New station leaders settle into their icy home

13 November 2009

With Australia's summer season underway in Antarctica, new station leaders will take up their roles at Mawson, Davis and Casey stations over the next month.

So what's it really like to live and work in Antarctica as a station leader?

Veteran Antarctic expeditioner Mike Craven, has been going south since 1982. Mike explains why he has taken on the station leader role at Mawson this year.

[Video]

Mike Craven Mawson

Video transcript

Mike Craven - Station Leader, Mawson

Hello, I’m Mike Craven. I’m from Margate, five acres down the road here, and I’m heading to Mawson this summer and staying for the 2010 winter. I’ve been going south since 1982. I first decided to go when I was waving away the perspiration in Brisbane on a real hot day with The Courier Mail, and saw a full-page ad for Antarctica and I’ve been hooked ever since.

My very first trip was actually to Macquarie Island and what I felt there was the noise, the hustle and bustle of the animals in summer, because there were just millions of seabirds and seals and things along the beaches, and it just seemed to be a hive of activity. It was just nature just running rampant. It was a really great feeling to be part of it; to actually have the privilege to sit amongst those animals and just enjoy and share what they do throughout the day.

I was attracted to Antarctica by talking to people who’d been before. It struck me as a place that had a freedom to it. It’s a cashless society, it’s a place where people work for each other. Yet, the challenges in Antarctica are the same as ever in terms of environment. The main part of Antarctica’s very cold and is going to be that way through the winter, anyway. The isolation becomes quite extreme when the sun disappears, but communications these days are extremely good.

I think as station leader, my main role is going to be making sure the community acts in harmony and work together for a common purpose, not just in the job that you go down to do but for the entire group, to make sure everybody works well together. Then I guess on another level, from an administrative point of view, it’s just the safety and compliance, making sure everything happens in a manner in which the whole season goes well together.

From my own personal point of view, I really want to go and see the emperor penguins at the Oster colony again. I think it’s one of the wonders of the world.

[end transcript]

Mike Woolridge first joined the Antarctic Division in 1993 as an expeditioner. He talks here about his upcoming post as station leader at Davis station.

[Video]

Mike Woolridge Davis

Video transcript

Mike Woolridge - Station Leader, Davis station

Hi I'm Mike Woolridge. I'm off to Davis, as a station leader for the summer, and I'm from Blackmans Bay in Tasmania. I came to work for the Antarctic Division in 1993. I can remember vividly walking through these front doors as an expeditioner and by the end of the day I knew I wanted to work here and I would like to go back, and it's always been a goal of mine to manage a station as a station leader. The attraction of Antarctica is basically the passion you build up for having been there. For people that haven't been there, it's usually this mysterious place at the end of the world. Once you've been fortunate to go there, you just realise what it has to offer and what a great place it is. I probably spent two years of my life at Davis station already. But the challenge of working with the community and managing the program for the season is going to be really exciting. Davis has a really big season ahead of it. We're in the middle of constructing a new living quarters, so we have a big building project team going down there to finish construction and fit out over the winter. We also have a treaty inspection coming down. Our director will visit Davis and from Davis they will fly to our neighbours. I would have said local, but they will be quite some way away. We have Russians, Chinese, Japanese stations, in that area of East Antarctica. And we will be conducting treaty inspections. There's going to be a dive program at Davis and that's going to be exciting. And a lot of boating programs.

Davis does have wildlife like most spots in Antarctica, it's significant to that area and you get what you're given. We have penguins, different types of penguins. It's not very far to an emperor penguin colony. We have local Adélie penguins. Davis is lucky in that it also gets elephant seals, there's a wallow there. So towards the end of summer, elephant seals are going to come back to that wallow and expeditioners get the chance to see wildlife like that. And an amazing array of birds. 

[end transcript]

Narelle Campbell enjoyed her first station leader stint with the Australian Antarctic Division so much, she has come back for more. This time she will be leader at Casey station.

[Video]

Narelle Campbell Casey

Video transcript

Narelle Campbell - Station Leader, Casey station

I'm Narelle Campbell and I'm heading off to Casey station for this coming season. We arrive on station in December 2009 and will be leaving some time December 2010 or even through to January 2011. I'm originally from Wingham and Taree on the north coast of New South Wales. I've always wanted to go to Antarctica and I don't know why. It's just something that's been in me ever since I was a child. Maybe I watched a couple of documentaries when I was younger but there was something about the isolation of Antarctica, it's going back to pure nature. It's one of the most untouched environments in the world. So all that has interested me and also working down there with a group of dynamic and unique different individuals in a very small environment. That's what's attracted me to it. The challenges you'd get down at the Antarctic, which is very different to working back here on the mainland, is the environment, the harshness of the environment, the blizzards, the cold and you've got to be mindful of people's safety. The other challenge is people being away from their families, friends, loved ones for a long period of time and it's providing that support for those individuals to be as comfortable as they can. The highlights are the expeditioners themselves, watching people enjoy the environment so much and watching a group of people enjoy that small community and helping each other out. That's the bit I love, the wildlife, the scenery the whole thing. The whole thing is a great experience. You know in reverse too, it's what are the things that I don't particularly look forward to, there's nothing, you know. I love it, each day is different and you can't expect the same each day and that's the part I like about it.

[end transcript]