There have been lots of birthdays and the art of gift giving is not lost. We hear from our plumber about the secondary waste water treatment plant, get to know electrician Zac some of the team head out on a field trip.

Station update

Birthdays — far too may birthdays have been experienced this week which may have rendered the station ‘out of stock’ of balloons for the rest of the year.

Matty kicked it all off by having his birthday on Monday which began with a sea of posters from friends and family, he may have even produced some packets of ‘Chiipppiiieess!’ for later in the evening too. Jac and Clint certainly took the biscuit today (Tuesday at time of writing) by sharing a birthday on the same day. Chef Bongo made a momentous cake / tower thing on Monday to cater for all three birthdays that I’m guessing we’ll still be eating by the time Mitchell’s birthday comes along next month.

Brendan goes outside — Those familiar with Mr Hopkins will be aware of his love of the great outdoors along with his wish that everybody else should be out in it, at all times – just not with him.

Today, Brendan did attend an outdoor event that involved ‘walking’, carrying a pack, some ice drilling and at one point even holding on to an ice axe (as he fell over). It should be noted that he only falls over when he goes outside hence his good risk mitigation technique of never leaving the building — shown below is a photo of Brendan falling over the last time he went outside (which was during summer) — fear not, he is now back in the Red Shed having a cup of tea.

Glam Rock Shock — Saturday was Glam Rock ‘dress up’ night — For some this is a good thing, for others this is terrifying and best dealt with by staying in your room, turning off the lights and pushing the mattress up against the door in much the same way as you would for Halloween when the ‘trick or treaters’ arrive. Being one of those who made the conscious decision to stay ‘dug in’ in his room I can only report that no ‘walkers’ broke in and I didn’t get to use the ice axe in self-defence this time. I was contacted by one of the other expeditioners from his room at one point, he was also too scared to head to the kitchen for fear he may get dragged into the activities…

Happy Radio — Stu (me) has upset the office Feng Shui by creating as much mess as possible in the comms workshop to the point where if anyone else needs anything they have to ask Stu to find it. The reason for all this is that the remote radio repeater that normally lives at the Browning Peninsula is taking a holiday whilst it gets its frame repaired and new solar panels installed. The radio is now ready to return to its home having had a great break but will not be sorely missed by those wishing to access the workshop!

‘The Thing’ — A lot of questions are being asked about ‘the thing’ that we are building out the front of the Red Shed, needless to say we cannot tell you at this stage but all will be revealed at a later date. It is a community built ‘thing’ that everybody is helping with, volunteers have been shortening their lunch by half an hour to get out and assist every day and hopefully there will be enough time to get it completed!

Stu Shaw

A plumbers tale — the Casey secondary waste water treatment plant

Last week’s Station News mentioned the Casey utility building works that are being undertaken. The major part of those works for this winter is the installation of a new secondary waste water treatment plant (WWTP). The existing WWTP was installed during the re-building period of the mid to late 80’s, and was designed to cope with waste water from a station with a population of around 40 people. With the summer population here at Casey now regularly closer to 80 people, the existing WWTP is right at the end of its life span and needs to be retired from duty.

Secondary treatment of waste water is a biological process that relies on naturally occurring microorganisms to breakdown the nutrients in the waste water. The existing WWTP uses a process called rotating biological contact (RBC). In a simplified description, the RBC is a series of wheels where the bottom half of those wheels are half suspended in the waste water and the wheels are constantly rotating. Microorganisms live on the surface of the wheels and as the wheels rotate the microorganisms are fully submerged in the water where they process the waste, and then as the wheel continues its rotation they exposed to air when they breath. The treated water is then sent out to discharge.

The new WWTP works on a different process known as a membrane biological reactor (MBR). MBRs are a form of secondary treatment that relies on a traditional biological process that is similar to the RBC to remove most of the nutrients from the waste water. However, the mechanical process is different and the MBR uses a membrane filtration process to separate the treated to be sent out to discharge. The advancement in technology since the mid-80s has produced MBR plants that are much more efficient than RBCs (in terms of both performance and space), less prone to mechanical failure, and probably most importantly produce a higher and more consistent discharge quality. On top of all this, the new WWTP has been designed to process kitchen food waste, thereby reducing the requirement for incineration on station.

This new WWTP at Casey is the second one to be built for the Australian Antarctic program, following on from the one installed at Davis during the 2015 winter/summer and commissioned in the 2016 summer season. Four members of the highly successful team that worked on the Davis plant have come together again to work on the plant and the building here at Casey. The Casey plant is a slightly different layout to the Davis one, but contains all the same equipment and processes, and as such it’s like déjà vu all over again. The plan is to have the plant as ready as possible by the end of this winter, awaiting the external pipework into the building to be completed this summer to allow commissioning to occur.

Brendan Hopkins — BSS

5 minutes with the Casey 70th ANARE crew: Zac Alderman

Name: Zac

Nicknames: Ballzac

From: Warrnambool, VIC

Previous seasons? Nope

Job title: Electrician

Describe your role in two sentences: Fill in the two and a half hour gaps between meals with work stuff. Work out work stuff like why is the fire alarm circuit is broken or where do all the cables disappear to through the snow and ice.

What did you do before your joined the AAD? Instro Tech on Curtis Island

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey? When something breaks and there is actually a schematic for it.

If you were not an electrician what would be your dream job? Own and operate a brewery or distillery in some kind of epic mountainous backdrop.

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

Never been to ‘The South', not much of a country music fan.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Read and listen to music.

What song sums up your Casey experience so far?

Here I go again by White Snake.

What actor would play you in a film version of our 70th ANARE season here at Casey?

According to Ducky it would be Jason Sudeikis.

What is your favourite hut for field trips and why?

Browning’s Hut because of the amazing Vanderford Glacier.

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit?

Quad bikes, because they are awesome fun.

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

Book: Papillion because it is about a man who never gives up.

Movie: Into The Wild because of the soundtrack, scenic backdrop and the story.

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

Acousticie folkie indie bluesy alternative type set up.

Describe your Casey experience with: a sight, a smell, a sound, a feeling and a taste.

The sight of coming down the hill and Casey and all the ice bergs suddenly appearing when I arrived from the three hour drive from the bleak Wilkins runway on my first day.

The smell of delicious smoko emanating out of the kitchen exhaust reaching all parts of station far and wide.

The feeling of contentment of being in one place without having to move.

The taste of a smokey bushfire in my mouth from drinking very peaty whiskey at the bar.

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

Never complain, never explain… Benjamin Disraeli

Between the bergs with Steve Middleton — episode 3 — Air drops

Muscles’ guide to curing boredom — Air Drops

'Who is that?' I thought to myself as I walked home from the power house last Thursday. It was 5:20pm and I had just finished my dieso duty of 5:00 observations, I was walking back to the Red Shed in the dark when I looked up the street to see that I was on a collision course with a slender individual coming down from ops. I was intrigued as to who it was, we can all recognise each other down here just by our builds and the way we walk/move around, but this person didn’t look familiar to me. It appeared to be someone with a feminine build, so coming from that direction it could have been Jacque or Ash, or any one of the sparkies, but I couldn’t work it out and it was killing me. I didn’t deviate from my course and before I knew it I was face to face with this woman and a conversation was imminent…

Sometimes on Antarctic stations we find ourselves in situations where we are in critical need of supplies and resources, and in the winter (for Australian stations at least) it is impossible to get supplies in because the sea ice is too thick for a ship, and the weather is too harsh and too unpredictable for aircraft to land, so when these situations arise it may be possible for the Division to arrange an ‘air drop'.

This is where the stuff we need gets put in the back of a RAAF C-17 transport aircraft on a special pallet with crumple zones and parachutes, and it gets delivered to us without the aircraft needing to land. The items just gets pushed out the back and parachuted down to a place close to station and we go out and collect it. Air drops are a pretty extreme task from a logistical standpoint, so they aren’t something that happens every season. 

Enter the conversation…

'How was your day mate?' I asked promptly ‘oh long!, I’m done!, I just want to go to the wallow and chill out, and I want something awesome for desert tonight and I want a pony!' she replied with a stomp of the foot and waving fists. ‘What have I done’ I thought to myself as I realised the likelihood of an impending vent about a busy day. Luckily this didn’t eventuate as we both got caught up on the logistics of getting a pony in Antarctica. Personally I would prefer a dog, but a pony was the topic we had so that’s what we planned in.

'We could air drop one in!' she screamed.

As ponies have small hooves that would get stuck in the snow and slip on the ice, we would have to give it over-sized shoes, I suggested having some Clydesdale shoes sent down in the pallet then making up some adapter plates so the massive shoes could be attached to the tiny hooves. Then the young lady suggested that we could give it a set of ice spikes the same as the ones we wear on our boots but just double them up so they wrapped around the hoof twice, we worked out all the kinks in this ridiculous idea during the 50 metre walk home. We even had a redesigned Canada goose jacket concept in the works that would be modified to fit a pony so it didn’t get cold, we decided that trying to send the pony down in the pallet would be too risky and the better option would be to give it its own parachute and send it separately.

This in depth chat with Jacque the station leader (also known as Base Commander Jac) where we laid out this bullet proof plan, in a fact first fashion, lead to her instant approval pending an actual air drop taking place. We were all set.

Typically what happens with air drops is the station as a whole makes a list of all the stuff we need throughout the season, and if something really critical comes up they get that list of stuff and throw it all in the pallet along with the really critical item/items and send it, if nothing too critical happens we just get it during summer resupply from the ship.

Needless to say, a pony is now on that list… at least according to the information this young journalist has been given…


My Casey in pictures or ‘The art of gift giving’ by Linc Mainsbridge

This winter the team at Casey are contributing to a weekly photo gallery, sharing with us a snapshot of their Casey experience in pictures.

Our Bureau of Meterorology senior observer, Linc Mainsbridge let’s us in on the mischief and shenanigans that he’s been entertaining himself with since his arrival at the start of winter. In his words, ‘There is nothing like receiving a surprise on a day of celebration!'

You can’t blame the guy for being a serial ‘gift’ giver!

For those who know Linc, you can see that we've gotten off lightly so far.

Jac’s third field trip

There has been no shortage of training for all of to get through over the last few weeks, for many of us refreshing skills that were learnt over summer. However for Jac, who arrived at the end of summer there has also been the added burden of catching up on a few things she has missed. To help her along with the training a short trip to Wilkes was put together.

Now that the days are getting fairly short we headed out in low light on Friday evening, with Jac driving the blue Hägg. With the recent snow the track was very hard to read, some of the drifts were soft and not an issue but then suddenly an innocent looking bump would prove to be quite solid and throw the passengers around inside.

On arrival at the hut there was a quick lesson in digging out the snow stairs, down to the walkway. Followed by a longer lesson in digging out the doorway. No wonder the site was abandoned if they had to dig that much snow just to get into one hut. All that experience has led to Jac being signed off as proficient with a snow shovel, so next time she can do all the digging without supervision.

Even once we were inside the lessons continued. Adam has perfected the method of cooking pizza at Wilkes and was able to discuss the finer points of wood fired pizza in Antarctica. There was some discussion the next day as to whether or not he needed to put that much dried chili on the second one though!

The last lesson for the evening was how to get Wilkes hut up to a comfortable temperature. The tried and true method of filling the heater with wood until it burns down enough to put more in and then repeat was used.

Although it is not yet all signed off and entered in the training database Jac now meets the requirements to be a trip leader. Congratulations Jac! May there be many more trips to follow.

Clint Chilcott