Farewell from the 76th ANARE as the cycle of station life continues.

It feels like only yesterday...

It feels like only yesterday that we arrived on a misty morning on 21 November 2022 after sailing across the Southern Ocean for 18 days on the Aiviq. Full of excitement and energy we arrived at station, many of us for the first time. The weather gods had been kind and had dusted the station with a pretty icing-sugar-like coating of snow.

The first few days were a mixture of wonderment at this beautiful place and some trepidation as we learnt the ropes and hoped we had what it would take to look after each other and keep the station running well. It’s a busy pace when you first arrive – it usually involves a ship, resupply, possibly some flying operations and lots of handovers and inductions.  All of this while you are seeing your first penguin, for some their first snow, and experiencing the sun that never goes down.

It’s exciting and exhausting, then as suddenly as it started the handover period concludes and the outgoing Station Leader hands over the keys to the station to the incoming team. The outgoing team packs their bags and heads out to the ship that will take them home after a year away from their loved ones. It’s tradition to wave off the departing expeditioners with some expired flares and we, like many others before us, upheld this tradition.

It’s not unusual to have a “moment” as the ship disappears over the horizon when everyone looks around and realises it’s just us to keep each other and this place going until the next ship arrives. Over time, our confidence grew, we got into a rhythm and figured out how to run this small frozen village nestled at the foot of the Vestfold Hills.

We started to forge friendships, some that over the year promised to become lifelong. We discovered this place and ventured out firstly into the near Vestfolds and later, as the sea-ice froze over and we could use Häggs, into the furthest reaches of the Station Operating Area - Bandits and Platcha Huts, Trajer Melon, the Amphitheatre, Taaffe Ridge, Trajer Ridge, Whoop Whoop, Mikkelsen’s Cairn and the Wyatt Earp Islands. We marvelled at The Sørsdal Glacier, the wildlife around Kazak Island, seal pups in Shirokaya Bay, and the crackled frozen ice in Crooked Lake. We experienced shimmering auroras and the most vivid stars and Milky Way we had ever seen, a photographer’s delight. As a community we shared many special events including birthdays, dinners, darts competitions, jigsaws, multi-venue events, the mid-winter film festival, a mid-winter swim and feast and bespoke handmade gifts. We experienced highs and lows, loneliness and the joy of an eclectic bunch of housemates.

These words are the tip of the iceberg of what has been a remarkable year. We who are so privileged to do what so few do - spend a year in one of the most remote, intriguing, beautiful places and to experience community, wildlife, weather, scenery and splendid isolation. We have much to be grateful for.

And now it’s our turn to hand over to an excited new team full of energy and anticipation. Last week a Twin Otter plane arrived at station, followed soon after by the Nuyina. Lots of new faces on station and lots of activity as we fly people to Mawson Station, complete inductions and handovers, and conduct cargo operations for 12 months of station supplies including transferring almost 750,000L of fuel and 200,000L of water to station.

In a few days we sail back to Australia, and leave the next team to get on with the business of living in and running this place.

Thank you to our loved ones who provided us with the support and encouragement to make this possible – we look forward to seeing you soon. Thank you to the team at Kingston for your goodwill and help throughout the season. And finally, we the 76th Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (ANARE) wish the 77th ANARE a year that is safe, productive and full of memorable experiences. May their year be as remarkable as ours.

Karen Pye

Davis Station Leader