This week at Casey: 21 September 2018

A busy week at Casey with the traverse to Law Dome successfully completed, an airdrop from a RAAF C-17 bringing much needed mechanical spares, we hear a tall tale from Luke and meet Will, where his weird sometimes incomprehensible answers give a accurate impression of the man.

Station Update

First we see a dark dot way off in the distance, then over Newcomb Bay and past the station the big grey bumble bee of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17 approaches the Drop Zone up on the plateau with our precious cargo.

We’ve been sending weather updates since 0230 hours in the morning, five hours before take-off, to let the aircrew know that the weather is perfect down on the ice today for our parcel to be delivered. Three knots of wind; we couldn’t ask for better conditions for 1000 kg to be dropped from the back of a plane attached to two large khaki parachutes or, as we’ve learnt this week, the Aerial Delivery Equipment…

Right on time, the C-17 does its first pass over the Drop Zone (DZ). A tarp is spread on the Point of Impact (PI) to indicate to the aircrew that the DZ is clear of personnel and vehicles and we’re ready to receive. Around she loops and then BINGO! Back ramp is down, cargo is launched, parachutes open, and our huge crate of mechanical parts (and a mail bag!) floats gently to the ground.

After another quick pass to confirm the drop and to give us a little dip of the wings in greeting, the beautiful piece of aeronautical engineering (it just shouldn’t be able to lift off the ground) turns and starts its return home to Australia. Our first sign of life in over seven months and it’s all over so quickly.

Thank you to the Australian Defence Force for your support to the Australian Antarctic Program today. We’re now good to fix Wilkins’ snow blowers and make sure the runway is ready for our escape to warmer climes in just over six weeks. Next time you visit you’ll be able to land and spend some time with us (and you'll be taking some of us home with you!).

In other exciting news, this week the Traverse Team successfully completed their trip to Law Dome in record time, leaving Monday and back for lunch on Wednesday. I’ll leave it to them to tell the tale in next week’s news. Stay tuned.

So just a little bit of excitement to get us over the hump before we head into October and the cleaning and preparations for handover to the new team.

What a week! And who said winter in Antarctica is boring and monotonous?

Rebecca (Casey Station Leader)

Looking from behind at blue hagglunds with tailer and tractor with accommodation van, both pointing towards plateau in distance with clear blue sky above
Beautiful day for a traverse
(Photo: Rebecca Jeffcoat)
Group of six men standing facing camera, wearing cold weather gear, behind is tractor and accommodation van then orange building
Traverse team 'before' photo Patty, Jason, Scotty, George, Will and Marcus
(Photo: Rebecca Jeffcoat)
C17 RAAF plane flies low in distance, in foreground is a green and red hagglunds
Approaching the drop zone
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
C17 flies overhead, back ramp is down, large box attached to just opening parachute is dropping from the plane, blue sky background
The drop
(Photo: Rebecca Jeffcoat)
box of cargo suspended below two open khaki parachutes, blue sky background
The Aerial Delivery Equipment in use
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
Khaki parachute spread across the snow covered ground, lines extend out into the distance where a grup of people stand
Cleaning up the drop zone
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)

Luke's trip to Antarctica

This amazing adventure started when I was working in a large open iron ore pit about some 135 km from Marble Bar, back in 2012. I was searching extreme jobs on my trusty iPhone 4 during smoko; a bit of a thrill seeker I wanted to change up my life and work somewhere cool. I came across the AAD, at first I was like no way… they have gigs down there? “That’s so me!” Later that week I applied for Aerodrome Plant Operator (APO) and Station Operator. With no luck that season I continued to work throughout the Pilbara on various projects till 2016.

In 2016, I applied again to the AAD just for the APO position. I received a call and was invited to attend a selection centre in August, from there it just snowballed… medicals, psych, training in Kingston, Tasmania. And, before I could process the excitement, I was stepping on the second flight to Antarctica on 1 November 2017.

A small coastal town boy from Dunsborough in the south-west corner of WA with the common temperature of 30 and beautiful beaches, beautiful women, insane surfing, amazing fishing, stunning diving and camping and I was about to isolate myself in −30° temps for 12 months on the most isolated continent in the world and nothing but the colours of white and more white. As the plane landed I couldn’t help thinking that I’m here for year and it looks bloody cold and have I made the right decision?

As I get into the swing of things at Wilkins, operating machinery, keeping the runway operational for the summer season, with the odd trip to Casey station to refuel and socialise with Christmas Day, New Years Eve and Australia Day and the cheeky dip in the –1.8° ocean, I lost all my fears I had before arriving. The people become your family and friends and everyone has walked a different path to get here which is amazing in itself.

As the summer came to an end we said goodbye, as the last flight left we started the pack down of Wilkins Runway to head to Casey station for the winter.

Winter I reckon took it for the win. The family that just left you at Wilkins was soon replaced with the winter crew at station. Everyone was friends and definitely made some awesome friends. With the banger auroras, Midwinters Day, field trips, sea ice adventures, wildlife, parties and traditions it was awesome to be a part of it. Yeah it’s cold, windy and dark but the pros outweigh the cons any day.

But just like the last flight it was time to say goodbye and depart Casey station to set up Wilkins Aerodrome for the 2018/19 season. With Misty, Greg, Sam and myself and station support Barry and Scotty we cranked up the start-up camp, which took two days and a couple of small hiccups due to ice and water. Nothing we didn’t expect.

Over the next two months we’ll bring the laydown on line, runway cleared and operational, summer camp in place, and await the first plane in October.

Not long now and I’ll be saying goodbye to my newly found friends. I’ll definitely be back to the most spectacular and amazing continent to see more of this beautiful place one day.

Luke (Aerodrome Plant Operator)

Three men sitting on bar stools, two with guitars and one with bass. Behind wooden panelled wall with darts board.
Entertainment at the opening of Casey's new bar
(Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)
Man lies face down on ice lake, while second man looks on taking photo
Ice lake viewing
(Photo: Luke Hardy)
Two men shaking hands when standing on beam (with matresses underneath) while dressed a medieval knights
Jousting knights at the Medieval Banquet
(Photo: Dominic Hall)
Ground support team looked at from above, all wearing black jackets and high vis vests over, standing on ice runway
The Wilkins Team
(Photo: Luke Hardy)

Five minutes with the 71st ANARE crew: Charles (Will) Tankard

Name: Charles Tankard

Nicknames: Will

From: Yorkshire but the previous posting was Gove, NT.

Previous seasons: Macquarie 2010/11

Job title: Senior Weather Observer

Describe your role in two sentences: Pastry on the outside, sausage meat on the inside. Delicious.

What did you do before you joined the AAD? Don’t tell but I haven’t joined the AAD. I was doing the same job in Gove but they are closing the office. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t my fault.

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey? Getting paid to look out of the window and watch the clouds roll by but trying to release a balloon in winds over 120 kph is a blast.

If you were not a Weather Observer what would be your dream job? Quite recently, deep under the ice, here in Wilkes Land a very large magnetic anomaly has been discovered. There are a number of theories about the causes of this but my favourite is that it is a massive meteorite impact site. The result of which may have triggered the antipodal eruption of basalt, known as the Siberian Traps, that went on erupting for about 2 million years, spewing up enough lava to cover an area about the size of Australia. The net result was the biggest mass extinction event of all time. The Permian Triassic extinction event, with up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct.

What’s this got to do with my dream job you may well be asking. Well I’m about to tell you, you impatient so-and-so. I would like to go fossil hunting in remote parts of the world, looking for all the wee beasties that didn’t get past this 252 million year old event. Macro or micro, Trilobites, Blastoids and Ostracods to name but a few. Although, a good few of the latter made it through.

How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south? Less rabbits, drier feet, more snow and ice but a similar bunch of eccentric fruitcakes to work with.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Help out the Project Team. Basically show them how to do a proper day’s work. I also like to build things using the scrap material about the place.

What song sums up your Casey experience so far? Too many to choose from but New Order – Regret, which I don’t before you ask, just a bit of an unfortunate connotation for a top tune.

What actor would play you in a film version of our 71st ANARE season here at Casey? Eric Sykes or failing that Margaret Rutherford if they were still with us. My next choice would be Peter Kay but he’s effectively from Lancashire. So, Max von Sydow who isn’t from Lancashire and still with us, as this goes to press!

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit? The Workshop

What is your favourite book / movie (or both) and why?The Games Climbers Play. Any book that can teach you how to trundle a rock is a winner.

What is your typical 'Slushy FM' genre?Do you have a particular favourite? No particular genre. As for favourites basically anything that Al doesn’t play.

Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with? One from the stoic philosopher Seneca: “Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness” where you could replace “Drunkenness” with “Working in Antarctica”!

Close up photograph of snowflakes on black background
Snowflakes
(Photo: Will Tankard)
Man in blue t-shirt and sunglasses sits on rocky outcrop with ice covered bay behind and blue sky above
Summer
(Photo: Will Tankard)
Game of skittles sits on large wooden table, man in black t-shirt plays the game with a bottle of beer on table beside
Playing Devil amongst the Tailors. Life is not all beer and skittles!
(Photo: Will Tankard)
Man stands in red parker, leaning on
Heading out
(Photo: Will Tankard)