Finally the planes arrive and Casey changes from winter to summer mode.

The planes return

We have been waiting for the KBA planes for several weeks now. Then finally all the ducks lined up and they were on their way.

The winds were light, the sun was shining and the cloud that was forecast stayed around the horizon. 

By the time the planes arrived the cloud had started to encroach on the skiway along with the dusk. Luckily the light remained good for the entire operation.

Dereck, the senior Basler pilot, did a low fly-by to check out the spectacular job that Cary and Steve had made of the skiway and then descended gradually for a perfect, smooth landing.

After coming to a complete stop on the apron next to the waiting fuel drums, we greeted Aaron, Graeme, Glen and Adam and then helped to unload their bags and cargo before the arrival of the next plane approximately 20 minutes later.

More planes — the KCS

Only about 20 minutes after the Basler plane landed we were watching the Twin Otter KCS make its approach to the Casey skiway.

The smaller fixed wing looked minute against the immensity of the plateau and sky as it turned to land. It seemed just minutes until we were greeting Monica, Jean-Michael and Jan, the pilots and engineer.

After unloading and refuelling, the KCS was secured next to the Basler hopefully to be sent to Davis within the next few days, when weather allows.

Steve’s weather summary for October

Us weather folk tend to use words like ‘transitional period’ to describe this time of year in Antarctica, though in every other way it did very much feel that October was a taste of spring for us at Casey. As the sun rose higher above the horizon and shared its glorious light for longer: our hearts have warmed, redheads have burnt and the buildings have began to shed their ice like tears of joy trickling down the cheek of a Hawthorn supporter. The Weddell seals were pupping, the first Adélie penguin popped in to say hi, a few more petrels were to be seen and surely the skuas won’t be far behind. Not to mention those men and women with their magnificent flying machines, the Canadians, are coming! (In no hurry, mind you.) While it was warmer and sunnier than average, the cloud closed in at the most inopportune times, along with a gusty and considerably windier than normal month, together conspiring to keep the planes at bay.

Just as the buildings have been shedding their ice, so we have been able to shed a layer of clothing. Two days in the positives certainly contributed to a warmer than average month. The maximum temperature topped out for a new October record of 1.5°C, which interestingly was on the 28th, the same day as last months maximum temperature (I love those little correlations). The average daily maximum temperature was −7.2°C, 0.8°C above average, with the daily minimum of −14.1°C, 0.9°C also above the norm. It wasn’t all sunburn and pina coladas however. There were a few cooler days, particularly early in the month, the low of −21.8°C nowhere near the record cold but still chilly enough.

For the second month in row it was considerably windier than usual. We had 15 strong wind and 14 gale force wind days, a little shy of last month though somewhat more than the average of 13 and nine respectively. The daily wind run (which is how far you would travel If you went for a brisk jog and kept pace with the wind for 24 hrs) of 724 km was below last months crazy winds though well above the average of 578 km and the 3rd highest recorded for the month of October.  The high wind run largely thanks to a couple of windy periods that lasted several days each, but not reflected by the modest maximum wind gust of 172 kph (93 kts). Despite some sustained windy conditions we had very few blowing snow events and only the two blizzards, below par and thanks to the low snowfall.

So speaking of snow, it would be easy to forget what it looks like as we have so rarely seen it in recent months. Octobers miserly 5.4 mm of snowmelt was a tick higher than last month, though still only a third of the 16.5 mm average. That was over five snow days, and once again if not for the one good snowfall of 4.4 mm, could have been even more lacklustre. As I always finish on a bright note, and as usual the sun has not let me down, our average of 5.6 hrs sunshine a day was well above the mean of 4.5 hrs.

Preparing to greet Hercules

Aaron was straight off the Basler plane and into it. He quickly assembled equipment to test the Casey skiway specifications ahead of the arrival of two LC-130 Hercules flights with a combined 40 expeditioners eager to begin works and research programmes, and to assist logistical operations for the 2014–15 AAD summer season.