Heat trace specialist sparkie Chris shares on hut trips and other highlights

Challenges and rewards; the Antarctic winter experience

I think that most people here know me as the quiet bloke, likes a froff in the arvo towards the extended evening and spends a lot of time in the durry pit. I also have a pretty much undesired reputation as the ‘heat trace guy’.

I’m an electrician at Davis for the 2019/2020 season… and recently discovered that I’ll be an electrician during the 2021 summer season.

So far, this season had its challenges and rewards. The challenges have included things like working on heat trace, logistics, a little bit of snow clearing and keeping up with Donna in the kitchen.

It’s no wonder that heat trace faults get left until winter when they can be listed as ‘’covered in snow’’ for the next summer crew to complete. Pretty challenging job but can be a satisfying fault to find and fix and let’s face it - we are the next summer crew!

Several logistical problems have resulted in an extended stay for us here at Davis, through in to the summer. The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped intra-continental aviation and has meant that the RSV Nuyina will not be ready, and as a result our interim ice class ship can only get here later in the season. Consequently, I’m missing my wife and being home and I’m sure everyone is experiencing something similar.

So, a highlight of my time at Davis has been Slushy duties with Davis’ Chef, Donna. Working in the galley with our Chef has been a challenge but also a big reward for me. It has been an experience that has got me out of my comfort zone. Really appreciate all of Donna’s work. Pretty much the heart of the station.

As far as the rewards go for coming here to work, there is a list:

  • Helicopter rides… not bad
  • If you like hiking, come here.
  • Hutting, there are a few classics.
  • Elephant seals. Seals of other shapes.
  • Adelie penguins, unconfirmed reports of emperor penguins, and there was a macaroni penguin here for a little while…. Might still be here?
  • Birds and they’re not sea gulls.
  • Stunning sky lines, blizzards, icebergs, the winter. Great vampire conditions.
  • A few boat rides. Might get a penguin passenger.
  • Southern lights. See Pat’s photos (thumbs up).
  • Hägglunds. Get one.
  • Avoiding the gym…. And other mirrors.
  • People, you’ll meet some gems.

One example of the above is a recent trip to Bandits Hut that I was very grateful to be invited on.

Rachel, Damo and Pat planned a Hägglunds trip across the sea ice to Davis’ northernmost hut. We visited the plateau, a weird wave shaped lake on the first day. Lots of space and ice. We stayed at the hut, had dinner, watched Auroras, avoided board games and enjoyed a few quiet refreshments. I can’t remember a mirror there but Damo kept head butting a lantern. Thanks for the cheese Donna.

Next morning, it was my turn to drive as we departed at 10:30 in the dark. A tip for night Hägglunds driving is not to drive like Nanna with your nose too close to the steering wheel to see where you’re going. Because, it’s hard to see the dips and rises and the steering wheel moves really quick and the steering wheel is pretty hard.

But we made it safely to Wilkin’s Cairn, who left some of his kit in a box down here in 1939. It’s worth checking out. And it was so cold. I don’t know how they did it back then?! Tough as nails!

So many amazing icebergs and memories. Thanks for reading.