A heart wrenching story of one expeditioner's winter and her Father's Day tribute.

A Father's Day to remember: Expeditioner Rachel McInerney and her husband Damien Everett take an emotional mountain bike ride across the ice to remember Rachel's father.

I wasn’t meant to be at Davis this winter. I came as a forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology for summer, then in a surprise turn of events a week before I was scheduled to depart I was offered the opportunity to stay for winter as an Environmental Officer with the AAD. My husband Damien was already staying for winter, so you might think this was an easy decision to make – but my Dad was also sick and so I was torn. Dads are the best though, and mine made it very clear that he would be quite angry if I gave up the opportunity to stay in Antarctica for winter – he would see me in November. And so I stayed. At times I have felt incredibly lucky to be here, and at other times I have deeply wished I was at home with my family. It has been quite the roller coaster of a year.

Heartbreakingly, the night before midwinters my Dad passed away. It has been difficult being here, but I am lucky to have love and support from family and friends and that has helped me through. I am so grateful to them all. The other thing that has helped has been an increased motivation to make the most of my time here, as a kind of (inferior) justification for the time I missed out on with Dad. So I’ve been getting out off station a lot, and experiencing as much as I can of the Vestfold Hills. Dad loved the outdoors. He mostly loved walking, but he was also a bike rider and commuted along the Melbourne bike trails for many decades. Last weekend marked our first Father’s Day without him. The weather was looking good, and so Damien and I decided to go for a bike ride across the Antarctic sea ice to spend a night at the Marine Plain Melon (10km from station).

Here at Davis we are lucky enough to have several fat bikes with chains – perfect for riding over ice and snow. We loaded up all our food and survival gear into panniers and backpacks and headed off on Saturday afternoon. The ride was breathtaking in many ways - the bikes were heavy and I hadn’t been for a ride in months, I was puffed, my legs felt it, but it was also breathtaking to be out exploring Antarctica under our own steam. Stunning sunshine, no wind, a glorious -20 degrees. We arrived at Marine Plain and enjoyed a hot drink as the sun dipped lower in the sky, thinking of Dad and how much he’d enjoy this adventure. The return trip to Davis on Sunday proved just as spectacular – with a short side trip walk to Adamsons Bay and views of the Sorsdal glacier. It was a wonderful weekend of adventure. We pushed our bodies, we felt tired and sore, and we also felt a great sense of accomplishment. I am grateful to be here – I just wish Dad could see the photos too.

Rachel McInerney

Forecaster, winterer, daughter.