This week at Davis, numbers went down to our winter complement of 16 with the loss of two honorary winterers, our Senior Aircraft Ground Support Officer Jenn and Station Operations Manager Sharon.
They departed Tuesday afternoon on the Xue Long (Snow Dragon), the CHINARE Antarctic resupply and research vessel that has been visiting nearby Zhongshan station, 100 kilometres to the southwest in the Larsemann Hills.
After several days of strong cold winds and blowing snow it was a pleasant surprise to see the weather calm and the seas smooth as the large red and white ship sailed slowly through the icebergs and islands off the coast from Davis to drop anchor between Gardner and Anchorage Islands. Throughout the afternoon, conditions continued to improve with a diluted sun eventually shining through thinning clouds.
The crew on board the Xue Long quickly bladed the huge bug-like Kamov helicopter which then flew to collect science samples for transport back to Australia. Our expeditioners will keep a watchful eye on this precious cargo, the result of months of work throughout the summer by many scientists.
While cargo operations were going on, we escorted Jenn and Sharon out to the ship on an inflatable rubber boat (IRB). Coming alongside the ship to an expectant crowd of curious Chinese crewmen, they were secured to ropes as they climbed on board and were shown to their cabins.
Operations were quickly completed and the Xue Long crew stowed the helicopter, pulled up the pilot ladder and anchor, and set sail into the Southern Ocean bound for Australia.
On the ship, Jenn and Sharon made contact with us via VHF and Iridium satellite phone. They told us they were being looked after and that evening there was a special meal to celebrate International Women’s Day.
They will certainly be missed and wish them a safe journey home. We also hope their karaoke practice pays off!