As summer at Davis draws to a close it’s a great time to reflect on another successful and safe season operating helicopters in support of AAD projects.
The helicopter team deployed in December on the maiden voyage of the RSV Nuyina, arriving at Davis in early January. After a very smooth voyage south it was a privilege to be the first helicopter deployment on the Nuyina and to move the first cargo ashore from the vessel.
Once ashore and set up, we got straight to work conducting station operating area familiarisation flights and completing required training.
As soon as we were operational it was on to getting the Davis Plateau Ski Landing Area, affectionately known as Whoop Whoop, up and running to enable fixed wing operations to resume at Davis. This involves flying the team of Aviation Ground Support Officers (AGSOs) and all their associated equipment 20 nautical miles (nm) inland so they can get to work digging out buildings, equipment and fuel drums and carving out a runway on the Antarctic Plateau. During the summer months Whoop Whoop can only be accessed by helicopter so everything that has to be transported up there over summer gets flown as a sling load below the helicopter on a 100ft line.
Weekly aerial seal surveys were conducted with Helen and Patti to get a measure of the Weddell seal population around the Vestfolds. These flights followed the coastline of the many islands and fjords around Davis at an altitude of 2500ft, counting and taking photos of any seals that were spotted. On one run we identified over 800 seals!
Other tasks saw us transporting trades teams to all the field huts to carry out annual inspections and maintenance before the start of winter, dropping the winter SAR team off to practice technical rescue skills in the field and servicing remote camera sites at Amanda Bay and Hop Island.
A big focus for this season was the clean up of old field fuel cache sites. Over the last 5 years a number of deep field science projects have required fuel to be positioned to locations in the field to extend the range of the helicopters. As these projects are now complete, considerable effort went into retrieving any fuel drums still out in the field. Fuel drums were recovered from the West Ice Shelf and Larsemann Hills areas and returned to Davis.
I would like to thank my team, Hayden, Angus and Euan for their professionalism, hard work, dedication and support during the season. I would also like to thank the AAD team that supports aviation. The AGSO team of Jenn, Steve, Ross and Kyle for hooking up loads, escorting passengers, filling in manifests and pushing helicopters into the hangar at the end of the day. The FTOs, Marty, Jason and Ian for planning missions and keeping operations safe on the ground at remote sites. The BOM team, Nyssa, Matt, Hana, Jason and Adam for watching the skies and keeping us up to date on the ever changing weather situation. Mick on comms for your dulcet tones on the radio and watchful eye of the trackers. Dani the Station Leader/Ops Coordinator for coming up with the daily routine, juggling all the jobs, signing our Air Task Risk Assessments so we can go flying and putting up with our terrible jokes. Finally, the entire Davis community for welcoming us and making us feel at home!