The ship has left Hobart to come and get us and our time here is quickly coming to a close. On the one hand I’m mercilessly harassing our risk averse station leader into letting me experience everything I can in the last few weeks, and as a result I’ve pulled off some great little trips away.
It was dark outside Davis living quarters on Sunday morning as we made the final preparations for departure on our traverse to the Rauer island group. A small handful of dedicated fellow expeditioners had gathered to send us off, somehow making things seem serious. We are only going for five days, right? Nevertheless the six of us, three in each vehicle, were going to have to be completely sufficient for our trip as we would be too far away from the skeleton crew left at station for them to be of any help. This trip was in many ways the climax of the winter season. My best day of the Antarctic experience was the helicopter trip to the Rauer islands in the summer. This Rauers traverse trip was to be the best week.
If I remember correctly, my next post was going to be about how we are all slowly (or not so slowly) going nuts, isolated in the confines of a winterised Antarctic station. Well thankfully such an eventuality (along with associated blog post) has been put on hold (for now at least) by a much appreciated trip off station in the last couple of days before our final winter sunset. Our resident comms ninja Rich left Mark at the helm (ever vigilantly monitoring the radio for our witty and hopefully somewhat informative transmissions) to lead a party of four into the wilderness that is Platcha hut (and surrounds). With us was Paul the musician slash plumber and Bob the avid collector of nicknames who I shall simply refer to as the crazy scientist.
Our three day trip included several walks but was based around quad bikes, a sensational way to get around and explore now that the sea ice has finally been opened for travel.
As wintering expeditioners (yes, sounds serious and perhaps over the top, but that’s what they call us) we do a three day field training course with an FTO (field training officer). Since this season is short and we are already late it was a bit tricky to coordinate things so the sea ice was, er, still there. Of the three groups, the first was dropped off at Bandits hut and spent their first day trying to get away – the tide crack around the island had opened up leaving them more or less stranded. But they eventually managed to get in a good trip. The second group reportedly spent most of their time pushing quad bikes through soft snow. Our group was the third and final group, and we were told that it was looking like quad bikes were out and we’d be walking.