At Davis this week we visit Hawker Island and travel to the plateau where we meet some curious emperor penguins.

Hawker Island

After days of waiting for some warmer weather (in the −20’s rather than −30’s) the day arrived when Ladge and I could get out to Hawker Island, which is located seven kilometres southwest from Davis station off the Vestfold Hills on the Ingrid Christensen Coast, Princess Elizabeth Land, east Antarctica.

The island was designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) number 167, following a proposal by Australia, primarily to protect the southernmost breeding colony of southern giant petrels. The area is one of only four known breeding locations for southern giant petrels on the coast of east Antarctica, all of which have been designated as ASPAs.

Ladge is the engineer here at Davis and has numerous roles — one of which is to collect data and ensure that the three cameras on the island are operational.

These ASPAs require special permits to allow us to visit as well as certain conditions that need to be observed, such as distances around the birds so as not cause any disruptions to the colony. On an absolutely beautiful sunshiny day we were lucky to see around thirty giant petrels hanging out together.

So while Ladge performed his duties I was lucky enough to take in some rays and capture some of the funny antics that these birds get up to. They seem to extend their wings to maximum capacity just to walk around and at a guess that would be more than a metre or so wingspan — magnificent!

Lesley Eccles

Luck of the draw

We recently made our way up to Woop Woop for a bit of a camping trip as a precursor to potentially completing a traverse of the Sørsdal Glacier. During this time, we were lucky enough to be treated to an amazing sunset, which was emphasised as we were higher than station by around 600 metres to give us a better view.

Once the sun set and darkness prevailed, we were then treated to a very vibrant moon which lit up the plateau but washed out a lot of the small aurora that was taking place at the same time, but was still a nice sight.

The following day on our travels back to station we decided to split up the team as we were towing a trailer and the other vehicle wasn’t, which was a little unfortunate for them as they were a little quicker than us and missed out.

We were plodding along on our way home and came across six emperor penguins making their way across the sea ice. We stopped and kept a safe distance but curiosity got the better of the penguins and they came right up to us and started to have a conversation (unfortunately we didn’t have our translator). The emperor penguins are quite intimidating when you are down on your haunches and they are up close, quite large compared to the more common penguin around Davis, the Adélie penguin.

The point of the story I guess is that you can plan or chase amazing sights but sometimes they come unexpectedly, and you have to be grateful when they do present themselves.