The weather that was, a trip to a memorial site and how not to build an igloo, all in this week at Casey.

Monthly weather summary

Well, I feel a little like Snow White (and that’s nothing to do with the highlights in my beard), sleeping through a rather dull July, weather-wise that is, to awaken to a wicked August. We smashed the temperature records to be the coldest month on record by a long way. No individual records to speak of, but as for the average daily temperatures there was daylight between how cold this August was and any other month on record. Speaking of daylight, the sun wasn’t bashful either, putting in a good showing with double the average sunshine hours. The winds were like a mixed bag of lollies, with above average number of windy days about par for the daily wind run and a little short of the mark for the maximum wind and wind related phenomena, like blizzards. Just as with blizzards —  it does seem to be the theme this year — snow days and rainfall were well below average, like a dopey sailor coming back from a night’s furlow in Rockingham.

So the headline act that has awoken us in Meteorology from the sleepy doldrums of July, and had the Doc on standby for frostnip, was the record breaking cold we had. The average daily maximum was a lowly −15.9°C, 5.7°C below average, while the daily minimum temperatures were frost bighty at −24.6°C, 6.6°C colder than average! This rates as the coldest month on record, for any month, by a long margin for both daily maximums and minimums. The previously coldest months were June 1990 with an average daily maximum of −15.6°C and April 1999 with an average daily minimum of −23.3°C. These are the cold hard stats, no thanks to individual record days. Our warmest day didn’t reach any great heights at −3.8°C and our low was indeed cold at −32.7°C (the sixth coldest day recorded in August), though nothing significantly record worthy. It was the sheer number of cold days — we had 11 days when the temperature didn’t get above −20°C — with five days dipping below −30°C, that influenced the overall results. If not for a few ‘warm’ days at the end of the month, it could have been much colder still.

Just as it was cold, so it was gusty, blowy, sneezy and somewhat windy with 18 strong wind and 14 gale force wind days, two days above average for each. The daily wind run of 657 km was a little below the 720 average, likewise our maximum wind gust of 185 kph on the second of August was short of the monthly 221 kph record. Mind you 185 kph is 100 kts even and it is always a puff your chest out moment to crack the ton. For all the positives and records, you can’t keep everyone happy. The grumpy tradespeople were putting the wind up us about the lack of blizzards, just four for the month, which admittedly is two below average.

So for a wrap and nothing new with the rainfall; the 12.4 mm of rain/snowmelt over five snow days was nearly half the average 21.0 mm over 8.5 snow days. However with 9.8 mm falling on the last few days of the month it could have been so much more unimpressive. Praise be to the sun, and often it is — it is the silver lining in the last paragraph and putting a smile on our dial with an average of 2.8 hours of sunshine a day, double the 1.4 hour August average.


Steve B.

Neptune crash site

Antarctic exploration has a vivid and exciting history. Some of these exploits, such as Amundsen’s journey to the south pole, are well documented. One unfortunate story in Antarctic history is that of the crash of a Neptune plane shortly after take off from Wilkes air strip in the early sixties.

In November 1961 a magnetic survey was undertaken to record the little known eastern Antarctica. The flight was to travel from America’s McMurdo, across to Russia’s Mirny station, and finally to our own Wilkes, before returning to McMurdo. Upon take off from Wilkes a fire broke out forcing an emergency crash landing. Sadly, five of the nine crew perished in the ordeal, despite the best efforts of fast acting ground crew.

Recently, a group of us went out on a day trip to locate the crash site and see if there were any remnants still above the ice. Half of us spent the night at Wilkes hut, where a memorial to the crash has coordinates to its exact location, a very useful bit of info to have in locating anything in this featureless landscape. The following day the Wilkes and Casey parties met up at the nearby skiway to commence their short journey to the site.

As the GPS told us we were closer and closer it became more apparent that the ever unforgiving ice had swallowed any evidence. A lone flag marked the location where, many meters below our feet, the plane still remained. Despite this, the day was not lost as we also enjoyed the unique formations of sastrugi, and taking a handful of group photos.


Do you want to build an igloo? It doesn’t have to be an igloo..

When you find out you're going to be spending a year in Antarctica you begin to make a mental list of all the things you intend to do in the great white south. For me, one of those things was to build an igloo. There’s snow and ice as far as the eye can see, why should the Eskimos get all the fun?

It seems like an easy enough task: make a cube of snow and place it next to another cube of snow. Rinse and repeat until you build an abode fit for a king on a budget.

But like all things in life, it’s crazy harder than it seems. Maybe it was the lack of any sort of civil engineering knowledge, or maybe the need to do it without ‘googling’ how to DIY igloos. But for whatever reason, to this day I still haven’t got a constructed igloo to call home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learnt tonnes on what not to do. For example, the blocks of compacted snow should be smaller than a half cubic meter. They're super heavy, and you end up with giant gaps between each block. Then there are the time restraints — you have to complete it before the next blizzard strikes. They have this nasty habit of either burying your pride and joy, or blowing it down till it resembles Neolithic ruins.

But with each attempt, the ever elusive goal gets closer and closer. Hopefully one day, in the near future, there will be an exciting news article about an igloo that is actually more stable than a Jenga game played during an earthquake.