Cutting the hole in the ice, the many beards of Casey, and another stunning meal to remember

Cutting of the hole

Perhaps one of the most interesting and challenging tasks we as the mechanical trades team had to perform this year was the cutting of the swimming hole as part of the Casey midwinter celebrations. The weather was not kind to us this year leading up to the big day with winds above 70 knots lingering throughout the week before midwinter and 2 feet of snow, which made the quality of sea ice beneath unknown. Finally the snow cleared and the gusts dropped off on Monday, giving Ali and I an opportunity to pick a suitable site.

Tuesday morning was all hands on deck marking out the site and getting all the gear together before the excavation began. There are many theories floating around in regards to the best way to cut the hole, most of which had been passed on by previous punters who had learnt the hard way. Unfortunately, when the new crew comes in at the end of the season, I will be one of those guys.

While our theory was sound, and things went great up until a point, the dreaded breach into the water beneath the ice was to claim yet another victim. After cutting out the top into manageable sections and removing them with the help of ice anchors and a winch, we were left with a base in the hole, about 2m x 2m and 400mm thick. The idea was to slice this base into 4 pieces and then pluck them out, job done… sounds easy right? The chainsaw was started and the first cut was made through to the salty goodness below. The water began pouring through the thin slot left behind at an unexpected rate, initially I thought of quickly running the other cuts through the ice but it the water was rising so fast that all we could do was stand there and look at the hole fill up, and our workload grow rapidly before our eyes. The hole was now full, we all stood there staring at the water and the solid base intact at the bottom. Pausing we looked at each other, then back at the hole, a few colourful words were exchanged, and we went back to the workshop for a cup of tea.

The next day and a half was spent drilling and sawing the base and breaking it up with crowbars. As sections floated to the top they were winched out, sworn at and pushed to the side. Finally we had cleared the hole!… After spending a few days down there I for one was very reluctant to get in the water, it looked absolutely freezing… And it was.

The many beards of casey

Coming to Antarctica offers many opportunities, weaving between the icebergs helping science programs throughout the summer, spending nights at picturesque huts, witnessing the shear size of an elephant seal as it “gracefully” moves around the shores and of course growing an out of control beard.

Some have given up and shaved early in the season, some have let it grow back, some haven’t, but all who are left have developed their own unique style far from the look they were sporting before they came down. Below are the results… Enjoy.

Saturday supper

Our Saturday nights are special in that we all sit down together as a station to eat. This week Eddie out did himself again with a delicious three course meal that actually gave us all the calories we will need for the next week (if not longer).

In between sumptuous mouthfuls we enjoyed a sip or two of wine (or soft drink for those on the ‘Dry July’ in support of the Cancer Council) and some convivial conversation. A pleasant evening all round.