Celebrating Australia Day, the Brew Team, and a trip to Peterson Island presents the unexpected.

Celebrating Australia Day

I woke as normal, headed for breakfast and a look of bewilderment in my half open eyes came over me as I looked at the temperature gauge — it was −6.9°C. Normally I wouldn’t take much notice, but today was no ordinary day. It was Australia Day and a group of us were heading towards the wharf for a swim, or in my case a “splash and giggle”. This was all being coordinated by our station leader Mark, who incidentally was sporting yet another new outfit straight from the catwalk in Milan.

With Gavin having put the pig on the spit, and all the arrangements made for the traditional BBQ later in the arvo, we all headed to the wharf. Some potential swimmers were quietly keeping to themselves, while others were laughing nervously to prepare for the swim. It was in all our minds that we might hit the wall after the first 2 metres and have to make a split decision — “do I keep going or err on the side of safety and turn back?”. I turned back because I didn’t have a clear view of the target — a small peice of sea ice that was sitting several metres out from the wharf. I heard lots of new words being used, some that wouldn’t be classed as words, as people made the swim to the piece of ice and then set off on the hasty swim back to the shore. Some words that I haven’t heard, even in the urban dictionary. With the marathon swim over, there was a collective sigh of relief and a sense of accomplishment that we had all achieved something, and put it on our list of a 1000 things I must not do again.

With the swim out of the way we turned our attention to something we have all done before, well nearly all, a game of cricket. It would be Australia versus an International selection. The pitch had been rolled and the wicket showed no real consistency of bounce — it promised to be an epic encounter. The Australian team bowled first and it became evident that the Internationals would be under some pressure as the Australians used the wicket to full advantage. The International selection was captained by James, who was very doubtful to play as he has been nursing an achilles injury he received in the world series ping pong game a few weeks ago. A few controversial umpiring decisions brought calls of match fixing, and led many to believe there was an international betting scandal taking place right here at Casey.

We thought we had seen it all, but what cricket match on Australia day would be true to form without the traditional Australian streaker making an appearance? Having slipped past security, he quickly invaded the pitch, and had all the photographers on their feet — many were seen to be frantically attempting to change the settings on their cameras to macro, in an attempt to capture the moment.

At the end of the game Australia seemed to get there by a ball or so. We settled down to a BBQ, a kick of the footy and some music. As we watched the sun dip low across the sky, but not go down, many were recalling the great catch-taking, or the one that slipped through, but all were heard to be talking of the same thing… a great day had by all, and for many the first Australia Day celebrated in Antarctica.

The Casey Brew Team

Brewing takes place Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm until whatever time it takes to bottle up a few dozen long necks of draft, lager, black and tan, ginger beer or cider for station needs. They mix the brew, then bottle and store them for a month before drinking. The brew room has been very busy over the past weeks preparing beers for the Australia Day cricket match.

Brewing is also a social occasion with much camaraderie, where the big clock on the wall is permanently on 5pm (that is, beer-o’clock). It’s usually first in best dressed and standing room only at most sessions. The guys and girls say “It’s a thankless task but someone has to do it”.

The Brew Team come to the job with much experience. Jeremy Browne the ‘Brew Master’ (the beer making boss) has been a home brewer for a long time and Phill was the master at Davis several seasons ago. Ah, but it’s all a far, far cry from the days when Ray used his famous recipe at the old Casey station in 1987, when the hops and sugar were boiled up to make the magic syrup. One of his original bottles still resides on — a no more fitting place, on the top shelf of the Casey bar.

Trip to Peterson Island presents the unexpected

Earlier in the summer season several groups have travelled to, and experienced the wonders of, Browning Peninsula and Peterson Island. However, since the departure of the sea ice, groups had only travelled to Browning Peninsula by land routes, and been unable to cross over the channel to Peterson Island.

On January 17 a group set off in boats for a day trip to Peterson Island, but upon their arrival found that the Peterson Melon was no longer standing, as it had done for so many years. It had fallen to a recent blizzard, and was now in many pieces and spread over the surrounding area.

In a recent edition of This week at Casey, a story told of new records being set. One of these records involved a blizzard in December, which saw the highest wind gusts for the month of December set… gusts of 109 knots (202kph). It is believed that the Peterson Melon was destroyed during this blizzard.

On discovery of the wreckage, word travelled quickly back to Casey, and in fact travelled just as quickly to a wider audience… with many passing on their tails of previous memorable trips to Peterson, and those who had not experienced a trip to Peterson Melon, dreaming now of what they would not experience.

Initial attempts to secure the wreckage were made on the day of discovery, with plans put in place for a further trip to the island. On Sunday 19 January, a second party set out for another trip to the island, where they spent the entire day scouring the surrounding area, ensuring all debris was located. As much as possible was returned to Casey on the boats. All that was remaining was secured on site, awaiting the return of the sea ice, when the area would be more easily accessible and the remaining debris would then be removed.