Plenty of activity at the Casey skiway this week while the field training continues.

All go at Casey skiway

After just over a month on the ice, it has been quite a hectic time for the aviation ground support officers (AGSOs) at Casey station. Misty, Noel, Jenn and I have all been quite busy in keeping both the helicopters, the Twin Otter and a DC3 Basler in the air.

To ensure the Twin Otter could start flying, operations work commenced on the skiway as soon as we arrived on station. It didn’t take too long before there was a fully operational ski landing area, complete with a small operations building that doubles as a weather station, kitchen, communications room and even some bunk beds if the weather turns sour and we get stuck there!

The skiway is located about 10 kilometres from Casey station so it’s about a 30 minute drive each way. It provides a stunning view of ocean and icebergs on a good day but when a blizzard strikes it can be difficult to see further than 20 metres in front of you, and you find yourself snaking all the way back to station via GPS navigation.

The ‘blizz’ as we call it not only causes trouble getting around, it makes a mess of our ski landing area and often means we will be re-grooming and grading the skiway each time the wind blows. The snow just about buries everything and last week we spent a good couple of hours digging out the DC3 before they could fly back to Zhongshan, the Chinese Antarctic station.

Much of the rest of our work revolves around fuel – whether it be diesel, unleaded or aviation turbine kerosene (ATK) there is always refuelling, fuel caching, fuel heli-slinging and fuel hauling.  This tends to give the AGSO’s a very distinguishable scent upon our return to station!

So far it has been a little slow due to some minor setbacks — mainly due to weather – but things are gaining momentum and we have been able to support some very important scientific projects, conduct fuel caching, recover lost equipment, support general operations and transport passengers.

We are looking forward to what else the season has to offer.


Casey field training continues

At Casey the field training officers have been working steadily to get everyone’s training up to speed. Large numbers of expeditioners have had their obligatory night in a ‘chip bag’. It’s always intriguing to watch the various contortions that we all go through as boots are removed, layers of clothing discarded, sleeping bags aligned and mats placed ‘just so’ under the sleeper — ready to roll off about 2am. Elbows appear pushing out one wall of the bag and knees the other, a boot or a sleeping bag tries to escape but is recaptured, muffled curses arise or a cramped leg kicks in until all settles into a peaceful cocoon and you realise you forgot to bring the pee bottle in — at which point it all starts again…

All of the winterer’s have been survival trained at this stage and most of the summer expeditioners. Field travel training on the quads has begun and over half of the winterer’s have had the chance to navigate their way through unforgiving sastrugi around Mitchell’s Peninsula and out to Robbo’s hut where they are rewarded with stunning views of the breaking sea ice and the odd inquisitive Adélie penguin.

Hägglunds training has also been going on apace with some trips not needing to blank out the windscreen for navigation exercises as an easterly blizzard arranged that for them. The Lowrance GPS’s have proved themselves now that everyone has got the hang of using them and people are getting their eye in now for what to watch on the radar screen. Matt and Glen took a group out to Wilkes over the weekend in what will no doubt be the first of many recreation trips there.