Casey station: a brief history

Looking along the curved wall of the Casey tunnel building, looks like a large, long metal pipe
Casey tunnel building (Photo: Robert (Bob) Allen)
Long tunnel building on the rocky coastline

In January 1959, Australia took over operation of the United States-built Wilkes station on Clark Peninsula, two years after it was established by the Americans as a temporary base for the International Geophysical Year (IGY).

It soon became evident that Wilkes would be buried by deepening snowdrifts which threatened building structures. In 1964, Australia commenced work on a replacement station, ‘Repstat’, located about 2 kilometres south on the shores of the Bailey Peninsula.

The Casey tunnel 

Repstat was officially opened on 19 February 1969, and renamed ‘Casey’ in honour of the then Governor-General Richard Casey. Casey had been a staunch supporter of Australia’s early Antarctic program through the 1950s and 1960s.

Casey was a novel design for Antarctic stations at the time. Living and sleeping quarters, and some work buildings were built in a straight line, and connected on the windward side by an aerodynamic corrugated iron tunnel. Buildings were elevated on scaffolding pipe to allow the flow-through of the violent winds so common in the region. Unfortunately, the extreme environment took its toll on the Casey tunnel, causing major corrosion and expensive heat losses in its later years.

In January 1976, the first women to visit an Australian Antarctic station in an official capacity worked at Casey station for the summer season.

By the mid-1970s, Australia’s Antarctic stations were becoming increasingly expensive to maintain. A major rebuilding program was planned for the 1980s. New stations were constructed with a steel frame on concrete foundations and an external skin of 100 mm thick panels of steel clad polystyrene foam. Painted in bold colours, they were designed to provide a great degree of comfort and safety, and incorporated state-of-the-art facilities to support scientific programs.

Modern Casey 

In December 1988, present Casey station was officially opened. A small section of the old station continued to be occupied - areas of upper atmospheric physics, glaciology, the plant inspector’s office, electrician’s workshop and the clothing store. As these areas were gradually relocated, the Casey tunnel was decommissioned, demolished and all parts were returned to Australia by 1993.