Named after Captain John King Davis, master of ships used on expeditions led by Shackleton and Mawson, Australia’s Davis Station is a colorful collection of buildings overlooking the sea and numerous islands. Opened in 1957 on the edge of the Vestfold Hills, Davis can accommodate 100 people, but usually there are about 70 in summer and 20 over winter.
During its first years, Davis accommodated very small wintering parties – in some cases, just four or five men stayed through the long polar night. In 1965 Davis was closed temporarily to allow Australia to concentrate its efforts on building Casey Station. It reopened in 1969 and has operated continuously ever since.
Compared to that of its two Australian sister stations, Mawson and Casey, Davis’ climate is relatively mild, thanks to the moderating influence of the Vestfold Hills, which separate the station from the Antarctic ice sheet – thus Davis’ nickname: ‘the Riviera of the South.’
Among the rocks near the blue meteorology building is a small sculpture garden unique to Antarctica. It was built by a Davis artist-in-residence, Stephen Eastaugh, who in 2002 was inspired by an enigmatic figure, Man Sculpted by Antarctica, carved from wood by Hans, a plumber who overwintered in 1977. Nicknamed ‘Fred the Head,’ the sculpture is a 30-year-old work-in-progress being changed by Antarctic weather, an artistic counterpoint to the industrial-scientific aesthetic prevalent at most stations. Four small wood and metal sculptures by Eastaugh join Hans’ enigmatic head in the sculpture garden.