This week at Casey we follow the arrival of the winter station leader Ali, as she goes through all the essentials of arrival at Casey.

Late arrival

While most people are thinking about returning to Australia at the end of a busy summer, there are a few that are just arriving on station. Casey station leader Ali Dean arrived for the 2014 winter on one of the last A319 Airbus flights for this season.

Hully, the summer station leader took time out from the piles of employee performance reviews he was writing for the summer population to give Ali a comprehensive induction and handover that included a familiarisation tour of the whole station.

The formal handover occurred at the Saturday night dinner, during which Hully also thanked the summer team for their hard work over the season.

Field training

For any arrival on station there is a requirement to do a Station Induction and then Survival and/or Field Training within the Station Operating Area. This is generally under the supervision and direction of the summer Field Training Officers (FTO).

With the departure of the last A319 flight imminent, three of us, Ali, Grant and Joe, departed station under the tutelage of James Hamilton, our FTO. James put us through our paces, teaching us not only how to check, prepare and drive the quad bikes on the plateau ice, but also how to navigate within the surrounding area that was now our home for the next ten months or more.

We travelled the established way-pointed routes to all the local sites of interest and refuge huts; first to Kennys, then out onto the sea ice to practise drilling and walking across the large and sometimes obscured tide crack.

My second night in the Antarctic was spent at Robbo’s, a very comfortable hut that sleeps four – just perfect. Before settling in for the evening we went for a walk to nearby rocky outcrops primarily so that James could collect temperature sensors deployed by scientists earlier in the summer, and us new comers could have a good look around.

While eating our delicious cryovacced dinner we became aware that despite the overcast conditions the sun had still managed to shine forth in all its splendour before sinking below the horizon.

Before returning to station the next day we visited Jack’s Donga, the Casey Ski Landing Area, and lastly the Wilkes Hilton, a large hut close to the nearby Wilkes Station which is a former US station abandoned by the Australians in the sixties in favour of the present station site.

Heading off on the quads was a great feeling, but it was obvious to us that to use this piece of equipment in the Antarctic it was essential to be well trained and familiar with the terrain we would be travelling over.

Handling the Hägglunds

Following on from the Hägglunds training given in Kingston, everyone that is staying on for winter receives around station and on-ice training in these versatile vehicles that are essential for travel when it gets colder and darker as it will soon.

A few days after our quad and area familiarisation we were out again with James, the Field Training Officer, for our Casey Hägglunds training. We initially followed the way-pointed routes, becoming familiar with the controls and the navigation equipment installed.

After a welcome break at Kenny’s we set up ice anchors and the winch under James’ instructions. This demonstrated the self-rescue capability that the Hägglunds carrys.

We then visited one of the local hazards, a large wind-scoop in front of a steep rock face. Finally we each used the radar to navigate blind between waypoints; negotiating around and through rocky moraines and outcrops with the assistance of this sensitive device.