Friday, March 07, 2008

Goodbye Antarctica

We are finally leaving Mawson (and Antarctica) today. We arrived on the first of March and after some very ordinary weather we will be finished the resupply sometime this afternoon. I ended up spending four nights on station after the ship had to leave in a hurry. It wasn't a bad thing though as I got to have a good look around, and also did some work. As pretty as Mawson is I am pretty sure that I wouldn't want to spend a whole lot of time there as the wind would just be too much.
For those of you reading this today or tomorrow (8/9th March) there is a feature in this weekend's Age magazine written by the journos who came down to Casey on the Airbus.
I am wondering if I should now write some big sign off piece about how amazing my time has been down here, but I just don't think that I have to. You have seen some of the photos and read some of the things that I have been up to so you know how much of a good time I have had down here. What I will say is a big, big thank you to Mum, Dad, Paul and Marney for all their support during my time down here - not only for the time on the continent, but also before I left home. Phone calls, emails, doing shopping for me, heaps of stuff to make things a little easier for me down here. Thanks guys, I really do appreciate it. And to everyone else who kept me informed of the goings on at home, thank you too.
Well that's it for me, I'm coming home. See you all very soon!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's home time

The time has finally come for me to head home. We are leaving Casey tomorrow (Feb 14) to head home, via Davis and Mawson. It has been a long time for me and I am really ready to be heading home. I'm not too sure when I will be back in town, but it will be somewhere in the vicinity of 5 weeks' time. This could very well be my last entry from down here, but I am hoping to be able to update the blog from Mawson when we get there.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Australia Day

So another Australia Day has been and gone, and once again we celebrated in style. The highlight for me was the annual Summerers V Winterers cricket match. As the Winterers team was a little light on, I was recruited to play for them. We played to some very dodgy rules and some very dodgy umpiring decisions but a good time was had by all (except for the minor hamstring injury sustained by one of the expeditioners). In the end the Summerers just got over the line.

Due to the severe lack of grass (bloody drought!) the pitch had to be made on the gravel road. It just so happens that we have the resources to build such a strip. A few waters and a few runs with the roller and we had a pretty solid pitch to play on. It broke up a bit later in the match, but still was of no help to the spinners.

Jenn rolling the pitch

The game in full swing

After the cricket it was BBQ time, and this was held out on the deck of the Red Shed. After grazing for an hour or so, it was time to work off lunch with a few hotly contested games of volleyball on the helipad. After that, we all well and truly deserved a bit of quiet time so most of us headed inside to Splinters Bar for a wind down session listening to all the classic Australian hits.

Early Sunday morning we lost 17 people on the last "passenger" flight for the season. There is still one more flight to take people home but these are all going to be Airlink related staff. We are now back down to 43 people having lost all of the science teams.

During the week I was involved in batching and pouring concrete, giving the chippies a hand. Some repair works needed to be carried out on the wharf and the works had to be carried out at the lowest tide for the month as the section to be repaired was under the waterline at high tide. Fortunately for us, the low tides were at about 0900, so there were no early starts. At the same time we also poured a small slab for the Met guys to mount some new piece of weather recording instrument.
Down at the wharf Pouring the slab for the Met equipment
Only two weeks now till the ship turns up (Feb 10). Not long now...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The New Ice Age

The Age newspaper have had a presence here at Casey during last week. Reporter Jo Chandler and photographer Angela Wylie were here from Sunday to Friday doing a series of reports on climate change and the environment down here. Follow the link below to read the reports and see Jo's video diary entries:

And apparently there was also a photo of me in the weekend Age, with a few of the boys at the bar. Angela must have been very quick to get that shot, as I am hardly ever at the bar.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The first ever Australian passenger flight to Antarctica

Airbus A-319

On Thursday evening we were expecting the landing of the first ever passenger flight from Australia to Antarctica. During the day we got word that there were going to be a few dignitaries on the plane for a visit, including Environment Minister Peter Garrett and the Director of the Australian Antarctic Division Tony Press, among others. In the vehicles going up to Wilkins runway there were 6 spare seats for anyone who was keen to go. Of course, more than 6 people were keen to go so a ballot was held. There were 4 seats in the CASA flying up there and 2 in the Hagg driving up there. I was lucky enough to be drawn out, and took one of the seats in the Hagg. We departed Casey at 1930 for the run up the hill. The highlight of the drive up was stopping to get photos as we crossed the Antarctic Circle - a sign has been erected to mark the spot. It really is in the middle of nowhere, there is nothing else to see except for miles and miles of snow and ice.

We were the last ones to arrive at Wilkins, at about 2145, only just beaten by the second CASA flight. It was -17 on the ground with hardly any wind so it wasn't too bad at all. The plane was due to land at about midnight so there was not much to do but wait. Just before midnight we spotted the plane as it turned to make it's approach to the runway. There was no messing around with a fly over, it was straight in to land. And a textbook landing it was.

On approach

Winding down the engines, just as the sun is setting (@ 2355)

Sunrise (@ 0146)
Mr Garrett walked out of the plane, showing off his trademark bald head, but this didn't last for long as he realised that -17 was a bit to cold to be without a beanie. After the official meet and greet session with all the important people they made their way across to us to meet and greet. I chatted with Peter for a while about life down here and what it is like to be away for so long. He was very generous with his time and was a real nice bloke. He was so happy to in Antarctica.
Me with Peter Garrett
After a bit of a tour of the runway, the official party then took to the skies again, this time aboard a CASA for a fly over of the coast, glaciers, icebergs and Casey itself (as it is about 70kms from the runway, this was the only real way they could see the station in the time allowed).
CASA pilots Dave and John, in flight with Peter Garrett in the cockpit (Thanks to Dave for the photo)
During this time we chatted with the scientists who came in on the flight, and also the media were keen to have a chat to us as well. I did an interview with the ABC TV crew, as some of you may have already seen. If you haven't seen it and want to, follow this link and scroll down till you find "Australia-Antarctic air link opens" posted at Fri, 11 Jan 2008 19:13:00.
The CASA returned after 40 minutes and Peter was taken by ute (well actually an F-250) to the end of the runway to enjoy a few minutes of solitude away from all the noise and people. When he came back there was some more time for a chat before a group photo in front of the 319 was organised. It was at this time that Craig, one of the other plumbers, got out his guitar to be signed.

Craig getting his guitar signed, with Richard (one of our chefs) looking on
After a few last minute photos with people it was time for everyone who was going home to get on board. The take off was much more impressive than the landing with the amount of snow that was blown around. It almost looked like a space shuttle hurtling down the runway there was that big a snow cloud pushed out from behind the plane. Dave has also kindly given me a copy of this video so remind me to show it to you when I get home.

Homeward bound
After all the excitement was over, it was time for us to head home. It was 0630 by the time we got back on station with the Hagg unloaded - everyone was pretty tired. But we were also proud to be part of a little bit of Antarctic history.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas, Casey style

Christmas has been and gone for another year, and it was my second in a row on the continent. Unlike last year, we actually had Christmas celebrations on Christmas day which was quite nice (at Davis last year the ship was still in, and when that is the case, everything else is put on hold until the ship leaves).
The day started off a little slowly for some as the Christmas eve celebrations were fully embraces. We had breakfast at around 1000, followed by a video hook-up with Davis and Mawson which was pretty cool. Then the Casey Choir performed 7 songs, including Green Christmas (I'm dreaming of a green Christmas, with every iceberg that I've seen) and a very topical Twelve Days of Christmas.
Casey Choir
Santa managed to find his way down here, arriving on a tracked quad instead of the sleigh pulled by reindeer. Lunch followed and as usual it was an extravagant affair, with an enormous range of hot and cold meats, and enough seafood to sink a battleship. Add in the bread and salads, not to mention desserts (with the best homemade ice-cream I have ever tasted) and everyone was fully satisfied. After lunch most of us headed outside to either throw the frisbee, kick the footy or the hacky sack - or all three. The late afternoon and evening were spent grazing on leftovers and relaxing in the lounge with a glass or two and some excellent conversations. All in all it was a fantastic day.
Michael had been a good boy obviously
Enjoying lunch


Last week I went out on a day trip for local area familiarisation, which basically meant going for a ride on the quads to see some of the local sights. The place I am most keen to see while I am here is the old station, Wilkes. It was originally an American base, but was handed over to Australia in the late 1950's. It was used until the original Casey was built (now know as Old Casey) which was used until the current station was built in the 1980's. When Wilkes was abandoned, almost everything was left as it was - from machinery and rubbish, to the station itself. The main part of the station is now almost completely buried, and some of the outbuildings are in a very bad way. We are not allowed to remove any items from the area, even if the items appear to be old rubbish, as the whole station is considered a heritage area. It is really interesting to have a look around the place, and I am hoping to get back there soon for a much better look around.

The only currently used building is the old radio operators hut, which has been named the Wilkes Hilton. It has six beds and is large enough to accommodate twice that number. It is the biggest field hut I have seen, and I can't wait to spend an evening or two over there.

Wilkes Hilton

Wilkes Station, almost completely buried under years of accumulating snow

Dave, one of the pilots, leaning on the roof

Some old building housing something (a telescope perhaps), with no door and missing a wall.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


So after a few weeks waiting I have finally made it to Casey. I'll post again soon more about the station itself, but for now I will concentrate on the flights over.
The first flight is the one in a helicopter to get up to Woop Woop, the Davis skiway. After a round of farewells, I headed up to the helipad to get my ride. At this point I was experiencing mixed emotions - I was excited to be finally going to Casey, but was sad to be leaving my home of the past 12 months. I got myself into the helicopter flown my Chris, who had previously spent time down here as a plumber. He very kindly allowed me to get some final shot of Davis from the air. Then we took the long way around to Woop Woop, flying up Ellis Fjord to Trajer Ridge. We came across a group doing field training so gave them two low passes to say hi.
Davis from the helicopter
Up at the skiway the two CASAs were being refuelled. I was in the first plane with Bri and Michelle and we left about 45 minutes before the second plane. John and Rod were our pilots. The first leg of the flight to Bunger Hills was very white. As we were flying inland there wasn't much to see for the majority of the trip. About the only thing you can see is the massive amounts of crevasses scarring the landscape, and the odd glacier or two. As we got closer to Bunger Hills there was a bit more to see. This first leg of the flight lasted about 3 and a half hours.
Glen Hoger at work refuelling the plane I was in
Bunger Hills is an area similar to the Vestfold Hills, where Davis is situated. Except there are only two apples and two melons there (these are the names for the different sized living huts), instead of a station. We were there to refuel, and to remove some of the stuff that has been there for some time. We picked up 10 ration packs from on of the melons, all dating back to 1986. When the work was done we took a short walk up a nearby hill to watch the other plane come in to land.
On approach to land at Bunger Hills
Two melons (L) and two apples (R)
Both planes on the sea ice. I was in the one on the right
The second leg of the flight was a bit shorter, at about one and three quarter hours, and a lot more picturesque. This time we had icebergs and ice cliffs to keep us entertained. We also got our first glimpse of Casey before we turned towards the skiway to land. We touched down at about 2100 to start the next phase of summer, and so far I am having a great time. Everyone is really nice, and quite eager to hear more about life at Davis. Soon I will put up some more about Casey itself, showing some of the local sights.
The view from my window

My first glimpse of Casey