Cricket with Seals

The surreal and sublime become the norm here, yesterday I was in the sea breaking 20cm thick sheet ice with a heavy steel pole so that people could go for a swim, we then went and played cricket on the beach right next to some Elephant seals. Last week I was strapping cameras to a helicopter and trying to get stuck up a radio mast. Week before that…..I have no idea, that was too long ago…

Here’s a short film of around station from the Helicopter.

The ‘Can do’ attitude is definitely what separate’s the people here from those in normal urban life, people here don’t flinch about getting creative and the effort required to get something right – Australia day was no exception, we could have just settled for throwing a ball around on the beach, not here, the beach was leveled, a balcony stand was installed, containers of seating were delivered and the triple J hottest 100 (radio station) was streamed via the internet and delayed so that it was played on time to give that true Aussie day feel. Likewise for the Aussie day swim flags were installed, ice broken, emergency services were on standby and flasks of hot coffee available on the beach for those stupid enough to go in….Personally, I spent most of my twenties jumping in and out of glacial waters as a canoeist….I had no point to prove here so happily lifeguarded instead!

We only have three weeks now (roughly!) until the summer is over, by that I mean that all the trade staff and scientists will return to Australia on the Aurora Australis leaving us our skeleton crew of twenty one to maintain the station throughout the long winter months. We’ve been having some darkness in the night now which is increasing in duration rather rapidly, on the 18th of Jan was the first night of ‘non perpetual sunlight’ and we had about twenty minutes of ‘darkness’, by the time it gets round to Feb 25th we’ll be on nine hours, it changes very quickly. Having the ship turn up again will be weird, it’s still in Hobart currently and it’s exact course is still undecided at this stage as it may well visit one of the other Australian station crews and collect their ‘summerers’ before coming to us here at Davis. I’m hoping for some presents on the ship in the form of a camera lense, some batteries for my watch, a 2014 Kelly Brook calendar and some Berghaus gore tex pants I bought second hand on Gumtree….Ooooh the excitement!

I played in the band on the evening before Australia day, on the whole it went well and everyone enjoyed themselves, a bit of band squabbling and a bass player who’d drunk too much and forgot how to play, my wrist got cramp during ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ and I did my best impression of Michael J Fox during ‘Back to the Future’ as I was unable to play at all and made all sorts of hellish noises trying. That asides though, people drunk lots of beer, danced like idiots, thought we were ‘awesome’ and then proceeded to act in a feral manner until there was nobody left standing. The person in the room next to mine awoke some time during the night and slid across and down the wall adjoining our rooms until smashing onto the floor and breaking a number of things, the silence that followed was quite ominous, I could only assume that he’d either a) knocked himself unconscious, b) been visited by or tried to ride an elephant seal home or was c) dead. I made a note to check if he was alive if he wasn’t sighted by midday the following day.

I got another feather to the cap in getting made ERT (Emergency Response Team) leader for the Winter, basically I will oversee both fire and search & rescue and continually provide any training to ensure we’re capable and ready. All winter staff are trained in SAR and Fire which makes them all the more conscious of exactly what’s expected of them and likewise more pro-active in not letting the ‘situations’ happen in the first place. Hopefully we’ve had all our SAR incidents for the year but you can’t get complacent..

I ran a bit of Fire training last Saturday morning for all the wintering team, full breathing apparatus simulation of entering our living quarters and doing a ‘snatch and grab’ rescue on an unconscious casualty. All fairly straight forward in principle but I blacked out their masks to only have the same visibility as you’d find in a real fire which is basically very little, we filled the area with ‘debris’ and turned all the lights out, the BA control was in place to stress limitations on oxygen tank contents too, overall a good effort by everyone even with a few nasty curveballs I threw in just to catch them off guard.

A few jobs lined up this week from a comms perspective, we’ve got some work to do to on the LNA in the sat dish, this is at an awkward height for us so I’ve had some scaffolding put in to the dome so we can work comfortably, hopefully we’ll get a clear day’s weather this week too so that we can get up the radio masts around station and start checking them for any maintenance requirements – We’ll need this to get going soon as I don’t want us climbing masts in the autumn, too cold to work at height even in 10 knots of wind, it cuts through you and makes the apparent temperature around -10c which is hard work when trying to do fiddly things with cables where you often need to take your gloves off..

Other than that I managed a trip out to Brooks hut last week and we ran back, it’s about 10km but both Davis and Casey stations we’re doing a competitive run against each other to see how many kms we could do between all of the expeditioners – All in good fun but it was to commemorate the death of the three Canadian pilots working for us who crashed last year flying between Davis and Casey. Davis station clocked up something like 480 kms between all of us whereas Casey got I believe about 280….Pft 🙂

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