Monday, June 20, 2016

75 - Mid Winters and cool clouds.....

Hello friends

well mid winters is upon us, and back in the real world mid winters celebrations have started this weekend with a ANARE club (Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition) dinner in Hobart on the weekend. To many this time of the year means nothing at all but to us it's a special time. Special as it means the winter solstice has passed and the sun that has been missing from our skies will now slowly start to show itself again.

Ive actually been surprised how easily it's been to get use to the fact that the most we get as far as sunlight is concerned is twilight for 3-4 hours a day. Maybe it's because of all the shift work I did when I was involved in the bakeries but it's been easy. Its also a time for me to be a little nostalgic on the traditions and footsteps i'm following.

Im part of a relatively rare club now only approximately 5060 people before me have joined in the 69 years as part of the ANARE and Australian Antarctic Division. The 69th ANARE totals 72 people this year with 16 wintering here at Davis, 15 wintering at Mawson and Macquarie Island and 26 wintering at Casey Station. We do have it much easier than they did back in the day.

1898 was the first time anyone wintered over here in Antarctica with 10 men and 75 sledging dogs. With many hardships and near death experiences. Fire and asphyxiation caused a couple close calls which still to this day are dangers we face. Some interesting reading HERE on Carsten Borchrevink a Norwegian born Australian who was part of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

The first 10 to winter in Antarctica as part of the British Antarctic Expedition 1989-1900 included the names below and if your interested in knowing more have a look HERE.

Bernacchi, Louis Charles - Astronomer and Physicist -
Borchgrevink, Carsten E. - Expedition leader - 
Colbeck, William - Magnetic observer and cartographer - W
Ellifsen, Kolbein - Cook - W
Evans, Hugh - Assistant zoologist - W
Fougner, Anton - Scientific Assistant - W
Hanson, Nicolai - Zoologist - W

Klovstad, Herlof - Medical Officer - W
Must, Ole - a Norwegian Laplander - W
Savio, Persen - a Norwegian Laplander - W
 One thing that did interest me when I was reading about the these guys was the name of the ship they sailed down on.  The SS Southern Cross maybe because all the talk about the new ice breaker we are currently building but really does sum up both Australia and also with the Antarctic history you never know. Have a look at that ship HERE.

So 1913 Midwinters in Commonwealth Bay winter had all the more famous names like:

Dr. D. Mawson          Commander of the Expedition
Lt. R. Bage            Astronomer, Assistant Magnetician & Recorder of Tides
C.T. Madigan           Meteorologist
Lt. B.E.S. Ninnis      In charge of Greenland dogs
Dr. X. Mertz           In charge of Greenland dogs
A.L. McLean            Chief Medical Officer, Bacteriologist
F.H. Bickerton         In charge of air-tractor sledge
A.J. Hodgeman          Cartographer and Sketch Artist
J.F. Hurley            Official Photographer
E.N. Webb              Chief Magnetician
P.E. Correll           Mechanic and Assistant Physicist
J.G. Hunter            Biologist
C.F. Laseron           Taxidermist & Biological Collector
F.L. Stillwell         Geologist
H.D. Murphy            In charge of Expedition stores
W. H. Hannam           Wireless Operator and Mechanic
J.H. Close             Assistant Collector
L.A. Whetter           Surgeon

more about their story HERE.

And for their midwinters they produced this 

The Pic is obviously one of Hurleys more famous pics but it was pit together for the AAE 
(Australian Antarctic Expedition).  

So basically I guess im trying to say how honoured I feel to be part of it. So as is tradition to send out invitations to loved one im going to extend one to you. Fire up the tardis, dust off the magic carpet and get yourselves down here its going to be fun.

 Your now invited so better hurry and get yourself here only a little over 24 hours to get here!!

If you can make it dont worry ill be doing another blog later this week to fill you all in on the days events.

Last weekend (L/R in pic below)Ladge, Jen, Vas, Chris, Scott and Aaron decided we were going to have a Ice bar and this is what they knocked up. Like the ice bars back home but outside not in a freezer!

Pic : Aaron Stanley
 On grand opening night hawaiian shirts all round for a quick pic as the drinks were beginning to freeze, i guess that one downfall.

Pic : Aaron Stanley
Last Friday we had the coolest we have had so fat this did get down to -38c but only managed to get a screenshot

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures from outside as I was madly working on food for mid winters but the exhaust from the main power house (MPH) was hanging in the air. Really was spectacular but yea it was coolish thats for sure. 

A little earlier we did have some Noctilucent clouds show up. Amazing clouds these pics don't do them justice. There was only a little patch but you can imagine a sky full is mind blowing.  

Pic Michael Goldstein
Pic Michael Goldstein
SO these particular clouds are around 80km above the ground and can only be seen when the sun is below the horizon. Have a look HERE for the technical stuff about them but you could also have a look at the video below which is pretty cool!!

So tomorrow we will be getting the swimming hole ready for our swim. Its going to be great, i've done it once before when I was living in Canada with my good friend Mary. She suggested it and I told her I would only if she did. I did let her wear a short sleeved and short legged wetsuit but she did it and i don't think she has ever fully forgiven me for that. It was -27c that day and within minutes of getting out my hair was frozen. Not going to have that problem this time as well.........I don't have ANYWHERE as much hair. 

Anyhoo think its a good time to wrap this one up as you'll be getting another soon enough. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Mid Winters!! 

Take Care


P.S..........."Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles." 
Og Mandino 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

74 - A weekend at Bandits, breathtaking sunsets and bye bye to the sun.....

Hello Friends

well here again and lots been happening in the weeks since my last entry into the world or BLOG. Last week I was talking about the real person in charge of the station and one person didn't agree with me. Young Steve from Casey, well you'll be happy to know i've spoken to the Chef at Casey and he will now be on dehydrated meals for the rest of the season, sorry Steve! I also got another email from someone else who gave me a link to the supplier for the eggs we use here. Its a little different when you think about it as the eggs we have here are already close to 7 months old. How do they last so long...........check it out HERE.  But just incase you cant be bothered ill cut to the chase they are oiled.

Mind out eggs are ok on station but in the field they are a BIG no no. A couple years ago with the outbreak of the bird influenza highlighted this. So rather than put the penguins at risk of contracting something we have brought down with us we limit the consumption of anything bird or chicken related to station and only stuff like 2 minute chicken noodle soup is allowed into the field, well let's face it there no chicken in it anyway! Pasteurized powdered egg is allowed as all the possible nasties have been removed. I do make a mean powdered egg omelet too even if i do say so myself!!

Righto, well the weekend before last as I mentioned in the last blog a group of 5 of us went into the field. We went to a field hut called Bandits which is the furthest from Station at about 26km to the North East. Originally built in 1983 to support seal research it lay on top of a rocky outcrop on an island. Fantastic views to the South the Plateau.................

Pic Michael Goldstein
Ive been experimenting with a panorama program and been getting some mixed results. The pic below is actually 10 pics 5 wide x 2 high and file size in its full copy 105mb here you can only see a small one but imagine how big i could blow it up to!!

Pic Michael Goldstein
and to the North West Iceberg Alley and beautiful sunsets amongst the bergs..........

Pic Michael Goldstein
Mind you up close they are quite impressive too......
Pic Michael Goldstein

Riding through the Icebergs is an experience. Below Darren took a pic and you can see how loaded up we aere. Along with our personal effects there are some standard survival gear you need to take. Your personal survival bag (backpack) has the basics in it but when you through a quad into the mix you need more. Put the quads on sea ice and you need more again. Quad recovery gear is the bigish ogange bag you see on the quad second from left and you need 1 per 2 quads meaning with the 5 quads we needed 3. In them you have ropes, pulleys, ice screws for recovering a bike bogged or fallen through the ice. Then there is also jump leads (for flat batteries on the quads) a tyre pump and tools. We also have to take a ice drill so we can measure the ice in areas where the thickness of the ice is unknown. Ice needs to be at least 300mm thick to support the weight of a quad thankfully everywhere we went it was almost tripple that at 900mm.
Pic Darren White
 Dazza enjoying himself.....

Pic Darren White
Feild huts also have a supply of food in them. Here you can see as the heat is building up in the hut the bottles thawing out............

Pic Darren White 
Relaxing at the table after dinner but before the cards came out and a new game "joe" anyone played that one before????

Pic Darren White
 The ride home was a little cooler too with temps getting to -29c. Visors were freezing making it next to impossible to see unless you had the visors up. That had its draw backs though as you can imagine. Dazzas lovely frosty eyelashes tell the story............

Pic Darren White

Moving right along here to Deep Lake, it's located only  about 8-10km as the crow flies from station. There is two ways which you get there depends on how long it will take. There is the long way which is walking from Station and the short way which involves a quad bike ride to Brooks Field hut and a short walk to get there.

Bottom left you can see Davis and middle right Deep Lake.......

The Lake levels have been monitored monthly since the 1976, as it’s a unique lake in the area. Around some 3000 - 5000 years ago sea levels dropped cutting seawater off from the lake. Since then evaporation has occurred and the lake has become hyper saline. The lake contains 270g of salt per liter and the saltiest by far in this area of the Vestfold Hills. Remarkably Deep lake as salty as it is is only a couple kilometers from freshwater lakes and comparing it to the Dead Sea at 340g of salt per litre its up there.

A Lake surface temperature can drop to -20c and never freezes over winter so probably not the best idea to put your hands in there as you'll get frostbite quite quickly. Sometimes with a little melt fresh water on top there might be a very thin ice cover and a dusting of snow but don't be fooled it's not thick enough to hold anyone. Over summer the surface of the lake can be as high as +10c. The record from Deep lake is one of the longest non weather records continually monitored in Antarctica. Keeping the record going is very important as the lake is a state of the environment indicator.

A fair bit of research has been done over the years out there and I did find one article which I thought quite interesting HERE.

Below Darren took some pics from his trip and first up is a pic from his quad on his way to Brooks Hut.......

Pic Darren White 
A quick selfie on the way with a bit of everything in it.....Bergs, quad and the moon.

Pic Darren White

Deep Lake......

Pic Darren White
Ladge with Deep Lake in the background......

Pic Darren White

Left to right.....Dr John, Ladge and Dazza loving the cold a little too much I think it might be affecting Dazza a little making his tongue to silly things!!

Pic Darren White

Last weekend myself and Aaron went for a little cruise on the quads to try and get some shots of the sun going down amongst the bergs and as a little bonus we also got the moon going down too. Aaron took some nice pics of me taking pics. As you can see its a little cool with only 3 layers on probably -20c.......

Pic Aaron Stanley

Pic Aaron Stanley

Pic Aaron Stanley
Pic Aaron Stanley
Was amazing that the moon didn't go vertically down but diagonally down.....
Pic Michael Goldstein
The ber below is the same as on the left of the above pic along with having to walk 100m to get it in exactly the right position to make it in the middle of the berg. 

Pic Michael Goldstein
Then the other direction was also stinning......
Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein
Davis Station in the twilight...........

Pic Michael Goldstein
So the last big thing that happened since my last blog was the last setting of the sun. Winter is the other extreme of summer's midnight sun with no sun and Tuesday marked the last sunrise and sunset. It's quite amazing as we have all been so busy that i haven't really noticed that we had been losing so much light so quickly. 

At the moment we are still getting light but the sun is hiding under the horizon giving us a nice soft twilight. On Tuesday at 13:24 Davis Station time the sun came up behind cloud but the whole station was there to experience it.

Pic Aaron Stanley 
Pic Aaron Stanley
 About 1/2 hour later at 13:58 the sun had disappeared under the horizon and that was it and we were back to work.

SO time seems to be going very quickly at the moment, in no time at all Mid-winter's (winter solstice) which is a big celebration time in Antarctica. It's been about 7 months here and dose and doesn't feel like a long time. So much has happened both here and home that you really do at times feel like you're missing out. 

Found out yesterday that my little sister is engaged which is great but it's times like this you know you're missing out on what's happening in the "real world". 

Anyway enough of me for this blog hope everyone is well and not too wet with all the rain up the Eastern seaboard at the moment.

Take Care


P.S............."I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it 
                  shows me the stars."                                                                                      
                   Og Mandino