The big Casey winter science issue includes stories on automated science, atmospheric research, air sampling and geoscience. The latest results of the inter-station darts tournament are in, and Casey conducts search and rescue training.

Automated science at Casey

This week’s station news is brought to you by Doug M.

As for something totally different this week we will look at a couple of science areas where things happen automatically and require very little human input at any time of the year.  When at Casey you may see a roped off area, a building or a structure and wonder what it is all about.

All of these areas on station require regular checks to be carried out on them to verify all is operating correctly and or calibration/comparison checks made so that the automated equipment can be verified as working correctly.

Only a few topics will be covered this week, as there are lots of things happening around Casey, science wise.

Air sampling

Casey conducts a program for the Division of Atmospheric Research GASLAB — CSIRO, by sampling and collecting atmospheric gas on a routine basis. Sampling collection commenced in 1996/97 and then a few years ago an automated sampler (Picarro) was installed. The twin sampling heads are installed approximately three metres above the ground.

Fresh air is collected in special flasks locally in order to provide improved measurements of trace gases in the global atmosphere. The gases of particular interest are those implicated in major environmental issues such as the greenhouse effect and stratospheric ozone depletion.

The fresh air collection for these flasks is collected twice a month, under specific local weather conditions, and then the flasks are returned to CSIRO during resupply each year. GASLAB is then able to provide a comprehensive and precise analysis of the major trace gases in air samples. There is a vast global network of flask collection sites (of which Casey is just one of those sites on the Antarctic continent).

Atmospheric research

The Casey Antarctic-Arctic Radiation-belt (Dynamic) Deposition — VLF Atmospheric Research Konsortium (AARDDVARK) system is part of a worldwide network of radio receivers used to monitor ionization changes in the upper atmosphere caused by the impact of energetic charged particles arriving from the radiation belts or directly from the sun.

The Konsortia sensors detect changes in ionisation levels from ~30–85 kms altitude, with the goal of increasing the understanding of energy coupling between Earth’s atmosphere, the sun, and space. The upper atmosphere is used as a gigantic energetic particle detector to observe and understand changing energy flows. This science area impacts our knowledge of global change, communications, and navigation.

All data from Casey is automatically sent to the British Antarctic Survey unit in the UK.


Geoscience Australia carries out three primary activities at Casey:

  • Monitoring the earth’s magnetic field for navigation, modelling, space weather and research as part of a global network.
  • Monitoring seismic activity for the detection and location of earthquakes as part of a global network.
  • Recording GPS data as part of the Australian Regional GPS Network.

Rather than provide lots of detail, there are a number of photos below showing the buildings and equipment associated with these buildings. As with all Antarctic and subantarctic stations one of the most important things is to maintain the integrity of the magnetic observation area, thus the exclusion zone of 100 metres around both the variometer and absolute huts.

Search and rescue training

Our monthly search and rescue (SAR) training occurred this week but was changed from what was originally planned. This is the second time the full day SAR exercise has been postponed for reasons beyond the station’s control.

As a timely exercise this week it was all about an accident management plan, first aid and CPR refresher.

A variety of scenarios were put before us. These varied from all the equipment which we had readily available to us in our work space, then the equipment available in a field hut and finally just what we have available in our field packs. Multiple different types of situational conditions were given to each group, where group sizes varied from three to six people, and it was then up to the group to determine how they would handle the situation. Everyone on station was involved in a number of varying group exercises. The station doctor provided advice as required during and after each scenario. A debrief was then held where other practical solutions and possible improvements were raised and discussed.

To end the day we were involved in a CPR practical refresher course and the use of the AED (automatic external defibrillator) units which are located in different work areas around the station.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed these exercises and it finished up as a great refresher and learning experience.

Darts: Casey v Mawson

The inter-station darts competition continues, and this week Casey’s formidable opponent was Mawson. It was a close competition during each game where there was much to and fro'ing as to who was in the lead, but as always, it is generally the last few darts of each game which determine the winners from the losers.

There were lots of compliments from both sides to the opposite team players when good darts were thrown. An enjoyable night was had by all on both sides, no matter if one was a player or spectator. Unfortunately for us, Mawson was the better team on the night taking out the first two games, with Casey winning the last game.

Congratulations Mawson and a game well played! Watch out next time, as the Casey team are honing their skills as this goes to press.