At Casey, we head to Law Dome to conduct maintenance on the automatic weather station and Bri brings a dinosaur to Antarctica.

Trip to Law Dome

Except for the tops of a few bamboo canes and steel poles that mark the route to the summit the only object standing above the snow on Law Dome is an Automatic Weather Station (AWS). This lonely sentinel, more than 100km from Casey and almost 1400m above sea level, measures the weather and reports its data via polar orbiting satellites. More than a metre of compacted snow accumulates on the summit of Law Dome each year and the AWS equipment will eventually become inundated and buried in snow if left unchecked. Almost three metres of snow had accumulated in the two years since the last major maintenance visit so a trip was scheduled and planned so that the AWS could be re-elevated above the snow. We were prepared for possible poor weather conditions but the equipment was configured and organised so that the entire task would only take a few days in mild weather.

A team consisting of Misty, Cam, Jamie and myself (Mark G), travelling in two Hägglunds and towing two sled-trailers containing tools, equipment and camping gear, departed Casey on an overcast morning and headed up the hill. The ‘hill’ of compacted snow and ice has a definite slope when departing Casey but after passing the ski-way, the gradient is so slight that it’s difficult to perceive when looking uphill. The overcast sky made snow surface condition difficult to see but it was relatively smooth during the early part of the journey and took a little over seven hours to reach the summit site. Our polar-pyramid tent camp was set up immediately after arrival. With fading light and ambient temperature around minus 30, our activity then focussed on dinner and bed.

The following morning the base for a new AWS mast was ‘planted’ in the snow and by the end of the day the six and a half metre pole with the AWS equipment attached had been raised and guyed into position. Some mechanical issues and a faulty heater in the back of one of the Haggs also kept Cam busy during the day.

The following morning we awoke to another day of light winds with the added bonus of blue sky and sunshine. With equipment checks completed and our polar camp packed away we departed after midday and headed back to Casey. Bright sunlight and good surface definition made the journey home easier and slightly quicker.

As the twilight faded I’m sure we were all glad to see the ‘town lights’ of Casey as we headed back down the hill.

A personal footnote

As a trip leader it is easy to get caught up in preparation, equipment, procedures and completing a task safely. Despite the cold and any minor discomforts associated with antarctic travel, camping and work this was an enjoyable experience.

I don’t recall your exact words Misty, but after we had raised the AWS mast you smiled and made a comment that reminded me that we had also achieved something very positive and worthwhile. Thank you.

Mark G

Misty’s Mad Minute introducing Bri

NAME:  Bri

ROLE ON STATION:  Weather Observer

OTHER APPOINTMENTS: Lay Surgical Team, Hydroponics, Social Committee

What do you enjoy most about your current job? Other than the location, being paid to blow up really big balloons and look out the window at clouds all day.

Who inspires you? Neil did.

Why a winter in Antarctica? I’d done a couple of summers here before, so wanted a chance to experience the place in all the seasons.  I was also curious about how I’d cope with the lack of sunlight and living in a small group of people in an isolated environment.  So far so good. I think I’ve kept any homicidal tendencies well-disguised.

Any work lined up on your return to Australia? Yep. I’m trading blizzards for thunderstorms and tropical cyclones, and returning to weather forecasting in Darwin.

What other occupation would you have if not a weather forecaster/observer? Extra in a zombie movie.

Are you continuing study/ tertiary ed. / services duty? I did an Ancient History subject earlier in the year, but studying wasn’t worth enough pedometer steps, so I had to give it up.

If not at Casey this year, what else would you be doing? More travel or working as a forecaster, or some combination of the above.

Hobbies at Casey? Growing green leafy things in Hydro; taking naps; encouraging inappropriate use of icing sugar at station functions.

New hobbies for home and the future? My new knitting skills won’t be that useful in Darwin, unfortunately.

Holidays planned? Definitely, but still luxuriating in the knowledge that I could go anywhere, so haven’t locked in a location yet.

Do you think your pets will bite you? The rabbit probably wants to.

The Red Shed is burning down and you are only have time to save one thing? I guess I should say something useful like the station leader, but I think I’ll go with Horatio the stuffed dinosaur instead.

You are stuck on a deserted island with one person? It’s not that deserted then, is it?  At this point in winter I think I’d like to have my deserted island to myself.  Failing that, I choose Wilson.

Which other Antarctic station would you like to visit? Rothera. I’m now a big fan of drawn-on abs.

What are your tastebuds craving most? Avocados, mushrooms and bananas, although preferably not all at once.

Your favourite hut? Well, Peterson melon was in an awesome location, on an island and right in the middle of an Adelie penguin highway.  It’s a bit cramped now though.

Favourite Antarctic wildlife? Adelie penguins. Even when you’ve seen a thousand of them, it still seems impossible to stop taking photos of them.  Always entertaining and worth the extra hard drive space.

Most important thing you would take on a jolly? A dieso — they seem to come in pretty handy.  Mind you, if they’d fixed the generator/Hagg right the first time then they wouldn’t be so necessary!

Favourite summer highlight? The first time I saw the Vanderford Glacier up close from Browning Peninsula.

Antarctic highlight? Cruising between the bergs on the sea ice on quads near Davis, then having a bunch of curious penguins race up to us as fast as their little feet and flippers would let them.

Winter highlight so far? Watching two thirds of the station get overly competitive in the 100 days Walk across Antarctica, nearly breaking themselves in the process, whilst our team just plodded along, getting there in our own time and without all the fuss.

Name three people you would like to invite to the midwinter dinner? I can invite anyone at all?  Perhaps Douglas Adams, Eric and Professor Brian Cox.

Name one person you would most like to winter with? Nat.

How do you have your jalapenos? By the spoonful, for other people’s entertainment, under orders from the station leader.

If Comms could download one Olympic event for us to watch this year, any request? I would have liked to see the sheep in the opening ceremony.

What is the first thing you will do when you return to Australia? Hunt down those avocados and mushrooms, admire all the nice live green things and find somewhere that sells Little Creatures Pale Ale.