This week at Casey we celebrate week of birthdays, take a look at some of the unusual vehicles in use in Antarctica, and we reflect on the March weather with the Met team.

A week of birthdays

As the winter chef here at Casey for 2014, I understand how important it is for people to enjoy the food as they have nowhere else to go. The chef’s work plays a big part in the morale on station, that’s why birthdays have to be celebrated correctly. This week was a fun week with three birthdays, Grant (the good doctor), Matt (diesel mechanic) and Steve (senior met observer), their birthdays within a couple days of each other.

I always like to ask what kind of cake the birthday person would like and what meal they would like everyone to enjoy for dinner that night. Grant chose schnitzels for dinner and a lemon meringue pie. Matt was happy for me to decide for him so we had a selection of curries and I made him a cream covered Victoria sponge cake with strawberry jam. Steve wanted a Hobbit feast of pork pies, lamb cutlets, scotch eggs, bbq chicken, pickles and salad of which I individually wrapped up hamper style. Steve’s choice of cake was a seed cake, a very old recipe indeed.

Eddie B. 

Vehicles of Antarctica

Antarctica is one of the last frontiers on Earth. Upon my arrival I knew that I was to have very unique experiences, and would witness wondrous and different things. Unexpectedly one of the first things that amazed me were the very strange and intriguing vehicles, some of the like I would have pictured on Mars.

After getting off the plane and gazing around at the endless white desert, and breathing in the very crisp and dry sub zero air, we were still a long way from Casey station. To get there we had a three hour ride in a Hägglunds. An amazing bit of kit, this articulated vehicle is manufactured in Sweden, is pretty well unstoppable and can be amphibious in an emergency — a little rough to ride in on long journeys but fun all the same. A Hägglunds can be operated with a standard licence and some additional in-house training. The other very strange vehicle in our convoy was ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert', a four track truck conversion used as a people mover.

My next encounters were with the bikes, first the Honda quad bikes that are a little chilly but great to get out on to visit the local huts. They can go just about anywhere and are easy to get free when bogged. Quad bikes, though exciting are not that uncommon, so didn’t really grab my imagination like the Polaris Rangers, which I am also licensed to drive. Although a little rough to ride in over ungroomed terrain, they are great for shorter trips,  shield you from the weather and are great to accompany the quad bikes.

The next vehicle that you don’t see every day is a Prinoth Trooper. The Prinoth is used for transport to and from the runways and can also be used as an emergency vehicle.

Now, for the big boy toys: the old D7G is a dozer that was once used for traverses; the IT62H, which is an awesome loader; the FTS 800 Isuzu four track conversion used as a general flatbed trunk; the CAT Challenger, one tough tractor and my personal favourite  a.ka. ‘Jacinta'; a Case IH Quadtrac. These monsters are used for grooming the ice runways, and any other heavy pulling needed. Special licenses are needed to operate any of these vehicles but for me, I’m happy to just stand in awe as I see them thunder past.

There are many other vehicles used on station in Antarctica but these ones, in my opinion, are the most interesting.

Eddie B. 

Winter is coming!

We didn’t know whether we were coming or going, hot or cold this month. We had to pinch each other that we weren’t on some tropical island and got a case of Ciguatera for eating the wrong fish (fish pun is in regard to our failed fishing competition due to the water being, well, ice). March was a month of record breaking temperature extremes. Hottest and coldest March days on record with the lowest maximum and highest minimum records to boot. Only one word for it when we talk about extremes of heat: pappadums! (Mmm, love curry nights) While as for the other weather condiments, rainfall was very near average, the sunshine a little below, as was the wind. We only had one Blizzard, quite a bit short of expected.

March was a truly remarkable month, with a quartet of temperature records as it started out warm and became decidedly chilly as the mercury plummeted. On the whole it was quite a bit colder than average with our daily time maximum’s averaging −5.9°C, 1.8°C below the norm, while the overnight minimums averaged −11.7°C, also 1.8°C below average.

Record temperatures for March 

2 March — The hottest day of the month at 4.0°C.

5 March — highest daily minimum −1.4°C

26 March — The lowest daily maximum temperature of −16.2°C 

29 March — The lowest 24 hr minimum on the 29 March of -25.1°C

It wasn’t all about the temperature. We did have 16 ‘snow days’ for the month, with 12 days recording 0.2 mm or more in the snow gauge, giving us a monthly total of 16.4 mm (snowmelt minimum); this was just shy of the monthly average of 18.0 mm. A little less windy for the month also, particularly in comparison to the record winds we experienced in February, with an average daily wind run of 534 kms, short of the 571 km average. There was daylight between our strongest wind gust of the month, 126 kph on the 5th (barely enough to lift a hair on a balding head) and the annual extreme of 241 kph that occurred in March 1992. The lighter than expected winds only providing 12 official strong wind days, six gale force wind days, six days of recorded blowing snow and the one blizzard.

In between lengthening nights we squeezed in 3.0 hours of daily sunshine, 0.2 hours below the average. However, with the departing sun hours, so comes is the silver lining of our Antarctic cloud: the aurora australis. We have been getting our first taste of auroras with some fine examples seen throughout the month, the first of what we hope are many more to come.

“Chill”, from the Casey met team (written by Steve B.)