Team Dieso’s summer, remote transmitters and brushing up on breathing apparatus.

Team dieso — summer in review

After completing our initial selection centre and having been given word of a successful application, the Casey Station summer and winter diesel fitter crews (dieso’s) were assembled in Kingston for 3 months of pre-departure training in Sep 2011. 

The training included introductions to specific machinery, some unique to the Australian Antarctic Division. Machinery such as Hägglunds over snow Vehicles,  Prinoth Snow groomers, Power generation facilities, Honda ATV’s, Herman Nelson heaters, Grove Cranes,  and a myriad of CAT Earth moving machinery.  We were given the opportunity to focus not only on the maintenance aspects but to complete the operator course for each piece of equipment, as this role is more than just providing maintenance.  Prinoth Snow groomers, Power generation facilities, Honda ATV’s, Herman Nelson heaters, Grove Cranes,  and a myriad of CAT Earth moving machinery.  We were given the opportunity to focus not only on the maintenance aspects but to complete the operator course for each piece of equipment, as this role is more than just providing maintenance.

After completing the required training the summer crew (Rhian, Greg and Heath) departed early for Casey Station via the American Antarctic base McMurdo, flying from Hobart aboard the luxurious Snowbird 1, and then transferring across from McMurdo to the Casey Ski-way on an LC130 Hercules.  This left the remaining three winter crew (Jason, Cameron and Mike)to finalise some additional training and complete the journey south via the southern ocean on the Aurora Australis.

The journey south on the ship was an amazing experience, getting to know different people with whom we would be sharing the next few months, taking in the scenery and spectacles of the southern ocean and its wildlife, crossing the 60 degree latitude and being summoned by Australis Rex, ruler of the Southern Ocean, to partake in his acceptance ceremony. These are all memories that will not be forgotten.

After the arrival of the ship we were introduced to the existing team and shown around station, learning the ins and outs of how things are done on station. Re-supply commenced and seemed to go on forever and finally at the completion the station was handed over and we were introduced to a few days of Antarctica weather, including record  108 knot winds and an extremely rare lightning strike that set off an early morning fire alarm! (What a start, all within 24 hrs!)

However it didn’t take long for all to feel at home and become familiar with how things were going to run over the coming months. People were very friendly; all were happily setting about their tasks. We celebrated our belated Xmas and New Year in style and work was in full swing as we all completed survival training, travel training and Vehicle induction training.

Machinery was being utilised and of course breaking down. People were becoming accustomed to the cold weather and what effect it played on the equipment. With the summer melt in full swing it was inevitable that sooner or later vehicles would become a little stuck and true to tradition it happened.

The work presented was various and at times a challenge given the remoteness. “It is not like we can just drop down to the local supplier and purchase the required parts”; however we managed to keep the entire station plant operational over the summer months. The old adage where there’s a will there’s a way, rings true.

It has not been all about the work however, time here over summer has provided many opportunities to get out and about, on various vehicles and partake in the landscape, Field Huts and wildlife we all ultimately came here to see; and to enjoy the finer parts of station living like the themed casino night and the medieval night. 

All in all the summer has been an extremely busy time for Team Dieso. We managed to not have any power outages during the summer, no fuel spillages, rescue a number of vehicle’s from breakdowns and boggings around station, provide support to various science and field trips. We serviced many integral pieces of plant and equipment required around station, conducted driver training on the plant and affiliated snow vehicles, completed the annual Main Power House Shut down, assisted with planning and building props for station social functions, and yet still managed time to explore this special place.

Rhian and Greg headed home on the Aurora Australis at the beginning of the month with the rest of the summer crew and unfortunately Heath (our aviation mechanic based at WIlkings during summer) returned to Australia earlier in the season and so won’t be spending the winter on station with us as planned.  But Cameron, Mike and I (Jason) are now settling into our winter routine and we welcome two new additions to the team. Misty McCain and Jon Mitchell have both been working in the aviation team over summer, Misty at the Casey Ski-way and Jon at the Wilkins Aerodrome. It’s great to have them on station full-time now for the winter as part of Team Dieso.

Jason Blackwell (Plant Inspector/Mechanical Services Supervisor)

Installation of new HF tranceivers

This week, Casey Comms have been busy installing new HF Transceivers into the remote transmitter building. This involved the removal of existing dual Barrett Model 950 transceivers, linear amplifiers and associated power supplies and installation of new dual Barrett Model 2050 advanced HF SSB transceivers, interface units, 2022 power supplies and 1Kw amplifiers.

The transmitter building also houses the station rigging spares for repair and maintenance of all the masts, towers and associated infrastructure for the remote transmitter, remote receiver and other antenna systems located throughout Casey Station and field huts. Over the years HF communications has declined in use as other technologies such as Iridium satellite have become the preferred means of reliable long distance voice connection. As a result, a clean-out and cull of station communication rigging items was also undertaken and those items either overstocked or no longer of use were packed away for RTA (return to Australia) in the summer. The building now has plenty of room for other “activities”.

Dave Davies and Andy Burgess (Winter Comms Team)

Brushing up on breathing apparatus

On an Antarctic research station, one of the biggest potential hazards is fire. Everything here is extremely dry and there is very little free water to use to put out a blaze. These factors, combined with the isolation, mean that fire prevention, suppression and fighting are all key aspects of staying safe. Of course if we do have a fire alarm, we can’t just wait around for the fire brigade to turn up and deal with it. Down here, we are our own medical team, search and rescue team and fire team. So seven months ago many of us attended eight days of fire training at the Tasmanian Fire Service facility at Cambridge, just outside Hobart. We learned about fire behaviour, fire fighting methods, fire rescue and a range of other relevant activities. However, a week or so of training does not make an expert and the key to keeping any skills sharp is practice. This is especially the case with something like fire fighting, when things need to be done properly and smoothly when it counts. So we regularly come together to go through our paces as the Casey Fire Team.

At Casey, over winter there is always a team of nine on standby who make up our emergency response team (ERT). In the case of a fire emergency these people fill the roles of Incident Controller (normally the Station Leader), doctor (always the doctor), Fire Chief, BA 1 and 2 (who will get into their fire turnout gear ready to address the fire or perform a rescue), BA 3 (an electrician who assists the Fire Chief to determine the cause of the alarm and whereabouts of the fire), BA 4 and BA Controller (who get the fire vehicle and additional equipment ready for direction to the fire) and two lay medical assistants, one of whom goes to the tankhouse to get the pumps going and the other who is ready to immediately assist the doctor if required.

Last Wednesday afternoon we gathered down at the EVS (Emergency Vehicle Shelter) that houses our Fire Hagg, SAR Hagg and various other emergency response equipment, to go through the procedures for putting on breathing apparatus, or BA as we call it. BA works on the principal of underwater scuba tanks. The idea is that it will provide you with fresh air and keep your eyes smoke free if you are ever needed to go into a smoke filled room. Everything needs to be done properly and carefully to ensure that the mask fits air tight and that all clothing and equipment is checked to make sure everything is done up and covered correctly. Each person’s ‘airtime’ is monitored by the BA controller. This is a very important role also responsible for making sure that no-one goes into a situation without the right gear, being worn in the right way as well as being responsible for monitoring how much time is left on the air cylinders so that people don’t run out.

We all hope that we never need to respond to an emergency while we are down here, but it is good to know that we are prepared if needed. And let’s face it, you can have some fun, even with serious training. 

Gavin Melgaard (Chef and Fire Team member — BA 1)