This week at Davis: 22 July 2016

This week at Davis we weather a blizzard at Woop Woop, the sun really does come back, and we brighten up a dark weekend.

The sun returns

On 18 July after a long and grueling 48 days, the sun finally made a return to Davis station. For 37 of those days the sun was below the horizon, and the other days we were clouded in with no chance of seeing the sun. When the sun decided to return it was slightly obscured by some cloud but that didn’t deter us from stopping to gaze at this almost foreign thing that we all take for granted. While the sun provided some well needed rays it was only one degree above the horizon at its highest. Sunrise to sunset: a whole 2 hours 50 minutes. I was so fixated on the sun that two emperor penguins snuck past on the sea ice wondering what all the fuss was about. That would make it eight emperor penguins we’ve seen near the station over the last few days. For the official 37 days without the sun Vas, Dave, Paul and I decided to grow beards for fun. The end result, a group of scruffy looking blokes, some of us who couldn’t wait to finally shave off the beards!

It’s been a week of cleaning up since our first blizzard here at Davis station. Unlike Casey and Mawson we don’t get blizzards all that often as we are protected somewhat by the Vestfold Hills between us and the plateau. We had a maximum wind gust of 124km/hr and steady winds of around 80km/hr at one stage. Wherever snow could build up it did, around buildings, doorways, and machines. Shoveling snow is not easy and needs to be done relatively quickly after a blizzard before it starts to turn into ice. Just when we thought we’d finished cleaning up, our weather forecast indicated that we’ll possibly have another blizzard this week.

With a lot of work going on around the station it’s good to be able to relax afterwards, and one of those ways is in our outdoor spa. We haven’t seen an aurora for about two weeks due to the persisting cloud, however back on 2 July we were treated to a nice show. Some of us were outside taking photos when Chris thought it would be an awesome idea to hop in the spa and watch the show. So at 11 pm with the outside air temperature a cool −27°C we hopped in the spa. It was fantastic to sit outside and watch the aurora display overhead. Did I forget to mention the wind chill was −40°C? Yes that’s our hair frozen! You would think we’d gone crazy? No way. Great idea Chris!

Aaron Stanley 

The sun hovering one degree above the horizon
The sun hovering one degree above the horizon
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
The sun has returned to our Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder
The sun has returned to our Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
The golden glow in the sky, reflections in the window of the old living quarters
The golden glow in the sky, reflections in the window of the old living quarters
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
Paul Bright, Vas Georgiou, Dave Davies & Aaron Stanley on the 37th day growing beards
Paul, Vas, Dave & Aaron on the 37th day growing beards
(Photo: Jen Proudfoot)
Snow in front of the Met building at Davis with shovels ready to move it
The shoveling begins
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
The Stevenson screen which houses our temperature and humidity sensors lined with snow
The Stevenson screen which houses our temperature and humidity sensors lined with snow
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
Chris Burns & Aaron Stanley in the Davis spa under the Aurora Australis
Chris & Aaron in the Davis spa under the Aurora Australis
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
One of the amazing wave like snow sculptures formed during a blizzard at Davis
One of the amazing wave like snow sculptures formed during the blizzard
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)

To Woop Woop and back

Recently a trip was planned to recover all of the equipment from the Davis plateau skiway at Woop Woop. The trip comprised Scott the plumber, to carry out gas and plumbing inspection on the two living quarters vans, Jen and Goldie as shovel operators and Chris the dieso to get all the equipment up and running for the return journey back to station. We headed off after smoko with two Häggs loaded with stores and equipment to get the machines going (mainly heaters and generators). Once up at Woop Woop we set up camp and got warmed up and had a good night sleep (apart from someone’s snoring) ready for a big day of digging.

The next day we woke to a black velvet sky full of stars and after a cup of tea it was off to work digging. As the sun rose you couldn’t have asked for a better day (plus at this altitude we got to see the sun before anybody back on station)! The first job of the day was to dig a hole into the buried groomers to refit the batteries that had been removed at the end of summer, to protect them from the cold and so they could be fully charged when refilled. While this was being done the first of the two Prinoth groomers was dug out by Jen and Goldie. After Chris had given it the final check over to make sure it was blizz free, it was started and removed from its blizzed-in resting place.

That night at about 0200 the wind and blowing snow started to pick up and by 0700 it was full on blizzard conditions. We called station and told them we were hunkering down and going to ride it out. After two days, 27 cups of tea, hearing Scott’s play list on his iPod 1000 times and Goldie’s stories twice, the blizz finally subsided and after digging everything out again we managed to load up and head off after lunch for the return journey to station.

We made it back just in time for dinner and a cocktail but that’s another story (see following). By the way, if we ever come around for smoko this is how we have our tea: Goldie, black 1 sugar; Scott white no sugar; Jen, black English Breakfast; and Chris white 2 sugars.

The two Haggs depart station on the way to Woop Woop
Departure in the dark
(Photo: Ali Dean)
The calm before the storm and the first sunrise since the beginning of June up at Woop Woop
The calm before the storm
(Photo: Chris Burns)
The Sprunky van barely visible through a blizzard up at Woop Woop
The Sprunky van barely visible through a blizzard up at Woop Woop
(Photo: Chris Burns)
A groomer up at Woop Woop buried in snow prior to being dug out
A blizzed in groomer
(Photo: Chris Burns)
Convoy returning to station
Convoy returning to station
(Photo: Chris Burns)

Antarctic Cocktail Party

Davis station’s Saturday sophistication was highlighted this week with a mocktail and cocktail evening accompanying a fine finger-food feast. Station leader Ali and Doctor John designed and dispensed the drinks whilst Master Chef Lesley concocted the gourmet feast. 

The mocktails and cocktails were especially crafted and named to reflect the Antarctic location and time of year: ‘Sunrise Sunday’ to honour the return of the sun to our sky, ‘Vestfold Dart’ to recognize our band of warriors in the interstation/constellation darts competition, the triple layered ‘Altered Station’ to highlight the tradies’ huge effort in upgrading the Davis station over the winter months.

It was a finger–licking, lip-smacking and palate-pleasing night.

The doctor and station leader prepare the cocktails
Team effort
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
Doctor John Parker pouring a mocktail for a Saturday night celebration at Davis
Doctor John pours the ‘Vestfold Dart'
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
Ali Dean adding cherries to the drinks at Davis
Ali adds the finishing touches
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
A plate full of Oysters Kilpatrick courtesy of Lesley our Chef
Oysters Kilpatrick courtesy of Lesley our Chef
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)
Delicious scallops on a bed of mashed cauliflower
Delicious scallops on a bed of mashed cauliflower
(Photo: Aaron Stanley)