Rob tells us about the happy birthday sign, Casey wins at darts and the midwinter refuelling is completed.

Casey Happy Birthday sign

The unforgiving weather conditions in the Antarctic can be very extreme and change very rapidly.

16 June at Casey station brought winds over 100 knots, confining everyone to the red shed (living quarters) for the day and threatened destruction of anything not tied down. These winds stripped us of the much loved ‘Happy Birthday’ sign.

The winter chippie, Scotty ‘The King’ Clifford managed to knock up a great new sign, to the relief of the expeditioners wishing to send their birthday messages back home, and the great surprise for the friends and relatives to see their name and birthday message displayed in the Antarctic which very few experience each year.

This week, during a routine inspection of the Casey radio antennas, I stopped for a short break to take in the view of Shirley Island and the seals scattered around the sea ice resting in the calm conditions. Off in the distance I recognised the large orange lettering, the remains of the missing happy birthday sign, 1km from its original anchored support frame. I recovered the debris from the old sign — nothing salvageable from the mangled mess. It certainly copped a hammering over the 1km trip of solid ice rocky terrain. 

Interstation darts competition

With midwinter festivities behind us and all station expeditioners well and truly settled into family mode, it was time to commence the first game of the inter-station darts competition.

The tournament was very lucky to get underway as Davis contemplated withdrawing from the event even before it had started, obviously very scared of the fierce competition. At the Mawson front, staring ultimate defeat in the eye, they were also very reluctant to get involved.

The first match would be a rerun of the trial between Casey and Macca held two months earlier ending in an extremely marginal result in favour of - well no one remembers insignificant matches anyway. But this being the real game, with sheep stations on the line, it was sure to be a thriller.

With six of Macca’s darts champs versus six of Casey’s, the match was to be three games of doubles Shang.

Dan and Rob of Casey got off to a chilling start in the first game leaving Macca in the mist. Macca fought back well but never really had a chance.

The second game was much like the first with Steve Black and Pete of Casey blitzing the Macca duo and securing a comfortable match win for the Casey champs.

Macca responded in the last game saving an embarrassing white wash defeat and possible blizz run. (I guess it’s not really a blizz run at Macca.*)

*Macquarie Island station has far less ice and snow this time of year than Casey station. 

Midwinter refuelling

Around midwinter each year at Casey station, the primary fuel storage is low and it’s time to replenish the primary tanks with our reserves from the lower fuel tanks. This is a carefully planned operation involving all hands on station for the duration of the transfer.

With the transfer potentially continuing over a few days, the weather needs to be very favourable to minimise the risk of fuel spills and exposure issues for all involved.

The station leader, Ali, and mechanical supervisor, Nick, provided refresher training in procedures to carry out the task and in the unlikely event of a fuel spill to ensure everyone was adequately prepared, while the Met team, Steve and Dan, kept us all informed of the weather forecast to select an appropriate weather window for the operation.

Once the all-clear was given, the diesos (diesel mechanics) sprung into action setting up the pumps and hoses for the transfer. The meteorology team were good to us — providing an almost perfect weather window — and the operation went ahead without incident.

The transfer process was monitored 24 hours on a rotating roster. When the transfer was complete, it was time for the diesos to pig the hose (clear out all residual fuel) and pack up all equipment.