This week at Davis we're clearing snow, measuring sea ice thickness, going camping and renovating bedrooms.

Station update

It’s been a quiet week on station. We experienced our twentieth day of blizzard conditions on Sunday, officially setting a new record for Davis. At least this inclement weather has resulted in milder temperatures. Strangely enough, blizzards bring warmer conditions, so it’s been about −16°C for most of this week, as opposed to last week’s bitterly cold −30°C days.

Minus 30°C is really, really cold. You can almost feel it biting at your face. It makes your skin hurt. And your nose hairs freeze which creates a bizarre sensation deep inside your head and makes your eyes water. No wonder the lads are so reluctant to shave their beards off, despite looking quite shaggy at this point in the season.

With a respite in the weather mid-week, there has been a flurry of activity to get rid of the blizz tails/snow dunes around station. We are at the point now where we are starting to get the view back, which is bringing great joy. Today we will have a big effort to gain access to the living quarters basement door. With an airdrop planned for later this month we need easy access to the fridges and freezers for food storage. Fresh fruit is listed on the cargo manifest but we won’t get too excited about this until it actually gets here (Murphy’s Law).

Last week a team also went out on a camping trip. This was a training exercise to experience winter camping conditions: erecting polar pyramid tents and sleeping in −30°C temperatures, putting up blizz lines between tents and vehicles, cooking using stoves, conducting Hägg recovery exercises and generally getting familiar with the whole polar camping process. The experience was great and we learnt quite a bit but plastic changes properties at such cold temperatures, so it’s still a mystery how the tents are supposed to go back into their bags the following morning!

Kirsten (Station Leader)

One of the weekly station tasks is to visit seven locations in an area off shore from station. This is a continuation of studies that commenced in the mid–1950s. At each of these fixed locations (easy to find now with the benefit of GPS) the snow and ice thickness is measured and recorded. The water level in the drill hole (freeboard) is also recorded. 

How do we actually accomplish this task? Our tracked Hägglunds vehicle is prepared and then two of us drive out on to the sea ice. At each designated location we alight and dig the snow away to expose the ice. Then it’s time to use a cordless drill and a long stainless steel auger bit to drill through the ice until it breaks through to the sea water below. A weighted tape measure is dropped down the bore hole and that indicates the depth of ice. The same tape measure is used to measure snow depth and freeboard. Ice thickness at these locations can vary from 65cm to 150cm depending on whether the ice is seasonally old or new.

Last Saturday was a great day to be out with clear skies and a light breeze. It was around −29°C but that’s not usual at this time of year. All around it was a great way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Rob (Comms Officer)

Bedroom renovations

My name is Rhys and I am the winter carpenter at Davis this year. Apart from the daily wrestle with the elements trying to keep external doors working and the regularly scheduled services for various parts of the buildings, I am also part of an upgrade process in our residential building called the SMQ. It is where we all sleep in our own private rooms and it is connected via a linkway to the mess, lounge, bar and cinema areas.

A few years ago a lot of new joinery was brought down and a program of gradual refurbishment was implemented that also covered improvements to the electrical and plumbing side of things. During winter is the best time to do the work as only half the rooms are occupied, whereas in summer it is totally full.

So myself and Barry B2 (an electrician) began by stripping out the old beds and stuff to give us clear access. Barry got the ball rolling by doing the electrical stuff, I came through after and patched any holes in the fire-rated walls.

Then came the painting. We cleaned the walls and ceiling, masked up with painters tape and then Barry showed his multi–skilling ability and took over as painter.

The next phase took a lot of help — getting the ready-made furniture out of the containers outside and into the rooms. It took a day of team work and mechanical assistance to get enough gear across, and another half day to get the big wardrobes upstairs, but the Davis crew took it in stride.

Being pre-assembled the furniture took up a lot of space. This caused a few headaches…

Stuff was stacked in the halls as I started on the first room.

The first room was the toughest, but now Barry and I have a system rolling. Seven rooms painted and ready, three rooms fully furnished and two more started today.

When V1 sails in to sight in November there will be seven brand new rooms with that lovely fresh paint smell ready for seven new expeditioners! Mission accomplished!

Rhys (Carpenter)