2014-15 Antarctic Station Leaders
James Moloney Davis Station Leader
My name is James Moloney. I’m from Melbourne, Victoria, and I’m going to Davis station for season 2014-15 to fulfil a role as station leader. My background is predominantly working in aid and development internationally, primarily with a public health focus. I’ve been working with the UN and deployment registers such as RedR.
I think what attracts me to Antarctica is, as one author called it, ‘a sense of adventure authenticated by real purpose,’ and I think Antarctica is quite unique in that it offers an operating environment for a very privileged, very professional group of people to undertake work that has real significance.
So, some of the major projects we have going on this year. We’ve got a sizable contingent of skilled tradespersons going down to undertake both a capital works and maintenance project. We have an expanded aviation program comprising of both fixed wing and rotary aircraft. We have quite a number of scientific projects which we focus both on terrestrial sites, near ocean, marine and atmospheric.
The challenge I’ll face I think will largely relate to the operating environment itself, and the challenges that are inherent in that for a group of people that are living and working together in close surrounds for an extended period of time.
Bill DeBruyn Casey Station Leader
My name is Bill DeBruyn. I come from Melbourne, and this year I’m the station leader at Casey for the summer period. My background is, I was a crown policeman for 41 years specialising in emergency management, logistics and major events, skills that readily transferred across to what I’m doing as a station leader. I’ve been three previous times and they’ve all been at Davis, so I’m pretty familiar with Davis and this year it might be a bit of a shock going to Casey. I love going back, a lot of people give you a lot of reasons but I just love the place, I love the work, I love working with the people.
Casey this year has got a very full program, we’ve got the Navy doing some sea bed mapping, we’ve got a lot of biological work, we’ve got wildlife work, we’ve got a very large dive program under the ice, which is quite exciting, looking at the ecosystems. We’ve got some deep field science happening which we’ve got to support with aircraft, so yes it’s a very very full program. No matter how many times I’ve gone down, every year’s been different, with different challenges, different pleasures, different rewards. I go down and it’s a blank canvas for me, and we’ll paint it as the season progresses.
John Leben Mawson Station Leader
My name is John Leben, I’m going to be the station leader for Mawson research station, for 15-16. My background is I joined the Australian Army when I was 15, and I stayed in the Army for 23 years, after which I joined the Country Fire Authority of Victoria. I applied to be a station leader, as it goes back to 30 years ago speaking to ex-expeditioners in the army who had been down for water transport and their experiences they’d had, so it’s been a dream since that time.
The major projects this year on station are the continuing research into Adelie and emperor penguins which we’ll be supporting, particularly over the winter period when there are no research scientists. What attracts me to Antarctica is the environment. It’s unusual, it’s not the same as you get in any other part of the world, and it’s one of the last frontiers that are available to people in the world.
Jacque Comery Macquarie Island Station Leader
My name’s Jacque Comery, I’m from Canberra in the ACT and I have the great privilege of going down to Macquarie Island as station leader. I’m an environmental engineer and my work experience in that role has been quite varied. I’ve managed large infrastructure projects and also worked on multi-disciplinary environmental programs as well. I’m also a scuba diving and first aid instructor. I’m definitely really excited for the opportunity to live and work in a team in one of the most remote places on the planet and to experience the environment, the weather and all of the wildlife on a daily basis is just going to be amazing.
The major projects that we’ll be supporting on Macquarie Island this year are the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service monitoring of albatross, giant petrels and a number of vegetation communities as well. We also have ongoing monitoring of scientific equipment, taking both meteorological and atmospheric measurements and we also monitor the tide gauges and also some seismic equipment. I think managing a small team of only 14 of us over the winter will present its challenges and the need to keep the team cohesive and strong and functioning is one of the most critical parts of my role as station leader.
Living at Casey station in winter
Alison Dean, Casey station leader:
Hi I am Ali and I am the station leader at Casey Station in Antarctica. The building that you can see behind me is the Red Shed that is our living quarters. Casey is located on a rocky headland just at the margin of a huge Antarctic ice sheet. It was mid-winter on June 21 and after that the days started getting lighter and brighter and as the sun gets higher in the sky hopefully we will get slightly warmer temperatures.
Well most of us stay here for about a year, some more, some less. The team that is here at the moment most of them arrived around November last year. They will stay until around the first week of December this year before heading back to Australia. There are a few that will stay on until summer so they won’t go home until February, March next year. So we have an eight month long winter and you can do an awful lot in an eight month winter. I am going to go through the team and tell you a bit about what each person does.
We have got a carpenter on station. He renovates and fixes things through the winter mostly inside the building. At the moment he is renovating all the bathrooms we have got. We have about 30 odd bathrooms. We have two electricians. They check all the wiring on station over winter and they test all the electrical equipment making sure it’s ready for next season. We have two plumbers, they make sure we have fresh water all the time and they also keep the wastewater treatment plant flowing which is a really important thing. Who else have we got. We have got four diesel mechanics. They keep our generator going – you might be able to hear it in the background. They also service all the vehicles that we have on station over the winter to make sure they are ready for the summer season. We have a plant operator. He assists the diesel mechanics and he also drives the big machinery that we have on station. He shifts all the snow around making sure that we have access to all our buildings. We have three met people (Bureau of Meteorology) and they monitor the weather on a daily basis and they also put two balloons up into the atmosphere each day – they look at what is happening up a few kilometres into the atmosphere. We’ve got two communications officers. They keep all our radio and satellite communications going plus they service all our IT equipment, making sure that we have computing right through the year. We have got a doctor who looks after our health through the winter and he looks after us if we get sick or we have an accident. And of course we have a chef, most importantly, to cook our meals – unless it is his day off and then we do the cooking. That makes 18, counting me as well.
It’s not all work at Casey we get to go off station quite often. There are huts in the surrounding area that we can visit. It’s quite an adventure to head off over the sea ice. It’s an experience that you would never get anywhere else. It’s good to get out and about. We do a lot of things together as a group.
It’s just past mid-winter as I said for mid-winter we had a huge celebration. We had a nine course meal that took eight hours to get through. We also have a mid-winter swim. We cut a hole in the ice close to station that was about a metre thick and the water temperature was around minus 2 and air temperature on the day was around minus 20 so there was quite a contrast there. It’s a tradition but it is not compulsory and every time I get to go down the steps I think to myself “what am I doing.” It’s like getting into a slushy – the water is starting to refreeze almost immediately.
Just a few weeks ago the plant operator Kerry cut a screen and seating out of a snow bank that was close to station and we watched a movie under the stars all rugged up. That was a lot of fun as well. While there are no scientists down here over winter there are a lot of science projects still running that we monitor and support. For instance there is one project that requires air sampling every month. There is another where we download and service cameras that are fixed on Adelie penguin colonies that are close by. It’s a really good time to do that because they are all off at sea getting fat again for the next breeding season so we are not disturbing them.
Sometimes we can’t go out of the building at all. Sometimes the wind is so strong it can get to over 200 kilometres an hour here and the air can be so thick with snow that you can’t even see a metre in front of you. At that time it’s good to know that everything is secure and that everyone is safe and warm inside. We certainly would not survive that long outside if we weren’t prepared.
Midwinter swim 2014 at Davis research station
[Narelle Campbell:] Welcome to Davis station Antarctica. Today is Midwinterʼs Day, and it marks the winter solstice and the slow return of the sun. We will see the sun around about mid-July, which we're all looking forward to, even though it will only just pop its head up briefly, for a while, until it hangs around a bit longer as the year goes on.
Today is a tradition amongst all Antarctic stations. We honour those who have been down before us; particularly those who came down in the early 1900s: Mawson, Scott and Shackleton.
We do start our day off with an early morning swim in the icy cold waters. The guys spent all day yesterday preparing the swim hole. The sea ice here at the moment is one metre deep, so it did take a while for them to get those chunks of ice out for our one-and-a-half metre by one-and-a-half metre swimming pool. Straight after this, after the team have all been for a swim, we go back to our station and have an outdoor spa, and tonight there'll be a formal dinner, where we'll be toasting all those who've been down before us, and our family and friends back home who we haven't seen for quite some time.
We did send an invitation out to many people to attend our party tonight … lots of excuses why they canʼt get here, probably because it's impossible. The 20 of us here at Davis station; we won't see a ship at all or any form of transport at all until around about November, and just at the end of the year thatʼs when we will return home. So with the winter months theyʼre dark, very cold – minus 30-odd degrees today.
[All:] Happy Midwinters!