At Casey, the perils of travel in Antarctica are explored and truly interesting chef, Gavin, is interviewed.

Cane line maintenance

In the operating area around station we routinely travel between the station itself and various field huts where we either base ourselves for field work or take the opportunity to get off station for a little R&R. The huts are very basic but they do afford protection from the weather and the chance to be away from the hum of the powerhouse and the grind of station life.

Of course in Antarctica there are no roads and travel between the station and the field huts needs to be undertaken via routes that have been well established as safe and efficient. Current navigational technology allows us to follow way pointed routes using the vehicle based GPS (or handheld ones as back up or on quad bikes). Whilst this is very convenient, it is important to actually mark the routes with physical objects. Firstly, having an appropriate physical way point allows us to additionally use radar to navigate in difficult conditions. But perhaps even more importantly it’s great to have something that you can actually see. In a complete whiteout, even though the GPS says you are where you should be and the radar says there is something there where it should be, there is nothing like being able to see a stick in the ground that tells you that you are on the right track.

And this brings us to cane line maintenance. Every route from the station to field huts and beyond is marked not only by GPS tracks but also physical canes stuck into the snow and ice. These canes, when placed, protrude two to three metres above ground. Most have tin cans attached to them to allow them to be picked up by radar and some have red flags that are visible both during the day and at night. Depending on the terrain and the straightness of the track, these canes may be placed every several hundred metres or even more frequently.

Unfortunately, over time the canes become buried in snow and ice or get blown over and destroyed and it is important to have a regular program of maintenance to keep the cane lines serviceable. With the rapidly approaching summer, bringing with it better weather and an influx of expeditioners, we have been attending to our cane lines around Casey over the past few weeks.

Last weekend, Dan, Mike and Sheri did some work on the cane line from station out to Jack’s Hut which lies on the moraine line to the north of station. Jack’s Hut is famous for having the toilet with the best view in the universe. It is only an hour from station and shares part of the route with that to the Casey ski landing area and with the closest hut to station, the Wilkes Hilton.

In the previous week Cam and Misty recaned the line from station to Robbo’s Hut and next weekend we hope to sort out Wilkes. That will only leave Browning Hut to do and with the wildlife starting to come in and the views of the Vanderford Glacier to be had, it is unlikely that any trouble will be had finding volunteers for that job.

Misty’s Mad Minute introducing Gav

NAME: Gavin

NICKNAMES: Gav, Gavino, Gavlar, Gman, The Gavinator


OTHER APPOINTMENTS: First responder for Search & Rescue team, ARC President (Antarctic Running Club). 

Describe yourself in three words. Inquisitive, pragmatic, optimistic.

Who inspires you? People who have the courage and conviction to follow their dreams.

What is the one thing you enjoy most about your current job? Spending time with everyone on station when it’s their turn to help out in the kitchen as slushie (kitchen hand).

Why a winter in Antarctica? 19 people who don’t know each other and all part of a micro community for seven months. That has all the ingredients for one memorable experience. 

Funniest moment over winter? Trip Leader George realising he only had his summer sleeping bag when camping at −30 C. Pure rookie mistake.

Do you have a home to go back to? No, but I’ve got a tent.

What plans do you have on your return to Australia? I’m off to do some volunteer work in a developing country. Looking forward to giving something back to the world. 

What other occupation would you like to do? A photo journalist for National Geographic would be cool. 

If not at Casey this year, what else would you be doing? I would have been guiding a university group, from the USA, through Africa for three months.

Hobbies at Casey? Cross country skiing, ice climbing and semi-pro table tennis player.

New hobbies for home and the future? Paragliding, sea kayaking and sky diving for starters.

You are stuck on a deserted island with one person? The Professor from Gilligan’s Island. He made a car that ran on coconuts (but why couldn’t he fix their boat?).

Holidays planned? Kayaking across Bass Straight, mountaineering in NZ, trekking in Nepal, skiing in Canada. I might need another holiday after all that.

Any work lined up on your return? Back working at Everest Base Camp for the climbing season.

The Red Shed is burning down and you are only have time to save one thing? Video camera. We may want to watch that again in slow motion while waiting to get rescued.

Which other Antarctic station would you like to visit? ‘Princess Elisabeth’ operated by Belgium. The continent’s first zero emission station, it’s powered by solar and wind. Is that the way of the future? 

What are your tastebuds craving most? Someone else’s cooking.

Your favourite hut? Huts are for softies. Give me a snow cave any day.

Favourite Antarctic wildlife? Polar bears. (Ed. note: this seems to be a popular pun amongst our expeditioners!)

Most important things you would take on a jolly? Duct tape. Never leave home without it.

One item you wished you brought down? A solar panel.

Favourite summer highlight? Running the 45kms from the Antarctic Circle.

Antarctic highlight? Sled hauling trips over the winter. Great company, lots of laughs and good banter. What more could you want?

Winter highlight so far? Midwinter swim. Loved it so much I went in for another dip.

Name three people you would like to invite to the Midwinter Dinner? Che Guevara, Sigmund Freud and Nelson Mandela. That way we could have a revolution, talk it through and then get on with reconciliation.  

Name one person you would most like to winter with? Ernest Shackleton and spend it in Mawson’s original Antarctic hut built a hundred years ago.

If your life was a song, which one would it be this week? What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong.

Favourite day? Every day I’m alive.

Favourite place in the world? Deep in the South American jungle.

How do you have your jalapenos? Au natural. I like the flavour to speak for itself.

What is the first thing you will do when you return to Australia? Go white water kayaking, climbing, canyoning, mountain biking, trail running, scuba diving, mountaineering and hiking. It could be a busy day.