keeps on going.  (Wow! Endurance is one of my favourite Antarctic qualities, Gav.)

I have noticed that your concreting skills have improved enormously since the beginning of summer. What other hidden talents do you have?

I've also worked as a commercial diver on a pearl farm, a tour guide in Africa and an outdoor education instructor so I guess I've picked up a few other ‘skills’ along the way.

I get tired just watching you work then zooming around on your ‘keep fit program'. Do you have a secret ingredient to give you all that energy?

Get out even when you're tired. Anyone can do exercise when they're feeling good but it’s getting out on the cold, bleak days that really make the difference.

What would you like me to cook for you if you had dinner at my place?

How about we just see what’s in the fridge and make something from that. I can help.

(I’m not sure the offer of help is because you are so nice or it is the thought of my cooking, Gav.)

Where is home and what is in store when you return?

I'll be calling home a tent at 5400 metres in the Himalayas for a few months after Antarctica. I must have a thing for cold, isolated places. It might be time to find somewhere warm to defrost after that.

Thanks for a fantastic glimpse into your amazing world Gavin. You are a non-stop dynamo and we can all learn a lot from your views on life. Stay safe and warm on the next adventure.