May 2017

May started with a bang. We had Blizzard conditions overnight from the 30th of April into the morning of the first of May. The peak wind gust was 78 knots (144 km/h or 89 miles/h).

As a result of the persistent extreme winds, all the snow that was around the station was blown away and the sand and dust from the bared earth of the Vestfold Hills was blown in over the station. We went from Heavy blowing snow to blowing sand and dust, resulting in quite a transformation of the landscape.

Then on the 2nd of May we had snow, which once again transformed the landscape.

 

The wind, snow, sand and dust were mixed and sculptured into artistic scenes.

 

On the 6th of May Bryce, Barry (B2) and I had the intention of riding quad bikes out to Platcha Hut. We left station in light to moderate snowfall. It was fairly easy going, as there was a layer of fresh snow building on the sea ice.

We travelled along Long Fjord and as we approached waypoint PL-09 we encountered deep snow drifts and the ice had been rafted – when sheets of ice are pushed around and rise up over other sheet ice caused by the action of underlying currents and extreme winds. Some of the ice ridges were 1.5 metres high.

After around 300 metres of trying to negotiate our way through the ice and snow and getting bogged several times, we had to abandon our plan and return to Brookes Hut. We got within 2.5 km from Platcha.

We found that another group was already settling in at Brookes. Their plan was to go to Bandits Hut, but they also encountered heavy rafting ice and many ice bergs to block their way. So after a short stay at Brookes we went back to Davis.

 

Meanwhile at Davis – the days were getting shorter. The setting sun cast a beautiful light – these 3 photos were taken while on a walk out to Marchents Landing.

 

With the sun setting in the background – I had another go with my Nikon Micro 105mm f2.8 lens taking photos of the intricate ice crystals on the lounge windows.

 

The skies over Davis were particularly nice on the 9th.

 

On the 10th I was fortunate enough to go out on the ice with Lötter, Daleen and Kerryn to take take the sea ice measurements. The furtherest drilling point from station is surrounded by some beautiful ice bergs.

 

On the way back to station we passed by some more awesome bergs which were beautifully illuminated by the combination of setting sun and the cloudy conditions.

 

The following five pictures are of various aspects of station life. On the 13th we had a ‘Rubiks Cube’ party, for Bryce’s Birthday – the idea was to come dressed in a Rubiks Cube colour and during the night we would swap items of clothing with each other.

 

Big snow falls on the 14th

 

After the snow came another blizzard (15th of May)

 

A during and after blizzard photo pair.

 

After the heavy snow and wind over a couple of days, the station landscape was transformed. The most spectacular of these transformations was the sculptured snow, particularly in the lee of structures or machinery.

 

Later, as the sun descended towards the horizon, the softening light added to the sculptured scenes.

 

Even later still, I wandered around the back of the station.

 

On the night of the 16th there was another aurora. Again I experimented with the settings – especially the focus. Below are 5 photos taken that night between 10pm and 10:45pm. What is special about these is that they all feature some snow. There was also a moon rising to the NE.

 

Just after the Blizzard 3 of our expeditioners had to be rescued as they were stuck at Bandits Hut, unable to make their way on quad bikes through the deep snow drifts. A team of two Hägglunds and 5 expeditioners went to their aid.

On another day everyone on station had training in Hägglund recovery – this took place just out on the sea ice in front of the station.

 

On the 19th, 20th and 21st we had more snow and wind, again transforming the station into a winter wonderland. The strongest gust recorded was 86 knots (159km/h, 99 miles/h).  Winter was well and truly with us.

 

Then on the 22nd we had another Blizzard – so much for “The Riviera of the South”.

 

At night, having cloud free skies is a bonus, especially if a aurora australis is dancing across the heavens. At 8:30am on the 24th it was still dark and one of these amazing light shows was on display.

 

Then a little after 9am the moon popped up over the Northeast horizon. The last photo in this group is of the sun rising at 14 minutes past Noon.

 

On the 24th the sun was above the horizon for 2 hours and 56 minutes. During that time Fire team 2 carried out a exercise – suiting up and donning breathing apparatus.  We entered the ‘smoke’ filled Field Store and carried out a systematic search of the building for somone whohad been working in the building.

 

On the night of the 24th there was another beautiful aurora. I feel this time I have got all the settings correct, especially the focus – Focus automatically set on a distant light or object, then turn off the auto focus on both the camera and lens as well as switch off the vibration controls. The following 3 pics were taken around 7pm.

 

Later that evening I took the following photo of the SMQ and linkway at 11:20pm.

DSC_0626

 

The AFL (Australian Football League) season was well underway. With our poor bandwidth we were not able to watch any games, though on the odd occasion we could get sparodic radio coverage. As most of you will know I am a West Coast Eagles fan (and memeber). I messaged the club suggesting I send them some pictures of footy fans in the Antarctic. They posted some of these on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

That weekend West Coast Eagles played Geelong – the photo of B1 and B2 appeared in several newspapers. The last 2 photos show Bryce and Fitzy celebrating the AFL’s traditional Indigenous round – in particular ‘Dreamtime at The G’

 

Winter and the long night were definitely coming – On the last day of the month the sunrise was at 1:05pm and sunset at 2:25pm.

We also had a week of very windy and snowy conditions towards the end of the month with a peak gust of 81 knots (150 km/h, 93 miles/h).

After the winds and blizzard eased, to our surprise, we noticed that the the sea ice had broken out. Open water could be seen near and beyond Anchorage Island.

 

There was another beautiful aurora display later on the 28th.

 

On the 29th the sky was clear for a while during the very short daylight hours. I took the opportunity to photograph the after effects of the blizzard conditions we had experienced during the week.

 

At around 7:30pm on the 29th I witnessed and photographed another amazing aurora display. This one was very special as it had beautiful blue and purple tinges in the streaks to the Northeast. As well there were red and green tinges on the opposite side of the celestial dome to the Southwest.

The last 2 photos in this group were taken later that night at around 30 minutes past midnight.

 

The last two photographes in this gallery are of the sunrise glow on the last day of the month. At this time of the year there was little variation in  the sky. When the sun rose it only rose less then 1º above the horizon as it flitted across the northern skyline for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

 

NEXT……      June 2017 Gallery, including Mid-Winter celebrations.

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