The ship was due to arrive a week ago but it found itself 300nm away stuck in the ice. Since then it has made very little progress and we’ve been in limbo, ready for them to arrive. Meanwhile we’ve had our first outside contact since February as the Canadians have flown in to join us.
My last jolly was tied onto the end of a work visit to Whoop Whoop, as our station leader battened down the hatches to ensure everything was ready for resupply. I can’t help but think that we’ve worked ourselves into a frenzy over nothing again, spending several weeks discussing bringing out the additional kitchen tables to cater for the summerers, and then doing the job in about ten minutes. Needless to say that once we realised how silly we had been we moved the tables back again – we might as well relax while we can, the ship will come when it comes.
With the limited mobility and finding myself tiring of the rigamarole involved in leaving station limits I’ve taken to opportunistic runs to Marchants landing (a kilometer each way). With the sun shining and light winds it is quite pleasant in shorts and joggers, a good opportunity for a tan. I began to think this was a delusional goal but in fact some people have recently gotten sunburnt lately – the ozone hole is now over us again.
While the last week of weather has been perfect at Davis, on the 26th of October we had possibly our heaviest snowfall of the season. The subsequent blow of 40 knots left a mess of soft snow for the diggers. But in the end there was no reason to hurry – a few hundred miles offshore the weather stayed glum and the ship was struggling to find any leads through the ice. The snow made a good surface for the runway however and on October 28 we had our first visitors.
The Basler (DC-3 airframe with turbine engines) and twin otter had travelled down from Canada over the past month. It sounds like the crux of the journey is the crossing from South America to the British base of Rothera on the Antarctic peninsula. They waited a week for suitable weather as once over the Drake passage they reach a point of no return. Apparently Rothera’s airstrip is nothing like the luxurious ski way we had prepared. After Rothera it is another wait for weather suitable for the long haul to McMurdo via South Pole. Despite being a 14+ hour trip it is not ideal to leave the aircraft overnight at the South Pole due to the extreme cold.
After passing through Casey last week the Canadians are now being spoilt by great weather at Davis. So much so that even with the fuss involved with a nine minute Hagglund trip off station, the walk up Bluff island was a worthwhile venture.
The warbling of these cape petrels was a welcome change to the incongrous squawk of an itinerant Adelie penguin.
Last year when we arrived the sea ice was in poor shape and looked noticeably dirty. Around station there is some evidence of how much difference a few specks of dirt can make to the snow melting. This poses a risk to our landing strip, hopefully it serves us well until the ship leaves.
But first the ship has to arrive – meanwhile I’m discussing plans to hijack one of the aircraft and fly back to South America! The Basler has completed a reconnaisance mission to the ship to look for ice leads – nothing very positive – and the twin otter has flown to Mawson to prove the runway. Ironically we are no longer allowed to use the skiway until an AGSO from the ship gives it a tick of approval. We’ve been told that the helicopters will be deployed from the ship as soon as it is within 100nm. Most of us are already thinking of home but right now, Antarctica rules still apply.