Back in Antarctica

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A year has rolled around and I’m back down at Davis Station again with the intention of finishing what I started last year. This time around we decided to do things differently and brought the entire project team down together of Voyage 1 so we’re all here and ready to work. We arrived at Davis just on 2 weeks ago now and its really only now that I have had the time to sit down and write something.

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As soon as the Aurora Australis arrived at its anchor point it was all hands on deck (and on station) for resupply. We have to transfer all of the food, fuel and tonnes of equipment (both science and trades) needed for the next 12 months, whilst also sending home tons of rubbish and equipment that we don’t need here anymore. Its a pretty huge undertaking and ideally it should all happen within a week. While we were waiting for our science equipment to arrive I pitched in and helped out in the green store (our warehouse), unpacking food and helping sort personal effects and alcohol. All of the science team also volunteered our time for ‘slushy’ (kitchen) duties and a few of us were rostered on to monitor the refuelling line.

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One of the most important jobs during resupply is the station refuelling. The Aurora Australis provided the station with 850,000 litres of Special Antarctic Blend (SAB) diesel that will keep our generators running for the next year. From start to finish, refuelling takes approximately 36 hours and runs around the clock until the last drop of fuel is in the tanks. We all worked in pairs in 4 hour shifts and the entire fuel line is monitored, from the connection at the ship, across the 2.2 km of hose that runs over the sea ice, to the shore line connection and up to the fuel farm on station. I was rostered on to monitor the connection point at the shore line for any leaks. It was actually quite enjoyable, my monitoring partner and I had some chairs and a radio (playing music we could set on the computer in the lounge) and would pass the time chatting and drinking hot chocolate. Though 4 hours is the maximum time you can stay outside when it is around -5C and we were always eager to see our replacements arrive.

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The end of resupply saw us saying goodbye to the wintering expeditioners (or some of them, as 9 decided to stay on for the summer) and the handing over of the station to our new Station Leader and the summer crew. The Aurora Australis was loaded once again and they slowly made their way back through the ice toward Hobart. Not a moment too late either, as that evening we experienced winds up to 60 knots (111 km/hr) that lasted for two days and blew out some of the fast ice in Prydz Bay.

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Since then we’ve been working hard in the science building setting up for our experiment, with everyone doing a specific job that will give us an incredible amount of data when combined. This year luck seems to have gone our way and everything has been falling into place. So much so that we filled out tanks today and we’ll be starting our experiment tomorrow! But for now that’s probably enough. I’ll write about our science next time (when I find some time in between sampling).

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