Casey observes the transit of Venus under exceptional conditions this week, details office renovations, takes us on a trip to Browning Hut complete with incredible pics and provides an interview with Dan Vermazen, top bloke.

The stars, baby, the stars

We were very lucky at Casey this week. Recently there has been a great deal of hype about the transit of Venus across the sun, an event that occurs (in theory) once every 105 and 121 years. In reality, since the phenomenon was first identified, only six transits have been observed: 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882 and 2004. A transit refers to the planet (in this case Venus but it also happens for Mercury) moving in between the Earth and the sun so that the planet is observed as a shadow on the face of the sun. Transits are very important to astronomers and have greatly increased our understanding of the solar system, in particular the distance between the earth and the sun. The primary purpose of Captain Cook’s voyage of discovery (1769–1771) during which he landed in Australia was to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti.

The seventh transit of Venus to be observed occurred yesterday, 6 June 2012. The next one will be in the year 2117. So like many people around Australia and the world, we at Casey were keen to get a look at it. Because we are approaching midwinter in Antarctica, most of the continent is now in perpetual darkness. The sun simply doesn’t rise at this time of year. At Casey we are the east Antarctic station furthest from the pole so even on midwinter day we still have a couple of hours of sun very, very low in the sky. This meant that we alone were able to observe the transit, if the weather was kind to us for the 90 minutes where both the sun was in the sky and Venus was in front of it from our perspective.

Fortunately for us, the day was perfect. As we walked to work from the Red Shed in the morning, the full moon was clear in the sky and an aurora was visible to the south.  Slowly the sun rose, almost due north of us and with the sky remaining clear, Venus was visible as it made its way across the face of the sun.

To be alive at the time of such an event is very lucky.  To be in the only place in Antarctica where it could be observed was amazing.  But to actually have the weather cooperate as well was very special indeed.

Painting the workshop

Part of the building maintenance program for the winter has been to smarten up the trades office down in the workshop. After a couple of false starts Dan Vermazen, our winter carpenter (with some help from his friends) set to the job in earnest during the week. Whilst the renovations were going on, a temporary office space was cleared in the workshop area itself. As well as tidying up all the surfaces and painting, Dan put in new book shelving and replaced the floor covering. The office is now back in use and looking great, though the baby blue colour of the walls has prompted a few to suggest that maybe a couple of mobiles hanging from the roof and some Wiggles murals on the wall may be just what is needed to finish it off.

A trip to Browning

With Winter well and truly upon us, myself (dieso Cam) and Dan (chippy) thought we would take our first adventure to Browning Hut.

With the limited sunlight we are getting at the moment and no experience with the Browning track, we took a well deserved early mark on the Friday and took off in a Hagg with two quads on a trailer and a few new drums of fuel for the Hut.

After four hours of Dan’s driving (two and a half for anyone else) we made it to a very chilly Browning hut in the dark and got the gas and electric heaters going to warm the almost −25 degree hut up a bit.

A few hard earned drinks were quickly consumed on arrival to help warm us up a bit too.

Not too long after settling in (and warming up) an amazing Aurora decided to light up the clear cold sky and provided us with some great photo opportunities.

On the Saturday we had planned on taking the quads for a good look around, but due to the wind picking up, we decided to have a quick look around in the Hagg. And again there were some great picture opportunities, this time of the amazing Vanderford Glacier.

After a short day out and about we returned to the hut for a few more ales and had a great spag bog (spaghetti bolognese), followed by a homemade pizza for dinner. We backed it all up with nachos for breakfast on the Sunday morning (got to love hut food).

We then made the rough trip back to station Sunday morning in just over two and a half hours (minus some inventory off the back of the Hagg which we found later).

Dieso Cam

Misty’s Mad Minute, introducing Dan

Name: Dan Vermazen

Nickname: Blumungie

Role on station: Mr Fix-it (carpenter)

Other appointments: Fire Chief, Deputy SAR Leader and Storeman

Describe yourself in 3 words? Individual, individual, individual.

Who inspires you? Anyone with the ability to forgive.

What is the one thing you enjoy the most about your current job? Using the squidgy to wipe the kitchen bench.

Why Antarctica? It’s an adventure.

What did I give up to come to Antarctica? Goddaughter and niece.

Do I have a home to go back to? Yes, a home on wheels. My camper. The world is one’s oyster!

Do you think your pets will bite you? Don’t have any but it’s a given I’ll receive an ear pierce from either my Ma’s or Nan’s cockatiel.

Any work lined up on my return to Aus? No, but I’m sure family and friends will have some jobs piled up.

What other occupation would I have if not a carpenter? Something that involves space travel. There is a sense of amazement in the thought of looking back at earth.

Are you continuing study/tertiary ed. / services duty? Yeah maybe a degree of some description.

If not at Casey this year, what else would I be doing? Absolutely no idea.

Hobbies at Casey? Learning the piano, working on a spot on the Olympic table tennis team!

New hobbies for home and the future? Hydroponics. Vegetables that is!

Buying any large toys on your return home? A stuffed penguin to fill the gap! And a new push bike.

Holidays planned? Somewhere in the wonderful unknown.

The red shed is burning down and you only have time to save 1 thing? My iPod.

You are stuck on a deserted island with one person? Captain Jack Sparrow. He made it off alive!

Which other Antarctic station would you visit? Macca.

What are my taste buds craving the most? Tough question, Mum’s homemade soup.

My favourite hut? To be confirmed.

Favourite Antarctic Wildlife? Casey expeditioners. We’re all kinda’ wild and full of life in our own unique way and after this is over, will miss them the most. Yes Jason, that includes you!

Most important thing you would take on a jolly? Toothbrush. The next morning is always feral.

Favourite summer highlight? Too… many… to… think… of… jollies, bivvy party, jam sessions… the list goes on and on and on.

Antarctic Highlight? Working as a boatie during resupply with boat buddy Fi, snow fall was almost at a stand still in mid-flight while we were on the water. Very peaceful. Thanks Fi.

Winter highlight so far? Repeatedly beating the station leader on the pong table.

Name three people you would like to invite to the midwinters dinner? ;-(, Camille Montes Rivero, Vesper Lynd, Dominetta Vitali, :-)

Name one person you most like to winter with? My brother, Adrian.

If your life was a song, which one would it be this week? I’ll Be Seeing You by Saint Germain and I Feel Better by Gotye.

Favourite day of the year? Today. Carpe diem.

Favourite place in the world? Isurava.

How do you have your jalapeños? Straight up.

What is the first thing you will do when you return to Aus? Google the use of keys and a wallet. I have forgotten what they’re for.