Our team starts to shrink in size, Comms Tech Clint talks science adventures and we meet Jack, a PhD student spending his second summer at Casey.

Station Update

'Tis the season for farewells. This week we have had two flights to/from Hobart and with them go our summering scientists, the helicopters and crew, and some lucky people who have made their way to station for short operational visits.

The A319 Airbus flight on Wednesday took with it our last remaining winter expeditioner, Clint (AKA Lord Casey Chilcott), after 469 days on station he is heading home and has left us with a short Icy News story of his summer stint as a scientist (below).

Also departing was the wonderful Jolley project team: Darren, Gwil and Kath. Jolley by name and Jolly by nature. They will be sorely missed, especially for their kindness in giving many of the station based expeditioners a chance to get out on the water and assist in their sampling and monitoring. Tom, the most fabulous watercraft operator, will also leave a huge hole in the station population – a true gentlemen who had a knack of packing the perfect picnic for a day out on the water. Nothing better than a shortbread biccie and a cup of tea, or a cheese platter, while sitting on the water watching the penguins porpoise around the boat. (The Jolley team and the wildlife seen when boating with them are the focus of this week’s pictures.)

As many are thinking about departing, and getting that last trip in to a field hut, the Wintering team are thinking about the next eight months…are there any last minute items we need to order online to make that last flight, what will the slushie roster look like, should I move rooms into the one with the better view of Newcombe Bay? And in turn we ramp up to a busy few weeks of search and rescue training so we're prepared to respond when our plethora of field training officers has flown north for the winter leaving us to cope on our own.

They days are finally getting shorter, we do have a few hours of darkness each night now (even it is still technically twilight), and the temperature is dropping. Winter is coming. 

By Rebecca (Station Leader). 

Summer Science Jollies: a comms technical officer does science

In early November, when people started arriving by A319, summer sounded like a long time to work through. Now that it is early February I am reminded that summer here at Casey is only a few short months of activity. This season has been packed with several science projects, each with limited time to achieve their goals. Normally people for each project travel to Casey to provide direct support. However this year, two separate projects requested direct support from a communications technician on station (me).

One of the projects, Southwell, looks at the population of seabirds in East Antarctica. The other, King, is studying how the land mass has moved over time.

The first part of my involvement with the Southwell project was to take aerial photographs of some penguin colonies from a helicopter. It sounds glamorous on paper but when I was airborne leaning out an open door trying to take overlapping photos in freezing conditions it became apparent that some science is not really all that pleasant. My second task for the Southwell project was to service all nine fixed seabird cameras in the Casey area. Six of these cameras needed replacing and all of them needed new batteries and solar panels. It was not difficult to find assistants willing to go for a boat or helicopter ride and walk through an Antarctic Specially Protected Area to work on the cameras (I did not tell them about all the equipment we needed to carry until after they had already agreed).

In between trips to cameras I was also supporting the King project. Which involved visiting four separate and remote locations, installing a new seismometer at two sites and collecting data from all four. Travel was by Twin Otter plane and helicopter to the sort of places where you can use the phrase ‘end of the Earth’. Due to competing priorities and weather there were days that I had to be ready to go in boats for Southwell or fly somewhere for King, to the point of being on the helipad one evening, ready to go, when we were told there had been a change and we were going in the boats.

In the end, though, I managed to get to all the sites for both projects and have sent gigabytes of data back to Australia to be analysed.

I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to people from both projects, to everyone on station that supported and especially those that walked with me, carrying equipment. The temperatures are already starting to drop here and most of the scientists have headed home, it is only a few days until I will also be leaving and the 71st ANARE will carry on supporting science for the winter.

By Clint Chilcott.

5 min with the 71st ANARE: Jack Churchill

Name: Jack.

From: Melbourne.

Previous seasons? Two.

Job title: Research Student (PhD).

Describe your role in two sentences: I designed and ran experiments on Biological Activated Carbon filters for the Remediation team as part of my PhD. I also worked as a fieldie for the team on other Remediation projects.

What did you do before your joined the AAD? Study Chemical Engineering at the University of Melbourne. Moonlighted as a librarian to pay my way.

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey? Walking down to the site and looking at icebergs the whole way.

If you were not an environmental engineer what would be your dream job? Ancient historian.

How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south? The station and surrounds don’t physically change but the social dynamic did between my previous two seasons. This year, the mixture of familiar faces from two different seasons with amazing new people make it feel just a little too like home…

What do you like to do in your spare time? Watch Westworld. Go on jollies. Go to the gym and follow it up with a 90oC sauna.

What song sums up your Casey experience so far? Too many karaoke nights of people singing ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap'.

What actor would play you in a film version of our 71st ANARE season here at Casey? I was told Moe Dunford from Vikings.

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit? Icebreaker thermals. They are the basic kit that makes the difference, so even in 1 or 2oC weather you can be working outside with just thermals and regular work pants and a shirt.

What is your favourite book and movie and why? Favourite book at the moment is 1984. Re-reading it after studying it in school was an interesting experience — having more insight into the book without needing to write essays made it a whole lot better.

Favourite movie at the moment is Rogue One (haven’t seen the newest!) — cheesy and fun, but also kinda epic.

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? Do you have a particular favourite? Hip hop to indie rock. I love a bit of Kanye, but that’s a bit polarising on station…

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

Sight: Sweeping pink over white and blue icebergs.

Smell: Bromine of the spa.

Sound: Pumps in my water treatment plant.

Feeling: Awe.

Taste: Macadamia ice cream.

Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with? 
“…had connected the sublime with terror, but as I experienced it in Antarctica, from the safe vantage of a ship with a glass-and-brass elevator and first-rate espresso, it was more like a mixture of beauty and absurdity.” Jonathan Franzen in The New Yorker.