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.