Well, here we go. Forgoing the overwhelming temptation to roll out the obligatory Game of Thrones references, we have officially kicked off our winter season with a successful and somewhat bitter-sweet farewell to 50 of our closest mates as they head back to Australia.
As a first timer on the icy continent, you’re told how quickly time will pass once New Years is ticked off… the stories could not have been more true. It was like someone pressed the fast-forward button. After the flurry of hugs and high-fives shared throughout the festive season, it seemed like mere minutes passed before we were neck deep in planning RTA (Return To Australia) operations and preparing for winter.
Working closely with voyage management, we moved people and possessions around like pieces on a chessboard, constantly on the hunt for the safest and most effective outcomes. This can be a bit frustrating for mere mortals with goalposts rarely stationary, however our RTA Davis expeditioners remained uber-awesome in their flexibility and patience while we dodged around logistics, fatigue management and the weather gods.
The latter was unquestionably the most problematic with severe sea conditions extending the ship’s ETA from Mawson, only granting us a partial day of RTA ops before a 2-day weather event sent the ship off to run and hide behind the Western Ice Shelf for shelter from 70–80 knot winds.
The following Monday however, was a cracker… affording us the luxury of warm sunshine and relative stillness to comfortably complete the remaining cargo loading and passenger transfers.
Giving the Aurora Australis the traditional flare-farewell, we bid her goodbye and safe passage home, leaving 19 of us behind. For sure, we will miss our mates but the adventure that awaits makes us a very privileged bunch as custodians of Davis research station, her stunning surrounds and an assortment of science projects to boot.
The next time we see that big orange taxi will be when she smashes her way through sea-ice around mid-to-late November.
How’s the serenity?