Field trip to Platcha Hut
The weather in Antarctica can change quite quickly so we all keep a keen eye on the models to judge the best time to make a foray away from station. Last Friday there was an opportunity to get out to Platcha Hut, with Sharky and Kirsten, so while the wind was easing off there was a frenzy of activity to pack all our survival gear and food in readiness for an overnight trip in the red Hägg.
Another party in the pink Hägg were heading to Brookes Hut so we played tag team Hägg for part of the way, although they did have an unscheduled sightseeing stop. Most of our journey was uneventful but there is a section of rafted ice in Long Fjord that is always tricky to navigate and even more so when visibility has dropped due to blowing snow. We did hit one large bump and the suspension is very unforgiving so that jolted us out of our slumber.
After arriving mid–afternoon and removing a little snow from inside the hut and the outside loo, it was time to light up the gas heater and get some warmth happening. A short walk up to the high points above the hut was a good leg stretch and a chance to take photos of frozen tarns and nearby ice cliffs. Appetites were keen after time outdoors, so cheese and biscuits followed by a hot main course was greatly appreciated.
The following day wind had increased to around 40 knots. The travel through the rafted ice was a challenge with visibility dropping to zero at times. Thank goodness for GPS and radar but it doesn’t prevent the possibility of nose diving in to a big dip. Sharky stayed cool, reversed out and found a way to get past the gnarly bits.
All in all it was a great break from station routine and a chance to share conversation in the cosy warmth of Platcha Hut.
This week we are enjoying a welcome respite from the strong wind that was previously whistling and moaning around our living quarters and making outdoor travel between buildings quite an undertaking.
There has been a payoff in the sense that we have many big mounds of snow in the lee of our buildings i.e. blizz tails. The wind has sculpted the snow and produced many fascinating shapes that is like eye candy to those of us lucky enough to get up close and personal. To add to the drama we have had snow covering most windows of our living quarters so the view out has been quite restricted. Now that some melt is happening there are some curious patterns emerging that look that a graphic design artist has gone a little crazy and created pop art with snow.
The strong winds have also broken some of the sea ice and reduced our super freeway escape route off station to a single lane country track. It does seem a little odd to look out to Prydz Bay and see open water after viewing frozen sea ice for so long. However it will freeze again once the temperature drops.
A welcome visitor
On Monday afternoon a lone emperor penguin was sighted on the sea ice walking towards the wharf area. It’s been quite a while since we have seen any wildlife so with cameras at the ready a small group of us walked down to get a little closer to our visitor.
The emperors are so photogenic with their plump bodies and that characteristic orange/yellow colouring around their neck. Let’s hope that we see some more of these beautiful birds before end of season, which is approaching way too fast.
Davis station winter group photo
Another bonus that has accrued from the large snow mounds around station is that they make a sensational back drop for photo opportunities.
The whole station gathered so that we could be shot by Barry B1 and framed when we get home. Much fun ensued as we clambered up the steep slopes of the snow hillocks and poised there for a photo memory.
The 70th ANARE winter team, a great bunch of people and a pleasure to live/work with.
Rob (Station Communications Technical Officer)