Arrival of the 65th ANARE, resupply, belated Casey Christmas, and a ‘shocking’ story from the Sparkies.

A hectic start to the 65th ANARE

On the 9th December, the remainder of the wintering and summering teams of the 65th ANARE arrived off Casey Station in the Aurora Australis, eight days after leaving Tasmania. We left Macquarie Wharf on the 100th Anniversary of Mawson’s 1911–1914 expedition and enjoyed a morning of celebrations on the Derwent in spectacular Hobart weather. It is an experience I am sure none of us will forget.

Whilst the passage to Antarctica was relatively calm and rapid, the weather hampered us upon arrival and we were unable to go ashore at Casey for two days due to strong winds. When we did at last set foot on the continent, it was a beautiful sunny day and a balmy temperature of 2°C meant that t-shirts and sun screen were the order of the day.

The addition of another 33 people to the population meant that the pace of the station moved from busy to frenetic and the tasks of resupply, refuelling and handover of the station from the 64th to the 65th ANARE all started in earnest.

Variable weather plagued the resupply, including a record breaking blizzard just prior to Christmas (reported in the last edition of Icy News). Hard work, patience and careful planning eventually paid off and on December 27, after 19 days, we waved goodbye to the Aurora Australis as it departed Newcomb Bay, leaving behind a much relieved and fully resupplied station.

Since then we have celebrated (a belated) Christmas and New Year, packed everything away and started work in earnest on the summer infrastructure, maintenance and science programs.

We are all now looking towards a safe, productive and enjoyable summer before those of us staying until next Christmas settle in for the long winter. All of us, summer and winter expeditioners alike, keenly feel the privilege of being part of the 65th ANARE at Casey Station in this, Australia’s Antarctic Centennial year.

The never ending Resupply

After a long, arduous and very patient resupply battle to commence the Casey 2011–12 Refuel, this week saw the weather break and provide us with the opportunity we had all be waiting for. A small yet promising window was offered and taken.

Refuelling is arguably one of the most environmentally dangerous practices we can undertake in Antarctica. A lay flat fuel line stretches 1.8km across the beautiful Newcomb Bay, continuing along the ice a further 1km up to the Upper Fuel farm via a valve system in place at the Lower farm.

The connections, the pressure (leak) testing, the valve sequencing, the time frame, the volume, the weather, the moving ice and the human factor are all considerations that need to be taken into account before pumping is commenced.

The laying out of the top fuel line began at 8am on the 26th and was a welcome sight; however, it didn’t give all hope as it was the second time this had occurred. The pleasing and promising signs began at 1:20pm when it was decided to begin laying out the lower line across the water — a job not envied by anyone as the watercraft operators worked tirelessly to locate all anchors and position the line in place.

After the stringent refuelling check list, fuel began filling the first tank at 10:20pm, and continued to flow until 10:50pm on the 27th. With all tanks full, pack up began. After some 980k litres, 48hrs and not a drop spilt, refuelling was officially over, marking the end of what was a marathon resupply at Casey this year.

Belated Casey Christmas

With some time off and resupply finally over, the late departure of the Aurora Australis meant that it was now time to enjoy a well-earned break. Christmas at Casey this year was again delayed. Although a small number of people celebrated the real 25th of December in low key, the true Casey Christmas was not celebrated until Friday the 30th of December.

The celebrations were kicked off in fine form on Christmas Eve with the Casey choir, or anyone who thought they could sing along to Christmas carols.

The chefs, with the help of the mess crew, baked up a gingerbread storm, replicating Casey Station and personalising a gingerbread man for each person.

The actual day began with the arrival of Santa, his reindeer and elves in true Antarctica style, on quads. He handed out gifts to all and headed North (not that there are too many options), home in preparation for next season.

A feast was eaten and the night progressed, with lots of happiness and Christmas cheer.

From the Sparkies workshop

The electrical team at Casey station consists of two summering and two wintering electricians.

Lewis Firth and Ray Wright are the Summer electricians and Jeremy Brown and Phil Marthick are the longer term wintering electricians. Our role is to oversee and take responsibility for all the various electrical services and amenities that allow the day to day operation of the station.

These range from the most important, which is the electrical operation and maintenance of the generators supplying our Main Power house and the 6.6kv high Voltage Ring Mains distributing power over the whole station, all the way down to the simplest function of replacing a light bulb.

Since arriving in Antarctica two months ago from Hobart, via the American base at Mcmurdo, we as a team have accomplished the restoration of power to the Wharf area through repair to a blown 3.3kv line, installation of the new Bureau of Meteorology hydrogen generation system providing gas for balloon flights, infrastructure upgrades to Wilkins Airfield, power backup renewal and general maintenance to the Red Shed and other facilities at Casey.

Casey Life is not all concerned with direct trade tasks. Everyday domestic tasks include snow removal, cleaning of our home in the south, helping to prepare meals in the kitchen and most recently the very important resupply of Casey station. Every trade and department works together to ensure the safe and timely operation of all necessary actions to ensure the next year in Casey will see everyone here in the great south have all the necessary fuel, equipment and, most importantly, food necessary for another great year on this 100th year of Australian Antarctic Research Expeditions.