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Josh's Australian Antarctic expedition 4 - Resupplying Davis Station

Resupply was an incredibly busy time, with all the supplies for the next 12 months being brought ashore across the sea ice. One interesting cargo item was a 30 tonne rock crusher, used in the quarry for producing gravel for station roads. Our team was involved in the refueling of the station; over 800,000 L of fuel was pumped through around 3 km of 3 inch hose. This took around two days throughout which the line was constantly patrolled in case of leaks. More about Josh.

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Paul and I were assigned the 12-4 shift, midday and midnight. This was probably the best one, as we witnessed some beautiful sunsets followed by a sunrise an hour later. Although the sun dropped below the horizon, it is already too late in the year for darkness, so no chance of any aurorae spotting for now. Spiked boot chains were an essential item, as any snow-free ice was very treacherous! Patrolling the line was endlessly entertaining, as the Adelie penguins were unable/unwilling to cross the hose, so they would walk up and down beside the line squawking in frustration or sometimes just giving up and going to sleep. This allowed for some very close encounters, the penguins are not too scared of you, and approach to check you out if you sit down and wait a while.

 The weather at Davis has been incredible; temperatures no lower than -5 °C (the other day it reached +5 °C!) and barely a breeze. It’s very surprising this early in the season, and I am unsure if it is a good thing that we’ve had it so easy; some stronger acclimatisation would probably be useful before we reach the mountains. We have been kept very busy dividing all our science and living gear (including over a literal tonne of food) into three camp loads for our primary sites: Mount Menzies, Accidental Valley, and Lake Terrasovje. Our camp is around three Twin Otter loads, quite substantial and luxurious really. We have also all had a turn at slushy duty, helping out the chefs cooking and washing up. I spent on evening helping out in the Vestfold Brewery (Davis is located in the Vestfold Hills) bottling homebrew which is available for free at the bar for all on station. Reminded me of home, as Cooper’s lager is the beer Mum has brewed back at home my whole life. It’s the little things in life…

We had one day trip in the helicopters to the Reinbolt Hills, taking samples and tweaking our protocols. This was very successful and things are running smoothly. We found cyanobacteria, lichens, moss, and mites; all very new to me as last year in the Central Trans-Antarctic Mountains we did not see any life at all. There were also many Snow Petrel bones around, a testament to the harsh conditions faced by animals down here. The diversity of habitats within this small area was very interesting, from high old dry surfaces to a basin containing a ‘bog’ (for lack of better descriptors) with a huge amount of gypsum salts and algal mats covering the soil surface. On the same day Adrian went on a recce flight in the Twin Otter to the Mawson Escarpment to find a landing site in/near Accidental Valley. This also went well, with a blue ice site being selected about 2 km from the valley mouth, on the edge of the Lambert Glacier (largest glacier on the planet). This is good news logistically, as it means our gear can be heli-slinged from here rather than Dalton’s Corner – the next closest landing site, 80 km away from where we want to be.

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