This week at Casey: 16 June 2017

Some of the team get off station for a well-earned break and enjoy being in the huts. As midwinter's get closer, some start making gifts and get ready for the day, while others complete exams. An important lesson was learned in the kitchen!

Station update

The Queen’s Birthday long weekend this week saw the Casey team enjoying a well–earned public holiday day off. There were no shortage of takers for getting off station and out into the field huts in the Casey operating area.  

Eight expeditioners came and went from Wilkes over the three days, with the woodfired pizza oven getting a workout as usual. Mat, Zac, James and Ducky headed around to Robbos for the night, however by all accounts their stay wasn’t quite as warm and toasty as the guys enjoying the Wilkes fireplace! Those of us remaining on station for a very quiet Saturday night were treated to a delicious meal, and the serenity afforded by sharing a space designed for over 85 people with just the 13 of us.

Midwinter’s preparations have kicked up a gear and gift making is in full swing with expeditioners scurrying off to all corners of station at all hours to work on ‘secret’ projects. Andrew and Brendan have been busy working around the chilli jam makers, getting some prep locked away for next week.  Doctor Elise delivered us the pre-midwinters swim briefing this week, before our plunge into the icy water in a hole in the ice next Wednesday.

A number of the 70th ANARE crew are undertaking some kind of study whilst down here on station this winter. This week was exam week. Elise sat an exam for her aeronautical retrieval studies moderated by me (Jac), and a few days later Elise in-turn moderated communications technician Stu’s TCP/IP v4v6 (?!) exam. Sparky Zac, meanwhile continues to forge through a seemingly endless pile of assignments for his mechatronics course, and I continue to procrastinate successfully on my marine engine course.

The sea ice drilling team was out and about again all week, taking full advantage of the few available hours of daylight in the middle of the day. Mat led drilling of Sparkes Bay out of Robbos over the weekend (refer to James' story), and Mat, Rick and Jac drilled and opened up the route from Shirley Island to O'Brien's Bay for travel last Friday afternoon.

The big rectangular monolith or ‘The Thing’ as it has been previously referred to, that some of you may have been tracking taking form on our heli pad via webcam, is almost complete and has been officially named. 'The Blizzed Inn', our ice castle, complete with bar and lighting will be at the centre of our midwinter celebrations following much hard work by a dedicated core of inspired ice block construction specialists.

Jacque Comery, SL

Andrew the chef holding a jug in the kitchen.
Andrew prepping for midwinter dinner.
(Photo: Jacque Comery)
Two expeditions hugging one in the centre.
A whole 'lotta' station leadership love!
(Photo: Simon Jodrell)
Inside photo Wilkes Hut
Wilkes Hut
(Photo: Sealy)
Linc cleaning the inside of the hut.
Cleaning the Wilkes Hilton after a long weekend.
(Photo: Sealy)
A frozen camera housing sitting on a bench.
Cold camera out at Wilkes.
(Photo: Sealy)
Expeditioner drilling ice with another looking on.
Mat and Ricky drill the ice in the Shirley Island channel.
(Photo: Jacque Comery)
Ice cliff sea ice and island in the background.
View from O'Briens Bay sea ice back to Shirley Island.
(Photo: Jacque Comery)
Tide crack on sea ice with cliff in background.
Tide crack on the sea ice.
(Photo: Jacque Comery)

Robbo's trip and Sparkes Bay sea ice drilling

On Saturday the 10th, Zac, Matty, Ducky and myself (Jimbo) loaded up some quads and a Hägg and headed off to Robbo's Hut on the Robinson Peninsula.

The ride there was somewhat character building for the group as the track had heavy sastrugi (wave shaped snow lumps caused by the wind). It took around an hour to make the journey to the hut. From there we unpacked and headed straight down to the ramp that would take us onto the sea ice.

After finding the safest route onto the ice we walked on and drilled the first point to make sure we were good to go with quads. Minimum sea ice thickness for quad bikes is 400 mm and our first drill was in the 700 mm range so away we went. We had to hit a few specified drill points to check thickness so once that was done we headed across Sparkes Bay back toward the Mitchell Peninsula, drilling every couple of hundred metres to confirm thickness, a painstaking process but better than falling through the sea ice.

The ride back to Robbo's was the highlight of the day; with the sun slowly setting at around 3 o'clock, the reflections off the glacier cliffs were something to behold. With no need to drill the way we had just come, we were back at the hut in no time and ready for a well earned bevvy.

Gas heater on, beers cold and a cheese platter, we sat down for a drink and a yarn about the day's events. Plumber-turned-chef for the trip, Ducky showed his ever amazing organisational skills when he informed us he forgot the potatoes so tonight's menu was eye-fillet, with a side of eye fillet. After a good hearty man’s feed, a few reds and the worlds problems solved the day was done.

Early Sunday morning trip back to Casey before the weather was scheduled to turn bad.

Great weekend in an amazing place with a couple of ripper blokes.

Jimbo

Four quad bikes parked in front of hut.
Quads in front of Robbos Hut.
(Photo: James Cairns)
View of mainland over sea ice with rear of a quad in the frame
Robbos Peninsula and Sparkes Bay.
(Photo: James Cairns)
A cave in ice cliff and two quads in foreground.
Small ice cave.
(Photo: James Cairns)
Quads on sea ice with team drilling ice.
Sparkes Bay sea ice drilling.
(Photo: James Cairns)
Ice cliff with two quads on left of frame.
Sparkes Bay ice cliff.
(Photo: James Cairns)
an ice cliff with pale blue ice
Ice cliff
(Photo: James Cairns)

Five minutes with the Casey 70th ANARE crew: Mr Fray Bentos (aka Scottish)

Name: Mr Fray Bentos

Nickname: The Fray

From: Fray Bentos, Uruguay, South America

Previous seasons: 2010 Davis, 2012 Mawson, 2015 Davis, 2017 Casey. Next year Artigas Uruguayan station on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Job title: Pie maker

Describe your role:  Keeper, distributor, and chief cook of the Fray Bentos pies

What did you do before joining the Antarctic Division?

Apprentice pie maker.

What is your favourite part of your job at Casey?

Cooking and eating all the pies.

If not a pie maker what would be your dream job?

Flying round the world critiquing other country's pies.

How does this season compare to previous seasons?

Apart from a worryingly low stock of Fray Bentos, it's as good as the others.

How do you like to spend your spare time?

Eating Fray Bentos.

What song sums up your time at Casey so far?

American pie by Don Mclean.

What actor would play you in a film version of the 70th ANARE season at Casey? 

Luca Barbareschi – famous Uruguayan actor.

Favourite piece of AAD kit?

Can opener.

What is your favourite book/movie?

50 Shades of Fray for the book and Fray Bentos the opera.

What is your typical slushy FM genre?

Murga, a form of musical theatre, and Milonga guitar driven folk music from Uruguay.

Describe your Casey experience with:

A sight – Fray Bentos boxes.

Smell – Fray Bentos cooking.

Sound – can opener on steel.

Feeling – satisfied after eating a Fray Bentos.

Taste – steak and kidney.

Do you have a favourite quote to leave us with?

If Scott had eaten Fray Bentos pies, he would have beaten Amundson to the pole.

Group of expeditioners in a hut.
The Fray Bentos appreciation society AGM.
(Photo: Linc Mainsbridge)
Scottish taking a Fray Bentos pie from the oven.
Dinner time!
(Photo: P Hargraves)
Scottish with the Scott base sign in patterned suit and cowboy hat
Mr F. Bentos on tour at Scott base.
(Photo: Chris George)
Scottish eating a Fray Bentos pie.
The look of concentration whilst eating the Fray.
(Photo: Linc Mainsbridge)

My Casey in pictures: Ducky

Ice crystals on a window
Iceflowers
(Photo: Ducky)
Matty and a yellow Hägglunds out in the snow.
Matty excited for cane lining duty.
(Photo: Ducky)
Frozen toilet seat.
Not the most inviting toilet in Antarctica.
(Photo: Ducky)
Pink night sky over hills and snow.
Pink night sky.
(Photo: Ducky)
Frozen pack on the balcony
Should have brought that inside!
(Photo: Ducky)
Sunrise  behind the Casey sign.
Summer sunrise.
(Photo: Ducky)
Wood fire place with pizza inside.
Wilkes pizza in the oven.
(Photo: Ducky)
Sunrise with igloo in foreground.
Winter sunrise behind the 'Clingloo'.
(Photo: Ducky)
Ducky sitting on a couch in a yellow jacket
A couch on the plateau.
(Photo: Ducky)
Pizza being taken out of the wood fired oven.
Adam preparing a Wilkes treat.
(Photo: Ducky)
Dozer on the ice with sun behind.
Big Jim cleaning up Wilkins during shutdown.
(Photo: Ducky)
Polaris full of snow.
Blizzed in the Polaris.
(Photo: Ducky)

Between the Bergs with Steve Middleton Edition #4 – The chilli incident

Watto Watson, also known as Paul, makes this chilli jam that is a big hit around here and it goes without saying, it’s pretty good.

Me and Watto go way back. I remember 10 months ago when I first met him at the bus stop in Hobart one morning, it was raining, and about five degrees and the guy shows up wearing stubbies.

'What on earth are you doing wearing shorts, its freezing!' I yelled using more trade appropriate words.

'It's not cold yet mate ha ha,' said Watto. Classic Watto.

Last week he announced that over the weekend he was going to run a class in the kitchen on how to make his legendary chilli jam, and right from the get go I was very excited, it sounded like a lot of fun. I wandered down to the kitchen on Sunday morning, grabbed a cuppa, had a few good yarns, told a few jokes and best of all, learned how to make delicious chilli jam with me old mate Watto.

If I only knew then what the day would hold…

I got down to the kitchen right on time and Watto and Misty were already there ready to rip in. The jam is actually pretty basic, equal parts chilli with seeds removed and sultanas (125 grams of each in this case), a couple of teaspoons of ginger and a couple of garlic, some sugar, a dash of salt and cook and you’re away.

We got started by chopping the stems off the chillis and removing the seeds, Misty wore some disposable gloves but Watto didn’t. Watto has never lead me astray before, so I followed his lead.

'Now nobody touch their eyes or face in general,' Watto said about five times. Me and Misty got it, don’t touch our faces or eyes…

We got the chillis chopped and threw them and the sultanas in the blender where they got diced into a bit of a chunky paste. We would open the blender periodically to check the progress and breathe a hint of chilli fumes, which really made us realise that chilli is some pretty hard core stuff.

We got that done and took it out of the blender. Watto was just pouring the mix into a pot to start heating it when the inevitable happened. I touched my face. All I did was gently rub just underneath my right eye and almost instantly, it began to sting.

'Oh!' I said quietly as I lowered my hand from my face.

'You did it didn’t you?' Watto said with a disappointed tone.

'Yep,' I replied.

'Go rinse it with water, quick!' he said.

I closed my eye and made my way over to the sink and quickly washed my hands so I wouldn’t inadvertently do it again. I opened my eye a few times to blink thinking that it might go away if I blinked it out, but every time I did it got heaps worse to the point where I almost couldn’t force my eye to open due to its natural reaction of wanting to close due to irritation.

I don’t know where he came from, but suddenly deputy station leader Brendan was standing next to me with a big one litre bottle of saline solution from an eye wash station.

'You want me to flush it?' he asked while grasping the twist top lid of the bottle.

'I don’t want to waste it,' I thought as I stood dripping wet and with an eye still burning after awkwardly trying to rinse it under a tap.

'They are here to be used,' Brendan urged.

'Yeah righto,' I replied, so I leaned my head back over a sink and he began pouring the solution directly onto my eyeball. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world but it did a great job of taking away the feeling that my eye was on fire. Then suddenly doctor Elise was there, Then my old mate Adam the sparkie showed up out of nowhere to help too, it was exciting stuff.

All the while Misty and Watto never left the jam’s side for a moment. You can look at that a lot of ways; for example, they had a job to do and helping me wasn’t going to get that job done, or maybe, Muscles got himself into this, he can get himself out or perhaps (and most realistically) they thought that I had all the help I needed and they had jam to make so they just carried on. Either one is fine with me, a mere 15 minutes after the initial stuff up I was back at the stove with Watto picking right back up where we left off – inhaling chilli fumes.

What a start to the day!

Life lessons learned in order of importance:

  1. you never want to get pepper sprayed,
  2. if meddling with chilli in the kitchen wear a respirator,
  3. always have eye wash on hand if dealing with chilli,
  4. if you are working with chilli and you deem it necessary, it might be a good idea to wear gloves like Misty did so your hands don’t get covered in what may as well be hydrofluoric acid when it gets in your eye.

Chilli – you won’t see it coming.

Muscles

Jars of chilli jam in the fridge.
The finished product.
(Photo: Steve Middleton)
A single cup of tea sitting on a bench top in the kitchen.
Brendan's cup of tea, abandoned amidst the chaos.
(Photo: Steve Middleton)