Meet Casey’s sparkies and a dieso

Sparky life in Antarctica

Four tradies — a Mechanic, a Carpenter, a Plumber and an Electrician — were discussing which of their trades was the oldest.

The Plumber said “the Romans used aqueducts and clay pipes during the construction of Rome so we are the oldest trade.” The Mechanic then piped up and said “we are the oldest trade because the Egyptians used logs as wheels during the construction of the pyramids and we needed to be there to install them.” The chippy said “no mate, carpentry has been around the longest as we all know Jesus was a carpenter.”  Then the electrician said, with a sly grin on his face, “well, in the beginning, God said let there be light, and there was light, so obviously the sparkies had already been in to run the cables that morning.”

As discussed in previous Icy News articles, there is much friendly banter and rivalry between trades on any work site you may visit, and this includes Casey station. However we often look to each other for assistance and work alongside each other and there is an amazing sense of camaraderie here.

What’s a typical day as an electrician at Casey station? Antarctica is never a typical day, and variety is the spice of life and flavour of the day here. From maintaining station equipment and vehicles to responding to breakdowns in the power houses and other buildings onsite, the odd test and tagging, project work, building the new water treatment building, and resetting alarms caused by anyone but us.

Let’s take a quick look at each of the electricians, collectively known as the Positive Charge, that form part of the summer trades team here:

Matt: hailing from Perth WA, Matty Flynn is also known as The Flynnisher or Flynndog. When not in-capacitated with electrical roles he likes spending his time on station in the gym, in the brewery or napping. His extra station roles comprise mopping sweat off the floor as gym manager, making his fellow co-workers sweat as the boxing coach, and ensuring everyone is well hydrated as the deputy brewer. He also claims his spirit animal to be a hibernating bear which makes sense on the napping part. After finishing his 12 months here as a winter expeditioner, he plans to go on a holiday through North America. His Antarctic spirit animal of choice is the leopard seal.

Favourite bad dad joke: What do you call a man with a rubber toe? Roberto

Mitch: (aka Rex, Loki, Mad dog, Schnitzel) from the amazing Blue Mountains area of Lithgow comes mountain man Mitch, whose desire to explore around Antarctica would put Mawson and Shackleton to shame. When he’s not counting cycles of Hertz on station, he’s involved in extra station roles sorting books as our station librarian, assistant postie, and brew team member.  After his winter season is finished his holiday plans involve going to “any place warm”. His Antarctic spirit animal of choice is the elephant seal.

Favourite bad dad joke: Geology rocks, but geography’s where it’s at.

Leigh: (aka Lethal, Leeroy, Hey-leigh, Leigh dog) Our “iron ringer from Cobar” NSW, the things that get him ampere-d up here on station involves raiding the chocolate biscuit fridge in the mess, wrangling beers in the brewery and Splinters bar, being an assistant librarian, and having all work conversations around him stop as he walks into the room wearing his WHS officer hat. Upon arriving back in Australia after his winter season at Casey his travel plans are (and I quote) "a cruise somewhere my partner wants to go so I can continue to have someone cook for me". His Antarctic spirit animal of choice is the Adélie penguin.

Favourite bad dad joke: What’s brown and sticky? A stick.

Andrew: (aka Franko, Frank-dog) Gladstone in Qld is his 'ohm sweet ohm'. Andrew is our station’s favourite instrumentation electrician, as well as being our only one, but we’re glad he’s ours. Andrew’s ‘dad jokes’ are a constant source of amusement, drawing both laughs and eye-rolls aplenty but always more of the former. Andrew loves exploring and getting to know the flora and fauna that abounds around Casey station. He loves plants and animals. Andrew also leads our highly experimental but successful brewing operation on station. Upon returning to civilisation next November, Franko plans to visit a Pacific island for a spot of fishing, diving and surfing. His Antarctic spirit animal of choice is the polar bear.

Favourite bad dad joke: I once worked for the council building cul-de-sacs, but had to quit as it was a dead-end job.

Gary: (aka Gazmatron) The watt’s watt of Gary Bolitho: he hails from the Qld town of Toowoomba and returns keen as mustard to Casey station after a previous tour of duty in 2010. Gary’s Russian-style fox hat makes him instantly recognisable at long distances to his fellow electrical comrades. Gary is as cool as a cucumber even on the days when the sun is blaring. Nicknamed Gazmatron (for reasons yet to be established), he is a proud Dad of many, and Grandad to many more. His Antarctic spirit animal of choice is the Siberian Fox (much like his golden fox hat .. ya). Garry shares the following words of wisdom: “be thankful for what you have, rather than worry about what you don’t have.” Gary helps out on station by providing the services of a Kanpeki (knife sharpener). His favourite thing to do on station are beers and laughs with buddies; getting off-station, to either Browning’s for the scenery, or Wilkes for the charm. Once Gary has concluded this year’s summer expedition he looks forward to hooking up the van and heading way out west back home in Australia.

Dale: If you think you can get past hearing a story of wisdom from Dale, then resistance is futile with this summer expeditioner. Dale (aka Dusty, Dusty Dog) even provides some wisdom for this article: “once the kids have left home, pack up and move and don’t provide a forwarding address.” Dale comes from Nerang on the Gold Coast in Qld. He’s been to Antarctica three times previously on winter expeditions, notably his role as a winter electrician and dogman at Mawson in 1983, when he was tasked with caring for, exercising and training the husky dogs on station, as well as ‘mushing’ electrons through conductors. His current interests on station involve exploring and walking around the station recreational limits. He hopes to visit the USA once he finishes his summer expedition this year. His Antarctic spirit animal of choice is the snow petrel.

Wes: Very much at home on a dirt-bike 'high volting' over jumps, Wes originates from Tarlee, SA. Wes brings a wealth of Antarctic experience with him, having numerous previous tours of Australia’s Davis station under his belt. His favourite pastime when off the tools involves the risky activity of napping in the sun. Wes is always a big help in the brewery with a high frequency of attendance. After this summer Wes plans to go anywhere that has motorbike enduro racing. Wes’s Antarctic spirit animal of choice is a skua.

Favourite bad dad joke: “as a sparky I’m down to earth but I do have my faults, so don’t get short with me."

Andrew Frankham and Mitch Britton

Getting to know a Casey expeditioner — Chris Genovese

Name: Chris Genovese
Nicknames: Rambo, Christo
From: Perth, WA
Previous seasons?
First season but I have been tuned by a couple of harsh Canadian winters
Job title: Dieso, brewer and the world’s number one Antarctic Polar Bear expert.
Describe your role in two sentences:
To enjoy Antarctica and the experience.
As a dieso there are plenty of things that need fixing, but I do my best to keep an eye on the external jobs that are integral to the station running smoothly. These tend to be outside and unseen but rewarding none the less.
What did you do before your joined the AAD?
I worked in mining out in the Pilbara. I also used to own an inflatable water park called 'X Amusements'. I currently own an automotive repair business with my brother in Perth called 'Mates Rates Service Centre'. My favourite job though was Distilling Vodka at 'Taynton Bay Spirits' distillery in Canada.
What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey?
The view! I am quite often outside taking in as much as I can.
If you were not a dieso what would be your dream job?
Right now this is my 'beyond my wildest dream job'. Otherwise to own a distillery.
How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south?
First time.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to practice my guitar and look forward to playing with my dad when I get home. I love getting across to Shirley Island and hanging out with the penguins.
What song sums up your Casey experience so far?
'Life is a highway', Tom Cochrane
What actor would play you in a film version of our 72nd ANARE season here at Casey?
Sylvester Stallone - Rambo
Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit?
Thermals, not too hot and not too cold
What is your favourite book / movie (or both) and why?
Armaggedon, Fast and the Furious and The Matrix. Just all good rewatchable flicks from when you could watch a movie without playing with your phone.
The Barefoot Investor, worth a read it was a big help in learning about how to manage money.
What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? Do you have a particular favourite?
Bit of a mixed bag to be honest but i like to keep it varied and most importantly ask the chefs and other slushies if they like it.
Describe your Casey experience with: a sight, a smell, a sound, a feeling and a taste.
*Sight: looking out into Newcomb Bay at the bluest water and out into oblivion at the whitest snow.
*Smell: I'm not a huge fan of the never ending diesel smell on my clothes and hands, or the penguin poop, but I love the fresh baking from the kitchen and brews from the brewery.
*Sound: The chatter of people unwinding in the bar and the howling winds of a blizzard
*Feeling: The overwhelming thought process that I am actually standing in Antarctica. Holding on to the blizz line getting thrown around in 70+ knot winds.
*Taste : Amazing food and dessert plus my custom ginger beer.
Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with?
Stop, look up and look out. (Me)
Something people may not know about you:
I was a featured extra in the movie 'These Final Hours' and I was once a card dealer at a billionaires poker tournament.