This week at Casey: 9 February 2018

At Casey the end of summer is looming with less than a month to go, we see the photographic results of boating trips to the icebergs, and Mic gives us insight into the experience of an Field Training Officer at Casey

Station update

This week we have reached maximum number of residents at Casey when we welcomed 18 transit passengers from the French and Italian polar programs travelling from Concordia to Europe via Casey, Wilkins and Hobart. At a peak of 108 people on station we certainly felt the need for the red shed refurbishment which is to occur over Winter; providing more mess and recreational space for our ever increasing summer population. Our international visitors departed on Tuesday's A319 flight after a few delays due to weather. We'd spent a happy few days comparing the different International programs in Antarctica and decided we're happy to be here at Casey... particularly if the average temperature at Concordia is -40C (even in Summer).

We have now said farewell to two of our Bureau of Meteorology team, Evelyn and Jo, and our ICECAP team, who have finished their summer of flying. One of our remaining Winterers, 'hardworking Zac', has also left after nearly 16 months down south; he is looking forward to a visit to family before heading off overseas for a year or two of travel. We couldn't get the smile off his face for the last week... except when he was told that the flight was delayed. So, the lone survivor left from Winter who is yet to be voted off is…Clint. He has outlasted, outwitted and outplayed all others and is now waiting to fly home in a weeks time.

Our key science projects continue to finalise their season, with lots of cargo being delivered to the green store for return to Australia, final reports being written, and then the rush to get out to the field huts to get their last taste of an Antarctic experience before they leave for warmer climes.

For those of us who will be left on the 7th of March when that last A319 flies out of Wilkins, the time is quickly slipping away. We look around at the faces of those who will be our family for the next nine months and hope that it's going to all be ok. I'm sure it will be.

By Rebecca, Station Leader.  

White out with green and blue Hagglunds vehicles seen through the snow. In front two men standing in the snow, both pointing to the right.
Field Training Officers in complete agreement in blizzard (or explorer pose!)
(Photo: Robb King)
Leopard seal lying on sea ice, raising two flippers into the air to meet at the tips
Leopard seal yoga
(Photo: Greg Barras)
Small Adelie penguin standing on rocky ground looking up at the Australian flag
Patriotic penguin
(Photo: Shane Mann)
Close up of leopard seals face with open mouth showing large teeth
My... what big teeth you have...
(Photo: Greg Barras)

Field Training at Casey

Before I arrived at Casey I had not imagined how varied and dynamic my work in the Field Training team would be. Each night we go to bed with plans penciled in for the next day, then wake up, make coffee, check the weather and inevitably tweak the plans or run with something totally new as we work to optimize the outcomes for the day. The Field Training Officers (FTOs) have to specialise in the non-routine and flexibility, the reward for this is a diverse experience of Antarctica life.

Below is a taste of what the FTOs have been up to in the last few weeks supporting science projects and delivering training to expeditioners.

Today Nick Morgan flew out to the Totten Glacier overseeing the safety of the TIDE Project team as they retrieve data and renovate their radar towers ready for the next twelve months of measuring glacial depth and rates of movement. When I visited this sight with Nick to probe the area and check it was clear of crevasses I was humbled by how remote we were and how insignificant I felt. A featureless whiteness every way I looked and two thousand meters of glacial ice flowing beneath my feet.

Yesterday the legendary pilots from Helicopter Resources flew us out to the Browning Peninsula, and dropped a sling load of rafts, rescue and science equipment right on the edge of the lake. With the help of Jordan, (chef) and Matt (comms operator) we built a catamaran style inflatable raft from which we could take sediment samples from out in the middle of the lake. We then moved up valley to a second deeper lake which still held a layer of ice 80cm thick. Through this geologist, David Small, and I drilled and then took a sediment sample from a depth of 5.7m. It was a pretty exciting moment as we huddled around the ice-hole and withdrew our longest sediment core of the season, over one metre deep. Also, a satisfying way to finish the field work component of the King Project which had been so varied. During the season the FTOs had supported this project climbing to the tops of mountains, deep field camping, drinking tea at remote Russian camps, boating visits to the Windmill Islands, and drawing sediment from the middle of many lakes.

Greg Barras stepped up into the role of Senior FTO mid-season and has worked closely with station leader Bec, science Bec and Jac in operations to ensure FTOs are ready for deployment at a moment’s notice to maximize what gets achieved in the field. This week he has been looking ahead and planning delivery of search and rescue training for the wintering expeditioners. This will give the small team left here over winter understanding of the AAD’s incident management system and the capability to respond to a SAR incident under wintering FTO Jason Beachcroft’s leadership.

Whilst juggling co-ordination behind the scenes Greg has still managed to get out in the field leading numerous recreational iceberg cruises and leopard seal (photography) hunts which have been a highlight of many people’s times in Antarctica. He also led an amazing climb of Mt Sandow, near Bunger Hills, 400km from Casey. After landing in the twin otter on the glacier we roped up to navigate a crevasse field before using crampons and ice axes to ascend this beautiful peak. On top geologist David Small, from the King Project, collected some erratic rocks which had been deposited here as the glacier retreated. And in another trip to Bunger Hills a small detour from science was made to foster international relations by visiting a remote Russian research station for a cup of tea and freshly baked bread.

And every day without fail one of my FTO jobs at Casey is to be amused by the penguins. Wherever we stop, five minutes later they appear. They waddle up, take a peek, then waddle away. Last week they were launching out of the water to land on the gunwale of the boats to say'hi' to our dedicated coxswain Tom Clarke and the Jolley Project team.  This week they appeared in station and up on top of containers before diving off onto the deep blue tarp covering the quarter height container below them. I assume the blue looked like water, but instead of a splash it was a bounce and the little fella cartwheeled back in the air then went curiously on his way.

Not sure yet what’s happening tomorrow; supporting scientists or training expeditioners. But I do know that there will be random penguins appearing wherever I am.

By Mic Rofe, Field Training Officer

Boats pulled up to rocky shoreline with four people in red and black mustang suits hold the boat's lines
Chloe and coxswains (Tom, Greg, Clive) caring for the boats whilst science…
(Photo: Mic Rofe)
Ice drilling on flat ice covered lake, White lake surface to white ice cliffs, man in mustang suit with motorised large ice drill on right of picture
Drilling Mitchell Lake
(Photo: Greg Barras)
Two men in red blow up rafts connected together rowing on lake with ice covered edge in background
Mic Rofe, FTO, on raft on Browning Lakes
(Photo: Jordan Smith)
Helicopter hovering approx 15 feet above ground with man underneath directing sling loading operation. In foreground is a cage pallet prepared to be sling loaded
Mic Rofe, FTO, sling loading
(Photo: Jordan Smith)
Rocky mountain peak projecting out of ice plateau with glaciated cravases behind and to right hand side
Mt Sandow from above
(Photo: Greg Barras)
Two expeditioners in boat surprised by penguin jumping into air and preparing to land in boat
Narelle and Gwil boating and receiving an unexpected visitor
(Photo: Darren Koppel)
Adelie penguin on top of a grey shipping container
Penguins appear in the most unlikely places
(Photo: Greg Barras)

Berg Cruises at Casey

The incredible close to nature experience of trips in the watercraft out of Casey amongst the Windmill Islands and out to where the icebergs amass near the Dahl and Gibney Reefs has earned a place of its own in this weeks Icy News. It's a pictorial display we think is worthy of any National Geographic magazine or David Attenborough documentary. We hope you enjoy just some of the images collected over the past few weeks by our talented and very lucky Casey residents.
Right - large jade iceberg reflected onto water. Mid picture small RHIB in the distance. Grey sky above.
Magestic iceberg with distant boat
(Photo: Mike Sparg)
Aqua water with ripples in foreground to horizen. On horizen large tipped over iceberg with icicles along edge. Blue sky above
Bigger under than ontop
(Photo: Anne Hellie)
Horizen mid picture, grey sea and grey sky. Iceberg mid picture with reflection in mirrored water. Two small boats mid left
Icy reflections
(Photo: Zach Lockhard)
Ominous grey clouds, grey mirrored water. Mid picture mis-shapen iceberg with intense jade colours reflected into water
Drama on the water
(Photo: Mike Sparg)
Penguins jumping out of water onto ice flow, one landed on stomach and one in the air straight up and down
Acrobatic penguins
(Photo: Troy Henderson)
The boats pulled together, with a group of 10 expeditioners sitting in boats
Berg cruise passengers shot with go-pro
(Photo: Shane Mann)
Sunset light across the water with berg listing at 30degrees. In front of iceberg two penguins porpising out of the water
Penguins do fly
(Photo: Rebecca Jeffcoat)
Grey water and skies with odd shaped iceberg with boat beside
Berg cruise scenery
(Photo: Rebecca Jeffcoat)
Sunset in distance, light tinged sky and sea. Large iceberg with mushroom shaped top to right of picture
Magnificent mushroom berg
(Photo: Rebecca Jeffcoat)
Close up of mushroom topped berg with icicles along upper edge
A natural ice sculpture
(Photo: Rebecca Jeffcoat)
Penguins on iceflow, reflected on water. In distance are icebergs and sunset on cloudy sky
Berg cruise scenery
(Photo: Rebecca Jeffcoat)