At Casey this week: growing salad greens in hydroponics, a trip to Wilkes and Jacks huts, what we do when it gets cold, plus strange sounds and smells from a rare Antarctic creature.

Casey greens

On a week when we have recorded our coldest temperatures for the winter, it is a luxury to spend time somewhere warm and inviting — our hydroponics facility. When a blizzard is blowing it seems strange to get a sweat up monitoring the water and nutrient levels, and doing a spot of pruning.

At the moment we are trying our best to cultivate salad greens, a variety of herbs, and luscious red tomatoes ready for our midwinter celebrations on the weekend of the 21st. There is nothing better that eating a salad you have grown yourself on the darkest of darkest nights — the winter solstice. 

Weekend off station

Last weekend Stu and I planned to head out to Wilkes hut for two nights and then move onto Jacks hut for a night, taking Eddie the chef with us for the last night.

Eddie, the master chef on station and at the huts, was going to tag along for one night as he had Saturday night dinner to cook on station, or so he thought. Ali, our station leader, had other plans. You see, Ali was rostered to help the chef Eddie on Saturday night, so if she ordered the chef to go out for the weekend (which she did), then the kitchen would be hers to rule! (Although a less interesting version of this story is that with midwinter* coming up in less than two weeks now, sending the chef out for a break before the huge task of preparing and planning was a very nice gesture).

So with much excitement Stu, Eddie and I, along with two late additions, Dan and Shano, headed out to Wilkes for the night. As always it was a fun-filled evening, what with the heater going and pizzas cooking, who couldn’t enjoy themselves? Late Saturday morning before Dan and Shane returned to station, we enjoyed bacon rolls for breakfast before cleaning up a little around the hut, and the doing of huge the pile of dishes.

The remaining three of us relaxed all day, read books and snoozed before spending an evening reading more books, relaxing and snoozing some more — that’s what huts are all about!

Sunday morning turned out to be somewhat colder than inside the hut — we woke to −30°C out! However it was still 30°C inside, very pleasant. Nevertheless, we decided to leave our nice, warm hut and venture to Jacks hut for the night where we knew the temperature would be −30°C on our arrival — after all we are intrepid Antarctic explorers following in Mawson’s footsteps, are we not?!

The trip to Jacks was magic. There was fog over the ocean so we were sitting up above it all while the sun set, absolutely brilliant. Jack’s was as expected — cold — however we soon got the gas heater going and after some hours got the hut to well above zero. Eddie cooked up a treat of lamb rack with potatoes, onions and peas, which in the cool conditions tasted even better than it would have on station.

It was a very pleasant three nights had out by all, made even more memorable by the very cold temps we experienced, though much of the year is below freezing here at Casey it’s not actually that often that we have it colder than −30°C . It is actually quite something to experience, and being out in a small hut knowing that our little 15 square metres of hut is all that separates us from the extreme cold out does make us feel that little bit more intrepid.

Until next trip.


*Midwinter is an unofficial holiday in Antarctica, celebrated by most stations on the continent. Australia honours this time of year with memorials, feasting, entertainment, station-specific traditions and a very icy swim. Midwinters Day is Friday 20 June this year.

When it’s cold

Temperatures here at Casey have been dropping and in the past week we had several days where it was well below −30°C. At these temperatures, boiling water thrown in the air will instantly condense.

We chose not to have that second cup of tea and make spectacular clouds instead, as you can see from the following pictures. 

Around Casey

A stunning shot of the sun through a fog that rolled into station this week.