This week we hear from the Diesos with attitude and learn the intricacies of the weather balloon.

Station update

Not too much to report this week. We've all slipped into our winter routines with hard work through the day and regular social activities through the week.

Yoga is still going strong, with three sessions a week and a regular crowd of four or five dragging themselves out of bed for the 6:00am classes.

The gym is being hit hard for those keen to make an impact in the ‘biggest loser (or gainer)' competition, or just to generally balance out the great food we're served up each day by Dom.

We have a big turn out in the Odeon each Wednesday night for our recap of the entire seven seasons of Game of Thrones; with three episodes a week we're already well into season II.

And, we mark the passage of time with our fortnightly formal dinners.

This Saturday saw a beautiful meal prepared by Dom, with a hot smoked salmon salad (lovely herbs provided from hydroponics); lamb rack with pumpkin puree, fondant potatoes, greens, and mint sauce; and a delicious crème brule with a perfectly crusty top. We all feel very spoilt, and enjoyed the time sitting down together to a big family meal.

Work is still punctuated with training. The last of the Hägglunds driver training completed last Friday (even with a hagg breakdown, they still passed!) and the Search and Rescue technical training completed Tuesday/Wednesday.

First responder medical training was also undertaken as the first of our round-robin continuation training which will now be held most Friday afternoons. (It was very amusing to experience some of the acting skills of our trauma ‘patients’ as we arrived on the scene of a horrific hägglunds accident. is smothering a patient to stop the whining a form of triage?)

I hope you enjoy Shane’s crazy assertions below regarding our mechanical team (his grand delusions will be checked out by the doc in our next monthly medical!), and if you're like me (a bit of a weather geek) I think you'll love George’s explanation of the weather balloons.

'til next week.

Rebecca (Casey SL).

Everyone wants to be a Dieso

It’s a known fact on station that ‘everyone wants to be a Dieso’ and who could blame them…it’s a real job, right? 

Team Dieso is ‘THE TEAM’ on station (well, close behind the ‘2 Dogs Home’ brew team). We are the meanest, toughest, hardest working team on station.

'The Casey Diesoettes’ made up of Bec (our fearless leader, karaoke queen and fellow Carlton supporter), Catz ​(the quack from south oz who loves gravy on her choc pudding), Miss Jane (BoM and master balloon inflator) and Misty (WAM — Wilkins Aerodrome Manager and the prettiest plant operator on station) tried to steal the mantle from us real life Diesos. They were close…but not close enough.

We get many request by our fellow expeditioners to learn something useful, oops sorry I meant ‘something new’ whilst on station over winter.

The lads in ‘Team Dieso’ are always more than happy to pass on our extensive knowledge and experience of a real job to the less fortunate on station.

We have had Zach the Sparky, whom you met in the last edition of Icy News, getting tips from Marcus the Dieso on the servicing of a Hilux Ute.

Shane Mac, another poor Sparky, learning the art of ‘adjusting flux capacitors’ on the Power House Generators.

Our Plant Operators Greg and Luke (rock apes/ice fairies just a few colourful names used) well ‘they break em — we fix em'. Without the Dieso’s these guys would be still swinging in trees.

Will T, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) dude (they actually make a living blowing up balloons) assisting Pat the Dieso with servicing the outboard engines.

Even the plumbers (when not shoveling you know what) with Ben H (self-proclaimed legendary plumber/gasfitter/postmaster/hydroponicist) helping out with a service on one of the powerhouse CAT engines.

The station quack from South Australia, Doc Catz, also gets amongst the ‘hard’ work of a Dieso, tensioning wheel nuts on the Grove crane. 

Even the chippies want some Dieso action with Nick C with a spanner in his hand, he looked a bit lost without a hammer though.

Al, who’s from the beautiful eighth state of Australia (New Zealand) the rigger/boilermaker/flagraiser-upperer, loves the Dieso workshop life. We can’t get rid of him.

Like all Dieso workshops with good music blaring ‘Team Dieso’s’ singing talents are the envy of all the other trades that are within ear shot…we get plenty of encouragement. 

The banter is alive and well here at Casey, and all teams work in well together to keep things on station running smoothly, the Dieso’s just do it better.

By Team Dieso: Shane M, Pat B, Marcus B and Sam J

Weather balloons

Q. What’s big and round and soft all over?

A. An expeditioner who’s been eating Dom’s cooking for 6 months. Also, weather balloons.

Twice a day, at 7:15am and pm Casey time (1115Z and 2315Z), 365 days a year, the Casey weather observers release a weather balloon with a radiosonde attached. These launches are simultaneous with hundreds of others at weather stations all around the world to provide a global snapshot of the atmosphere.

After launch the balloon rises at a fairly constant speed of roughly 300 meters per minute, with the radiosonde continually measuring air pressure, temperature and humidity, while the on board GPS provides the speed and direction of the wind that’s carrying the balloon along. The data is transmitted back to the release site by radio, before being quality checked by the observer and sent over the internet back to Australia.

In an exceptional and long standing example of international scientific cooperation, all balloon data, along with satellite data and surface observations from around the world, is collated by three world meteorological centres, located in Washington, Moscow and Melbourne, and then shared globally. This forms the basis for every numerical weather forecast produced anywhere in the world.

We use a combination of 500g and 800g balloons — the weight refers to the mass of the balloon not it’s lifting capacity — made of natural latex and filled with Hydrogen gas for lift. The heavier balloons stretch a bit more, and hence rise higher before bursting. The radiosonde weighs around 250g and falls back to earth when the balloon bursts. The old radiosondes littering the environment are obviously a downside of this, however as yet this remains the best option for collecting acurate weather profile data.

Around 1800 litres of hydrogen goes into filling each 800g balloon. The gas is produced on site using an electrolyser that requires only electricity and clean water. Given that hydrogen is extremely flammable, and the dry Antarctic air is very prone to static electricity build-up, there are some precautions around balloon handling: observers wear full-cover flame-resistant clothing during launch, and a stream of ionised air is blown over the balloon on the filling table to prevent static build up.

Launching is a simple process that involves carrying the balloon and sonde outside, and then letting go. As the wind speed rises releasing the balloon becomes progressively more ‘interesting'. I believe the current Casey record for a successful launch stands at just over 100 knots.

The balloon typically rises 30 to 35km before bursting, and depending on wind conditions may travel some hundreds of kilometres from the launch site at speeds reaching over 200km/h. Minimum temperature occurs near the tropopause — the boundary between troposphere and stratosphere — and is usually between −50°C and −90°C depending on the season. The air pressure at burst height is around 5-10hPa, and at this point the balloon is 200–400 cubic metres in size — the size of a small house.

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this article — you are officially a weather geek.

By George Brettingham-Moore