With a new team in place there is plenty of training underway and we get to know 71st ANARE member, Brett Wilks.

Station update

A busy week on station as the full summer crew have arrived and finalised inductions. They're now ready to get on with the job and operations are ramping up at Casey.

First priority was ensuring the search and rescue (SAR), fire, and lay surgical assistant teams were all ready to go. And, what better way than through a station–wide exercise on Saturday afternoon.

Paula, our senior field training officer, led the SAR team to great effect with our ‘lost’ expeditioner found quickly up on Reeves Hill. Our wintering doctor, Elise, was kind enough to volunteer her services as the lost expeditioner / potential patient (victim); she was very complimentary of the stretcher carriers’ skills.

With the emergency response teams assessed as operational we're now signed off and ready to send teams out into the field. This allowed our field training officers to commence their training program with the first survival training of the season kicking off over Monday and Tuesday. (See Luke’s story for an insider view of what that entailed.)

Our inter–continental flights have continued with the first ADF C-17 of the season arriving on Sunday, bringing in some much awaited and most exciting fresh food (especially the 10kg of coffee beans which has temporarily averted the ‘Casey Coffee Crisis of 2017').

The hard work of the AGSO’s since their arrival has meant the Casey skiway was prepared in time for our first intra–continental flight of the season. The Basler from Zhongshan, the Chinese station, arrived yesterday to collect their new station leader who will be arriving on tomorrow’s C-17 flight.

The infrastructure and mechanical crew have hit the ground running, finalising inductions and then staring to work through the never–ending list of jobs.

The weather has been remarkably good with clear blue skies, light winds and relatively warm temperatures (up to a balmy −5°C). So when off work we've seen swarms of new expeditioners out and about visiting the wharf area and Reeves Hill; sometime doing a lap between the two to get some much needed exercise (they're already feeling the effects of the great food, especially the irresistible smoko snacks!). The only problem with the warm weather is the loss of the sea ice, over just two days we've seen it progressively disappearing from Newcomb Bay, out the front of the station. What was flat white as far as the eye could see when we arrived two weeks ago, is now open water out in the bay and further out to sea. Summer is coming.

So really, the station has been a hive of activity, which isn’t going to slow its pace for the next four months… The excitement of summer at Casey!

The first survival training of the season

Survival training. It's where it’s at. If you want to experience the Antarctic weather, elements, scenery, wild life, and living in a chip packet this is for you…!

As someone new to the Antarctic I found this survival training course interesting and provided very valuable information on our location. The training ran over two days with a night in the field.

Monday 6th November at 0830  a group of seven expeditioners started their survival training with a navigation lesson to ether refresh or to learn new skills. This was followed by GPS and radio training. After smoko we all gathered back down at the field store to learn about our gear, load out, and survival equipment you'll have to take in order to survive an unexpected stay in the Antarctic.

We then cut away for lunch and a final equipment check before moving up to the OPs building to learn how to register the appropriate and right information for off–base operations including scheduled SITREPs at pre-allocated times; so if for any reason your safety is jeopardised this ‘coiled spring’ is ready to launch the SAR team into action.​

Shortly after, we set off for the field phase; this is where you'll find yourself stomping around for about 2 kms using the navigation skills learnt earlier on that day.  As we left station limits we made our way to Shirley Island for a lesson I found extremely important — for me or any one traveling over sea ice. I have never step foot in snow let alone sea ice so I found it a little unnatural. We learnt how to use the ice drill to check the depth of the sea ice, and to understand the minimum thickness of the sea ice required for equipment and people to safely cross. While learning this we had a few friendly penguins pop over to say ‘hi', and then had 30 minutes on Shirley Island taking pictures of penguins and other wildlife before we set off to our overnight camp. 

Once reaching the night location we ran through how to set up our survival gear including the mega bivvy, survival tent and cooking stove, also running over the polar tent setup.

Dinner that night was freeze dried ration pack food and a couple of hot drinks. We ‘racked out’ in our chip packets which was quite interesting at the start ‘til about 3 am when you wake to find it’s snowing inside your bivvy bag from the condensation… that’s when you feel the cold.

In the morning we packed up and headed back to Casey, once returning we quickly ran through were to dump your human waste and rubbish to finish off the two day survival course. 

Personally, I found this course fun, with valuable information for Antarctic survival, really worth it if you’re not a local and have trainers who are pretty cool cats.

Luke Hardy 

5 mins with the 71st ANARE crew: Brett Wilks

Name: Brett Wilks

Nicknames: Most people call me Brett or Bretto; my sister–in–law’s call me Bertle.

From: Lockyer Valley, Queensland

Previous seasons? No

Job title: Information Technology Officer

Describe your role in two sentences:

As an information technology officer, I provide ICT support services on station. I may on occasion be required to carry out, or assist with, the installation of ICT infrastructure and assist the station communications technical officer with networking infrastructure etc. Often I find myself supporting expeditioners with connectivity issues on station.

What did you do before your joined the AAD?

I worked as a network and systems engineer with a large farming company that grows fresh vegetables for supply to the local retail, wholesale and the global export market.   

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey?

Fixing things and finding solutions to problems 

If you were not an ITO what would be your dream job?


How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south?

It’s my first season south, and I don’t have anything to compare with but so far it’s been awesome.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Exploring the surroundings of Casey and photography, I am working on time-lapse photography at the moment trying to capture the sea ice and icebergs moving about.

What actor would play you in a film version of our 71st ANARE season here at Casey?

Arnold Schwarzenegger as the STCO

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit?

The thermals, they are light and comfortable, I forget that I even have them on also they keep me warm without bulky clothes.

What is your favourite book / movie (or both) and why?

The Castle, Its down to earth Aussie humour.

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? Do you have a particular favourite?

I don’t listen to too much music, and I am not stuck in a particular genre, but I am going play some tunes from Guns N’ Roses and GANGgajang.

Describe your Casey experience with: a sight, a smell, or sound.

There is no smell or sound it’s so quiet. I walked down to the wharf on Sunday to see the sea ice. It was amazing how quiet it was until some sea ice moved and cracked near the wharf.

Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with?

'Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.'  Jim Rohn