This week at the station

This week at Casey: 19 April 2013

Winter is coming

It’s now middle of April, two months since the final A319 flight left for the season with the last of the summer expeditioners. Temperatures have started to drop and you can tell that winter is coming. During last week, temperatures dropped to minus twenty four degrees Centigrade combined with a wind of twenty three knots - makes for a cold walk to work.

When you venture out you have to protect your face or you suffer wind burn which feels like sunburn but is a lot less dangerous. But it’s going to get a lot colder yet. The small lake that provides the station drinking water is frozen and would make the perfect ice staking rink. If only we had ice skates! Even the sea has begun to freeze. What was the location for the Australia Day swim back in January is now a frozen jumble of ice blocks.

It is now possible to walk across to Shirley Island. To make sure it is safe, sea ice thickness measurements are made. It needs to be 200 mm thick for foot travel and 400 mm for quad bikes. Currently the passage is between 350 and 500 mm. It will go to 1200 - 1500 mm by the end of winter.

Of course the penguins are long gone, out onto the edge of the sea ice. The only signs of their presence are the pebbles they fought for so vigorously over during summer. What are some of the other signs that it is getting colder? Well, the snow has taken on the nature of styrofoam, breaking off in chunks and squeaking as you walk on it.

Stalactites are forming on the outside of the buildings and even stalagmites can be found if you look hard enough. The windows of the red shed, the accommodation building, has ice crystals growing on the outside of the double glazed windows.

Winter is still six weeks away so Casey station waits in anticipation to see what the middle of winter is really like. How cold can it really get? 

Jukka P 

A picture of Casey station weather data on a computer screen
Casey wind chill went as low as negative forty degrees
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Jukka wearing a winter goose jacket, his face hidden by hood - taken outside of Casey station
Casey comms technical officer dressed up to walk to work
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Picture of an icy melt lake
Casey 'ice rink ' a.k.a. the drinking water supply
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Over head shot of expeditioner standing on thick ice - shoes on ice
Perfect surface for ice skating
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Picture of Newcombe Bay sea ice
Seas freeze at Casey
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Picture of the wharf and the frozen sea ice
Less inviting to go for a swim
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Male expeditioners drilling the sea ice to test the depth
Testing the sea ice
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Drilling to test the depth of the sea ice
Measuring sea ice thickness on Shirley Island passage
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Shirley Island rocky terrain with random loose pebbles left over my the Adelie penguins
All the penguins gone, only the rocks remain
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Icicles dangling of an outdoor light
Icicles on the green store light
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Ice crystals forming in-between the glass windows
Ice crystals form interesting patterns
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)
Ice crystals forming flower shapes
Ice flowers on the window
(Photo: Jukka Pirhonen)

Matty's corner

The ice that blew out

The ice that blew out,
from the last blizz,
Has now reset,
More sea ice there is.

Though the penguins are gone,
And the skuas be few,
We’ve seen some nice weather,
At minus twenty-two.

So when out in a pyramid
At minus twenty-five,
There are some things you do,
To just stay alive.

Keep warm hands and feet,
They’re furthest from your heart,
And sleep in the middle,
Is also a good start.

Though it’s still freezing cold
And you hope to forget it,
If you do the right thing,
You will never regret it.

Matt Whittington

Bailey Peninsula - sunset over melt lake showing different shads of red, yellow and purple
Bailey Peninsula - sunset over melt lake
(Photo: Matt Whittington)
Portrait picture of Matty, with his big red beard
(Photo: Michael Salinas)

Cane line maintenance

One of the tasks that the station set out to do this season was the maintenance on the cane lines in the Casey area with the priority being on the line to the Wilkins Camp area. There has been very little maintenance carried out on the Wilkins line for a number of years and in places the cane line is off the ideal route by about fifty metres.

For the last couple of months, cans have been collected from the field store, kitchen and brewery areas. These cans in turn were drilled either side of the can seam, at the top and bottom of the can, and then placed in the field store for the next stage of the process. The cans are attached to the top of the canes with cable ties to be used as reflectors for the radar system in the Haggs. That way, if the canes aren't visible in a blizzard, they won't get run over.

On a beautiful Sunday morning at 0700 hours (some said this was a little early) Allan, Andy, Chad and Doug headed off to A08 to commence on the maintenance of the cane line. Andy and Doug were in the first Hagglund with all the canes, a small generator and drill, followed by Allan and Chad who ensured the canes from one way point to the next were in line and who also removed all the remains of the old canes in the area covered. The canes were placed at 250-meter intervals, and by the time we had placed a few canes in their correct location, a system had developed. Both groups worked together as an excellent team, each carrying out our respective tasks efficiently. This was the introductory run for this project. With a lot of experience gained and a number of improved processes of work adopted which will help us and the other teams who continue with this project.

Doug M 

Expeditioner in a workshop drilling holes into metal cans
Drilling holes in cans
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
Endless flat white snow and ice terrain with Doug checking a cane post, on the right hand bottom conner is the back tray of a hagglund with new canes loaded
Checking cane alignment
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
Drilling a hole in the ice for the cane with the red hagglund in the background
Drilling hole in plateau ice
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
Expeditioner holds long cane into ground, surrounded by snow and ice, with vehicle just behind and to right
Placing cane in hole drilled in plateau ice
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)

Picture gallery of the week

This week's picture gallery features photos taken by Ben McKay from his previous expeditions to his current expedition at Casey.  

Emperor penguins on their bellies in staggered file heading towards a twin otter aircraft in the background
Emperors up at the skiway?
(Photo: Ben McKay)
A Huey helicopter lifting cargo with a tall mountain in the background
Huey helicopter and Mt Discovery
(Photo: Ben McKay)
A front end picture of a Ilyushin landing
Ilyushin landing
(Photo: Ben McKay)
A aircraft landing with Dozer in the background
JKB and D7s
(Photo: Ben McKay)
Aircraft on final approach with low clouds in the background
JKB on finals
(Photo: Ben McKay)
New York air-guard Hercules aircraft taxiing
New York air-guard
(Photo: Ben McKay)
Aurora Australis anchored in Newcomb bay with Icebergs in the background and low clouds
(Photo: Ben McKay)
Close up of an elephant seal poking its head out of the water and leaning back with eyes closed
Sea elephant
(Photo: Ben McKay)
Green aurora over a night sky
Aurora over the Newcomb Bay
(Photo: Ben McKay)
A couple of Weddell seals on the ice
(Photo: Ben McKay)