Clean Up Australia event in Antarctica

Glenn Harradine
Expeditioner Glenn Harradine taking part in Clean Up Australia Day at Casey research station (Photo: Lorrienne Lyte)
Group photoPaul Ross

The summer snow-melt at Casey research station has provided the perfect opportunity for expeditioners to undertake a Clean Up Australia event.

About 50 expeditioners spent three hours over the weekend collecting debris from around station to ensure that it did not enter the wider Antarctic environment.

Wastes are carefully managed, with most being returned to Australia for recycling, treatment and disposal, but the harsh Antarctic conditions and hurricane-strength winds inevitably result in some items becoming dispersed around station.

The team collected a variety of items including small bits of plastic, old nails, wood and metal that had been picked up by the wind during blizzards. 

Casey Station Leader, Paul Ross, said while Clean Up Australia events are usually held in March in Australia, at Casey the activity has had to coincide with the hottest month of the year.

“For 11 months of the year we have ice and snow around all the buildings and infrastructure at Casey, so we can’t really see what may have accumulated,” Mr Ross said,

“During January most of that snow melts, so we can see if any debris has been deposited beneath the ice.

“On station we regularly have blizzards of up to 100 kilometres per hour so sometimes small bits of refuse escape into the local environment.”

There has been a tradition of conducting weekend clean-ups known as ‘emu bobs’, but this is the first time an Australian Antarctic station has registered with Clean Up Australia as an official site.

Clean Up Australia started in 1989 and is the nation’s largest community-based environmental event.