Nine members of the Royal Australian Navy’s Maritime Geospatial Warfare Unit recently sailed to Australia’s Davis research station in Antarctica on RSV Aurora Australis to begin survey operations as part of the Davis Aerodrome project.
The team will conduct survey operations to identify potential sites to land construction equipment and materials for a proposed all-seasons, paved runway near Davis station.
The two-week ocean voyage from Hobart to Davis meant a first time encounter with the Southern Ocean for all but one member of the team. The experience didn’t disappoint with 75-knot winds and a blizzard resulting in the ship having to heave to behind a glacier for two days. Then, after five days of driving through thick sea ice and icebergs, the ship passed 60 degrees south.
Leading Seaman Hydrographic Operator Kirsty Whyatt was very keen for her first glimpse of Antarctica.
“I am very appreciative for this awesome once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I can’t wait to see all the penguins and all that Antarctica has to offer,” she said.
Able Seaman Jodie Dickers, also a Hydrographic Survey Operator, said the most amazing moment for her so far on the journey was stepping off the Aurora Australis onto Antarctica.
“I can’t believe I’m here, the feeling is surreal, I am one lucky sailor,” Able Seaman Dickers said.
The team will be at Davis Station conducting survey operations until the end of February, when they will again embark onto RSV Aurora Australis for the voyage back to Hobart.
Davis aerodrome project
In May 2018, the Australian Government announced its intention to construct a paved runway near Davis research station, subject to environmental and other government approvals. In December 2019, the Australian Government committed additional funding over two-and-a-half years to advance the design and environmental assessments required for the Davis Aerodrome Project.
The proposed Davis aerodrome would form the hub of Australia’s Antarctic aviation activities, providing unprecedented support to the Australian Antarctic Program and revolutionising our scientific activities in the region.
Australia’s current Antarctic aviation system consists of a summer-only link from Hobart to the Wilkins Aerodrome ice runway, approximately 70km inland of Casey research station.
The proposed infrastructure includes:
• A 2700m paved runway capable of accommodating existing and future large aircraft capable of return flight from Australia such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (B787), Airbus A330, and the Royal Australian Air Force-operated Boeing C-17A Globemaster III (C-17).
• Aviation infrastructure including a taxiway, aircraft apron, runway lighting, and associated buildings to accommodate services, such as air traffic and rescue and fire fighting services.
• An access road from the station to the aerodrome
• A new wharf
• Temporary station infrastructure to support a population increase during the construction period.