After much anticipation and high expectations from the rank and file expeditioners for suitable conditions to open the gates, finally the sea ice out the front of Davis station passed drill testing. At 40cm thickness we were good to go for adventures on Easter weekend. The required Australian Antarctic Division safe travel numbers for ice thickness are 20cm for foot, 40cm for riding a quad bike and 6cm for driving the Hägglunds on the ice. Whilst the ice has been taunting us with its thickness over 20cm for some time, we needed the extra chunkiness in case of an accident requiring a vehicle to drive on the ice to collect the injured soul.
Before the ice is opened up for travel, our only way to get off station and go exploring is by foot around the rocky Vestfold Hills. Whilst this is amazing, the opening of the sea ice represents a great many more opportunities for exploration on our days off from work, and much more fun methods of travel such as cross-country skiing and perhaps one day soon, by motorised transportation.
Over the Easter weekend a number of groups headed out to Anchorage Island, about 2km off shore from the station, climbing up for a great view back over Davis and the Vestfold Hills. The crew tried out a variety of toys and used a combination of hiking, pulling sleds and skiing across the snow-covered ice. True explorers of the great south like Shackleton and Mawson before us. If only we had some huskies to also pull us along.
For me it was the first time I had ever put skis on my feet, so luckily the sea ice is very flat with a good thick cover of snow to cushion any undignified face planting. With a few tips from our FTO (Field Training Officer) and skiing aficionados in my fellow expeditioners, I was set. I will only ski from now on. My walking days are over.
Jen Spencer, Meteorological Observer and first time Antarctic Skier