This week at Casey: 7 April 2017

Our first formal dinner, a weather update and the Browning Peninsula repeater gets an inspection.

Station update

We have experienced a noticeable change in the weather this week at Casey. Over the weekend the snow started to fall, and just kept falling. Winds blew in on Sunday, whipping our beautiful snow blanket away and dropping the visibility dramatically, and clearing the road outside the red shed at the same time. The rest of the week has afforded us colder temperatures, mostly clear days, and a top up of snow almost every day.

Last weekend, our mess was transformed into a Chinese restaurant. Ashleigh and a crew of helpers transformed the mess, complete with Chinese lanterns and some very creative use of our bamboo track marker poles, creating a wonderful ambience for our first formal Saturday dinner of the winter. Chef Andrew and his keen slushy Brendan presented us with a culinary extravaganza, topped off by a crowd favourite: deep fried ice cream. A fun night of entertainment in the Wallow ensued, and a faint aurora put on a show outside for those who were keen enough to venture out for a peek.

The Wilkins aviation crew returned to station just in time for the Saturday festivities, having concluded their busy summer works program, and winterisation activities ‘up on the hill’. We are all excited now to have Misty, James and Sealy join us down on station for the winter months.

In other station news we all kept busy with our works programs. We successfully completed our first winter fire muster exercise, and a small team headed out on the Jack’s line to replace and reposition the cane line track markers (retrieved just in time from the Chinese Restaurant).

As I was a late-arriving winter expeditioner, I needed to complete my survival training this week under the supervision of our SAR leader Stu. Whilst the rest of station slept tucked up in the red shed, we had the joy of sleeping out in the brisk −15°C temperatures. The experience was made all the more worthwhile when we awoke to a spectacular aurora overhead, which I enjoyed from my cosy bivvy bag.

Jacque Comery, Station Leader

The mess decorated for a chinese feast
Chinese extravaganza in the mess
(Photo: Simon Jodrell)
Four expeditioners eating dinner at table
Mark, Jac, Rick and Muscles enjoying Saturday night dinner
(Photo: Simon Jodrell)
Expeditioner with cane and ice drill
Dr Elise out helping with replacing the cane lines
(Photo: Mat Callaghan)
Expeditioner laying in snow during survival training, with an aurora lighting up the night sky
Survival training
(Photo: Stu Shaw)

Casey March weather summary

The month that was, from Casey meteorological station (station number 300017).

Temperature

The March monthly maximum average was −3.2°C, which is a bit warmer than the long term average of −4.1°C. The hottest day for the month was the 12th of March at 2.3°C.

The March monthly minimum average was −8.3°C, which is warmer than the long term average of −9.9°C. The coldest day for the month was 28th of March at −14.8°C.

Rainfall and snow melt

The March monthly precipitation (snow melt) total was 11.6 mm, which is below the monthly average precipitation of 18.0 mm. There were six precipitation days (average nine) and the highest daily total of 4.0 mm was on the 11th.

Sunshine hours

The total sunshine (direct sunlight where the sun is not obscured by cloud) for the month was 44.7 hours with the daily average of 1.5 hours below the long term average of 3.2 hours.

Wind and phenomena

The maximum wind gust for March was 148 km/hr or 80 knots from the east on the 22nd; the monthly record for March is 241 km/hr from the east on the 21st of March 1992.

The average daily wind run above 3 m (that is how far a parcel of air would have travelled in 1 day), was 713 km. The long term monthly average is 571 km.

The total wind run for the month was 20,894 km, the highest daily total was 2096 km on the 19th and the lowest daily total was on the 25th with 159 km.

March had 16 strong wind days (average 13), 11 gale force wind days (average seven), 19 snow days (average 16), three blizzard days (average three) and nine blowing snow days.

The month to come

As winter approaches and the days get shorter we will experience the temperatures dropping further and the number of strong wind days increase.

The long term average daily max temp for April is −7.6°C and the average daily min temp is −14.7°C. April has on average ten gale force wind days and 3.6 blizzard days.

View of the met instruments against a snowy backdrop
The met instruments and the view from the office
(Photo: Ashleigh Wilson)
Clouds and sunlight
'Virga', a phenomenon where precipitation falls from a cloud but does not…
(Photo: Ashleigh Wilson)
Sunset and clouds over the anemometer mast
Sunset over the anemometer mast
(Photo: Asheigh Wilson)

Browning repeater inspection

The VHF repeater at Browning Peninsula allows radio communications to the southern extent of station operating limits. It lives a fairly lonely life on top of its hill with just a couple of solar panels to keep it going through the long and dark nights in winter. I decided that it was time to take a trip out to Browning Hut and to check on the repeater to make sure it wasn’t in danger of falling off its hill anytime soon.

A crack team was assembled to make the journey: Mark, for his knowledge of the Browning Peninsula and the repeater itself (he even had photos from his last trip there); Simon, because I needed a real tradesman to do any actual work that arose; and Jacque as our newly qualified yet supremely energetic Hägglunds driver. I was the one who came up with the plan to get off station during the week, so I was the trip leader and chief communications guy.

We left station after lunch on the Thursday and commenced the time-consuming drive. Along the way we had a couple of stops for photos and to break up the trek. It was only 5 pm when we arrived but the sun was getting low, as was the temperature. We set off on a short walk to see and photograph the Vanderford Glacier; the timing was great with the sun setting, giving us some brilliant lighting. Back to the hut before it got dark and to get a couple of small jobs done prior to dinner. How many expeditioners does it take to change a light bulb and install a battery charger? It would appear that one is enough.

The next morning we were out the door just after checking in with VNJ Casey at 8 am. It is only a short drive to the hill where the repeater is located; we negotiated our way around some of the steep terrain to get as close as possible and then hiked to the top. Although still functioning we found that one of the eye bolts that attaches two of the guy wires had broken and the entire glass front of one of the solar panels was riddled with cracks.

Once back down the hill and in the comfort of the warm Hägg we headed out further on the Peninsula and then walked to an elephant seal wallow that Mark thought might still have some residents. There were still plenty of seals laying around, which was quite obvious once we were close enough to smell them, which turns out to be easier than spotting them amongst the rocks. After enjoying the odour and the sounds for a while, plus getting a few photos we walked back to the Hägg and posed for the obligatory end of trip photo.

During the long drive back to Casey I started planning the next trip. I just need to find someone willing to carry a easily manageable solar panel up a slightly steep and somewhat rocky hill.

Clint Chilcott

Three expeditioners and glacier in background
The Vanderford Glacier
(Photo: Clint Chilcott)
Spectacular ice cliffs of the glacier
Vanderford Glacier ice cliffs
(Photo: Simon Jodrell)
Three expeditioners inspecting the repeater installation
Inspecting the repeater
(Photo: Jacque Comery)
Expeditioner in driver's seat of yellow Hägglunds vehicle
Jacque got lots of driving practice
(Photo: Simon Jodrell)
Expeditioner looking over sea ice at an elephant sea
Distant elephant seals
(Photo: Clint Chilcott)
Four expeditions pose with a yellow Hägglunds vehicle
Ready to return to station
(Photo: Mark Grainger)
Three expeditioners laying on the snow taking photos
Photo stop
(Photo: Mark Grainger)
Browning Hut and Hägglunds vehicle amongst a rocky hill at sunset
Browning Hut
(Photo: Jacque Comery)

Exploring Browning Peninsula

Browning Peninsula was somewhere that I had been wanting to go since I arrived at Casey in November. The trip started for Stu, Watto, Elise, Zac, Muscles and I on Friday afternoon at about 4 pm, with four of us on quad bikes and two in the Hägg. Driving to Browning Hut takes about three hours in good conditions as it is about 60 km away, so we made it to the hut by 7.30 pm just as the sun was setting. We unloaded what we needed to, started the generator and turned the heaters on to try and warm up after the drive.

Browning Hut is cosy; it has two stacks of three bunks at one end, a small kitchen in the middle and a small table with seating for about four around it, which is where we ate our dinner of cheese and crackers and some tinned ham that resembled dog food on barbecue shapes.

On Saturday we took a 9 km hike to a few of the seal wallows on the peninsula that was carefully planned by Stu, hoping to catch a glimpse of elephant seals. It is suggested that one goes to Browning before April if their intention is to see seals, as they disappear over the colder months for warmer places. We weren’t lucky enough to see them, but all hope is not lost and they will potentially be back before our departure at the end of the year. Despite this, our hike took us past some amazing scenery and we climbed what seemed like every hill on the route. There was some large wind scours and frozen lakes, which had perfectly formed bubbles beneath the surface giving the impression that the water froze in an instant.

We spent the last of our full day watching the sun set over the Vanderford Glacier, which was the most spectacular landscape I have seen on this continent so far. The clouds and ice cliffs were painted orange by the sun and we stayed there until it was dark. Our chef Watto made spaghetti for dinner and then we were out by about 9 pm.

We departed at 9.30 am on Sunday and the drive home was quick; we were all keen to get back and have a shower and a hot meal. For me this trip was one of the highlights of my year so far.

Adam

Two expeditioners hiking up a snow covered slope
Muscles and Elise
(Photo: Adam Roberts)
A fiery sky over icebergs and cliffs
The sun sets over the icebergs
(Photo: Adam Roberts)
Browning Hut and the blue Hägg and quads parked outside
Browning Hut
(Photo: Adam Roberts)
Distant ice cliffs reflecting the sunset
Ice cliffs reflecting the sunset
(Photo: Adam Roberts)

My Casey in pictures: Adam Roberts

This week station electrician Adam Roberts shares with us some of his  memorable Casey moments so far.


Aurora Australis
Refuelling during resupply
(Photo: A. Roberts)
Expeditioners standing on porch of Robbos Hut
Day trip out to Robbo's
(Photo: D. Hall)
Hagg expeditioners and plants
Standing up the signs on the way to A-08
(Photo: A. Roberts)
Three tents on the snow
Camping at the foot of Law Dome
(Photo: A. Roberts)
Two expeditioners on rocks with anemometer
Getting some highly coveted air-sampling experience with Clint
(Photo: E.Roberts)
Truck lifting a quad bike
Heading out with Woll to collect the truck from A-08
(Photo: A. Roberts)
Group of expeditioners at Antarctic Circle sign
Arriving, the first trip to station from Wilkins
(Photo: A. Roberts)
Two haggs at Wilkes hut
Our first day trip to Wilkes
(Photo: A. Roberts)