The summer season at Casey is nearly over but before our field training officers, Ian and Billy, head north for winter they’re conducting the final part of the winter team’s field training — polar camping.
For the wintering team this is an opportunity to become familiar with a wider range of equipment, resources, skills and procedures relating to off–station travel as well as spending time together as a larger group away from the routine of station life. To minimise dissent and avoid a complete boycott they split the winterers into two groups!
The first group commenced this week with familiarisation and preparation work in the field store. Apart from the ubiquitous polar pyramid tents we became more familiar with the newer polar dome tents and the Endurance tent.
While the polar pyramid and dome tents are primarily intended for sleeping, the much larger and longer Endurance tent provides a space which is more suitable for communal cooking and dining. Various alternate names were suggested for the Endurance tent because of its distinctive half watermelon shape and it was eventually nicknamed the slug, a creature whose name and general shape we were all familiar with.
With all the requisite gear packed into three Hägglunds we headed up the hill and set up camp on the crusty snow not far from the Casey skiway. Equipment training continued with some of the instructional roles delegated to winter expeditioners. I was given the task of educating others in the use of HF radio equipment.
As an electronics tech and former comms operator the HF radio equipment is familiar to me, but it had been a while since I’d last used it, let alone instructed others about it, but all appeared to go well, possibly with more baffle than brilliance.
The evening ‘sked’ report to VNJ Casey was done via HF radio with surprisingly good voice reception over the often noisy HF channels. This is partly due to the good quality HF gear provided by the Division but mostly because we weren’t very far from Casey. After dinner everyone relaxed for awhile in the calm evening air before settling into their tents and sleeping bags for the night.
The following morning we awoke to a steady katabatic breeze and temperature below −15°C. After breakfast in the slug we watched the sunrise and then packed the sleeping gear and tents into the Häggs and headed back to Casey with long shadows in the morning light.
On return to station, the lengthy unpack and equipment drying commenced along with the post–trip debrief and discussions before resuming our regular roles on station.
Mark — MET Tech