The Casey skiway is ready for action, repairs to antenna, a trip to Browning Peninsula, and a birthday celebrated at Casey this week

Skiway Ready for Action

Cary and Steve have been working hard in preparation for our first flight and now the skiway is looking magnificent.

The weather has, however, foiled our plans and we are now expecting the Basler and Twin Otter panes early next week.

With a blizzard forecast for the weekend it may mean that they will have some patching up to do come Monday.

Rocking out at Browning

With airplanes fast approaching, and the hectic logistical work that accompanies the commencement of the summer season, a handful of us made the most of the calm before the storm by heading out to Browning Peninsula for the weekend.

I feel like I should make some kind of mention of the preparations and trip out to the Peninsula so this story has some sort of chronological consistency. But it certainly wasn’t the most exciting part of the trip, so just imagine four guys in a Hägglunds that was obviously never designed for comfort, each with noise cancelling headphones to replace the constant engine drone with rocking tunes, as we drove across a picturesque landscape of white and blue.

Thanks to our early departure we made it to Browning’s hut in the a.m. with plenty of the day left to explore. A quick unpack of provisions and an enjoyable lunch of reheated curried sausages was had before departing together to the first destination on our ‘sights of Brownings’ list.

We climbed Repeater Hill, half named for the radio repeater that sits at the site, half because it’s not quite a mountain but definitely bigger than a knoll. The manner in which it towers above the surrounding area allows for an amazing view of the Vanderford Glacier to the south, an array of islands to the north and west, and the snow laden plateau to the east.

After the magnificence was adequately appreciated the party parted ways with Dan and Steve hiking the ridge line to the previous repeater site, while Scott and Joe returned to the Hägglunds to drive it around and pick us up at the other end.

Once we were all reunited again we drove out to the edge of the peninsula to hike across to Peterson’s Island. On the way Joe spotted an unusually coloured lump on the sea ice, so we walked out for a closer inspection and found dinosaur fossils! (Or possibly a seal carcass, whatever.) It had obviously been there for some time, being preserved by the cold temperatures. We paused for a while to reflect on the shortness of life and the flavour sensations of naturally cured seal jerky. (Kidding!)

Peterson Island, like all the Antarctic islands in winter, is only an island by name. The only telltale sign that you've walked from terrestrial ice to sea ice and on to an island is the old dingy tied to a nearby rock in case of some far fetched emergency. We hiked over rocky mountain ranges, and through ice locked bays to reach the site of the old Peterson melon hut. Once a great hut for overnight stays, strong winds have reduced it to naught more than a couple of broken planks. We were graced with a sunbaking leopard seal who seemed to be more interested in the half a dozen early arriving Adelie penguins than our presence, but was kind enough to smile for the cameras.

Finally we scouted the northwest coast looking for an American memorial cache whose presence had been passed down from one generation of expeditioners to the next through hushed whispers. Also, it’s marked on the maps. The cache was found soon enough, containing a 48 star American flag amongst other oddments. The logbook was signed with our names and a TFTC, and we meandered our way back to the Hägglunds in the waning afternoon sun.

Back at the hut Scott whipped up his famous field-hut nachos while we set out a substantial cheese platter with accompanying drinks. It soon became obvious that this was no evening snack but had turned into a full blown cheese dinner. We took the festivities outside just in time to watch the evening sun light up the glacier and surrounding sea ice as it set in the distance.

The following day Steve treated us to some bacon sandwiches for breakfast before we packed up and made the trip back to station, making a quick stop to get some final views of the glacier.

Pete’s Birthday

Recently we all helped Pete celebrate his birthday and demolish his pile of icing covered, vanilla custard cream filled, Bavarian cream rings. There was one for everyone and some to spare — although as you can imagine they didn’t last long.

Land of the Blizzard — Revisited

Some of you may remember a few weeks ago we had a blizzard which caused some damage on station. In particular you may remember the destroyed UHF antenna and mast for the DigiCora system BoM use to collect data from our balloon program. Well, we still had to collect data on the weather so getting the spare antenna up and running was a high priority.

Within a few days several options, such as rebuilding the damaged mast on station or mounting the new antenna on the Ops Building were assessed and rejected. Finally it was decided that the best option was to mount the antenna on the container used by Met for storage and a workshop.

A frame was quickly manufactured by Joe thanks to measurements taken by Pete. Within a few days of the mast failing Pete, Joe, Ian, Rob and Gunny had the program back up and obtaining good balloon heights, recently above 30 km.

Also damaged during the blizz’ was the X-Band satellite dish dome used to collect weather images from a number of weather satellites. In the photo, Dan is included to give a misconception of scale. Something had impacted the dome causing cracks in its shell. These were quickly patched but fans of a certain BBC Doctor may recognise the resulting image. So far we haven’t seen any mysterious blue boxes with accompanying Doctors and, perhaps more importantly for a nearly all male station, his companion.