Day 1 – 23rd October 2014
Position: -Latitude: 44.26, Longitude: 144.36
We awoke to reasonably calm seas, only a 3 metre swell. A lot of the expeditioners were still familiarising themselves with the layout of the ship and getting their sea legs, but a few were just staying in their cabins trying to overcome the motion sickness.
The Plankton sampling dredge was released earlier today and I understand it will take samples over a 500NM distance.
James Hamilton gave a slide show and talk about 4 different methods of travel through New Zealand, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Horseback riding and skiing, he certainly showed some beautiful aspects of NZ that are not on the usual tourism maps.
The clocks will be turned back 1 hour tonight.
Day 3 – 25th October 2014
Position: -Latitude: 48.36, Longitude: 134.27
Not much happened around the ship yesterday but today is a different story. Pilates on the Helideck by the fitness fraternity and is being well attended by about 15 people.
We had a Muster Drill this morning with every expeditioner decked out in all their survival gear ready for the worst of any event.
The seas have been super kind to us with only a 2 to 3 Metre swell and Jan Wallace, our Doctor reported that only a few are suffering sea sickness at this time, however, the Met people are forecasting that we should run into some 8 – 9 metre swells on Sunday evening.
And of course there is a Cox Plate sweepstake being assembled and we will get the results of that later in the afternoon, but unfortunately we will not get a live broadcast of the race, we will only get an email that shows the results.
I will be doing my first ANARE Club presentation tonight and there has been quite a few people have told me that they are looking forward to it.
Aurora’s were sighted last night from the bridge and it was forecast that we should see some more tonight, however the cloud is rolling in very quickly at the moment and will eliminate any possible viewing.
Day 4 – Sunday 26th October 2014
Position: -Latitude: 51.12, Longitude: 129.19
Overnight the seas kicked up a little and we woke to a 6 metre swell and the wind from our Starboard at 35 Knots, it was getting a little uncomfortable. There was a noticeable shortage of people at breakfast.
I conducted my first Club presentation last night, there was a strong attendance of about 30 and they bought a bit of merchandise and we signed up a couple of new members and one renewal. There was a lot of interest in some 1950’s Antarctic film clips that I had “procured”.
The ships crew announced the “Iceberg Sighting Sweepstakes” today in which the rules are quite stringent and the proceeds go to support “Camp Quality”, which is a charity that the ship and crew support each year with various activities.
Jan Lieser (Sea Ice Scientist) gave an excellent presentation on his work program connected with the science involving Sea Ice.
The seas abated to about a 2 metre swell in the afternoon which brought a lot more people out of their cabins. There were quite a number of birds following the ship. This brought out the photographers with their big lenses.
Andrew Davidson, (Research Scientist) reeled in the Plankton Dredge this afternoon, he changed the collection chamber and sent it straight back for another run. The first run was for 400 Nautical Miles.
The Theatre is well patronised with showings in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Day 5 – Monday 27th October 2014
Position: -Latitude: 53.44, Longitude: 124.02
I sat in on a presentation by Anthony Hull (AAD Operations Coordinator) outlining the Davis Station Operations Overview. Onboard the Aurora Australis is 550 tonnes of stores and 800,000 Litres of fuel for Davis and 17 tonnes of stores for Mawson.It is a very busy year and involves quite a lot of aviation movements, and therefore there is a need for a lot of maintenance of the airstrips at all stations.
There are 5 different types of aircraft that will be involved in operations and the science program this summer.
HERCULES C130 (USA), – This will be a “Proving Flight” from McMurdo to Davis due on Jan 7th.
BT67 (similar to a DC3), – This aircraft will travel via South America to Rothera (UK), then to the South Pole Station (USA) then to McMurdo (USA), and then to Casey to drop off the Runway maintenance crew and then finally fly on to Davis.
TWIN OTTER, – This aircraft will follow the same route as the Basler from South America through to Davis.
SQUIRREL HELICOPTERS (2). – These are onboard the Aurora Australis and will be used for ice reconnaissance on Voyage 1 if required. They will also be used during the summer season to support the Davis operations and science projects.
AIRBUS A319, – This aircraft will make 10 flights from Hobart to Wilkins airstrip during the summer season carrying cargo and expeditioners who will then make the 7 km journey to Casey station via ground transport. Now that everyone seems to have got their sea legs, the ship is now starting to get a bit busier with operations and training meetings for all personnel
in preparation to us arriving at Davis. It is getting much colder now as we progress further south (1.0 degrees today) and we have had quite a bit of snow falling during the day, the wind
has been blowing at 20 knots for most of the day.
Day 6 – Tuesday 28th October 2014
Position: -Latitude: 54.59, Longitude: 117.43
The day started off bad for me because I forgot to wind my watch back another hour last night and turned up for breakfast at 6-30 instead of 7-30. What a surprise, no-one was around so I made a cup of coffee and waited for it to all happen.
The Field Training program was introduced by Marty Benavente, (Field Training Officer), with Bill Plant (Snr Met Forecaster) and Tina Donaldson (Met Forecaster) giving an excellent presentation on what the Met Forecasts mean, and how the expeditioners can benefit from the information relative to planning their activities, whether it be for work related projects or private field trips. There is a series of programs that have been allocated during the week and all expeditioners are required to attend.
The 28th Of October is significant on board the Aurora Australis because it is the anniversary of the laying of the keel, and today was the 26th anniversary of the ship. The captain Murray Doyle, and Voyage Leader Doug Thost ceremoniously cut a birthday cake that the chef had prepared to celebrate the occasion.
It has been snowing most of the day and the temperature is hovering around zero, the swell has varied from 2 metres to 5 metres during the day and the wind is howling at 25 Knots.
Day 7 – Wednesday 29th October 2014
Position: -Latitude: 56.04, Longitude: 111.11
The Field Training is continuing today with an Environmental Briefing for ALL expeditioners and crew, outlining the expeditioners responsibilities regarding this sensitive environment that we are visiting. A second session covering “Sea Ice Travel”, the safety aspect was very well highlighted with actual footage of a Hagglund retrieval after it broke through thin ice.
In the daily SitRep to all expeditioners today, Doug Thost (Voyage Leader) described the Aurora Australis with a quote from Paul Cullen (ANARE Station Leader, 2010). “They say that all ships are female. If the Aurora is a woman, she’s a tough old bird in an orange jumpsuit, with her sleeves rolled up and an Elvis tattoo on her arm. She’s strong and she’s fearless, and ishe has a few scars, she’s earned them. She’s as Australian as they come, plain-talking and laconic, a battler who will never let you down. You might not see her for years, but you’ll never forget her.”
I did a tour of the Engine Room with the guidance of Paul (The Chief Engineer), it’s a real eye opener to see how they pack so much technology into such a compact space. One V16 main engine and a V12 as the secondary, developing 10,000 Kw of power when both are operating together. For the trip so far we have been running on only the V16 engine but when we reach the seaice they will run both engines together to achieve the maximum thrust for breaking through the ice.
A large number of expeditioners are playing a game called “Assassin”, it is quite funny to watch how everyone is moving around the ship now. There doesn’t seem to be any trust of anyone, suspicions are very high, and all the players are on edge as the game progresses and more players are “Knocked Off”, or assassinated.
It has been a variable day on the seas today, it snowed for quite a bit and we have had some calmer times on the water with only a 2 metre swell building to about 5 metres for a while. It is uncanny that we seem to get the worst weather around meal times.
We will be turning our watches back another hour tonight for the last time for the trip, we will now be on Davis time, 4 hours behind AEST. I won’t make the same mistake as yesterday.
Day 8 – Thursday 30th October 2014
Position: -Latitude 57.06, Longitude 104.47
Well here we are at Day 8 and we are over half way to Davis, it is howling outside at 35 knots and snowing again, the temp is hovering around -2 degrees and the swell is approx 5 metres which makes it quite uncomfortable. We have just finished our environmental cleaning of our personal gear, scrubbing boots, vacuuming any bags and backpacks anything with Velcro or
zippers. Without being checked off for this job having been done to the satisfaction of the Voyage Leader, you don’t get off the ship when we arrive at Davis Station.
I have been given a job for when we arrive at Davis and this will probably be next Thursday. My role will be assisting the Refuelling Operations. We will pump 830,000 litres of diesel fuel a distance of 4 Km from the ship to the station fuel tanks, this is pumped using a “Big” pump through Lay flat hose, and will take approx 37 hours. If there is a spillage greater than 20
Litres, all hell breaks loose and an international report has to be filed to the world authorities.
King Neptune is making his presence known on Saturday to indoctrinate any passengers that have not travelled below 60 degrees south before. One of the expeditioners is also turning 21 on Saturday, I understand that these occasions will promote the opening of the Liquor Locker by the Voyage Leader.
I have had to put one pair of jeans in the bottom drawer now, they must have shrunk a bit, I don’t think it would have anything to do with the sweets everyday. I think the ships chef is trying to show off a bit to the station chefs of which we have 4 onboard, 2 enormous Bombalaska plus fruit, and of course the obligatory ice cream and cream. The food on board the Aurora
Australis has been of the highest standard from day one, and it caters for all people and their choices.
The Field Training continues today with navigation and map reading, very essential when you consider that magnetic deviation is 80 degrees in this part of the world.
The Plankton Dredge, officially known as CPR, (Continuous Plankton Recorder) has been retrieved again today and reloaded with a new cassette and released for another 400 Nautical Mile sample run.
Day 9 – Friday 31st October 2014
Position: -Latitude 58.12, Longitude 97.55
Everyone is a lot more settled, the seas have abated, the swell is only 1.5 Metres and the wind has dropped and we have been in fog all day, the temperature has risen slightly to a balmy -0.6C, it is a lot more comfortable getting around the ship.
Judy Clarke and Helen Achurch gave a great presentation on the penguin programs last night, outlining a lot of research which started in the 90’s of rookery numbers and chick survival and what affects the environment, such as the extent of the sea ice had on these numbers.
The “Iceberg Spotting” contest is over, the first Berg passed our beam at 9-16PM last night and the prize was won by Luke Pitman. The way the contest operated was that the expeditioners “bought” a 15 minute time slot over a 5 day period and you paid $2-00 for your choice of how ever many time slots you wanted. The rules were that the berg had to be bigger than Aurora Australis and it had to be visible without the aid of electronic means (ie Radar), using binoculars was OK. The recorded time was when the berg passed our stern. Half of the entry money was the prize for the winner, and the other half went to the Camp Quality charity, for kids with cancer. Camp Quality is the nominated charity of the Crew and Expeditioners on Aurora Australis and it is very gratifying to learn that during the 2010 season Aurora Australis donated over $20,000 to Camp Quality. A sterling effort by all involved.
The field Training continues and today’s session was “Ropes and Knots”, a lot of variations of the standard knots were displayed by a few in the early part of the session, however everyone seemed to get the right idea after James Hamilton had finished his tuition, training and patient support. To be able to use the correct knot for the right purpose can make a lot of difference in a real time Search and Rescue operation and for tying down loads. Good Knot Tying will also hold the individual in good stead in their private life outside of Antarctic operations.
A few of the expeditioners have organised an “Alien Marathon” in the theatre tonight with the showing of all the “Alien” movies, this could mean a late night for a few.
Day 10 – Saturday 1st November 2014
Position: -Latitude: 59.16, Longitude: 90.29
Today has started with us amongst the ice, although patchy, the winds have picked up a bit harder from the south and this is making it quite sloppy, nevertheless everyone is in good spirits and looking forward to reaching Davis.
Luke Pitman, the winner of the “Iceberg Spotting” competition has generously donated all of his winnings to Camp Quality, which has made the donation a tidy $380.00. A great gesture Luke.
King Neptune has boarded the ship today, even in these turbulent seas, but I was told by one of his court that he “Rools the seas”. It’s amazing what an ugly looking concoction the galley crew can make with left over peas and vege’s and a bit of juice. King Neptune, also known as “Australis Rex”and his court of six dubious characters inducted three crew members and 36
expeditioners as “South Polar Sea Dogs”.
In past years the crew has turned off all the hot water in the ship so that after the “Ceremony” the inductees had to clean up with a cold shower, but I think this year the crew is turning a bit soft and left the hot water on. We had the ceremony in the restaurant due to the bad conditions outside and as a result there was “Green Slime” over every hand rail and all over the floors and stairs from “E” deck and all through “D” deck, however after all the “South Polar Sea Dogs” had got into the showers, a few of the expeditioners got to with the mops and cleaning cloths.
We have been asked to pay a “Gold Coin Donation” to attend the “Big Aussie BBQ” tonight instead of our normal dinner, which all proceeds will go directly to Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. Another great charity that is supported by the Aurora Australis crew. Flinders Johnston celebrated his 21st birthday on board today and Doug Thost (Voyage Leader), said a few wise words on behalf of Flin. In their usual style the galley crew furnished a well decorated cake fitting for the occasion. Flin indicated that he was going to have a more traditional
celebration with his family and friends when he returned from his summer duties at Davis.
Day 11 – Sunday 2st November 2014
Position: -Latitude: 60.41, Longitude 83.49
Temp: -7.2 C
We have reached the edge of the pack ice this morning and passed through 60 Degees South, although the ice is still very patchy and reasonably light atthe moment, we are still making 10.5 Knots. There is a heavy cloud base and there have been quite a few snow storms during the day, the sight of the ice has certainly brought out the expeditioners and their cameras and there is a lot more movement around the ship.
The “Big Aussie BBQ” last night, raised $387.00 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Another great effort.
The penguin watch has been started on the bridge today and it is a record of Emperor Penguin sightings on any of the ice floes. The information that is being collected is the date and time, the ships position, how many birds and what they are doing, such as swimming, walking, tobogganing, watching the ship, fleeing the ship or reproducing. This sheet can be filled in by anybody on the bridge and the data will be used by the Research Scientists involved in the Penguin Programs.
The last of the field training sessions was held this morning, this one being the Helicopter Briefing. There was four sections to this mostimportant briefing, the first was a video presentation of all the safety features of the Squirrel AS350 B3E and how we should safely work around them, the second session was a detailed breakdown of the survival packs that are carried on board should anything unforeseen happen (Tents, sleeping bags, food and stove etc). The third session was around each individual fitting on one of the Aviation Survival Suits, quite a complex piece of kit, but very essential, and the last section was a visit to the hanger and be given a “Touch and Feel” tour of the aircraft, how to load equipment, how to lock/unlock the stowage areas and doors and then how to fit the seatbelts and headphones.
A couple of the expeditioners brought out some model helicopters and were “test flying” them in the theatre, talk about “Boys and their Toys”.
Brooke, one of the ships officers, presented a slide show and discussion to the expeditioners of her recent visit to Nepal.
Day 12 – Monday 3rd November 2014
Position: -Latitude 63.24, Longitude 80.29
Temp: -2.5 C
We were in pack ice for most of the night but today we have been skirting around the floes and travelling in clear water. I was told, that sometime early in the morning, we pulled over to the side of the road and stopped both engines for the crew to do some maintenance and after it was completed, we then took off with both engines running and were
achieving 15 Knots for most of the day after the “Pit Stop”, a sprint to the finish you might say.
The refuelling team (of which I am a part of), had our briefing on the process of transferring fuel from the ship to shore. It covered all the components of the fuel line and all the safety requirements as well as the environmental aspects. The job is to pump 830,000 litres of fuel through a 75mm “Lay Flat” hose, without spilling any. Any spillage greater than 20 litres must be reported to the international authorities. This task is one of the most important functions on arrival at Davis, because if we don’t get sufficient fuel transferred to the station’s fuel farm the station won’t be able to survive the year.
There is a fair bit of action at the Gym recently, people are saying they are getting bored with no work to do and want to shed a few Kilo’s, due to the food that they have “had” to consume. The quality and variety of the food onboard is a credit to the Chef and his team. It has been superb to say the least.
Day 13 – Tuesday 4th November 2014
Position: -Latitude 65.32, Longitude 76.23
Temp: -3.6 C
We have been cutting through the pack ice all night and made reasonable distance, however the ice got a lot thicker and there was a lot more snow on it to impede our forward motion. I noticed in the ships log this morning that we had a 1 hour period of making no progress at all.
Spirits are very high, and as the sun is out and there is very little wind, everyone is outside on the decks and there are GoPro’s and cameras everywhere.
Today has been a great day for wildlife spotting, a couple of Minke whales, Adelie’s by the score and quite a few Emperors, there have been about four Leopard Seals and of course lots of Weddell Seals.
We had a briefing by Doug Thost (Voyage Leader) to officially let us know that we are expecting to arrive at the Davis fast ice in the morning, approximately 14 Nautical Miles from Davis. We need to be within 4 NM to pump the fuel in, so we will have a hard slog for the last 10 miles. It is planned that early afternoon the helicopters will be flying the first of the expeditioners to the station. Doug also alerted everyone that their gear needed to be packed and the cabins needed a detailed clean out that would pass “Charmaines” (Chief Steward) approval. Since then the noise of washing machines, driers and vacuum cleaners have filled the corridors and everyone is displaying a lot of excitement at this news of our pending arrival.
Of course, being Melbourne Cup Day, a sweep was organised, although we couldn’t get a radio broadcast of the race on board , we had to wait for the email system delays to give us the results, which we didn’t get until 5PM Melbourne time, I am happy to report that the ANARE Club rep took out a 2nd and 3rd placing.
Day 14 – Wednesday 5th November 2014
Position: -13 Nautical Miles from Davis
Temp: -7.0 C
We travelled through open water for most of the night and arrived at the Fast Ice, 13 Nautical Miles from Davis at about 8-30AM.
At 9-00AM Doug Thost held a briefing for all expeditioners outlining the operations of the day, he documented the list of the high priority personnel that would be flown off the ship by helicopter to the station, which included all the Mawson personnel who would be stationed at Davis station temporarily, awaiting the arrival of the fixed wing aircraft to fly them on to Mawson.
The ship is busier than a Myers Basement Sale with all those who are leaving the ship, completing their last minute packing and cleaning of cabins.
After getting about one mile into the fast ice this morning, the Captain secured the ship into the fast ice and the helicopters were readied and fuelled and the first passengers were in the helicopters by 12-30PM and the “fly off” was in progress. Some fond farewells were made to the Mawson personnel as they should be flying to Mawson later this afternoon, or tomorrow morning, it all depends on windows of weather opportunities.
As soon as the helicopter operations are completed, the ship will resume Ramming its way through the fast ice until we reach a suitable position to be able to start the Refuelling operation and then it all starts to get serious with the unloading.
Approximately 40 expeditioners were flown of the ship today which only leaves 40 onboard, I know it is going to be a lot more quiet at dinner tonight.
Our Visitor from China.
One of our passengers onboard the Aurora Australis is Xiaosong Shi, he is representing the China Polar Institution. He is 29 years old and has only been working with the Polar Institution for three months, his main role is that of Aircraft Ground Support and he will be working with our people and studying the methods and technology that we use in creating and maintaining
the “Ski Landing Area’s” at our stations, to gain the knowledge and experience to allow him to establish similar facilities at the Chinese stations.
To represent the Chinese Polar Institution at the Australian Stations, is the first time that Xiaosong has ever been out of China, he arrived at Hobart airport on the 21st October (1 day before the ships departure) and was met by Nick Watt and was immediately whisked off to AAD HQ to be kitted out with his survival gear and then a quick visit to Polar Medicine to
donate the required blood samples etc.
The very next day he was lining up at MacQuarie Wharf for the Aurora Australis departure, no time for any touristy things.
He will be staying at Davis station for approximately 3 months and will work very closely with Nick Watt “AAD AGSO” (Aircraft Ground Support Officer) during this period.
At the completion of his study tour he will fly back to Hobart via Casey and he is hopeful that he will be back home with his family in SHANGHAI in time for Chinese New Year on the 20th February.
Prior to joining the Chinese Polar Institution, he worked as a Helicopter Engineer for three years for the Chinese Helicopter Company and before that he was a Police Officer for two and a half years.
The Chinese have two fully operational “Winter” stations, ZHONG SHAN and GREAT WALL, near the coast of the Antarctic Continent, there is approximately 100 wintering expeditioners at ZHONG SHAN each year. The Chinese also have two “Summer” stations, JAI SHAN and KUN LUNO at approximately 80 degrees South, which are not manned during winter, but are re-established in summer with approximately 20 personnel. These stations will have “Ski Landing Area’s” built and will be used as mid way airstrips for refuelling etc.
The Chinese also use “Basler” aircraft for servicing their stations, similar to the aircraft that Australia use.
We wish Xiaosong every success in his visit to Davis station this year and his safe return home.
Day 15 – Thursday 6th November 2014
Position: -13 Nautical Miles from Davis
Temp: -7.0 C
After the fly-off was completed, the ship continued to crash through the fast ice for the next day and a half. Our progress in this task was 5 Nautical Miles in 24 hours.
At 2-30PM the Captain announced that “we have arrived”. We saw a flurry of activities, gargo personnel were there, and everything seemed to start happening, although it might have seemed slowly. A gangplank was attached to the ship and after the road had been made in the fast ice by the snow ploughs the people that were transferring to Davis were ferried in by
At approximately 8-30PM, the Voyage Leader allowed the remaining people off the ship for a walk around on the ice, it was nice to walk around and take a few photo’s even though we had a restricted area to “Play in”. I think just about everyone had their obligatory “bow of icebreaker in ice, with me leaning against it” photo. Most people only stayed out there for less than
an hour and then went back to the comfort of the ship. There wasn’t much else happening around the ship at this stage and everyone seemed to stay in their cabins.
Day 16 – Friday 7th November 2014
Position: – On the Fast Ice 2Km from shore
Temp: -3.0 C
The people remaining on the ship overnight were offered a deal, if you were willing to put in 4 hours of “Hard Labour” you could have the rest of the day looking around the station. Every man (and woman) to a tee, jumped at the opportunity to get on terra firmer. The “Hagglunds Taxi” had been booked for a 9-00AM pickup and we were driven to the station where we were met by Stewart (Comms), who graciously gave us the 90 minute welcome and induction tour of the station, and he then returned us to LQ (Living Quarters) building for a coffee break.
Whilst we were having our coffee, Narelle Cantbell, (2014 Davis Station Leader), caught up with me and asked if I would have lunch with her, which I accepted. She asked me if I would be willing to stay on station one night next week and give a presentation of my experiences at Mawson in 78 as a “Met Tech” to her outgoing expeditioners. I felt this was quite an honour
and accepted the invitation without hesitation. Narelle then introduced me to Peter Johnson, (2014 Davis Met Tech) and suggested that he take me on a tour of the Met facilities and we spent the next hour and a half doing just that, I was amazed at the equipment that is in use nowadays compared to what I was using in 78, we then returned to the LQ for afternoon tea.
Then I had to pay my way, and do the “Hard Labour” that we agreed to, so I joined the rest of my team at the “Green Shed” (The Stores Facility) and spent the rest of the day unloading containers of meat and vegies into the freezers. With 12 of us moving the goods, we loaded about 10 tonne of inventory in a very short time and by then it was getting time to gather
back at the LQ for the “Hagglunds Taxi” to take us back to the ship.
Day 17 – Saturday 8th November 2014
Position: – On the Fast Ice 2Km from shore
Temp: -3.4 C
Today we awoke to what appeared to be the inside of a glass of milk with light snow falling, but conditions did improve as the day progressed.
All our summer expeditioners are ashore now, and our round-trip folks have made a start on their various projects on station.
There are still no aircraft movements to Mawson today, and it is not looking good for tomorrow due to bad weather at Mawson.
We made 52 lifts from the ship today and moved 229 tonne of the 550 tonne onboard, I am sure that I moved 200 tonne of that when I was seconded to help move the contents of food containers into the “Green Store”.
We cleared the main hatches and fore deck, discharged cargo from the trawl deck, and made a start in the ‘tween deck too, and cargo discharge from the ‘tween deck continues tomorrow.
Our biggest and heaviest lift of the day was discharged this morning, a 19 tonne CAT 962G Loader, closely followed by the last refrigerated container, which contained more frozen food for the station.
Being Saturday, it was “station duties” and I think I drew the short straw, I was nominated to run the vacuum cleaner over the mezzanine and the living quarters lounge, I don’t understand why it had to be so big.
The “Hagglund Taxi” arrived spot on time at 5-00PM to take some of us back to the ship and settle in and get out of all the PPE and wait for dinner.
Day 18 – Sunday 9th November 2014
Position: – On the Fast Ice 2Km from shore
Temp: -3.0 C
We have had light snow falling off and on for most of the day with a 10 Knot wind.
Davis is like a small industrial city at the moment with trucks, dozers and cranes moving to all parts of the station to move or reposition containers for unloading.
Another good day’s work with the cargo. The ship discharged 126 tonne in 53 lifts, clearing the ‘tween deck and lower hold #1, and commenced loading some RTA (Return to Australia) cargo, taking 24 tonne onboard. This morning we completed RTA for lower hold #1 and the trawl deck, and have commenced discharge in lower hold #2.
The fuel hose was rolled out at 10AM, and pressure testing was done successfully. The pumping of fuel commenced at 4-00PM and we were delivering about 30,000 litres per hour, there is 6 shifts of personnel to monitor and measure the progress of the refuelling of which the Club Rep was one of them, I was seconded (or volunteered) to do the 8PM to 12AM and the 8AM to 12PM shifts at the shoreline monitor point. It was bitter out there standing on the ice in the snow and the wind, even though it was only -3.00 degrees, and every quarter of an hour, walk the line to where it entered the sea ice and from there the Hagglund team monitored the 2 Km of pipe back to the ship. The refuelling will continue non-stop until it is completed.
I was lucky enough this morning to be driven down to the aircraft “Departure Lounge”, (a 20ft container on the ice) at the ski runway and be given a personal tour by the Canadian pilots of the BT67 and the Twin Otter aircraft. They are quite sparse in the area of passenger comfort, however they are both very reliable aircraft.
The weather has turned on us a bit and there will be no flying again today and as a result, the Mawson people are getting very anxious.
Our round-trip project personnel are busy ashore, with a delightful Hagglund taxi service providing transfer to and from the ship on both a regular, and as-needed basis. It’s the first time I have every called for a taxi and it turns up, and on time.
We have received a few visitors onboard the ship, including the Canadian air crew, for a tour of the ship, and some of the 2014 Davis winter crew (who are staying on for summer) to sample a fresh salad, and fill-up on fruit. This year the BT67 (Basler) and the Twin Otter will be used to move personnel from V1 to Mawson and bring back the 2014 Mawson winterers,
however the weather has stopped all flying and it is a day by day situation at the moment.
I have been told that irrespective of air movements, the ship will leave Davis on Thursday.
Day 19 – Monday 10th November 2014
Position: – On Fast Ice 2Km from shore
Temp: -5.0 C
It was snowing lightly during the morning, however the temperature was still only -3.00 C, there was plenty of activity around the station along with a couple of traffic jams at the ice edge.
Due to the bad weather there is still no flying and the Mawson personnel are just hanging around and filling in their day wherever they can help out.
The cargo discharge just keeps rolling on or should I say it just keeps rolling off. We had 175 tonnes of cargo discharged today and that completes the off-loading. The loading of RTA cargo started in earnest and another 62 tonnes of cargo was loaded. The progress has been a credit to all the cargo handling teams.
The weather deteriorated during the afternoon and we had heavy snow falls and the wind picked up considerably, it was impossible to see the ship from the station which made working conditions that much harder.
The pumping of fuel was completed around 6PM (26 hours total pumping time), now the “PIG” (Pressurised Internal Gauge) has to be introduced to the system and drain the 11,000 litres of fuel that is in the 2Km of pipe into the last tank. The PIG is a fuel saturated foam block that is inserted into the pipe system and forced to the end of the line with compressed air, thus
forcing the remaining fuel into the “Fuel Farm” system, then it will be time to pack up all of the equipment and stow it back on the ship, another job well done.
Day 20 – Tuesday 11th November 2014
Position: – On Fast Ice 2Km from shore
Temp: -3.9 C
Clearing the fuel line of remaining fuel took a lot longer than anticipated, and then the hose was rewound onto the reel and was completed by 1-30AM this morning. A fantastic job by all concerned, considering the poor weather.
Everyone paused for a minute’s silence at 1100 in respect of Remembrance day.
We have had light snow falling and 5 knot winds for most of the morning and after lunch it turned feral, heavy snow and blowing 30 knots.
There were some large pieces of equipment being RTA’d, including a CAT D6R bulldozer (weighing in at 22 tonne), and a CAT 325B excavator (26 tonne). The bulldozer went into the hold in near marginal weather conditions, but things calmed down a bit for the later loads. RTA cargo loading was completed around 4-00PM.
I had been asked by the 2014 Station Leader (Narrelle Campbell) earlier in the week to give a presentation to her outgoing crew of my experiences at Mawson in 78 and I have been busy jotting down some “Dot Points” to help me put together some semblance of order. As soon as I started to put pen to paper, the memories just kept flooding in and I was able to create a
reasonable presentation that was appreciated by all.
At 11-00PM, I was off to bed in my new “Home” in the Operations Building at Davis station.
Day 21 – Wednesday 12th November 2014
Position: Latitude: 68.34, Longitude: 77.55
Temp: -2.0 C
Having stayed on station last night was a real privilege and a big trip down memory lane for me.
This morning, the station was like a ghost town, no vehicles moving around, all the 2015 expeditioners were unpacking and establishing themselves in their new accommodation, and the 2014 expeditioners were busily packing their last minute items and cleaning their rooms in readiness to leave Davis later in the day.
I was standing on the “Beach” looking out to sea and the view brought back very vivid memories as I stood there thinking, ‘This is the same as it was at Mawson in 78′, fast ice, a few scattered islands and ice bergs everywhere’, then I turned and faced the station. Boy, what a magnificent change has taken place in 36 years in the style and structure of stations in that time. The facilities are very modern and are a credit to the teams who have battled the environment and harsh conditions over the years to construct them.
Doug Thost (VL) had organised a tour of the penguin rookery at Anchorage Island for crew and expeditioners that were still on the ship and unfortunately because I was still on station I was to miss out on this opportunity to walk from the ship to the rookery. However, whilst I was having a morning brew, I was asked by Lesley Eccles (Deputy Station Leader) If I would like to take a Hagglund trip out to Lugg Island rookery to get some photo’s. It shouldn’t be hard to guess my response, comparing a 4 km walk against a 10 km drive in the “Hagg”, so off we went, in the Hagglund.
The Post Office was open from 12-1 and I, together with most of the station population were in the queue to process all the last minute mail, not unlike any post office on the mainland.
At 12-30PM the official handover of the station was conducted. Narrelle Campbell (Station Leader) recognised several people for special Davis awards and gave an outline of the station activities for 2014 and then officially handed the keys of Davis Station to James Moloney, (2015 Station Leader). I had some emotional moments during the handover service, with my memories flooding back to 1978 and remembering all my feelings when I was leaving Mawson back then so long ago.
The 2014 expeditioners that were leaving Davis all decided to walk the 2 Km to this ship as a group which gave them a lot of time to reflect on their stay at Davis. I was driven to the ship in the Hagglund, I had a very responsible task, in making sure that their bags got to the ship OK.
At 2-00PM everybody was aboard and the gangplank was stowed and we were underway, completing what seemed like a 100-point turn to get us facing out the way we had come in, before charging out of the fast-ice through the icy rubble path that defined the “road” we had made in to the position we have occupied for the last six days. The sky to our west and north looked ominous as we made our way back to open water, passing the beautifully arranged cluster of bergs marking the ice edge. The barometer plummeted, the wind increased, and all of a sudden, it wasn’t “nice” anymore. The wind became a constant 50 knot howl, with gusts to 65 knots, and horizontal snow began to plaster the ship. The swell increased to a short, sharp six metres, on our beam, making the ship roll uncomfortably. Not a pleasant evening at all.
Day 22 – Thursday 13th November 2014
Position: Latitude: 65.47, Longitude: 75.10
Temp: -0.5 C
This morning, we are in the centre of the intense low-pressure system that hammered us last night, the barometer dropped to 947 hPa in a matter of hours, but we are making good progress through the heavy zone of ice we transited on our way to Davis. If anything, the storm has probably opened the ice up a bit. We’re hoping that our reception on the other side of the low will not be as brutal as last night.
There were only about three passengers at breakfast and everyone seems to be staying in their cabins, it was certainly an uncomfortable night for most.
Day 23 – Friday 14th November 2014
Position: Latitude: 61.52, Longitude: 78.54
Temp: -3.1 C
In the last 24 hours we have been travelling through scattered pack ice and broken up ice rubble. The ship “exited” the pack ice zone (as defined by our satellite data) at 7-30AM this morning at 62 24.8S, 077 19.5E
Well this side of the low pressure system is delightful! We’re making excellent progress, peaking at 15Knots, and are well and truly “out of it” now, with only occasional open bands of ice and rubble in our path. It is hard to believe that it can change so quickly. Our distance travelled in the last 24 hours was 309 Nautical Miles (including twists and turns) but only 250 in a straight line (as the Skua flies).
The 2014 Davis winterers have settled in well, and are consuming everything that even vaguely looks like salad or fruit that appears before them. They are also very pleased that they are away from the strict water restrictions that they had at Davis, (3 minutes, 3 times a week).
When the ship left Hobart it was filled with 500,000 litres of water and the Reverse Osmosis system onboard can generate 37,000 litres per day, so the winterers are revelling in the fact that they can have a decent 10 minute shower without anybody screaming at them.
There is a bit of Pilates going on and a few have made good use of the sauna, some are finishing off their final reports and others are just catching their breath after a hectic changeover with a few DVD’s in their cabins.
Day 24 – Saturday 15th November 2014
POSITION: Latitude: 59.16, Longitude: 86.45
Temp: -0.6 C
The noticeable change last night was that it was the first dark night since we left Davis.
We awoke to sleet and snow this morning, but apart from a few bergs on the radar and the occasional “Bergy Bits” and “Growlers”, there was not very much ice at all. We should be out of the ice by the end of the day. We have made good headway with a speed of 12 Knots and have covered 285 Nautical Miles.
The ship has been travelling in “icebreaking” mode since we left Davis, this means that both the V16 and the V12 engines are running in tandem, the decision was made to go from “icebreaking” mode back to “transit” mode (V16 engine only). No sooner was the button pushed, then, out of the gloom appeared a band of messy icy rubble containing first year and multi-year sea-ice, “Bergy Bits”, and some sizeable “Growlers”. Back to “icebreaking” mode we went, but it wasn’t long before we were travelling in open water again and went back to “transit” mode for the long run home.
The weather has continued to deteriorate, and the barometer is on the way down again (currently 967 hPa), I had a look at the weather charts on the bridge this morning and we are surrounded by low pressure systems and it would seem that there is no way to avoid them. We could be in for an uncomfortable couple of days.
It is very comforting to see that our next navigational ‘Waypoint’ is now “Bruny Island”, not just a map position somewhere in the middle of the Southern Ocean, even though we are 2433 Nautical Miles from it, it sounds better being a destination that we recognise.
We had our usual Saturday “Safety Muster” this morning, but stayed indoors due to the Sleet and Snow and the 25 Knot wind conditions on deck.
Jan Lieser gave a talk about his 1998 tour of duty at the German Neumayer Antarctic Station as a Meteorologist. The whole station is actually under the ice, it was built in the summer as a series of tunnels on the surface of the ice, and as winter progressed it was devoured by the elements and covered by snow and ice, this design allowed them to be out of the damaging
winds and they maintain a temperature of -8.00 degrees in the connecting tunnels.
Day 25 – Sunday 16th November 2014
Position: Latitude: 56.46, Longitude: 94.31
Temp: +0.4 C
A very quiet Sunday onboard, everyone seems to be hibernating in their cabins.
The weather is not so pleasant outside, light snow showers and fog, and the wind blowing at 20-25 knots, but I personally have found no reason to want to go outside.
We’re travelling along in the centre of a low-pressure system (which isn’t a bad place to be), rolling about moderately at times, but nothing drastic. We are making great progress at 12 Knots.
Day 26 – Monday 17th November 2014
Position: Latitude: 55.00, Longitude: 102.32
Temp: +0.1 C
The expeditioners are very quiet again today, there is a little Pilates and some Yoga being practiced, but the most activity is from the crew carrying out their normal maintenance, stripping paint off panels and vent covers and then repainting them.
We are travelling along well, averaging about 12 Knots and in the last 24 hours, we have covered 290 Nautical Miles, the ships log is showing 1870 Nautical Miles to Bruny Island.
The weather is still quite ordinary, however we are now into positive air temperatures (+0.1 today).
We are still in the midst of some Low Pressure systems which is making the going a bit uncomfortable with 5 to 6 metre swells and the wind blowing at 20 to 25 knots, with light snow showers and fog for most of the day.
Visibility on the bridge is down to about 1 Km.
Day 29 -Thursday 20th November 2014
POSITION: Latitude 49.05 Longitude 127.04
Temp: +8.0 C
I have not posted a report for day’s 27 and 28 due to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be anything to write about, everyone is staying in their cabins in solitude, anxiously awaiting the official posting of our arrival time into Hobart. There has been a lot of speculation over the last few days, but every time it is noted on the whiteboard it gets changed a short time later.
We now have the “Official” arrival Date and Time. The ship will berth at Macquarie Wharf No. 3 at 1100 Hrs on Sunday 23rd November, the passengers will then be cleared by Customs on the ship and will disembark at 1230 Hrs to the Cruise Ship Terminal. At 1300 Hrs the AAD will carry out the Arrival Ceremony and Pin Presentation. This is the news that everyone has been waiting for.
We are making great headway, cruising along nicely at 14 Knots in moderate seas and with only 900 Nautical Miles to go.
Today the crew asked the passengers if they would chip in and help “Scrub the Restaurant floor” or (Swab the Decks), for one moment I thought they were going to bring out the wooden buckets and salt blocks and have us on our knees, however with standard modern equipment (Mops, Brushes and detergents) about 12 of us rolled up our sleeves and the job was completed in no time, and the crew did not present any salt blocks at all.
From what I’ve heard this afternoon it would seem that the washing machine may get a bit of a workout on Friday and Saturday in readiness for their final packing.
We will be turning our clocks forward for the last time tonight and will be in the same time zone as Hobart.
Day 30 – Friday 21st November 2014
Position: Latitude: 47.12, Longitude: 134.13
Temp: +9.7 C
We have been steaming along at 13.5 Knots over the last 24 hrs and making good headway in moderate seas with a 2-3 Metre swell, we are now only 600 Nautical Miles from Bruny Island, the sun is out which really does change the mood, everyone is getting quite excited at the prospect of getting home and catching up with friends and loved ones.
Dave Pryce, ( Deputy Voyage Leader) gave a presentation last night of a trip that he did in 2010. He and three others re-enacted Captain William Bligh’s epic journey from Tonga to Timor in 1789 when he and 18 crew members were set adrift in an open sail boat with minimal supplies during the Mutiny on the Bounty. They did not have any modern navigation aids such as GPS etc, they used a sextant and “Dead Reckoning” to navigate by (the same as Bligh had). The trip was not without its problems, what with the boat being capsized several times in rough seas and having to gather food along the way at remote deserted islands. The most ironic thing that he mentioned was that when they arrived on the Queensland coast at “Boat Passage”, a very remote part of the Great Barrier Reef ( at the northern most point), the Customs officials were there to greet them. The crew stayed there only a short time and then headed off towards Timor and their final destination. They landed in Timor in only two more days than Bligh had taken back in 1789.
Day 31 – Saturday 22nd November 2014
Position: Latitude: 45.13, Longitude: 141.28
Temp: +11.7 C
We are nearly Home, we are expecting to berth at Macquarie Wharf No.3, in Hobart tomorrow morning at 11-00AM.
We have been steaming along today at 13.5 Knots, with only 269 Nautical Miles to go.
The expeditioners are all excited and you can hear them planning what they are expecting to do or where they are going to travel to. We have all been extremely busy today with vacuuming the cabins and cleaning all surfaces to the satisfaction of the Chief Steward in readiness for the next load of expeditioners on Voyage 2, which should be departing Hobart on the 4th
December bound for Casey Station.
We had our usual Saturday Muster and emergency drill for the crew this morning, and at the completion of that we handed back all of our survival gear for return to AAD stores.
This will be my last report from the ship as we must have all of our luggage packed and on the Helideck early in the morning, however, I will deliver my final day and arrival ceremony report as soon as I reach home.
Day 32 – Sunday 23rd November 2014
Position: Hobart, Macquarie Wharf No. 3
We awoke to a strange thing on the horizon, we could see land. We were approaching Bruny Island and the seas were calm and the weather was warm.
There was almost a full compliment at breakfast and soon after all personal luggage was lined up on the Helideck in preparation for inspection by customs and then for off loading.
We had slowed down going up the Derwent and eventually we tied up at the wharf at 11-20 AM and it seemed to take an eternity to secure the ship and get the gang plank into place. There was quite a lot of family and friends gathered at the distant gates all waving frantically to passengers on board.
Customs came aboard and at 12-30PM we went through the process of customs clearance and we were finally told at 1-00PM that we could disembark down the gang plank in a single line to the terminal, it looked like a line of Adelie Penguins on the ice. We eventually reached the terminal to catch up with family and friends, smiles and tears everywhere. Rob Woodings (General Manager AAD) welcomed everyone home and thanked them for an excellent year of achievement and then presented a Lapel Pin to all the passengers.
People then disbursed in all directions but a few had organised to meet at Customs House Pub for drinks at 2-30. About 15 people attended and all sorts of stories were told and also denied by others, however it was a good place to be and they started to disperse at around 7-00PM.
I had to wait till Monday afternoon to catch a bus to Devonport and then board the Spirit of Tasmania for arrival in Melbourne on Tuesday.
I must say that my role as Club Representative has been a great experience and it was certainly an eye opener for me on station at Davis to see the major changes in station life from when I was at Mawson in 1978 and the standard of ship board life, wow.
I would like to thank the director of AAD for providing the berth for the ANARE Club and to the executive of the club for selecting me as its representative in 2014/2015. I would also like to thank the Master and crew of the Aurora Australis for their great hospitality and guidance, and finally I would like to thank the expeditioners for their acceptance of an old Antarctician into their world once again. I really felt as though I was a part of the Davis family.
Preparations for the Club Berth 2014.
I was delighted to be notified that I had been selected as the Club Berth Representative on Voyage 1 to resupply Davis station.
A week later I was getting emails from all sorts of departments, the first being the completion of all the AAD forms and agreeing to be a “good person” and agree to follow all the protocols and rules, however the most critical was the Medical checks.
I attended the “Stress ECG” test first and it was a bit of a challenge, 15 degrees on a treadmill at 12KPH for the last test, but I managed to survive it, although my calves were screaming. (not too shabby for a 69 year old).
Then came all the other medical checks, hearing, eyesight, drug and alcohol tests, BMI, and seven vials of blood for all the other required tests.
Then came the IT dept. and getting things organised for on-line registration and the issue of various passwords and phone account details etc.
I had made application to the cargo dept. for an eCon to allow the Club Merchandise to be available for me as “Wanted on Voyage” (WOV) and once I had the eCon documentation I then contacted Brian Harvey and we catalogued and packed the gear for dispatch to AAD. Three days later I was notified that the WOV package had been received and approved for loading on board.
I had a great phone call from the Operations Dept., which lasted about 45 mins asking all sorts of questions about what I hoped to achieve during the trip, both on a personal basis and as the ANARE Club representative. He was very pleased with my eagerness to volunteer my efforts in unloading and loading duties at the station and any other duties that were needed. I understand too well how much effort is required from all involved to make the job run smoothly.
“Kitting” were the next to get involved and they automatically created an appointment for me on the 1st October for issue of my survival gear, (3 weeks prior to departure). I was able to explain to them that I was based in Melbourne and that I would not be in Hobart until the 17th October and they have now confirmed a fitting on the 20th October.
It is two weeks prior to departure date and I have had to make bookings for accommodation and travel etc. and I still don’t know for sure that I am going to be approved to travel yet.
Then I got the most important message from “Polar Medicine Department”, they have deemed me to be medically fit to travel south on Voyage 1 to Davis Station.
The best news came two days later when I was sent confirmation of an “Approval to Board” document, (a boarding pass), now it is official, I am on my way.
Then I had a few personal things to follow up such as a new camera that was long overdue and I spent quite a bit of time evaluating all the options and checking out all the various offers, and also registering for a Postal Vote for the upcoming State Election.
My wife and I left Melbourne on Thursday 16th on the Spirit of Tasmania and then took a leisurely drive to Hobart on Friday, we have had a chance to look around and play tourist for a few days, ironically we were at Salamanca Market on Saturday and whilst we were having a rest and a coffee from all the walking, we overheard a family talking about their son’s departure on the Aurora Australis.
Monday 20th October and I reported to AAD for my Kitting appointment and was issued with all my survival gear.
I got a message from Doug Thost, the Voyage Leader, with final instructions for operations for the day of departure, Wednesday 22nd October 2014, it all starts at 8-30AM
with the weigh-in of all my luggage and then the Safety briefings and familiarization tours of the ship, that all finishes around 3-00PM and we leave port at 5-30PM
During all this time, I have had a lot of contact with Denise Allen, both phone and emails, she has been a wealth of information and I know the task would be a lot more difficult without her experience.
I would like to thank the Executive for giving me the opportunity to represent the ANARE Club this year and I would hope that I will do them proud.
I am very passionate and proud of my service in Antarctica at Mawson in 1978 and of my involvement with the ANARE Club since then.