At Davis, the elephant seals are leaving, we test the sea ice thickness, and four walk to Brookes hut.

Sunday walk to Marchants Landing

Winter has arrived here at Davis. With last week’s temperatures getting down to –22°C, a decision was made to trade in my trusty summer footwear for the more robust winter Sorrell boots in order to make the short walk down to Marchants Landing.

Marchants Landing is approximately one kilometre from station, but still within station limits which makes it ideal for getting off station on your own without too much preparation and fuss.

On the way back to station I passed an intrepid group of elephant seals, whose numbers have been thinning rather rapidly since the arrival of colder temperatures. A couple of them were seen heading out to sea via the long haul across ever increasing sea ice to open water.

Paul Deverall

Testing the sea ice

After waiting several weeks, we finally decided it was time to test the thickness of the sea ice in front of the station at Davis.

We loaded our survival packs and the drilling gear into the red search and rescue Hägglunds oversnow vehicle and headed down to the tide crack near the old Balloon hut. Here we could easily access the sea ice close to ‘Ice 7', the sea ice drilling locality nearest the shore.

We readied ourselves with spiked boot chains, ice axes and, as a precaution, assembled the sea ice floating device, pushing this out over the uneven tidal zone to the flat even sea ice beyond. Here at 20 metres off the shore we drilled our first hole. The ice was 340 mm thick, nearly double the thickness required by the Australian Antarctic Division to walk on the ice.

Using the GPS we headed to ‘Ice 7'. Here the ice was even thicker at 350 mm. Then, drilling every 50 metres, we walked the two kilometres to ‘Ice 1’ in the middle of the bay, right in front of our living quarters.

Everywhere the sea ice was solid and between 340 and 360 mm. The surface was uniform and blanketed in snow with the occasional frozen lead and long, sinuous elephant seal track.

Great news, as this means we can now begin to plan trips that require travel over sea ice.

Brookes hut break

On 2 April, a party of four headed off from station for a weekend at the Brookes hut ‘B&B'.

The party headed out on Dingle Road to Sentinel Knoll, then around the north end of Dingle Lake — which is now trying to freeze — and along the southern side of Lake Stinear.

From there, they headed over to Deep Lake which is 51 m below sea level. Here they took lake level readings as Deep Lake is one of the ‘State of the Environment’ indicators, which can involve weather observations, water depth measurements and temperature.

From Deep Lake they traveled over the hills and down to Shirokaya Bay where Brookes hut sits on the shore. Here they settled in for a nice toasty night in the hut.

On Sunday they arose to a pleasant day. Upon leaving to return to station, a sea ice thickness measurement was taken in front of the hut. It was found to be 550 mm thick.

The field party then returned through the hills past Weddell Lake to reach the lovely warm creature comforts of home, Davis station.