This week at Casey: 24 February 2017

The flights continue while a visitor takes a unique look at Casey.

Wilkins – air link to the world

Life at Wilkins can be hard for some. Others relish the remoteness and beauty that the plateau holds. While 'up on the hill', we are constantly moving snow and changing the way the wind moves over the ice that Wilkins is built on. The ice is just over 500 metres thick and is constantly moving. The bangs and cracks of the ice sometimes wake us from our peaceful slumber, akin to small calibre rifle shots in the middle of the night.

The camp is small but very functional. The operations building is where we talk to the aircraft, along with a perfect vantage point for the weather observers to see 360 degrees to report on current weather to the world.

The MECC shelter is our medical facility during fly days. The accommodation is single rooms with the exception of the overflow van which has double bunks. The mess has ample room for eight of us to have a meal, and relax after a long day at work, although it does get a little squashy when we have more than three visitors.

During the last week or so, Wilkins has welcomed and farewelled multiple flights coming from elsewhere in Antarctica with multiple nationalities on board. French, Italian and Chinese all made their appearance at Wilkins, along with some Canadians that spent the summer at Casey.

After the intra-continental flights, the passengers board the A319 for the four and a half hour flight back to Hobart where they connect with other flights to ultimately head for home.

Sealy – Wilkins Mechanic

Wilkins Facilities Block with Hagglunds parked out front
Wilkins facilities block.
(Photo: P. Ross)
The Wilkins site with labels indicating each building
The Wilkins layout.
(Photo: W. Seal)
A snow groomer at Wilkins Aerodrome
A snow groomer.
(Photo: P. Ross)
Wilkins Operations Centre - a red rectangle building with lots of snow around it.
Wilkins operations centre.
(Photo: P. Ross)
A snow blower at Wilkins Aerodrome
A snow blower at Wilkins Aerodrome
(Photo: P. Ross)
A bulldozer parked at the Wilkins Aerodrome
A bulldozer between shifts at the Wilkins Aerodrome
(Photo: P. Ross)
Machinery works on the Wilkins runway
Work continues on the runway in preparation for the next flight
(Photo: P. Ross)
Wilkins runway
The runway
(Photo: P. Ross)
Machinery working on Wilkins runway
Works continues on the runway.
(Photo: P. Ross)
A tractor pulls the Wilkins fuel tank
The fuel tank
(Photo: P. Ross)
A snow groomer and dozer work on the Wilkins runway
A snow groomer and dozer work on the runway.
(Photo: P. Ross)

Impressions of Casey wildlife by Author Sean Williams

On a brisk walk, it’s possible to see one penguin, two birds, and two and a half thousand krill. The tallest plant for thousands of miles is a species of lichen. There are no spiders in Antarctica, but there are fly zappers under the floor in the main building. The 'penguin suit' label in the costume store doesn't mean 'tuxedos'. It means actual penguin suits.

Casey dark ale is among the best I have ever tasted, and Antarctica hangovers are justifiably claimed to be the worst in the world. Correlation is sometimes causation. Retreating from a pumping Eighties disco into the freezing Antarctica light is just as surreal as it sounds, but the dancing is no less awesome. See above re dark ale.

Today’s expeditioners, like those of the Heroic Age, love their books. Friends found on the shelves of Casey library: Kylie Chan, Ian Irvine, and Trudi Canavan. The station librarian is also one of the station doctors and pioneering keeper of krill. Where else in the world is it possible to get sunburnt while digging ice?

Water rushing unseen under ice. Distant icebergs booming. The soft ooh and aah of a pale summer aurora.

Dr. Sean Williams an Arts Fellow currently visiting Casey station

A blue iceberg off Casey Station
An iceberg off Casey station.
(Photo: S. Adams)
Adelie Penguins on an ice flow near Casey station
Some Adélie penguins enjoy the view.
(Photo: S. Adams)

A busy week

A recent RAAF plane flight in from Hobart was cancelled on five consecutive days because of a run of continuously poor weather. The skies remained overcast and grey, and the light was dim, and the feeling was eerie as there was no wind at all. However, the ice cliffs across Newcomb Bay reflected well in the still ocean opposite Casey station.

This week, Dr Ben Scully, the senior dentist at Melbourne Dental Hospital, is working at Casey. He is going to do a complete stocktake of the Casey dental facilities, and he will reorganise the all dental facilities at our Antarctic stations. Whilst here, he is seeing the entire wintering team and they are receiving free dental treatments.

The most popular and most used machine on the station is not a Hägglunds, not a quad bike, and not a dozer… it is the weighing scales in the surgery. Every day there is a string of expeditioners passing though the surgery to weigh themselves.

A problem with part of the site services has seen a lot of digging carried on to try to find the problem area. A big job with lots of shovels needed.

The past few weeks have brought darkness to the night skies as well as a slight drop in temperatures. The first few stars of winter have become visible in the sky each night. And water puddles around the station have started forming delicate icy shards on their surface.

The huge numbers of people here over summer have seen more and more people take their own washing to their bedrooms to hang it out to dry, rather than queuing up to use the few available drying machines. This means less energy spent on drying clothes, as well as a slight benefit from the temporary increase in humidity in our bedrooms.

Regardless of the weather, survival training goes on throughout the entire summer. Most people return from survival training tired but happy that they have undertaken such an activity.

Dr. Lloyd

A visiting dentist does a dental treatments on an expeditioner
Visiting dentist doing dental treatments on expeditioners.
(Photo: L. Fletcher)
A view across the water from Casey to Wilkes
A Swiss chocolate-box scene looking towards Wilkes.
(Photo: L. Fletcher)
Washing hangs out to dry in an expeditioners bedroom
Washing hangs out to dry in many bedrooms.
(Photo: L. Fletcher)
Tradespersons dig out some of the Casey site services
Lorrienne, Brendan and Chris dig out some of the site services.
(Photo: L. Fletcher)
The snow-capped boots of the returning expeditioners
Snow-capped boots fresh from the field.
(Photo: L. Fletcher)
A group of Expeditioners return to Station from Survival Training
A group of tired expeditioners return from survival training
(Photo: L. Fletcher)
An expeditioner uses the surgery scales
An expeditioner undertakes weighing of self.
(Photo: L. Fletcher)
Icy shards form on a puddle
Water puddles form icy shards as the temperature falls.
(Photo: L. Fletcher)