Good bye, hello, goodbye

Wow, what a start to the Davis 77th ANARE! There is certainly no “business as usual” working in the Antarctic. The first glimpses of Davis station occurred 3 km off the coast in thick pack ice as we gathered on the observation deck early in the morning of November 10th.  The excitement was palpable amongst all 71 expeditioners. For most, Davis station is the final destination and for others it is a staging platform for their final leg to Mawson station via aircraft.  

Using the surrounding fast ice as the wharf, the discharging of cargo and personnel began in earnest with the incoming winter team disembarking to assist the outgoing winter team and the ship’s crew in the unpacking of cargo. An extraordinary example of teamwork followed with over 600 tons of cargo making its way to shore. Everything from oranges to concrete, the procession looked like a line of soldier ants dotted against a massive white landscape.

With our Antarctic community split evenly between ship and station, day three saw the sea ice at the back of the ship literally disappear having drifted off overnight, leaving the ship’s Captain with a safety decision of abandoning the resupply effort and to leave early for Australia with our summer personnel still aboard. After a tense waiting period the weather and ice conditions stabilised and we were able to continue unloading our remaining cargo, water and our all-important summer expeditioners. Expeditioners and ship’s crew continued to work around the clock to meet the shipping deadline and to enable the process of ‘station handover’ to be completed!

Six days later on the morning of the 20th November the Nuyina was ready to head back with the 76th winter ANARE team and what a day it was! Both the incoming and outgoing teams walked from the station to meet Nuyina for one last time. Outgoing Station Leader Karen Pye proudly presented her team’s Antarctic winter medallions. This tradition dates back to the early 70s to recognize those who wintered on the continent, Heard and Macquarie Islands.

As the final parting gesture, one of the remaining team members from the outgoing group arranged a farewell performance by the ‘Red Hot Chilli Penguins’ playing their last songs on the Antarctic sea ice. It was a surreal experience being part of the audience with the penguins watching on!

Three hours later at 3.25pm Davis time, the Nuyina blew its horn and backed out of her icy parking bay. Our team watched on from the flag poles as our soon-to-be out of date flares came alive, sending orange smoke and white bursts into the air.

As we prepare the station and its new team, it already feels like we have been here much longer than we actually have. At other times our arrival seems like yesterday! Antarctica certainly has a strange way of distorting time! Our returnees have travelled this path before and have a clearer view of what’s ahead, but for the other 80% of station population, this is a brand new experience as we makes sense of our new surroundings and make new connections and friendships.

As I conclude the first of our Davis 77th station updates, to the outbound winter team heading to Australia we say thanks for your generosity, team spirit and energy in the handover. We will look after your old home!  A big thanks to Nuyina’s captain, crew and voyage leader. You went above and beyond! And to the Kingston team, largely invisible to most of us, your dedication and care has touched all of us here on Station. It would be impossible to count the hours of preparation and detail in orchestrating this incredible dance.

Finally to our returning expeditioners, from us newbies, thank you for graciously filling the many tasks and conversations in getting ‘Davis Town’ up and running as a functioning community and workplace!

Brett Barlee, Station Leader