This week at Davis three went on an adventure, damage to the antenna array is attended to, and we stocktake our food and consumables.

The Boys Weekend

We had heard that there was lichen at the aptly named Lichen Lake, so we thought we would go and check it out on the way to Bandits hut. We were looking forward to seeing a bit of greenery (ha ha) but as it turned out, the lichen was orange. Due to the metres of snow it was a hard trek, but worth the effort to get to see this sensitive site within the Vestfold hills.

It was then on to Bandits hut to set up camp for the night. We cooked up a great feed of beef schnitzels and veggies, supplied by the amazing Davis kitchen (THANKS Leslie), followed by a quiet beer or two through the evening as we relaxed on a Saturday night…

In the morning we jumped in the Hagg and headed out over the sea ice to Walkabout Rocks to check out Sir Hubert Wilkins cairn. It was well worth the trip as there is a real sense of history there. Sir Hubert Wilkins is one of Australia’s great explorers and this is the location where he stepped ashore and claimed territory for Australia by making a proclamation and flying the Australian flag. It was a fitting end to a great weekend followed by the long trip home in the Hagg.

Green Store Stocktake

The last few weeks has seen annual stocktaking in full swing in the Green Store.

For the reordering process to begin in preparation for the following season of work everything needs to be counted and recorded and items for refurbishment packed for return to Australia.

At Davis we are lucky to have a compactus, providing us with a lot of room to store trades spares, tooling, food, cleaning products and medical supplies. All easily accessible with our Crown forklift and guarded by several state of the art fire suppression and alarm systems.

First into the aisles, working with supply officer Jen, were our diesel mechanics, followed by the electricians all counting and recording their spares and reporting deficiencies.

Chef Lesley then stepped in to work through our food, brewery, hydroponics and living quarter items. This included three −20°C freezers of frozen goods and two 4°C storage units of dry goods. Now complete, we can ensure we have enough resupply sent on our voyage in November for the incoming crowd.

A great team effort so far and always reassuring to know we won’t run out of big ticket items such as coffee, BBQ shapes or ice cream before the ship arrives.

Davis Riometer (SHIRE) Repairs

SHIRE is an imaging Riometer, basically a wide angle radio telescope that takes a 7 x 7 pixel image of the sky, unlike a normal camera it does it in radio frequencies rather than light. The instrument at Davis studies the ionosphere by looking at how much cosmic radio noise the ionosphere absorbs.

The instrument itself consists of 64 antennas arranged in an 8 x 8 array and receivers in the vault (box) located at the centre of this array. This arrangement allows the received “beam” to be steered in different directions thus giving the 7 x 7 pixel image.

As the winter closed in a few months ago and temperatures at Davis dropped, it was time to put back the extra winter insulation into the SHIRE vault that is removed for the summer so the electronics don’t overheat. While doing this I noticed that about eight guy ropes at the perimeter of the array and one of the outer support posts were down. Not good news as repairs during winter are difficult but leaving the array without guy ropes could cause a lot of damage in a blizzard.

To make matters worse some of the guy anchor points were buried in a blizz tail that had turned to solid ice. During the preceding two months I had managed to smash my way through the ice to them but had not had the opportunity to put up replacement guy ropes.

After last week’s blizzard, a few days with winds between 70 and 100km/hr, I thought I’d better check on how the antennas had held up. It wasn’t too bad: no extra guy wires had come down, no antennas were damaged, but another of the outer support posts was down.

Since the Met boys had informed us to expect another blizz on Wednesday, I thought despite the −30°C temperatures it would be good to put up the guy ropes before it hit.

I’ve still got to get used to everything in Antarctica taking a lot longer than expected. It took the entire available hours of daylight on two days to get it done — about four hours a day. I did have to dig through new snow deposited by the last blizz to find and clear the anchor points. The last two guy ropes ended up attached to a piece of pipe hammered into the snow as I had run out of time and my fingers were getting too cold. Hopefully it will survive the coming blizz.

One advantage of working in the winter was that I was able to get a Hagg to the Riometer due to a good covering of snow and ice and thus did not have to carry all the tools and materials in by foot.

The first of the two days (Mon 18th July), was also the first day we actually saw the sun since it last set on the 2nd June so it was not such a bad day to be outside after all.