This week at Casey: 30 November 2018

Getting the most out of one sunny day, and learning the role of Casey comms operators.

Weather extremes

The best way to describe this week? Weather extremes. Casey has gone from being very windy with snow, to one of the most beautiful 36 hours that we have seen, and then back into full blizzard conditions. The peak winds about mid-afternoon Tuesday were up to 94 knots or 174 kph which is similar to a Category 3 cyclone.

In between the weather events there has been much activity on station, continuing good work on vehicle maintenance and repair, and infrastructure management and upgrades.

The Operation/Communications and Bureau of Meteorology teams have been busy as well, providing communications and weather forecasting and observation support for work groups, field parties and aircraft movements within Antarctica.

With the celebration of three birthdays in five days, a theme dinner, and marking the 400th day in Antarctica for two of our team members, the chefs have continued to impress.

The science projects have continued making progress. The seabird team completed their work on Odbert Island with its 25,000-strong Adélie penguin colony, finding a great location and establishing a camera to observe the colony remotely. 

The Law Dome science team has finally been able to leave station for their traverse to camp, to join their colleagues and commence their ice core drilling project.

The station population took the sunny Sunday to enjoy the surrounds, with most people out and about from the ski loop, to Shirley Island and an afternoon's trip to Jack’s Hut.

Emperor penguin standig on ice with water in background
Majestic Emperor Penguin
(Photo: Justin Chambers)
An Adelie penguin diving into the water
Penguin Dive
(Photo: Anthea Fisher)
Ice cliffs on a sunny day
The ice cliffs over O'Brien Bay
(Photo: Chris MacMillian)

Comms Operators at Casey

So what is a Communications Operator? We maintain a radio link between the station and scientists conducting research out in the field, people travelling to and from the station, and those who are simply out having fun exploring the breathtaking scenery and wildlife seen nowhere else on the planet.

We like to think of ourselves as being the nerve centre of the station: no matter where you are or what you're doing, we’ve got your back! Of course, our job is made much easier with today’s technology as we have the luxury of using satellite phone and email as backups to the traditionally used VHF and HF radios.

Running the comms console can get hectic as we monitor 4 HF and 6 VHF channels simultaneously. On a busy day we could be talking to aircraft such as the Airbus A318 passenger plane or Boeing C-17 transport plane travelling to Wilkins Aerodrome, as well as smaller aircraft such as the Basler and Twin Otter landing at the Casey ski landing area. Antarctica’s weather can be severe and rapidly changes, so the hourly weather reports we give the pilots help them to assess conditions at the landing site.

In between radio skeds with aircraft, we’re also talking to scientists camping out in the field huts to conduct their research. We like to know if they are well and their vehicles are operating normally. We can’t get Tim Tams out to them if they’ve run out, but we can get the diesos out to fix a breakdown if needed.

When not busy, we do get the opportunity to venture out and immerse ourselves in Casey’s stunning surroundings. My favourite spot this week is a bay on the southern end of Shirley Island. Just a short walk over the sea-ice about 40 minutes from station is a large rock where I sit and take in the panorama. Imposing ice cliffs line the bay to my left, rocky outcrops behind me are noisy with nesting Adélie penguins, and in front of me along the serene bay are Adélies swimming playfully right beside a huge sleeping Weddell seal.

I was first attracted to the job for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see penguins, seals and icebergs on my doorstep, and the chance to play a role in some seriously important science, but I quickly discovered another gem to working at Casey. Everyone  is just as excited to be here as I am. When everyone you work with is loving every minute of their working day it makes work more like a holiday….and that doesn’t happen very often! This is one very special place.

Rachel Walsh

Three screens of Casey's comms console
Casey's comms console
(Photo: Rachel Walsh)
Looking out the window from the comms office over the bay
View from our comms office
(Photo: Rachel Walsh)
Ice cliffs of Shirley Island with bay in the foreground
Ice cliffs on Shirley Island
(Photo: Rachel Walsh)

Getting to know a Casey expeditioner - Gavin Lind

Name:

Gavin Lind

Nicknames:

Gav, R-less (due to my name being spelt with an R by accident on a few occasions “Garvin”)

From:

Bairnsdale, Victoria

Previous seasons?

This is my first time

Job title:

Mechanic (or Dieso), SAR and Fire team member, assistant fire chief, bus driver on the side.

Describe your role in two sentences:

You drive it, you break it, I fix it (well hopefully), moving fuel from one tank to another tank and then most likely to another tank, maintaining the noisy end of the power generation, and finally trying to maintain all the equipment on station

What did you do before your joined the AAD?

Worked for a Caterpillar dealer as a remote field mechanic

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey?

That no two days are the same and there is always something new to learn or discover

If you were not a mechanic what would be your dream job?

Fly helicopters for the emergency services but in particular for firefighting.

How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south?

The best one by far

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Ride dirt bikes, but I'm not allowed to have one down here so I have to make do with other activities. Kidding, I love to explore the area, take way too many photos and learn as much as I can about this cool place, not to mention visiting Shirley Island and the penguins as often as I can

What song sums up your Casey experience so far?

'Happy' by Pharrell Williams

What actor would play you in a film version of our 72nd ANARE season here at Casey?

Hugh Jackman

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit?

The ice axe is definitely the coolest, but I would have to say the Carhartt jacket keeps you nice and warm so it would be my favourite bit of kit.

What is your favourite book / movie (or both) and why?

The Jason Bourne series, because it is an action films that has a interesting story line which makes you think about what’s going on.

What is your typical 'Slushy FM' genre? Do you have a particular favourite?

Anything that sounds good and that’s in my music list

Describe your Casey experience with: a sight, a smell, a sound, a feeling and a taste.

The view from anywhere is spectacular and forever changing; the diesel smell from fuel transfers or in the workshop; the quiet hum of the power house in the background is on par with the sound of the penguins; walking outside is like coffee in the morning  - you are instantly awake; and finally the amazing tastes from the kitchen.

Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with?

'Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically' (by Nelson Mandela)

Something people may not know about you:

I did a year as an outdoor education and farm assistant at an isolated year 9 program for my gap year.

Gavin in front of the Terrabus
Bus driving down south
(Photo: Gavin Lind)
Penguins on the rocks
What are you looking at?
(Photo: Gavin Lind)