This week at Davis we've visited the medical clinic on station, walked to the Old Wallow and celebrated the equinox.

The Lookout and Old Wallow

This week saw my first official winter field trip off station. Albeit only for a few hours, it was great to get out and amongst the wilderness that is the Vestfold Hills. Also great to get away from the ever constant humming sound of the station’s generators that provide us with power and heating. On this short trip I was joined by the youngest expeditioner on station Jock. He goes by all sorts of names down here but we’ll stick with Jock for now.

Our journey took us from station on foot around Heidemann Bay and up onto the top of ‘The Lookout’, situated near the bottom of the Vestfolds. On either side is Davis station and Ellis Fjord.

The Lookout gives you a really great 360 degree view of the Vestfolds and its surroundings, including the front of the Sørsdal Glacier, which demands your full attention as it towers over the hills lined by dykes and the ever encroaching ice shelf behind it, continuing up and up above the horizon. Along with the Sørsdal and Vestfolds you also get a great view of the mighty Southern Ocean, teeming with giant icebergs on the horizon and in close.

After taking in the view for quite some time we ventured down to the ‘Old Wallow’ to see what wildlife was basking in the calm and sunny day. The seals weren’t abundant, but some of the elephant seals were of a significant size. Some of the biggest I have seen so far, they didn’t seem bothered by our presence and kept sleeping and kept making their bodily movements like usual.

The return leg was taken along the coast line of Heidemann Bay, where scattered all along were little pockets of moulting Adélie penguins. The penguins weren’t that happy to see us even from a great distance, making their usual penguin noises and looking worse for wear. They had taken the high ground to moult so walking on the water’s edge was best. With the temperature dropping lately the bay has started to freeze quite significantly. It won’t be long now until we will be out testing the ice’s thickness for travel, this I am very much looking forward to.

Shoey (Balancing Technician)

Davis medical centre

Hello all, considering the great article Tony did last week on the trades team, I thought I would talk about the medical centre.

In my world I have a consulting room, a dental chair, a two bed ward, an examination room, a lab and a theatre. The theatre received an upgrade to its lighting this year. Apart from improving the brightness, each light now has an inbuilt battery in the event of a power outage. This is separate to the backup power system. That is one of the big things down here, backup systems for the backup systems. It is important because if something fails, it can be ten months before it can be replaced. The theatre also has its own air supply which can be heated and humidified.

My laboratory is a collection of point of care machines as well as single use test cards for things like influenza and malaria. I also have a microscope and equipment for staining. We use a walking blood bank (each other).

For imaging I have a portable x–ray which uses electronic plates. I also have a chemical one for backup, as well as an ultrasound machine. All of this is connected to headquarters in Hobart for reporting. The Polar Medical Unit there also provide medical advice as well as source specialist advice when needed.

I also get some people to help me in a crisis. The LSA’s (lay surgical assistants) get two weeks of familiarisation and training in Hobart which we then continue down here with further training. This year it is Rhys, Lötter, Barry B1 and Kerryn.

It is a relatively healthy population down here because of the pre–deployment screening so historically the majority of the health conditions are musculoskeletal, skin related, or counselling, as we are a long way from home living in a rather challenging and extreme environment.

I hope you enjoyed the look into my world. All the best.

Ralph (Doctor)

The autumn equinox – Winter is coming

On Monday, Davis station held their equinox celebration with a medieval theme. There were kings and queens, knights and wenches (one with a beard and hairy chest) and Merlin showed up as well. For the main meal there was a lamb on a spit with all the trimmings, thanks to Kerryn our cook and the slushy for the day, Tony. Everyone also brought an offering. A great night of fun and frivolity was had by all.

Richard (Station Mechanical Supervisor)

Now for the explanation

On Monday the 20th of March — at 10:28 UTC (17:28 Davis local time) the equinox occurred. This is the precise moment at which the plane of the Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the sun. In other words at that time, somewhere on the equator the sun is directly overhead.

This happens twice each year — in March and September. On an equinox, day and night are of approximately equal length all over the planet. They are not exactly equal, however, due to the angular size of the sun and atmospheric refraction. The word equinox is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night).

In 45 BC Julius Caesar established the Julian Calendar and set the 25th of March as the spring equinox (autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere). Because the Julian year (365.25 days) is slightly longer then a true solar year, the calendar drifted with respect to the equinoxes — in 300 AD the equinox occurred on about the 21st of March and by 1500 AD it had drifted to the 11th of March.

This drift induced Pope Gregory XIII (1502–1585) to create the modern Gregorian Calendar (a correction of 0.002% to the Julian Calendar). He wanted to continue to conform with the edict concerning the date of Easter to March 21st, so as to restore the Easter celebrations to the time of the year in which it was celebrated when introduced by the early church.

Interesting fact — The Julian Calendar had 100 leap years in four centuries. The newer Gregorian calendar has 97 leap years in four centuries. This modification was proposed by Aloysius Lilius – Italian doctor, astronomer and philosopher.

His formula is as follows and is still used today. ‘Every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100, but these centurial years are leap years if they are exactly divisible by 400. For example, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not leap years, but the years 1600 and 2000 are.' (Source: Wikipedia)

Barend (Barry B2) Becker (Met OIC)