A regular task for the Davis wintering crew is to collect two snow groomers and other assorted plant and equipment from the Davis Plateau Ski Landing Area (DPSLA). It’s otherwise affectionately known as — and for good reason — ‘Whoop Whoop’. This precious patch of our operating area is located about 37km NE of station, in a straight line. On this occasion, it’s just shy of a 60km drive.
This heavy equipment is left ‘up the hill’ at the end of the busy summer season as fjords and coastline are more open water than sea ice and nowhere fit to carry this mission-critical gear back to station. As such, the winter team dutifully waits for the sea ice to go full cycle, with good quality ice growing to more than 1m in thickness, perfect for safely supporting loads that will exceed 14 tonnes.
First job on the list was to fetch our other Hägglunds and bring her back for a 500 hour service and general spruce up, ready to give a bit more oomph to our mobility around the Vestfolds. The trip up also includes proving the intended sea ice route for the transfer of the heavy stuff in the week to come… this was pretty slow going with plenty (!) of bergs to navigate through along the way. With an overnight respite at Bandits Hut and fresh legs the following day, the job in its entirety was smoothly executed by dieso-duo Dane and Luke who also took the chance to suss out the Whoop Whoop camp and getting a feel for how much work loomed to free up the groomers in a week’s time. Backup took the form of techs Matt and Greg who attended to the more delicate tasks of inspecting the AWS (Automatic Weather Station), skiway camera repairs and installing snow groomer GPS updates.
Five-days later diesos Dane and Luke, and manual labourers Simon (me!) and Ryno were on their way, motoring under the bright sunlight that had been absent for the past 7 weeks and ticking off a final look at the sea ice route before bunking down at Bandits Hut, ready to take advantage of first light and an early start for what was expected to be a big day out.
Arriving at Whoop Whoop around 10:30am, we were greeted with the most spectacular colours, clear skies and winds under 10-knots. Wasting no time, we were into it. While Dane and Luke worked on freeing up the skid steer (think small, tracked loader), Ryno and Simon were shoveling snow -removing months of big-wind-blizz from the tracks and hydraulics of both groomers. With air temps not far from −30°C it was good work, keeping us moving and warm(ish). After six hours or so, things were looking pretty good. The Herman Nelsons (big hot air blowers) were pushing heat through the engines — melting snow and generally warming moving parts. Generators were running to heat engine oil, batteries were dropped in and the skid steer was buzzing around, moving snow. It was all happening. Then…thar’ she blows!
The first groomer roared to life… wriggled about a bit and happily idled. Icy grins, thumbs-up and high-fives all round.
Thanks to our unobstructed, icy infinite-horizon we were treated to a little more daylight than usual. However, before we knew it the surrounding colours quickly shifted and we were soon working under a night sky that was so clear it defied logic.
So, into that night we carried on. The skid steer neatly off-loaded a few fuel drums and placed two Herman Nelsons onto the trailer behind our Hägg before building itself a neat little ramp onto a sled of its own, ready for the trip home behind Dane’s groomer. The second sled carrying the two heavy tillers was neatly hooked up to Luke’s groomer and set free from her snowy embrace. Ready to roll.
Although a tad knackered, with the camp neatly packed up behind us it was all smiles as we made our way down the hill. Arriving at the coastline, the groomers were parked up and the four of us rode in the Hägg back to Bandits for a late feed, a few ‘war story laughs’ and what was a very good night’s sleep.
The next day was a treat. Well rested and beautiful conditions around the place as we made our way back to the groomers to meet Glenn, Brownie and Meg, who arrived in another Hägg to play the role of convoy escort. The groomers eventually fired up to idle… engines warming while we grabbed the chance to bang out a swag of push-ups and keep warm…not forgetting our commitment to the ongoing Push-up Challenge fundraiser on station. 13,896 push-ups and $1870 raised so far… one week to go!
With safe separation between each vehicle we made our way home, cruising through iceberg alley under bright, low sunlight that later switched to a full moon bringing pinks, purples and blues across the horizon and reflecting off the multitude of white surfaces around us. Pretty speccy stuff taking us all the way home for a 5pm arrival — perfect timing for a pack-up and shower before dinner. Noice.
Hope you enjoy the pics.
Big thanks and kudos to everyone involved for making it such a safe, smooth and memorable experience.
Simon (Station Leader)