Aurora Australis Voyage
The Aurora Australis voyage 1 of the 2018-19 season is tasked to resupply Davis Station for the year, and to transfer new expeditions to the station to relieve the outgoing winter crew who have called Davis home for the last 12 months.
We lined up and boarded the ship on the morning of October 25th. The first task on board is to complete some mandatory safety briefs and drills in case of emergency. Sailing south from Hobart you’re pretty well out in the open ocean on your own – every day of travel is another day in a life boat waiting to be rescued.
After completing the inductions and drills we disembarked and dispersed for lunch. It was a bit of a surreal experience to think this would be the last time on the Australian continent for 12 months. Those who had friends and family in Hobart said good-bye as the Aurora Australis docks at a security controlled wharf so only crew and expeditioners are permitted on the wharf. Those without family in Tasmania (the majority) took the opportunity to make some last minute phone calls or have a final Cafe lunch before departing.
After completing customs clearances we were waived off and departed Hobart at 3:30 pm.
On board we were well looked after by the P&O crew with 3 hot meals per day. The biscuit jar is always kept topped up and many cups of tea were consumed over discussions or board games.
Our daily routine consisted of some field training sessions with the FTOs (Field Traning Officer) in the morning or after lunch – a large majority of this training was refresher for the wintering team but for a lot of summer expeditioners this will be the first time they get to see some of the equipment we’ll use in the field. Volunteers conduct Phytoplankton sampling in one of the marine biology labs. These are filtered and then frozen in nitrogen for research conducted after the voyage. The Aurora Australis is fitted with laboratories for biological, meteorological, and oceanographic research and continually collects data whilst underway. The data can be viewed on the ships intranet in real time through the Data in Real Time (DiRT) portal.
In additon to our live weather our Meteorological observers record the weather at regular intervals and this gets fed back to the BoM. The more weather data that can be collected the more accurate the weather models can become in the Southern Ocean. Fortunately we also have 2 weather forecasters, Tony and Patrick who prepare daily weather forecasts based on the ships projected route.
We crossed the Antarctic Convergence and things started to get cold very quickly.
On the 7th November we arrived at the Davis fast ice and begun breaking our way through. Making excellent initial progress we manged to break through 2 nautical miles of ice in the first push. We reached a point that the ice was too thick to continually progress through and would have to start taking smaller bites at a time. The ships ice strengthen hull is used to ride up on the ice and then push through. The officer of the watch will then retreat back to get another run up and go again. A slow process. In order to get thing ready for the resupply, 33 personnel were flown off using the two squirrel helicopters. We then spent an afternoon and evening breaking through ice before coming to rest in the 1.7 meter thick ice at Davis Station.
The main party of expeditioners arrived the following morning an a cheerful Hagg taxi driver picked us up from the ice. That covers some of the highlights of an amazing trip, and that’s just getting to Antarctica. Stay tuned for more, bye!