Snow, sea ice and seals – a day out surveying in Antarctica

March 23, 2020 – Royal Australian Navy’s Maritime Geospatial Warfare Unit recently conducted survey operations at Davis research station, Antarctica, as part of Operation SOUTHERN DISCOVERY.

Each day, the team launched inflatable rigid boats (IRBs) to survey the waters surround Davis for potential landing sites for heavy construction equipment and materials which will be required should the proposed Davis aerodrome be approved to go ahead.

In the last ten days, the team conducted 557 survey lines equating to a distance of 126 nautical miles (similar to the distance between Sydney and Canberra) and has surveyed 6.8 square nautical miles of the sea floor.

The sub-zero Antarctic environment constantly provided the team with unique challenges only faced in polar waters.

Snow showers, wildlife encounters, sea ice and icebergs are a constant presence in the survey areas.

On one occasion, two IRBs were forced to nose up to an ice floe and the team had to shunt it out of the way to create an opening, after becoming enclosed by fast-freezing sea ice.

Petty Officer Hydrographic Survey Manager Jo Hammett said survey operations in Antarctica presented unique challenges.

“You have to deal with cold weather, cold equipment and cold toes, but nothing can take away from being within metres of icebergs and having a seal pop his head out of the water to see what you are up to,” Petty Officer Hammett said.

This was Leading Seaman Hydrographic Systems Operator Tanya Maksimovic’s first visit to Antarctica.

“I really had no idea what to expect, especially the daily challenges that arise while out surveying.

“Originally it was hard to comprehend that we would be trying to pick our way out of sea ice and be up close and personal with an iceberg, but it has definitely added a new sense of adventure and accomplishment to the job,” she said.

Related posts