Hi there! My name‘s Pete and I’m one of the four wintering ‘sparkies’ at Davis this season. One of the questions I get asked most often from people back home is, “Hey Pete, whatcha been up to down there lately?”. To which I often reply, “Oh, you know, same old thing really...” But, what does the ‘same old thing’ mean to a wintering expeditioner? Well, here’s a little run down of what that entails for me.
First up, work life. It’s a pretty big station to maintain down here when you break it right down to all the nuts and bolts; or in my case, wires and screw terminals. An aging station always has a few little surprises in store when doing maintenance work, the location presents a few unique challenges when doing installs, and the on-call paging system comes with a couple of wake-up calls when things go wrong at night. It’s certainly enough to keep a sparky on their toes.
Next up? Work hard, play hard, right? Luckily we’ve got the best playground imaginable right at our door step. Weekends off are all about ‘jollies’ (pronounced: J-oll-ees!). Getting out to see the scenery and spending a night or two in a hut or ‘melon’ reinvigorates the soul, clears the mind, and helps put the world in perspective. A couple of recent highlights for me were camping in -20°C, and scaling the highest peak the Vestfold Hills has to offer (a whopping 159 meters above sea-level! Watch out you mountaineers out there!)
Station life during the week has plenty on offer too, and as a community many of us come together to for group activities. Be it music with playing in a band and guitar lessons, fitness with gym workouts and circuit training, brewing some tantalisingly tasty beers (you can trust my opinion of course, with me being the brew master here and all), or just kicking back and enjoying some of the latest TV shows on offer in the cinema.
Of course, the most important aspect of station life? Maintaining relationships. On station, we’re just like a big family in a big house. At times we all do things that frustrate each other, but for the most part there’s love and respect between us, and we all play our unique part down here.
So finally, coming full circle, there’s the long distance relationships to maintain with friends and family back home. Luckily technology holds the key here. Although there’s some events we can’t be there for in person, we can often achieve a work around. I was able to attend my step-brother’s wedding ceremony this week via WhatsApp, and the same technology allowed friends and family to wish me a happy birthday this week. For me though, the most important long-distance relationship I’m maintaining is actually with a person at another Antarctic station! I met my girlfriend Natasha (currently stationed as the Casey doctor) during pre-departure training in Hobart. It’s now 13 months later to the day, and I can say she’s definitely the most amazing part of this whole adventure.
So there you have it! The long version of ‘same old thing’ down here. Funny what you get used to, eh?