This week at Davis we observe the last summer skua, witness some awesome auroras and take an epic trip to Watts hut.

The last skua

Near the end of summer we had angry seas off Davis. Crashing waves threw great quantities of debris onto the beach in front of station. Debris consisted mostly of heaps of dark red seaweed mixed with white shelled bivalves and other various invertebrate species from amphipods to a variety of echinoderms including starfish, holothurians and small sea urchins that live in the waters of Prydz Bay.

This unexpected spread of delicacies was too much for local nesting skuas who usually focus on Adélie penguin colonies on offshore islands for their food. They must have felt like a change because for several weeks we had flocks of twenty or more skuas foraging through seaweed at the water’s edge.

Now that the sea has frozen and remains of the storm have been covered with snow and ice, most of the skuas have disappeared, likely heading out to the edge of pack ice for winter. I say most, but not all. There is still one solitary skua that makes a daily appearance down by the elephant seals, hoping they will unearth something delicious on their way to and from the water to take their daily (or weekly) dip.

Awesome aurora

Every day, darkness is slowly lengthening. After 21 March, the night’s darkness will be progressively longer than the day’s light. One advantage of longer darkness is frequency and clarity of the aurora australis (or southern lights) that can been seen on many clear nights.

Aaron, a meteorological observer on station, is an aurora enthusiast. It was opportune that last week he gave a talk on photographing auroras and, only two nights later, we had one of the most dramatic and spectacular showings. The aurora flickered, floated and then filled the skies over station with swirling green snakes, iridescent curtains of purple fanning the horizon and columns of red, green and blue lights shooting into the sky overhead.

It was hard to tear my eyes away and focus through the lens, but I did.

Top Deck Tour

Once upon a time — in a land far, far away — a group for four expeditioners headed out for a Saturday trek to Watts hut. The group left station with the aid of an amazing taxi driver who drove them out to a drop off point on Dingle road. From there the group of gallant expeditioners headed west over vast plains, across colossal mountains (actually hills), through gorges and beside frozen fjords that stretch as far as the eye can see.

After many hours of trekking through knee deep snow the bright lights of Watts hut could be seen as they crossed that last ridge. They turned on the gas and settled in for the night at the hut after having some amazing steaks that had been won at the Davis RSL meat tray raffle on Friday night. For one of the expeditioners it was a life changing night as he was introduced to the joys of packet pasta.

After watching the stars and the heavens dance with light above the hut, the group retired to bed. Ahhhh to be woken to the sound of bacon cracking for breakfast and the aroma of fresh coffee. Breakfast done, the group departed for station.

Once again they tackled the great peaks and valleys of the Vestfold Hills to view some of the most pristine lakes on earth, only to leave foot prints behind. Again they were met by the obliging (unpaid) taxi driver for a lift the final few kilometres back to station. A good trip was had by all.