Casey is off to the races and expeditioners conduct maintenance at Haupt Nunatak Automatic Weather Station.

Running in Antarctica

On a calm Thursday afternoon, a group of ten turned out to participate in Casey’s newest sporting club event, the inaugural Antarctic Running Club’s (ARC) five kilometre dash. 

It started with the 2km lap of the ski loop testing each competitor’s skills of running on snow and ice.  On successful completion of the ski loop, competitors then moved from the snow to the gravel surface down the road to the wharf.   

Most had forgotten about the hill we had just ran down until we hit it again on the way back up.

With lungs burning, calf and thigh muscles aching, saliva drooling and cursing ones intelligence on why they had entered the race,  it was time for those with enough energy to make a break for the finish line, which was located on the emergency helo pad outside the red shed. 

Line honours went to scientist Dan Wilkin from head office in Kingston, closely followed by met observer Craig George and then first female Bec McWatters. 

The following Sunday the second fun run took place. This time it was a 10km event starting at up at the Casey Ski way and finishing once again outside the red shed. 

Priscilla (Casey bus) ferried 16 eager participants to the skiway.  Sadly, there were some participants who mistook the departure time and were unable to make the start of the race.  However, the starting Marshall was encouraged by the number of starters who had arrived and deemed the race official for track record purposes. 

There were those who jogged, others skied, and of course the mandatory walkers, who made their way back down the hill to the station. 

With eyes soaking up the views of icebergs glistening in the distance with the soft afternoon light, and lungs filled with the freshest air in the world, it was a reminder of the immense beauty Antarctica provided us to experience in any way possible. 

Bec McWatters took out first place on skis with a new record time of 42 minutes.   Nevertheless everyone felt like a winner from the experience of completing the course, and all vowed they would participate again if and when the opportunity arose. 

These events would not be possible without the support of the Station Leader, the Medical doctors and FTO’s. 

What’s next for the ARC?  Stay tuned for the next big event.

Maintenance at Haupt Nunatak AWS

On the eastern edge of the Vanderford glacier, only a few kilometres off the route to the Browning Peninsula, are the Haupt Nunataks, a small group of rocky hills protruding from the landscape of ice and snow.   On the highest of these windswept nunataks is an Automatic Weather Station (AWS),part of an AWS network in the Casey area, reporting the weather via polar orbiting satellites.

The AWS was due for routine maintenance checks and the sensor that measures atmospheric pressure was also faulty.  Unfortunately access to this site can be inhibited by melt streams during the peak of summer so the trip was delayed to avoid travel complications.  After the summer melt and with all the necessary ingredients available the trip was eventually scheduled and approved with a team consisting of James (FTO), Mike (Dieso) and myself (Mark — Met Tech).

Weather is always variable and James recommended an early start so we departed station before 7am. Apart from sastrugi and recent snowfall the conditions en-route were generally good.

No melt ravines were encountered and the approach to the nunataks was uneventful. The prevailing wind at Haupt Nunataks is south-easterly, influenced by the plateau and Vanderford glacier. A snow ridge or ‘blizz tail’ is permanently formed on the leeward side of the largest nunatak providing a suitable ramp to drive the Hagg close to AWS site.

Weather conditions on site were chilly but tolerable, minus 6 degrees and a 16 to 20 knot breeze (30 to 38km/h). Keen to move up in the world, James offered to climb a ladder and swap the AWS unit at the top of the mast and also install a replacement wind-powered generator on the middle of the mast.

For most of the year the AWS batteries are charged by a solar panel. Supplementary power from the wind ensures the batteries remain charged throughout the year, especially during the darker winter months.

With all tasks and checks successfully completed we re-packed our gear in the Hagg and headed back to Casey. The tell-tale fuzz appearing on the plateau was an early warning that the drive home was going to be challenging.   Not far onto the plateau we drove into white-out conditions — poor visibility which slowed our progress considerably.

Mike’s skill as a Hagg driver ensured steady and accurate progress across the plateau (and also allowed James to read a book). The return to Casey took a little under 4 hours, almost twice as long as the outbound journey. Welcomed by 40 to 50 knot winds we arrived safely at Casey.