After a protracted resupply last December, when the weather conspired against us, there was a great deal of nervousness on station about the V5 fly-off last week. At this time of year the Aurora Australis comes by Casey to pick up the summer expeditioners and some cargo that needs to be returned to Australia (RTA), to drop off any last wintering personnel and a very few essential supplies needed by the station for winter. This year the AA had already called past Davis station to do the same thing and was now on its way home, with Casey being the last stop.
Unlike the Casey resupply in December which is done by inflatable rubber boat, barge and unifloat, the end of summer transfers from ship to shore are done by helicopter. This year we had two squirrel choppers operating and the ship was able to get right into Newcomb Bay, about a kilometre from the station itself.
Waking on Thursday morning to see the ship quietly slipping into the bay just after dawn was an amazing experience. For four months there had been just water and ice and all of a sudden there was a ship, and more than that, a way home or at least some contact with home. Operations started quickly with choppers bringing essential personnel ashore to assist with the helicopter operations down at the eastern end of station. The limited incoming cargo came ashore quickly, followed by the removal of RTA cargo and then about 300 empty drums that had contained aviation fuel. Finally, at about 4:00pm, 24 outgoing expeditioners donned their immersion suits and in groups of four made the short flight to the ship.
Day one had been a huge success and all that remained was to RTA another 300 drums, pack up and get the rest of the people to the ship. The whole thing only took about three hours and everyone sat down to lunch, on ship and on shore, with the fly off completed. Thirty two expeditioners had gone to the ship to travel home. One expeditioner had come ashore to join the wintering team. Nearly 700 empty aviation fuel drums had been RTA’d and more than 50 cage pallets of cargo have moved in each direction.
We were very lucky with the weather but the planning and execution of the whole activity was a credit to all involved, from the ship’s Master, officers and crew, the Voyage Leader and Deputy Voyage Leader, the AGSOs from Davis who controlled the helipads, Heli Resources pilots and engineers, our own AGSOs, beachmaster, cargo officer, stores officers, plant operators and everyone else who contributed.
Thanks to all and well done!