While for the majority of our time on board the Aurora Australis we have been free to entertain ourselves through the various social outlets, we have also had some important training sessions to prepare ourselves for when we arrive at Davis. For the summer we have two Field Training Officers (FTOs) that are responsible for ensuring that we are properly trained for safe work and recreation, both inside and outside of the station limits. This included training in the use of hand-held GPS (how to use way points and input map coordinates), how to read the maps of Davis Station and the surrounding Vestfold Hills, and how to navigate between features on the maps using a compass. We were also trained in proper use of radio communications, when we need to contact the comms operators, the right way to speak and what we need to tell them.
We had two other important training sessions, one on sea ice and how to identify safe and unsafe areas for either walking, quad bike riding or driving a hagglund vehicle. The other session was taken by the three members of the team working for the Bureau of Meteorology, explaining weather systems and how to identify changes in the weather and potential storms. All of these training sessions will give us the basic knowledge for when we arrive and are required to undergo survival training out in the field.
Once we had entered the sea ice and were getting closer to Davis Station we were all summoned to the wet lab on the ship so that we could complete the important environmental controls before leaving the ship. We had to bring all of our shoes and gear that we may have worn/used outdoors (such as jackets, bags and socks) to clean and vacuum all places that may be hiding spots for grass seeds and weeds. We have a responsibility to ensure that Antarctica is kept free of ‘alien’ species to preserve its pristine environment so making sure that all of our gear is clean before we leave the ship is very important.
I have also had another responsibility on the voyage to assist with some water sampling that has been occurring each day at regular intervals. At 8 am, 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, and 10 pm members of my project team have taken water from the inline system (a pipe that flows into the lab, containing water taken from under the ship – approximately 5m below the surface) and filtered it onto a small piece of filter paper to catch the phytoplankton. These filter papers are then removed and stored in the -80°C freezer, to be taken back to the AAD in Kingston and analysed by HPLC. This will generate data on the species composition in the water throughout our voyage, based on latitude and longitude and time of day. Extra samples were taken once a day at 10 am for other analyses as well.