Reflections about life on station.

What's it like down there?

It’s not a simple answer. After being down south for 12 months we have experienced so much: extreme cold, epic views, watching the ocean thaw out and then re-freeze, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner from the same kitchen on the same table, six weeks without the sun rising above the horizon and six weeks without the sun setting below the horizon. Months where the only signs of life were the other 23 faces that you live, work and relax with. No animals, no random faces passing you in the street and no insects getting in your personal space.

It’s amazing, it’s epic and it’s also hard, cold and sometimes feels like you’ve been down here forever. The land and weather is unlike anything else, it’s desolate, harsh and barren yet somehow leaves you wondering and searching for more. There are no trees to climb, rivers to swim or waves to surf yet you always want to climb the next ridge and see what is waiting for you over the horizon; another worldly view of icebergs, glaciers, snow, a huddle of penguins or a group of seals (during the summer months).

When the sun is gone the auroras arrive, lighting the white surface around you, green and red lights flicker amongst the stars paralysing you as you fight off the -35 degree cold, craning your neck up towards the brightest and most abundant stars you’ve ever seen. The moon stays low and glides across the horizon, sometimes never seeming to set, always watching over you, reminding you that the sun has not gone forever.

When you’re not being dazzled by the auroras or awed by glaciers the work is interesting.  Keeping the station warm and functioning in the unique environment is sometimes challenging. There are a range of generators, burners, boilers, heat exchangers, pumps, fans, ovens, stoves, vehicles, doors etc that all need constant love - fuel, filters, grease, pulleys and belts, cleans, replacements, re-starts. With no ‘Bunnings’ down the road we need to rely on the limited resources we have and our ingenuity to fix the equipment, there is always something that needs or demands attention.

But then there is the monotony of the place, the same faces, stories, complaints and my “lame” (personally I think they’re great) jokes that everyone on the lunch and dinner table endure EVERYDAY! All the gear you need to put on just to commute from the living quarters to the gym, workshop or another building, EVERYTIME - jacket, boots, buff, beanie, sunnies, gloves, fleece. That’s after you already have your thermals, socks, pants and shirt, it gets tiring after a while. The same protocols and procedures for leaving station limits, the blurry sports games we stream where it always seems to buffer at critical times and it’s often too blurry to see the ball and then off course there is the same monthly plantroom and equipment checks that need to be completed.

When things look dull and you just need an escape all you need to do is look out across the ocean that’s in front station. Yes, sometimes its clouded in but when it’s not, it’s a sight! Icebergs scattered as far as the eye can see, penguins running each and every way, seals sleeping and fighting on the beach, the dazzling sun with pink and orange streaks lighting up the sky or the aurora show mesmerising you (disclaimer: penguins and seals are only around from Oct-Apr). Field trips off station are always my favourite, with the Hagg loaded up it’s time to get off station and away from the routine for a while, a couple of nights in a remote field hut with your mates never fails to reset and remind you why you are down here.


Davis Plumber