Breathtaking scenery, the skiway is remade, expeditioners on quads ride out to the Mitchell, and September’s weather is examined at Casey this week.

Breathtaking scenery

Living in Antarctica allows us to catch some of the most unbelievable and amazing scenery on this planet. From just about anywhere on this icy continent views can be breathtaking and the wildlife can be spectacular, to just sit around and admire for hours on end.

We are lucky enough to be able to experience these moments right outside our front door at Casey station. Nearby we have an incredible vantage point called Reeves Hill that is located only a five minute walk away to the northwest. The views from here are magical on a fine day. Also a ten minute walk to the north, we have the station wharf which can be a great area to spot some wildlife in action.

Casey skiway

This week Steve and myself started building the skiway for the upcoming summer flying season.

To start off, we had to relocate the buildings from their winter storage area to the new summer area closer to the runway. Most of the buildings are on sleds or trailers and are easily moved with the tractor once they have been removed from the ice.

Once that was done we de-blizzed the generator and got it running to power the camp and GPS base station.

After the camp was set up and warm it was time for some plowing. The Case quad trac tractors we use have a GPS guidance system which automatically steers the tractor in a straight line making it easier to mark out the runway and plow nice and straight.

Between all that work was a few days of bad weather so we still have lots to do over the next few weeks before our first flight.


Quads to the Mitchell Peninsula

After the blizzards that caused so much damage we have had some spectacular days that make you want to get out and about after being stuck indoors.

Shane, Stu and myself decided to take the quads over to the Mitchell Peninsula to check out Kenny’s refuge and the sea ice towards the southwest. A light snowfall overnight and no wind at all made conditions perfect. Although still a chilly −14°C with the sun reflecting off the snow and ice we made sure to plaster any skin showing with sunscreen. Crazy to think that just weeks ago daylight was nonexistent and we were using torches to get around station.

After stopping at Kenny’s, we made our way to the western side of the peninsula and from there could see open water beginning to re-freeze in Sparkes Bay and past Robbinsons Ridge and Robbos hut down towards the Browning Peninsula. The trip made a few weeks ago on the sea ice to Brownings would not be possible now.

Steve’s September weather summary

Well for what feels like a change, especially after last months chill, it was a little warmer than average for the month just gone. The sun visited the usual amount and no surprise the snowfall was predictably, disappointingly, significantly below average. What had us break out the beanie clips though was the record windy month. I know I say record a lot, but fair dinkum, we had six (non-consecutive) days worth of category three cyclone winds with the main event, category four! Stoic as I am however, I held the fort at the met station, surviving off ration packs while the rest of the crew lived it up in the red shed with the chef, playing Pictionary. Mind you, I did treat myself towards the end of my second day of isolation with spam and camembert on stale crackers. “Mmmm…” — all the healthy food groups: fat, salt and carbs.

If the hive of activity that has become the station in preparation for the upcoming works and sciences programs was not enough indicator of the impending summer, then another positive temperature was surely a reminder it is not too far off.  The mercury reaching a balmy 1.0°C on the 28 September, with the average daily maximum getting into single digits at −9.1°C, 0.7°C above average. The daily minimum temperatures were also warmer than average at −15.6°C, 1.5°C above the norm, while the lowest temperature for the month of −27.1°C — not feeling quite as chilly after the past couple months.

Fortunately it was indeed a little warmer this month as we did spend a fair bit more time outdoors, picking up debris and making repairs after all the windy conditions. We had 20 strong wind, 18 gale force wind and six blizzard days — above average for all. The daily wind run of 1150 km was the highest daily wind run recorded for any month, by a long shot; the next windiest month was 1099 km in July 2009. Our impressive maximum wind gust of 232 kph (125 kts) on the 19th was in amongst four days of 150 km/h plus winds and wasn’t too far shy of the annual 241 kph record (interestingly it wasn’t even a blizzard due to there not being enough snow). To prove it was every bit a category four cyclone there were a few scars around station; doors blown off hinges, containers tipped and we weren’t spared in Met with debris cracking our satellite dome and the mast with GPS antenna toppling over. On a bright note however, thanks to Scotty’s self collapsing design, the new birthday sign stayed put.

So as not to break from tradition, we always save the last paragraph for the underwhelming rainfall figures and it was indeed miserly this month: 4.4 mm of snowmelt, a quarter of the 17.3 mm average. That was over five snow days, one of which was three millimetres meaning the rest was just a tease to those wishing to get back out on the ski loop. Can’t complain about the sun though, as the average of three hours sun a day was just a little ray of sunshine more than the average of 2.9 hours.

Steve B