This week at Casey: 7 February 2020

Near Casey this week: a bit of excitement on the ice plateau does not ruffle feathers on the islands plus a new generation of snow petrels make an appearance

A new generation and snow petrel snow angels

On our frequent visits to Reeve Hill we can now hear the high pitched calls of a new generation of snow petrels calling for more food from their parents as the following images show.

Earlier in the season we spotted these strange markings in the snowy slopes near their nesting area on Reeves Hill. On consulting an Antarctic snow petrel expert we were told that they do strange things at times and unless you catch them in the act then its hard to say what these marks are. We think they were making snow angels just for the fun of it. 

Snow petrel chick in rocky crevice near Casey station
Little fluff ball snow petrel chick in what they call a nest
(Photo: Charmaine Alford)
A fluffy snow petrel chick in a rock crevice near Casey station
Waiting patiently for its next feed a snow petrel chick in its…
(Photo: Charmaine Alford)
A snow petrel and chick in a rocky crevice on Reeves Hill at Casey station
A snow petrel and chick in a rocky crevice on Reeves Hill…
(Photo: Tim Scott)
Marks in the snow made by a snow petrel near Casey station
Snow petrel snow angels
(Photo: Lauren Wise)

An Icy Air Drop

This January saw yet another first for the Australian Antarctic Program, utilising low cost and recyclable parachutes, alongside precision delivery systems, we successfully carried out an aerial resupply. This assists in building capability to undertake such an operation in the deep field where landing an aircraft would simply not be feasible.

Up until 20 minutes prior to the aircraft being overhead, the crew on-board were unaware of the exact location of the first drop (2 bundles with low velocity parachutes). The Casey station ground team radioed through the coordinates and watched on with eager anticipation as the bundles launched into the air from the back of the aircraft landing right by the intended target!

The aircraft circled like a one-eyed skua (in one observers opinion) and approached once again to make the second drop, right on target! The aircraft continued to circle and climb, higher and higher, soaring like a giant petrel. This time deploying the GPS guided system which steers the parachute towards a predetermined point of impact, the bundle seemingly floated before correcting its path a number of times and descending onto the target, “wow that’s really going to land close” said Nathan Bourke. “My goodness, right on target,” gasped Eddy Gault. 

Nick Watt, Operations Coordinator

The C17 aircraft deploying parachutes and loads out the back
The C17 with the two low cost recyclable parachutes and loads heading…
(Photo: Russell Bradshaw)
Two parachutes and loads about to touch down on the ice
The two low coast recyclable parachutes and loads about to touch down…
(Photo: Russell Bradshaw)
The C17 aircraft off loads a parachute
Another pass and the C17 off loads the GPS guided system which…
(Photo: Russell Bradshaw)
The self-guided chute about to make a touch down
The self-guided chute about to make a touch down
(Photo: Russell Bradshaw)
Cargo box on the ice
One of the dropped loads on the ice plateau near Casey
(Photo: Russell Bradshaw)

A bird overhead goes unnoticed

Not all the action for the C17 airdrop was happening in the skies!

We were tasked with observing the nearby Adelie penguin rookeries for any disturbance caused by the plane.

We headed out in the boats to drop the first group off to monitor the penguins on the ground at Shirley Island, while we boated off to Whitney Point to watch the penguins in the ASPA (Antarctic Specially Protected Area) there from the sea.

The chicks have grown into much bigger balls of fluff over the summer, and the adults seemed more curious as to what we were doing than what was going on in the sky.

The sky was so clear we could see the airdrop of the C17 from over 10 km away.

Motor off, drifting, icebergs on one side of the boat, frolicking penguins on the other.

Just another Monday!

Natasha Behrendorff, Medical Officer

The C17 aircraft in the distance over Adelie penguin colony
The C17 over Shirley Island making its way to a position over…
(Photo: Natasha Behrendorff)
Large fluffy Adelie penguin chicks at Shirley Is near Casey
Large fluffy Adélie penguin chicks at Shirley Is near Casey
(Photo: Natasha Behrendorff)
A boat heading in to collect three expeditioners from Shirley Island
Collecting the team from Shirley Island
(Photo: Natasha Behrendorff)
Adelie penguins on flat rocky coast
Inquisitive Adélie penguins at Whitney Point ASPA checking out the boat
(Photo: Natasha Behrendorff)