This week at Davis we have measured Deep Lake levels, we've been getting our greens, and enjoyed a very quick plunge in the pool we prepared earlier!

Operation Deep Lake

We — Ladge, Daz and John — recently headed out to Deep Lake to take the lake level measurements that we collect monthly through the winter.

The Deep Lake levels have been monitored since the 1970’s, as it’s a unique lake in the Vestfold Hills area. Around 4000 years ago the sea level dropped, cutting sea water off from the lake, and since then evaporation has occurred and the lake has become hypersaline. The lake contains 250 grams of salt per litre which makes it one of the top ten saltiest lakes in the world.

During winter Deep Lake temperature drops to −15°C and it never freezes. Over summer the surface water of the lake can be as high as 10°C.

The record from Deep Lake is one of the longest non-weather records continually monitored in Antarctica. As the lake is one of our ‘State of the Environment’ indicators keeping the record going is very important.

We are told at the start of the winter don’t be tempted to put your hands into the water – at −15°C you’ll get severe frostbite!

Darren White and Michael Goldstein

Temporary hydroponics produces

Living in Antarctica is just amazing — like nothing else that I have ever experienced. The beauty of the surroundings is breathtaking with the sea ice out the front of station and icebergs off in the distance, the crazy weather, and wicked auroras to say the least.

The silent peacefulness when one does get off station is indescribable, quite often referred to as ‘the deafening silence’. I say off station as there is always the hum of the powerhouse in the background when you are outside here at Davis, so it doesn’t quite portray what you experience in the field.

But one strange thing about being here in Antarctica is the lack of greenery, and at this late stage in the season, fresh food. So one very special treat for me (especially as the sun has dipped below the horizon for a few weeks now) is walking into hydroponics for a blast of warmth, trickling of water, bright lights and beautiful little specimens of plants growing beneath them.

We’ve been really lucky this season having hydroponics, as this one is just a little makeshift container. The system was built by a couple of geniuses from the previous 2014/15 winter with some leftover pipes and lights that they found floating around. We have a few varieties of seeds including lettuces, kale, silver beet and some herbs. Sadly we didn’t get our small resupply due to unfortunate circumstances, which among other things included seeds, but I’m sure that those cheeky folk at Mawson are reaping the rewards.

Anyhow, here’s a peek at our little piece of paradise…

Lesley Eccles — Chef

Davis takes the plunge

As most people are well aware, it is tradition for all of the stations to take an icy dip in the ocean as part of the midwinter celebrations. Although ours did not fall on midwinters day due to weather conditions of around −35°C with a wind chill closer to −49°C, that didn’t stop Team Dieso from getting everything prepared the day before just in case the weather miraculously improved. At −34°C with a wind chill of −46°C we had to endure some pretty cold conditions to do so. We brought down a Herman Nelson (mobile heating unit), but it was so cold the petrol engine would not start until we placed it into the workshop until after morning tea where it had thawed out enough to start and help keep us warm.

What goes into making a hole for midwinter? Once we selected a place to make the hole we first removed the snow from the surface. We are lucky enough this year to have a 1.5 metre ice auger that attaches to our 257b Cat skid steer which made the task a bit less arduous. We drilled six overlapping holes all the way through the near one metre thick ice, and two half holes as steps (these did not get used but the idea was there). After this we brought the Hitachi five tonne excavator to clean up around the edges and scoop the larger bits of ice off the top and clear it all away from the pool. We topped it off with a couple of pieces of ice left over from the ice bar as a back drop and then all we had to do was wait for the swim.

We finally had an opportunity on Friday after Midwinter (which was on Tuesday). The weather was reasonable for the swim and we had a guessing competition as to how thick the refrozen ice might be (best estimate we thought was around five centimetres). Once we started to chip away at the ice with the excavator we found it was closer to 20–25cm, showing just how cold it was.

An open pool of water once again (although quickly developing into a slushy on the surface), we finished preparing the area then one by one the twelve expeditioners that took the plunge quickly donned the harness (just in case), entered the frigid water (whichever way they considered best), then virtually propelled themselves out and into the welcome warmth of the van positioned nearby as a changing room. The whole process took no more than an hour.

People think we are crazy for doing it but I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it — I was not letting it pass me by, it was not that bad anyway — or was it?

Paul Bright