This week at Davis we're photographing the frozen lakes, looking at other sides of being an expeditioner and creating a pool for the midwinter swim.

Beauty in lake ice

Over the last few weeks we’ve had a few parties travel to Watts Hut in order to explore the fresh water lakes in this region.

Davis is famous for its lakes. They range in size, shape and salinity. The two big lakes near Watts hut are Lake Druzhby and Crooked Lake. Both are freshwater lakes which freeze over winter. In the process they trap air bubbles and snow, which form beautiful, architectural patterns in this glassy clear ice. It’s a place where you can crawl around on your belly, enjoy your camera and get lost in the minutia of ice formations. Our photographs celebrate this region and the beauty of lake ice. 

Expeditioner duties

When I first applied to be an expeditioner I didn’t really fully understand what that meant. Most of us applied for an employment based position related to a certain skill set and those of us who have been fortunate enough to be selected and eventually traveled south, you begin to appreciate what the term ‘expeditioner’ really means. It is much more than just a ‘job'.

An example that comes to mind is waste. We all produce it and once a week a big loud truck comes by and it’s gone. How true that is back in the ‘real world’ but unfortunately here at Davis the big loud truck (big orange ship) only comes once a year, twice if you’re very lucky and so much happens in between but essentially the same result.

On station we are all responsible for managing our waste and its disposal and it is a critical component of being an expeditioner. We are all expected to utilise the proper waste receptacles and sort through rubbish into what can be recycled, what can be RTA’d, (Returned to Australia) and what can be disposed of on station.

Some of the facilities have a macerating station that we use to dispose of wet waste from our dining and kitchen area. Expeditioner’s take this waste as part of station duties to the treatment plant and it is deposited into the macerator by the plumbers on station to be treated by our waste water treatment plant.

We also have recyclable containers that receive glass, plastics and a whole range of co-mingled recyclables ready to send back to Australia, and probably the most impressive piece of equipment we have is our smoke free incinerator, affectionately known as ‘Neal’ which disposes of approved burnable waste at very high temperatures.

It is such a nice feeling to know that with a little bit of effort you can make a difference, and we all get to know and appreciate how important it is to contribute and that every little bit helps to protect our environment and especially when our environment is this place we all call home.

Tony (Deputy Station Leader) 

Practical artisan projects on station

A winter in Antarctica can be an opportunity to pursue hobbies or interests in our spare time. Here are a few examples of objects made.

The reason I am making the wall art frame is because I have a space (165cm wide) on my patio between the outside sliding door and the kitchen window that needs something to fill it. Having looked around various stores and online there wasn’t anything that caught my eye, but after seeing the Antarctic cycle of life in a picture I thought I could make that with my spare time at Davis. The steel shapes you can see will be painted in full colour by an air brush artist when I return home to Cairns.

Jock has turned two new kitchen sink plugs from solid brass. The old ones were worn out and the only option was to create brand new ones. This is a hallmark of working in a remote place like this. If it’s not in our spares and we really need it then the only option is to make one or repair the old.

I’ve always been good with my hands; since I was a kid I’ve made things in my spare time. It’s even better when those things are something useful. The plugs were a necessity and a challenge to make, I got sick of pulling the plug with a pair of pliers. For the sake of everyone’s sanity in the kitchen I made up a couple of plugs.

The beers taps were to add to our great bar. The quality of the décor in Nina’s Bar called for some nice looking timber beer taps, I think they fit the bill. I spent plenty of time on the wood lathe a few years ago and I’m glad to know I have left my mark at Davis station.

I also made a stand for the hose reel that is installed in the hydroponics building.

Kerryn the chef asked me to make a better holder for the large cling wrap rolls that are used in the kitchen. The standard cardboard box gets rather ragged over time and starts falling apart. I designed and built a sturdy enclosure made out of plywood and aluminium. Now the cling wrap dispenses evenly all the way to the end of the roll.

One of my passions is woodworking and I enjoy making anything that is based on wood. When I arrived here I noticed that the bread box in the mess was looking second rate and needing some TLC. I decided that it was better to make a new one and to make one to take the larger sizes of loaves.

The frame is MDF and Tas Oak, shelving is polycarbonate and Jock turned some nice looking brass inserts for the breather holes.

Over summer I made two mirror frames, several wooden toys and a wooden serving platter. They were packed up and sent home on the last voyage of the Aurora Australis in February.

Rob (Station Comms Tech Officer)

Preparing for a pool party

Having a dip in the ocean is good for the soul. It’s revitalising, reconnects us with nature and makes our bodies sing. Of course, there are many different ways in which you can achieve this: snorkeling in the tropics, going for an ocean swim on a hot summer’s day, subjecting yourself to the washing machine action of the surf zone, or the occasional dip to celebrate a change in season.

In Antarctica, where the water is −1.8°C and a layer of sea ice insulates that balmy temperature with its frozen crust, we do our best to stay warm and dry, and not fall into the ocean below. That said, the midwinter swim is something else. It is a tradition. This is all that needs to be said really because let’s face it, we’ll do crazy things for a tradition. And why wouldn’t you; you’re taking part of history, doing it as a team and living a life without regrets (presumably). All well and good until you actually see the hole in the ice, the dark navy blue ocean below, feel the freezing cold air temperature (−20°C or less), and realise you need to take your clothes off. More on the swim later — next week when we take the plunge on midwinters day.

For now, it’s all about making the swimming hole. Like anything in Antarctica, you need a plan and then to double check you’re doing it all safely. Team dieso (Richard, Marc and Jock) are the pool creators. They are highly skilled, enjoy the task and are creative by nature.

So, stage one: find the site. This is based on logistics. We want to be close to the station (because it makes life easier), with a good backdrop for photographs, and on quality sea ice. The ice is over one metre thick near the shore so ice isn’t a problem.

Stage two: remove the ice to provide access to the water. Our regulations require a hole of 1.5m x 1.5m as a minimum. The easiest way to do this is create a grid of holes with an auger so you can insert a chainsaw and remove small blocks of ice one at a time. The excavator then scoops them out so there is a clear patch.

Stage three: set up the site. This will be done later closer to the swim but consists of laying down matting (so your feet don’t freeze to the sea ice), and insert a ladder (made of fibreglass or wood so your hands don’t freeze to the rungs). Other vehicles and shelter will be brought onto the ice on the day to provide a changing room and a warming area. And finally, there are the artistic components which make it our pool in our year.

Sounds pretty straight forward but it has taken team dieso all day to make our pool, mostly in darkness. It looks great. We have lots of people planning to swim next week but we’ll see who is inspired on the day.

For those of you in more temperate regions, we ask you to also consider an oceanic dip on midwinters day next Wednesday. How could you not?

Kirsten (Station Leader)