At Wilkes looking towards Casey. Photo Brian Brawley
Sunday, 28th January, saw us pushing our way out through the pack ice once more, heading for Davis some 900 nautical miles away. The weather was overcast and somewhat foggy, but
due to the latitude and ice the sea was calm. Once again ‘Mr Kodak’ rubbed his hands as many ice ﬂoes (populated by penguins and seals of various species) were sighted in the sea, as were numerous whales. We also sighted our own Australian Antarctic ship, the MV Aurora Australis, which was involved in an extended oceanographic survey. The ‘Aurora’ was to spend several months zigzagging through the great Southern Ocean whilst we did the ‘hard yakka’ – and saw Antarctica. Somewhat late, a special dinner was held on board to mark Australia Day – and to mark the crossing of the Antarctic Circle. Some passengers dressed up in true dinner gear; others let their hair down in true Aussie fashion. The food on board was absolutely great, there was only one problem and that was to know when (and how) to stop eating!
Midday on Friday 2nd February saw us in sight of the Vestfold Hills and Davis station. Davis holds a special place in my heart, it was there that I spent 1982. When I was being
interviewed for that position I was asked if I had a preference for any station, I said “Not really, but would rather not go to Macquarie island as it was only halfway. If I was going South I wanted to go as far as possible”, and so they placed me at Davis.
Tuesday. 27th February 1996 — D (for departure) Day. Time to leave Casey and Antarctica for the long rough trip back to Hobart (and Liz, my wife.) The trip back was a bit rougher and a few (lot) of expeditioners felt a bit (very) sea sick. This had its positive side as with 94 expeditioners on board, and only 60 seats in the mess, it made it a lot easier to find a seat.
I had mixed feelings on this leg of the trip. Firstly I was sorry to leave a part of the world that I love, the last frontier that so few people can visit. A place where people of all nations can work, talk, play and experience things in goodwill, and without enmity. Then I envied those people we had left behind who would experience a winter in this remote land, who would have the chance to fulfil their dream of adventure. And lastly, the joy and anticipation of returning home to be reunited with my loved ones. The trip was long and rough; we were hammered quit a bit, but knowing that Hobart was just over the horizon made it worthwhile, and then on Thursday, 7th March at 7am we docked at Hobart wharf. The trip of a lifetime was over. The trip was absolutely, bloody fantastic and to cap it all off Liz came over to Tassie so we spent 10 days making a quick lap of the island. We travelled 2,500 kms and saw a stack of scenic places, but if you think Tasmania is a small, quickly seen place you’re wrong! Next time we plan to spend a month, or six weeks, or…. So two months and one day after leaving Mt Compass I was home again and back to the grindstone. However I have this idea, that if it comes off maybe, just maybe, then there could be another trip back to THE BIG WHITE FREEZER.
In a nutshell, it was a real shock to the system to see the overall size and complexity of the stations, the stores are a real eye—opener. In the ‘good old days’ of ‘82 you got a cake of soap out of the box — now you have a choice of about four different brands!
There is a lot of good scientific work being done, and hard work being completed in the field, but, as in all walks of life, there are some who, I feel, could do more to serve the cause. Some are just using the system for a ‘paid jolly’ and I believe this is regrettable and to the detriment of all expeditioners. But, all in all, the Division, and Australia, should feel proud of the commitment involved in our work in Antarctica.
The work being done in cleaning up and RTA of all rubbish is a real plus. Wilkes needs a big clean-up and both Davis and Mawson need a clean out of the old, run-down buildings – except for two or three of the old huts that should be restored as a reminder of the past. To restore, and maintain all the huts would be just too expensive, and many are just too far gone.
In closing there are a few thank-yous to hand out, to the Division, ANARE and the Director. To Steve Reeves, the Voyage Leader (VL), who was a real pleasure to meet and work with – I take my hat off to him. To Dave Moser, DVL, who is following in Steve’s footsteps, is a real gentleman. To the Captain and crew of the Polar Bird, to a man they were imbued with the best of ‘Antarctic fellowship’, a credit to themselves and their ship’s company. I must admit that I had wet eyes when I shook hands and had to say that final goodbye to the crew. Finally, to the ANARE Club thanks for selecting me. I did all I could to put the aims, and name, of the Club forward, and whilst taking advantage of the extended range of goods and others‘ organisational skills, I believe I broke all records in selling club paraphernalia.