This week at Casey: 10 March 2017

The summerers reflect and the 10 best pictures of the season.

End of summer musings

Somehow it’s already March. As I sit here contemplating packing up my bits and pieces, I wonder how this came to be. Then, upon reviewing my calendar notes and browsing through a multitude of photos, I realise that so much stuff has taken place over the last four-and-a-bit months.

When I mentioned I’d write this wrap–up of my Casey experience, I was asked to include the term 'emotional roller–coaster'. However, you all know I’m way classier than that (…err, cough), so any clichés have been demoted to paragraph five. Digression complete…

On arriving at Wilkins runway near the end of October – which simultaneously feels like yesterday and a few years ago – I was not sure what to expect from my first visit to 'the ice'. I was confident I’d survive and do my job well but would I enjoy it as much as I hoped? After all, I’d been wanting this for a long time. Fast forward to the last couple of weeks, in the twilight of my residency and I’ve been increasingly feeling the intangible pull that results in so many people returning – becoming 'repeat offenders' as they are affectionately dubbed.

Knowing that I’ll soon be home is a surreal feeling, but then again the entire Casey experience has been that way. I never get bored of seeing the icebergs in the distance as I look out my bedroom window. I never get bored of walking up Reeve Hill and looking at the snow cliffs, hoping to see a large chunk fall into the water for my entertainment. I never get bored of the Adélie penguins and their slightly bizarre, yet adorable antics. Equally important, I never get bored of the people or my job.

Taking off the rose–tinted glasses, not every second has been glorious, there have been some tough and challenging moments but I never expected it to be perfect. Nonetheless, it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience, and clichéd terms like enriching, or empowering seem appropriate. The common–man may even say it’s been an emotional roller coaster. There’s also something hypnotic about this paradoxical environment, where everything, yet nothing, changes. I sometimes wrestle in my mind as to whether this existence is reality or not. I’ve concluded that it is, albeit very different to the mainstream idea of reality.

There are things about home I’m looking forward to, so it’s by no means a feeling of impending doom associated with my departure. Back home I’ll be able to catch up with family and friends, and wander up Cleveland street to my favourite kebab shop – all without taking a radio or writing my travel details on the intentions board. Oh yeah, I’ll have a decent internet connection too. Luxury! I’m gonna have YouTube clips running on six browsers simultaneously, just because I can.

Although my brain is now in 'going home mode', for a hardy group of 25 or so, these are early days, as they get prepared for another eight months here. I’m by no means a social butterfly, but I’ve got to know a lot of the crew and will miss the friendship. With complete sincerity I can say that the people inhabiting this unusual place are all genuinely decent – fun, intelligent, and understanding. Some of them probably also enjoy candlelit dinners and walks along the beach at sunset, but that’s just speculation.

At this point I’ll veer away from the sentimental fool path, and finish by offering thanks to all those who made the summer great, and good luck to the 'winterers' who will keep this place in good shape for the next lot of suckers, err summer folk. Just keep your dirty mitts off the Met office cheese stockpile!

Jake (Senior MET forecaster)

A yellow Hägglunds with an ocean view in the background
The yellow Hägg in its natural habitat.
(Photo: J. Phillips)
A view of a tent pitched near Robbo's Hut
Camping on the ice near Robbo's Hut.
(Photo: J. Phillips)
A view of a helicopter flying over the Vanderford Glacier
The Vanderford Glacier by helicopter.
(Photo: J. Phillips)
The Casey band plays to the crowd.
The greatest rock band Casey has ever seen.
(Photo: D. Hall)

Our summer chef reflects on the season

We are all here to work of course, but to be honest, being in the kitchen here I could be in pretty much any kitchen in the world, but then I look up and out the window to 'iceberg alley' and I remember why I am here… to experience Antarctica!

So as the summer at Casey comes to a close, (I can't quite believe that 4.5 months have flown by so quickly) I find myself reflecting on my highlights of the season.

Trips to Shirley Island to watch the Adélie penguins (I love them and could watch them for hours) and hopefully see some seals – Weddell and leopards.

The walks to Reeve Hill to watch the Snow/Wilson storm petrels and have some time to myself (a rare commodity when you are one of the station chef’s and live with 80–100 other people!)

My one ‘jolly’ for this season to Jack’s Donga with great friends, good wine and a steamed pudding for dessert.

Multiple Hägg drives to Wilkins to see planes land and takeoff to say hello/goodbye to many people.

Being a 'patient' for a search and rescue exercise on an exquisite sunny day. Partaking of the Australia Day 'swim' for the second year in a row… something I will do every time I am lucky enough to be here!

An iceberg cruise that words cannot describe (and photos don’t do them justice either)

The many hilarious and lovely dress–up and formal nights held, as well as the fun BBQ’s.

And finally, the friendships made – ones that will last and ones that will fade, but the memories of the Casey 70th ANARE will be with me forever.

Thanks everyone for a wonderful season and good luck to the wintering crew!

Hopefully one last memory (that I am yet to make/see) is an aurora sighting – fingers crossed!

Jordan (Summer chef)

A view of Ice bergs near Casey station
Iceberg alley
(Photo: J. Smith)
Expeditioners cook a BBQ at Casey station
(Photo: J. Smith)
Food prepared for a formal dinner at Casey station
Formal dinner
(Photo: J. Smith)
Three expeditioners admire the view at Jack Huts
Charlie, Bianca and Stu at Jacks Hut.
(Photo: J. Smith)
Desserts prepared for a formal dinner
Formal dessert
(Photo: J. Smith)
Expeditioners in an IRB near a large iceberg
Iceberg cruising
(Photo: J. Smith)
Jordan admires the view from Reeve Hill
Jordan on Reeve Hill
(Photo: J. Smith)
The toilet at Jacks Hut
Jacks loo
(Photo: J. Smith)
Jordan in front of a group of Adélies
Jordan with some Adélie penguins.
(Photo: J. Smith)
An expedition admires some penguins near Wilkes hut
Jake at Wilkes
(Photo: J. Smith)
Cookies made in the Casey kitchen
Casey cookies
(Photo: J. Smith)
Pizzas made in the Casey kitchen
Casey pizza
(Photo: J. Smith)
An expeditioner is lowered down a rock face during SAR training
Jordan plays SAR patient
(Photo: J. Smith)
Jordan cooks pancakes at Jacks Hut
Pancakes for breakie at Jack's Hut.
(Photo: J. Smith)
An iceberg near Casey Station
Tip of the iceberg
(Photo: J. Smith)
A Weddell seal near Casey station
Weddell seal
(Photo: J. Smith)
Penguins on an iceberg near Casey station
Penguins on an iceberg.
(Photo: J. Smith)
Rock, ice and penguins near Casey station
Rock, ice and penguins.
(Photo: J. Smith)
An iceberg is reflected off the water near Casey Station
(Photo: J. Smith)

The photographer’s story

As the expedition photographer I am entitled to a few privileges while at Casey this year. Firstly I have an excuse to spend money on more camera gear (as if that had ever been an issue before…) and secondly I get to stand around taking pictures whilst others shout at me and tell me I should do some work! 

My normal role is within the communications team as information technology officer, which in itself has proved pretty useful in knowing where and how to transfer images and video clips back to head office so that they can be used by the media team. It’s been an active summer and the media team have kept me busy with a few interesting little jobs and side projects to my normal role. 

For those interested in photography let’s have a look at some figures and statistics. I have with me three full frame DSLR’s, one 4K video camera, 11 lenses, two flashes and three tripods not to mention all the other little gizmos and accessories that go with them. Since my flight down here on October 29th I have taken 14,386 pics (over 600 Gbytes of data), all of which I have backed up, backed up again and then backed up the backup – I hope to spend winter going through deleting all the pics I no longer need!

I did run a couple of evening training sessions in early summer to try and introduce the concepts of photography to those who’ve bought themselves some new and fancy equipment for their time down here – you may find your family member or friend muttering about 'the rule of thirds', 'depth of field' or 'ISO grain' when they get home, should that be the case then you have my apologies.

We are all experimenting hard with our new toys so hopefully the obligatory two hour slideshow of the four thousand photos of a penguin in the distance may possibly be a little more tolerable… possibly…

Below are my ten personal favourite pics from this summer.

Stu (Station photographer)

Hägglund vehicles parked at sunrise
Häggs at sunrise
(Photo: S. Shaw)
Two penguins enjoy the sunshine
Enjoying the sunshine.
(Photo: S. Shaw)
An IRB in front of large Iceberg
Berg cruising
(Photo: S. Shaw)
Icebergs shadowed by a dark sky
Moody bergs
(Photo: S. Shaw)
A seal lays asleep on the ice
The seal of tranquillity.
(Photo: S. Shaw)
A penguin swims in front of icebergs
The view on a nice day.
(Photo: S. Shaw)
Juvenile penguins near Casey station
Teenage balls of fluff.
(Photo: S. Shaw)
A view of old Wilkes station
Old Wilkes station
(Photo: S. Shaw)
Icicles under an iceberg
Blue icicles
(Photo: S. Shaw)
A RAAF C17 at Wilkins Aerodrome
Big bird at Wilkins.
(Photo: S. Shaw)