Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

Curved ice line
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Special Report: Tell Us About Davis

Some background to Davis station: Davis station was opened in 1957 during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and, apart from a two year break in the mid 1960s, it has been open and staffed continuously since. The students amongst you might like to have a look to see what you can find out about the IGY and why it was so significant.

Davis was named after legendary Australian Antarctic navigator and ships captain John King Davis (you might find references to him in the literature or on the web). It is the southernmost of Australia’s stations at 68 degrees 35 minutes south, 77 degrees 58 minutes east. It is located on the northern edge of the relatively ice free Vestfold Hills an area of approximately 400 square kilometres; the polar ice cap starts some 20 kms in from the coast. The area is bare, low lying hilly country deeply indented by sea inlets and studded with lakes and tarns of varying salinity. Numerous islands fringe the coast up to five km offshore.

Davis is located on Heidemann Bay on the south-eastern side of the much larger Prydz Bay.

The approach: We reached the outer ice pack several days before we made the run in toward Davis through varying concentrations of ice - much of it was pretty easy but at times we had to stop, back off and take a second and sometimes more ‘runs’ at the ice to force our way through. On a couple of nights we actually stopped the ship in the ice because the visibility (blowing snow or darkness or both) wasn’t good enough to pick a suitable track through the ice. We were never in any danger being stopped like that - the ships engines keep turning and keep an area of open water behind us so we don’t get frozen in.

We had thought of stopping the ship 50-100 miles out from the station to allow us to prepare the helicopters and fly in a number if people to get started on their work - but decided against it as the flying conditions were a bit marginal and further stopping would take time when we could be better off continuing to sail to the station and get there in good light for our final charge.

I’ll tell you more about sea ice another time but for now it’s enough to know that there is a band of fast ice surrounding Davis reaching about 12 kilometres off the coast.



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