(From a Davis station POV)
That's a really good question and one that a lot of people won't think to ask, or they will hesitate to ask for the sake of sounding silly. So I'll start by trying to explain the reality of outdoor activities a bit and then dive into what the station provides indoors.
Antarctica the continent is the most isolated, windiest, driest and coldest continent on the planet! That’s a pretty amazing set of achievements right there. So what does that mean for one living down here you might ask? First and foremost the AAD's goal is the safety of every expeditioner and person that visits the continent, and as such certain precautions and safety measures are put in place for everyone. These safety measures include not being able to leave station limits without permission, not travelling anywhere off station without a field pack full of survival gear/equipment and generally not being able to "go for a wander". There are more safety measures but I hope you get the idea.
If your idea of fun doesn't include hiking over broken jagged rocks carrying a 15-20 kg pack then what does the station provide for you? PLENTY! I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the most adventurous person so going hiking with a field pack isn't what I'd call top of my list of things to do. So what does life on station provide? Davis station is nicknamed "The Riveria of the South" for its general weather and surrounds. And the amenities at Davis station are quite comfortable. From a relative recent Living Quarters (LQ) building that hosts a large open floor plan to a well-equipped gym there's plenty to do, so I'll try to go through them for you.
From the cold porch you will walk straight into the mess/kitchen/dining room. If you ever think you'll make it home without putting on weight, you're just kidding yourself.
The Station Leader may believe they're in charge but in reality it is the chef! The chefs are absolute amazing at what they do, feeding the station day in and day out so they are the real heroes. From whipping up roasts for dinner to endless birthday cakes, they shine and ensure the first layer of survival (food) is never lacking. The quality of supplied food is amazing as well, from King Island beef, a myriad of cheeses, the seemingly endless supply of Tim Tams to more types of tea than one could dream of, most of the produce is locally sourced from Tasmania or Australia. The mess is fully stocked with the breakfast essentials i.e. cereals, spreads and freshly baked bread. With plenty of snacks and biscuits, the shelves and cold fridges are never short of something to take the edge off that late night hunger or sweet craving.
From the mess, a little walk up the stairs will lead you to the bar! Since the removal of home brew from station this space has definitely become far less of a social space than it used to be but it’s not completely dead. Further restriction of a individuals alcohol allowance has removed the regular sitting around after work and unwinding with your fellow expos and instead lent itself to more intense nights of fun sitting around having a couple drinks and watching music clips / sports events on the projector screen. Depending on current bandwidth use, it’s quite possible to stream a game of football onto the screen while enjoying a couple of drinks. Complete with post-mix machine and plenty of fridge space your own alcohol will be cold and mixable with a range of soft drinks.
From the bar, a walk up the remainder of the stairs leads you to the first floor and the open space that is the LQ. At the moment we have the ping pong table set up next to the new pool table. With everything supplied there's no need to bring anything unless you prefer your own pool cue or ping pong paddle. The pool table's position in the front corner of the room with windows right the way around the entire top floor leads to some absolutely wonderful views and moments. If you're not a pool person then have no fear, there's enough comfy couches and recliners for everyone. From being able to sit and watch the sunlight hit the icebergs in ever changing ways to watching to the elephant seals on the beach, there are some definitely cosy places to sit and relax with a drink and just let the world go by or even do a bit of study. Towards the back wall there's not one but two dartboards set up! Darts is the unofficial sport of the various stations so anyone keen on throwing some darts will have plenty of space to practice and get their eye in. If you are keen on darts I'd definitely suggest bringing your own darts as they are quite an individual thing. Down here the game of choice is "Shang", something I never played before heading down but was able to pick up pretty quick (didn't make me any better at darts though). Regular darts tournaments are a thing as well as a winter interstation darts comp that's fought out between a bunch of stations from different nations down here on the continent. Luckily we've managed to bring down some handy dart players so we might be in with a chance this year.
Continuing around from the dart boards is the cinema. The cinema, you might wonder! Yes, the cinema. With yet more comfy recliners, tiered seating and a large screen projector this room is among one of the most used spaces on station. Wanna bring down a HDD full of TV Shows? Wanna bring your DVD/Blueray collection down? Wanna bring your Nintendo Switch or Playstation down? Do it! It's completely set up to handle nearly every form of media or entertainment you can plug into it. At the moment, we've got 3-4 nights of various TV shows being shown every week with several movies being shown on the weekends. Fresh popcorn from the kitchen and the provided blankets will have you believing you're back at home in your own lounge room or the local cinema. We've even got some of the expos participating in a virtual Grand Prix competition on the PS4 Grand Prix game. We've also had Mario Kart sessions for anyone keen to have some fun. Just the ability to watch something on a large screen with massive surround sound makes something like a simple series episode into a real immersive experience.
Right next to the cinema is the station library. Though smaller than the cinema, it is still full of floor to ceiling bookshelves. Everything from non-fiction and fiction through to how to learn a new language books. Though not as used as the cinema, it’s still a nice quiet place to sit and read away from the usual hustle and bustle of the more open areas. The library also stores the piles of board games, card games and puzzles that have been collected over the years. It is a perfect spot to set out and start on a jigsaw or sit and do a bit of study.
Just outside the cinema and library is the computer desk. With a dedicated PC plugged into the integrated sound system inside the LQ you can have the whole LQ bopping to your tunes when you're on slushy (kitchen duties) or you can get the party pumping on a Friday Night / Saturday morning. With a quite extensive digital music library and the more modern Spotify, there is definitely no shortage of music for all tastes.
So that's the LQ entertainment sorted, but where's the gym and sauna you talked about you might ask?
Well, it's not inside the LQ unfortunately, but it isn't far and besides the most severe weather days, it's only a short walk to the greenstore (the greenstore is the big green building where everything is kept - food, supplies, etc). Once inside the greenstore there's a floor to ceiling climbing wall that's regularly opened up for all comers whether to keep your climbing skills current or to just get some exercise, it’s definitely an experience. If climbing isn't your thing then just walk up the stairs and you're at the gym. Once inside you'll find a wide range of up to date equipment including treadmills, spin bikes, a wide range of weights and weight lifting benches, rowing machines and the ever popular spa and sauna. The spa is a brand new four person model that was just installed with full options. The sauna though is only able to hold a couple people at a time but is nonetheless well used and liked. Nothing quite like hitting the spa/sauna after a gym session or just a day of being outside and warming the body back up to a liveable temperature again.
And finally, the wifi! The station has its own wifi network with base stations in all of the living areas and out buildings. Though the bandwidth is shared between everyone on station, it's nice to connect to home after a stressful day or on an important day. It's come a long way from the days of no communication, that's for sure.
All in all, there is loads of stuff to do on station to pass the time and keep yourself entertained.
I hope this little written tour of the station's entertainment has been enjoyed and sheds a bit of light onto the reality of living down in such an inhospitable environment.
Boiler maker and lover of writing Icy News articles