Thursday, 31 January 2013

Thursday 31st January 2013

This morning we sailed back to Davis in 3o knot wind and by the time we got to Davis the wind had dropped enough to drop anchor and resume un-loading cargo.

This morning was one of those days you wish you never got out of bed. Everybody was spitting the dummy as they couldn’t make phone calls either to Davis or to home. We are on the very fringe of satellite operation here in Antarctica and it’s hard to explain to people that it’s a miracle it’s working at all. We have four satellite paths to chose from which can give us telephones and Email, and while at Davis we have another radio link to shore that can give us a slow Internet connection, yet if we get congestion on the phone circuits or degraded satellite links somehow it’s my fault. We are only a mile off Davis station, yet our phone calls go via two satellites over a distance of 100,00km++ round trip just to get there. I have suggested to head office a simple radio telephone or a private channel on VHF marine radio used as a hot line would solve all these operational issues, but they don’t want to listen.

Satellite systems on board Aurora Australis;
1)      INMARSAT Fleet Board band (Two independent systems, one on the starboard side and one on the port side and we can select either digital VoIP or analogue circuit) $0.38/m

2)      IRIDIUM ($1.20/m)

3)      INMARSAT ($3.58/m)

4)      Least cost route through wave rider 2.4GHz link to ANARE satellite at Antarctic stations ($0.20/m) 
I’m on the roster as coxswain tonight at 18:00, so I’m looking forward to getting out on the water again. Let’s hope some ice berg’s blow in and some elephant seal come around and make it an interesting evening and not too cold. After sorting out all the technical issues I spent most of the day updating my blog.
Water temp -0.3 degree
Air temp -0.25 degree
Wind W @ 5 knots
Lon 77.93E & Lat 68.57S

Working as coxswain on an IRB at Davis station

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Wednesday 30th January 2013

Yesterday afternoon we successfully transferred the 29 tonne excavator to shore and the 25 tonne crane to the ship. It was a tense moment for all and a relief to complete the heavy lifts safely without an incident. We also transferred live marine samples to the ships aquarium laboratories for transport back to Hobart.
With the weather forecasted to deteriorate we packed up the ship and moved 10 nm off shore last night with the plan to return to Davis first up this morning. The sail out was surreal with flat calm ocean and sea mist covering the huge bergs in ice berg alley. I took some amazing photos of the bergs and sea ice and of the sunset around midnight before going to bed. Keldyn was out there too and man was it cold, our fingers, noses and ears where frozen. The weather forecast was spot on and we have been riding out the strong winds out in the open ocean and it has given us a chance to sleep in and relax for 24 hours. I got my washing done, changed my sheets, cleaned the bathroom and watched a couple of movies. The current plan is to sail back into Davis early tomorrow morning to complete the re-supply as the following three days weather is forecasted to be good, and then depart Davis mid-afternoon on Saturday 02 February bound for Mawson.

@ 14:00 UTC (9pm local)
Speed 3 knots
Heading NE
Roll 3 degree
Pitch 3 degree
Depth 300 meters
Water temp -1.10 degree
Air temp -0.50 degree
Wind E @ 41 knots
Lon 77.54E & Lat 68.56S

All these photo's were taken on the way out from Davis



Ever seen a penguin surfing ?


This photo was taken on the way back into Davis blowing 45 knots


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tuesday 29th January 2013

This morning I awoke to see all the hills covered in snow and I had to get up early as I was rostered on as coxswain on the IRB assisting assembly of the uni-floats and making runs between the ship and shore. I had good fun pushing these huge steal float sections around and into place but it was cold work sitting in one place for five hours and it was snowing on and off.

There were several huge elephant seals in the water near us and two of them were fighting. I was busy watching the work face when two of them swam right under our boat and scared the hell out of me. They were bigger than cars. They make the most revolting noises but are amazing creatures. I saw a skull of one and they have teeth like a tiger. Also in the water were tiny krill swimming around, so I guess that is what all the Adelie penguins are feeding on. When my shift was over I returned to the ship for lunch (Chicken Kiev) and shortly after we unloaded the thirty tonne excavator and placed it on the specially configured assembled uni-float’s I had been working on this morning (This configuration can carry up to 40 tonnes ) and then it was towed into the boat ramp to be driven off. We have one going to Mawson as well and I really hope I get the opportunity to have a go of it sometime as it has always been on my bucket list to operate an excavator.
We are now into our 4thfull day of resupply. Yesterday afternoon we completed the refuelling of Davis and the hose reel and refuelling equipment was then packed away in an orderly fashion ready for deployment at Mawson when we get there.  After delivering the excavator we are now retrieving a 25 tonne crane from Davis. Mobile equipment on station is changed out at regular intervals based on the life cycle of the particular equipment.
Round trip projects on the station are progressing to plan and all are expected to be completed prior to our departure for Mawson.
Whilst the weather remains good for resupply stronger winds to 45 knots are forecasted for tomorrow.  If this is the case resupply activities will be curtailed and the ship may need to move further off shore until the winds abate.
Water temp -0.3 degree
Air temp -2.25 degree
Wind N @ 5 knots
Lon 77.93E & Lat 68.57S
Assembling the uni-floats at Davis jetty 
 Assembling the uni-floats at Davis jetty
 Assembling the uni-floats at Davis jetty
Assembling the uni-floats at Davis jetty
Elephant seals fighting at Davis jetty
Unloading the 30 tonne excavator at Davis station
Unloading the 30 tonne excavator at Davis station
Unloading the 30 tonne excavator at Davis station

Monday, 28 January 2013

Monday 28th January 2013

Today I was rostered off so I went ashore with our doctor Lloyd for a look around and a long walk around the station perimeter. The weather was perfect, sunny and very little breeze although it was about minus two. We walked out the back of the station passing through lots of antenna installations and towers out into the wilderness. This place is really amazing, more like what you’d expect to see on Mars and not in Antarctica. All Australian stations are built on rock and only about 2% of Antarctica has exposed rock and most of it is at Davis. It’s a geologist’s play ground with all different types and shapes of rocks. Most of them ground smooth by glacier action and weathered by the wind and extreme cold. Heaps of large boulders and ground up rock has been deposited here by glaciers in the past ice age that have long ago retreated.

They have also gouged out many lakes which have filled up with sea water of varying salinity. Some of them are so salty they never freeze even at minus thirty degrees. The ice plateau at Davis is about ten kilometres inland. At the moment all the sea ice has melted and there is only a very small amount of ice about, but out on the horizon are hundreds of grounded ice bergs. When the wind changes direction, many small ice bergs come floating into the harbour causing a bit of havoc when we were refuelling across the water. On station there are many huge elephant seals lying on the beach either sleeping or fighting. Sometimes they lay on the road blocking all traffic.
We walked out to the closest lake where we could see other lakes and the ice plateau in the distance. From here we cut across to the coast and followed the coast back to the station. Along the way we came upon an old RMIT field hut and saw many penguins, skua's and swifts. While looking at something on the beach I was surprised to turn around to find a penguin right behind me.
We walked about ten kilometres and by the time we got back to the station we were both knackered. The doc is 70, so I could only imagine what he felt like. Back at Davis I met up with quite a few blokes I had met in Kingston including Glen Williams, a really nice guy I went to school with. I found out the station leader used to be a copper at Cowes police station. If that wasn’t enough, I used to work with my boss back at Kingston at Essendon airport back in about 1982. It’s a very small world. We had dinner at Davis in the new mess/recreation building that was finished last year. It is a really beautiful building and all the buildings here are really good quality and a great asset to Australia. My evening was topped off with a few beers at the bar and after two weeks at sea, man did they taste good.
While I was off on a jolly, cargo operations at Davis continue, we are making good progress. The uni-float’s and the jet barge are working in tandem keeping the team at the wharf on their toes. The refuelling hose was deployed yesterday afternoon and the pumping of fuel was commenced at 19:00 hours.  Pumping will be continuous until the full supply of 600,000 litres of SAB (Special Antarctic Blend) diesel is delivered to the station. The monitoring which is put in place throughout the refuelling process is complex with personnel positioned along the hose route to ensure any problems are identified early. This also involves IRB’s (Inflatable rubber boats) continuously patrolling along the 2 kilometre hose to ensure no large pieces of ice interfere with it. It is envisaged that pumping time will be 17 hours. The weather remains good, perfect for resupply.
Water temp -0.1 degree
Air temp -1.0 degree
Wind N @ 1 knots
Lon 77.93E & Lat 68.57S

Running out and patrolling the 2km long re-fuelling line

Pushing ice berg's clear of the re-fuelling line

 Heavy equipment in the forward hold ready for removal and transportation to Davis station

Jet barge moving containers to Davis

Beautiful weather at Davis and surrounded by ice berg's

Beautiful weather at Davis and surrounded by ice berg's

Elephant seals asleep on the beach at Davis station

Elephant seals fighting on the beach at Davis station

Walking out to the lakes behind Davis station

Large rocks dropped out of glaciers (glacial erratic's) behind Davis station

Lakes 4 kms behind Davis station

RMIT caravan on the beach 2 kms East of Davis station

RMIT caravan on the beach 2 kms East of Davis station

Inside the RMIT caravan

Adelie penguin walked up to us for a visit

Aurora Australis anchored at Davis station

Aurora Australis anchored at Davis station

The mess at Davis station

Nino's bar at Davis station

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Amateur Radio from Mawson Station

As a recreation hobby and to help pass the time while at Mawson, I have brought along with me some amateur radio equipment which I hope to use to make contact with other radio amateur's all around the world. If you are lucky enough to make contact with me via amateur radio you will be eligible to apply for a commemorative coin and a QSL card. My new friend in the States Jon Utley K7CO has designed a beautiful commemorative coin and I have designed my QSL card. Jon will be my QSL manager for both. Visit my page on for further details.

Sunday 27th January 2013

Cargo operations have been in full swing for the last 24 hours with multiple trips being conducted from ship to shore with the Jet barge loaded with cargo. Over length cargo was transported on the uniflotes utilising the Aurora Australis II workboat as a prime mover. Preparations for refuelling commenced late morning hauling out the 1.5 kms of fuel hose and anchoring it into position, with the plan to commence the pumping of fuel ashore in the late afternoon. The weather forecast is for good conditions for at least the next 2 days and we need to take full advantage of that.

Today was tinged with great sadness.  Yesterday we received news of the loss of a Canadian crewed Twin Otter Aircraft which provided aviation services to the AAD particularly Casey and Davis stations. The plane was lost in Antarctica on its way home back to Canada after completing summer operations.  Over summer this crew had spent a great deal of time on the Stations and were fondly regarded as part of the team. A video hook-up was conducted across the Australian Stations and with The Director of the Australian Antarctic Division at Kingston in Hobart. Those expeditioners on board the Aurora Australis who knew the crew well from previous seasons went ashore to attend the video hook-up.  It was a time to reflect that those lost were part of the Australian Antarctic family and were fondly remembered as such.
Water temp -0.3 degree
Air temp -0.25 degree
Wind W @ 5 knots
Lon 77.93E & Lat 68.57S

Elephant seals laying on the beach at Davis station

Davis COMCEN (Communications centre)
Flag's half mast for deceased pilots

Unloading containers at Davis

Not sure what this is ?

Davis Bureau of Meteorology weather baloon shed