Leadership and learning on ice

Leadership and learning

Video transcript

Jason Ahrens, Casey station leader:

This will be my fourth trip south, so I’ve done two winters on the continent at Davis station in 2007 and 2013 and I’ve done one at Macquarie Island in the subantarctic. It’s a package deal, there’s not one thing that I go back for, it’s the people, meeting the people and getting to know them, the remoteness, the isolation is attractive to me. I like the fact that it’s a challenge, that you push yourself. Helping others is why I enjoy the station leader job. At Kingston prior to leaving for Antarctica we do some intense fire training. We can’t call up the fire brigade to come and help us, we are our own fire team. We all do breathing apparatus, we learn from Tas Fire how to handle different situations in fire and how to do a rescue if we need to.

Jenny Wressell, Mawson station leader:

I applied to be a station leader because I grew up in Tasmania, I grew up seeing auroras on the horizon just every now and again and it was enough to make me always want to go to Antarctica. So at Mawson station we use the quad bikes for riding across the sea ice and Auster Rookery is actually one of the biggest emperor penguin rookeries in Antarctica and that’s one of our major research projects over the summer and winter season. They’re also one of our main vehicles for getting out into the field and for recreational activities, so they’re really important to learn how to ride them safely here in Hobart before we leave.

Ali Dean, Davis station leader:

I’m a geologist, so I was working in the outback of Australia before I applied to work in the Antarctic and I’ve now been working down there for 15 years, so it is a big part of my life. Being a station leader I’m involved in every aspect of Antarctic work, from the maintenance programs through to some of the remote field programs. There’s a lot of training that we get, and we get it every time we go to Antarctica, and there’s some things that you might not consider, even down to hydroponics. We have a hydroponics facility at each of the stations and that helps to provide us with greens through the winter, it’s an amazing place to go, it’s lovely and light and humid so it’s always a favourite of the expeditioners.

Esther Rodewald, Macquarie Island station leader:

I’ve spent the last 25 years working freelance in film and television production but I was looking for a bit of a challenge and some new skills to learn and to push myself out of my comfort zone. Antarctica was a place I was very aware of and it was somewhere I never thought I’d get to go. As part of our community training we’re starting boating next week, which is four days of training in IRBs which are small inflatable boats. Macquarie, given the way that it is as an island, it doesn’t have a harbour, it doesn’t have a wharf, so anything that comes in over the water has to come off a large boat onto a little IRB or a LARC or a barge or something and come in over the surf. We need to go through training to get comfortable in those boats in those conditions. And then when we’re down there, if the weather’s nice, we have two coxswains with us this year, so it’s a quicker way to get around the island without having to hike up hill and down again, to get round some of the penguin colonies.

[end transcript]

Australia's Mawson station
Australia's Mawson station

An extraordinary group of people lead expeditioners at the Australian Antarctic Division’s stations.

The station leaders at Casey, Davis, Mawson and on sub Antarctic Macquarie Island, play a pivotal role in fostering team morale and ensuring the smooth running of the stations.

They also oversee the successful completion of a wide range of science, infrastructure and logistics projects throughout the season.

Before they go south, station leaders and their teams undergo intensive training at the Division’s headquarters in Kingston, Tasmania, including fire-fighting, search and rescue and lay medical training.

Hear more from this year’s station leaders in the video below.