The to-do list for a Voyage Leader is long and challenging. Cross the wild Southern Ocean. Deal with blinding blizzards. Work closely with ship crews and expeditioners. Deliver fuel, food and other critical supplies. And make sure everyone returns home safely. Voyage Leaders and the shipping teams do it all.

This year three ships previously untested in Antarctica are keeping Australia’s remote research stations resupplied with six separate voyages.

As the season enters its halfway mark, Voyage Leaders with the Australian Antarctic Division reflected on the highlights and challenges of the first three mission.

Waiting for Casey to clear

Anthea Fisher from New Zealand’s South Island is an experienced field training officer with a decade of Antarctic experience.

In addition she has also served in logistics and management roles in the humanitarian sector.

Her job on Voyage 1 saw ice-strengthened cargo ship the Happy Dragon deliver infrastructure for the Million Year Ice Core Project and resupply Casey research station.

“This equated to over 1200 tonnes of cargo delivered to the station, which is one of the largest resupplies ever undertaken,” Voyage Leader Anthea Fisher said.

“Approximately half this cargo was for the traverse project: specialised, custom built sleds and living vans that make up a mobile inland station that will support the drilling team for the million-year ice core project.”

Big and bright yellow, the ship made quite a sight in Newcomb Bay, but nature didn’t offer the crew a warm welcome.

“Not long after our arrival at Casey we experienced an incredibly unusual phenomena of ice filling Newcomb Bay while we were anchored in the harbour, completely surrounding the ship and preventing us from being able to undertake operations for quite a few days until the wind cleared the ice out of the bay.”

Fortunately 250kph wind gusts blew the ice out to sea.

Next to Anthea was Misty McCain as Deputy Voyage Leader.

RSV Nuyina shines in the spotlight

Lloyd Symons is usually the AAD Polar Technology Manager. To start commissioning Nuyina’s science systems, it was fitting that he was Voyage Leader as well.

Voyage 2 marked a historic occasion with the maiden Antarctic voyage of Australia’s new Icebreaker RSV Nuyina.

The vessel pumped just short of a million litres of Special Antarctic Blend fuel to Casey and delivered helicopters to Davis research station.

And if that wasn’t enough, AAD personnel collected krill, mapped a previously unknown seamount and discovered an underwater canyon.

“We managed to achieve every single one of our objectives and made some discoveries along the way so it’s an excellent start for the Nuyina,” Mr Symons said.

“Antarctica is still one of those places that you can go to and see things that nobody has ever seen before. There aren’t too many places like that left.”

Justin Hallock also supported the journey as Deputy Voyage Leader.

Fill 'er up

Leading voyage three on chartered icebreaker Aiviq was Christine MacMillian from Noosa in Queensland.

A veteran of search and rescue management and operations, she has also served as a previous leader of Casey research station.

“Supported by Davis station and Helicopter Resources, we delivered 795,000 litres of fuel and 300 kg of critical cargo to Davis,” Ms MacMillian said.

“The ship proved extremely capable and the crew professional and easy to work with and as a result we gelled well as a team and delivered the operation successfully.”

Despite the busy work load, the experience was still mesmerising.

“There aren’t many workplaces where you can look out the window at almost any time and say “wow, isn’t that amazing?”

Serving as Deputy Voyage Leader was Bloo Campbell.

All three ships will return to Antarctica and sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island this month.