A glimpse into the team behind one of the exciting science projects at Davis, seeking to better understand the physical, chemical and biological processes at work around and under Antarctic ice.

The Green Submarine

Hailing from Victoria and now based in Hobart, Erica Spain is a PhD student studying ‘High Resolution Acoustic Mapping in Extreme Marine Environments'.

What is your role at Davis research station Erica?
I am a PhD student and field assistant with the Green Submarine Project. This innovative $6 million Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) is aptly named nupiri muka which means ‘Eye of the Sea’ in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aborigines.

I'm part of the Australian Antarctic Program team testing the University of Tasmania's AUV, which is supported by the Australian Research Council funded Antarctic Gateway Partnership.

What drew you to this project and mapping of the sea floor?
Very little is known about the sea floor. On a ship unwrapping the sea floor with sonar is like opening a present. As we receive the data and can see the imagery, a whole new world of information becomes apparent.

The AUV records sonar data in different frequencies. There is high frequency bathometric sonar, side scan sonar and lower frequency sub bottom profiler, below the sea floor to 40 metres. This gives bathymetry, or depth of the sea floor. Acoustic pulses into different densities of water or sediment produces differences in the return signals.

Three favourite things about working in Antarctica so far?
Playing darts, icebergs and the people.

Single best memory so far?
The Sørsdal Glacier, seeing it first hand, the sheer cliff face and the ice caves that have been made by the wave action. Amazing.

Most exciting experience?
My first helicopter ride, then my second helicopter ride…and then my third helicopter ride was also very exciting.

The most difficult aspect of your job?
Keeping motivated with my PhD, the studying and work, single focus. It is a long slog.

If you were Station Leader for a day what would you encourage?
Heated water slides into a warm pool.

Please describe yourself in three words.
Daggy, enthusiastic and rad.