Life for communications officers at Casey includes climbing, traversing and photography.

Comms techs on a high

This week, our action loving technicians dismantled the active elements of conical monopole aerial near Penguin Pass. This had been damaged in strong winds of 120 knots (which is over 200 kilometres per hour!) during winter 2014. The aerial was used for HF (high frequency) communications but we have three more systems of aerials for use, so the damage was not critical to station aviation or deep field operations.

Doug M spent two days working from a safety harness while he awkwardly disconnected and untangled wires. Ian P supervised and documented the progress from safety of the ground.

You will see from the photos that the weather was beautiful and sunscreen needed to be an essential tool of the day. Ian P missed out on the astounding views that Doug enjoyed in all directions as he monitored the comings and goings of travel training and ski landing area staff.

Setting up Casey ski landing area

At the beginning of the season the Casey plateau ski landing area (SLA) needs to be set up anew. Station AGSOs (air ground support officers) are back and forth from station to SLA each day and sometimes look for an extra pair of hands. Belinda R spent a few hours at the SLA recently and was lucky enough to be on hand to help set up flags that mark the sides and ends of the 2100 metre long landing area for the aircraft. Noel P and Matty R were very tolerant of their temporary helper and are still talking to her, not just on the radio for comms, but also in person, so she can’t have done too shabby a job that day.

It was good for a communications operators to see the comms and meteorological equipment in place in one of the SLA buildings, so they understand in person the nature of the three frequencies in use there.

I’m sure the AGSOs will be adding their piece to the station news shortly so we will let them tell you more about the operations of the SLA, especially now that they have an aircraft to use!

Visit to Shirley Island

Early in the summer, before the regular local air operations start in earnest and before the station reaches its maximum person capacity, four of the six communications crew headed off to Shirley Island on a lovely Sunday morning with two other expeditioners. Doug M led the way, as he knows Casey and the surrounding area very well from having spent five summers and two winters (including last winter) here. Ian P has also spent five summers and two winters here, so it was a welcome return to Shirley Island after his last season six years ago. His fancy zoom lens had a workout!

The Adélie penguins have now laid their eggs and are keeping them warm on many rock nests. Skuas have been busy: there were a lot of empty egg shells lying around after being eaten. The food chain continues. We saw a few Weddell seals, one coming up from under the sea ice through a hole. I have been told that Doug M does a very good seal impersonation but he kept it to himself on this trip unfortunately.

It was a lovely and peaceful morning with a temperature of −10°C but no wind — perfect. Before too long the sea ice will start thinning and access on foot will be closed. Hopefully we will have time for another trip to see the chicks when they start hatching.