Tuesday, November 18, 2014

65 - Season 6 and Davis.....three times a charm!!

Well hello friends,

Here we are again for another adventure south, this time back to Davis Station. In my last blog it was a little rushed and at the time along with being rather inebriated. Rush as I was only hours away from getting onto a tourist boat to go home via Christchurch NZ.

Last season was full of extremes as Macquarie Island is a place that I never thought it would be possible for me to go to being a Plant Operator. So in getting the news that I would be going there was something of a shock to say the least. So much so that the butterflies that I had my first season south were back and the excitement was extreme.  I've been dreaming of getting there ever since I meet Rowdy in my first season south at Casey in 2009-10. Rowdy the season before had summered at Macquarie Island or Macca as its better known 2008-09 season 40 years after his father wintered there in 1968.

After showing me a video that had been produced there I was going to go and had a way that was going to enable me to go! Step one was to get my Coxswains (professional boat license), easy enough right. Not so much actually as to get your Coxswains at that time you needed over 300 days (7.5 hours = a day) sea time along with completing the course. Well I went into it thinking I've spent all my life on the water on the Gold Coast and i know boats, well was I wrong. I actually learnt a lot from the course. Thats where the second stage of my plan come into action.

Meeting a friend of a friend, this guy is the trainer of the LARC V operators for the AAD and if anyone was going to be able to steer me in the right direction he was going to be able to. But to meet him I needed to go to Sydney to meet him where I learnt the name of a bloke who's like probably hasn't been the same since, young Frank.

Well after several phone calls I got asked to come in where now I guess I've been with them now for 2 years when I'm home. Turns out the not only did I not need this experience to go to Macca like I first thought but I was going for a whole summer which was the total surprise.

It was a tuff season last one as when departing home I was leaving a mother that has only months before had brain surgery for secondary breast cancer and a partner that really wasn't happy about me going. Both my partner and mother understood that this was something I had been dreaming about for a long time and it was finally coming to fruition.

Communication from Macca was very difficult and although we were on daylight saving time trying to get phone lines was a whole different thing. No phones in the rooms didn't help much either but I was at Macca! I spoke to home as much as I could and ill never forget the date 20th February 2014 after being on the Island for a while and taking in as much as possible I got a message on Facebook.


As I'm sure you can imagine it was a very difficult phone call but what I will also remember from that night was making that call and looking out the window of the building i was in, the room was dark and there was the most amazing Aurora Australis or southern lights dancing across the skies. 

Pic: Michael Goldstein
 Pic: Michael Goldstein
Pic: Michael Goldstein
Not the best pics as my head wasn't really there as you can imagine. So after a quick chat with the Station Leader and a couple days wait to confirmed that I would be departing early on a tourist ship that would be leaving Macca on the 11 March. The longest 19 days of my life were about to commence. The AAD, the Station Leader, David the Deputy Station Leader and all my friends at Macca were excellent. The Div really did make it all happen and for that I will forever be in their dept. 

So as I explained phone calls were difficult at the best of times at Macca but the one I had with my then partner on the 3rd March wasn't a good one either. Close to 5 years of friendship and the woman i was going to come home to and propose to tole me "it wasn't working" just over a week before i was due to get on a ship and come home to my dyeing mother. Hummmmm well I guess ill never really get that one but the stars the following day said it all. Made me laugh as thats all I could do not to cry I guess.......

To add insult to injury I had only just rented my house out as the plan was to move in with her when i got home. So my house was in storage my girlfriend left me for reasons still unknown my mother was dyeing and I could do nothing to get home any other way other than when that ship was going to get there. Sounds like a good country music song too doesn't it..........

So after making it home I was able to spend some really good time with her before she ultimately passed on the 27 May 2014. Probably the most emotionally charged yet numb feeling that I'm still unsure when and if ill ever be totally ok about talking about it without welling up at some point...........

So at that point I'm going to skip forward to this season...................

Decision was made that Dad was ok at home and i would go South again and the offer was Davis. Now out of the big two (Davis and Casey) I definitely lean more towards Davis. More mining camp style but there is not as much of a transient population as the Runway located at Casey sees a changeover in about 20 every time a plane lands. Davis you do get to know people more intimately. 

Before even getting onto the ship for those of us who had been before got word from various newspaper articles and reports that the sea ice around Antarctica was  further out that on record. 

I started at the division on the 17th Oct a Friday and with only 4 days training on the 22nd Oct V1 (voyage 1) departed for Davis. As the lead leaving the coast and up to departure was manic for the first 3 days on the ship all I did was sleep. There was the normal ships induction where one of the things you need to do is put on a immersion suit to help in the coolish southern waters.......

Pic: Michael Goldstein
Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

After that we had a fire muster on the helli deck then hurry up and wait as only Rowdy can......

Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

In the background is the French Antarctic ship L'Astrolabe or we know it better as the gastrolab............mainly being the smallest southern going vessel she rolls around making many who normally don't get seasick violently ill. She would be leaving very shortly after us bound for Dumont d'Urville via Macca to drop the summer people off on their way.

Finally getting underway and start heading out the Derwent River where you'll normally find everyone out on deck to wave off loved one. Also because you don't get very good reception below deck. I was very lucky to have Dad in town to see me off this year and while we were heading out I video called him. Think he wanted to capture the moment, going to have to teach him how to take a screen shot on the iPhone aren't I?

Pic Michael Goldstein

Actually as per normal there isn't much you can do on the ship other than watch movies, talk, eat, sleep, eat some more, sleep some more until we hit the edge of the pack ice. Below is a good little video showing what normal seas are like on the southern ocean........

Video: Cliff Simpson Davis

We didn't think that was going to take tooooooo long as apparently the ice along way south but as it turns out we had some wind which was working to our advantage. Actually what happened is it fanned out the pack ice enabling us to have open water for all but maybe 3-4 hours at a time and only 24hour in total maybe.

 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis
 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis
Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

  Next we made it to the Fast ice which basically is ice that is connected to the continent. On the 5th Oct we hit that we pushed in a couple hundred meters and parked up so we could get the choppers going. The Fast Ice edge was around 10km from station which wasn't ideal as we only had 4km of fuel line so the ship needed to push in another 6km before it would be in position. The resupply crew were then flown ashore including myself while they were doing that so we could get ourselves inducted in all the machinery, station and ready the areas we needed to locate all the materials coming ashore.

Finally there!!!!

 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis
 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

Duckie up on the bow big cheesy grin to boot! 
Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

Visitors taking a look at the fuel like running ashore........
 Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

My office................
Pic: Cliff Simpson Davis

Resupply done enabling us to get everything ashore and everything we were intending to get back to Australia on the ship. Transferred nearly 850,000l of SAB (Special Antarctic Blend Diesel) without a problem and all done in 6 days. 

NOW THE REAL WORK STARTS.................

Stay real


P.S........."Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

             Albert Einstein