This week SAR training has commenced in earnest, final farewells are pending, we meet Matt our Commso (AKA Trade Assistant), and the TiDE team provide a wrap up of their season at Casey

Station update

'Cool outdoor classroom' is the quote from Mic, Casey’s Senior Field Training Officer, when we look at the photos taken during this week’s Search and Rescue SAR Training. Conducted near Wilkes on the Clark Peninsula just 8km to the east of Casey; cool it was. The weather was not particularly conducive to a day out, but then training to the environment we might be operating in should a real SAR occur, although unpleasant, is a good idea. And cool too was the view as a meso-low (for which Casey is well know) formed out off the coast and slowly moved towards station

As our summer team are well and truly finishing their time here, the winter team is ramping up the training and preparing for the upcoming Red Shed (Living Quarters) refurbishment which is to occur over the next eight months. Nick, our wintering project Building Services Supervisor, has now arrived on station and with barely a moment to unpack he’s already got scaffolding up in the wallow and decorative fixtures taken down. It suspiciously looks like the wintering team will be living in a construction site through winter. And so, the balancing act between maintaining a homely liveable space while facilitating Nick’s enthusiastic project focused activities has commenced. Stay tuned to see how that will play out through the next eight months as the air transit accommodation space is turned into a bar and the atrium gets closed in, and the current bar pulled down to create more messing and recreational space to support the influx of expeditioners now received at Casey each summer.

For those departing, the packing continues, reports are written and they prepare for yet more farewells. Two more flights are scheduled for the summer, a final flight of cargo for those last minute essential items and then a flight to take out the last remaining 36 summerers. And then we will be 26.

By Rebecca Jeffcoat (SL Casey)

Team TiDE

Our gear, just over a tonne of equipment for doing science and living on the ice, has been sitting out on the Totten Glacier Ice Shelf for more than a week now. Every morning since it was cached, we’ve dutifully trotted up to a briefing to be told that the weather’s too bad to fly out to meet it. The Totten is close to Casey research station in the context of Antarctica, which is vast, but still 160km away. 160km of potential strong katabatic winds, low clouds, or some other variation on un-flyable weather. We’ve got fuel cached out there, we’ve even got some frozen curries, but we just don’t have the weather window.

Except that today we do. I’m over the moon; we’re finally getting back our there! Then an ‘oh sh*t’ moment (which I keep to myself). That bag I packed to go out last time? The contents have been spread about the place again with each day that we didn’t fly. And I haven’t showered for a few days now. Somehow I sort both of these issues and am still the first to the helipad. There’s a bit of back and forth getting the four of us and the weight of our kit distributed between the two helicopters and then we’re underway. None of my team members fight me for the front seat, they all prefer the extra legroom to the views which, as we fly over Law Dome, turn out to be just versions of white. White snow, a white cloud bank up ahead (where does one end and the other begin? I start to understand why we don’t fly in cloudy weather), but we pass right over. Our site sits tantalisingly just on the edge of a low cloud bank. Peeking below, the horizon is gone, a victim to featureless snow and flat light, and it’s only the tower and all our stuff that tells us where the sky ends and the ground begins. There’s no way we can land in this.

We circle, about to turn tail for home, the cloud shifts and the pilots spot an approach that works for them; they touch down just long enough for us to unload. It seems like only seconds until we’re left in absolute silence, just the four of us in this vast landscape, standing on one of the largest glaciers in the world!

In the end, for that trip we were only on the Totten Ice Shelf for one night but got a heap done. On that, and subsequent, overnight and day trips we refurbished six towers that were constructed the year before, and have been being slowly buried by snow in the intervening months. On the towers are radar (Autonomous phase-sensitive Radio Echo Sounding – APRES ) units, which measure thickness change of the ice, and very accurate GPS, which tell us about the flow of the glacier and surface height changes due to tides and flow. Our first priority this year was to download the data collected over the last 12 months and to raise the towers another 3m, so they’re not completely buried by next year, as the average accumulation rate on the Totten is about 3m per year.

We also wanted to build on the measurements from last year. We were already measuring the thickness of the ice, and how quickly it was melting, but how much ocean was there below? For the grounded (not floating) sites, what were they grounded on? Was it sediment, or hard bedrock? And what was happening at the surface, how rapidly was the snow compacting into ice, and how thick was that layer?

This last question we were able to answer by taking cores of the upper 20m of the glacier, and performing seismic work with a sledgehammer and a steel plate. The hammer seismic proved to be hugely effective, beyond our wildest dreams. Not only did it tell us about the shallow structure of the glacier, we got returns from the base of the ice shelf and from the sea floor (through almost 2km of ice!).

No thanks to poor weather, a portion of the work wasn’t completed. I think the whole station was almost as sad as us that no explosives were used in the seismic work (despite our insistence that it isn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds), but we were really pleased to have completed all the highest priority jobs, and to have had such a fun season. The rest will keep until next year!

Team TiDE (Totten Glacier Ice Dynamics and Evolution) flew out of Wilkins on the Royal Australian Air Force C17A with the helicopters over a week ago (that’s a whole week without smoko!). A week out, I’m extremely grateful for all the people I met this season, you made Casey a home away from home and I feel privileged to have spent time with you, so to any of you reading this, thank you! A special thanks to all the people that played a big part in TiDE this season — Jacque, Bec, Dave, Andrew, Dougie and Nate for getting us out there. And Nick, Paul and Ben, I can’t imagine a better crew to hang out on the Totten with. Let’s do it again!

By Madi Rosevear.


5 min with the 71st ANARE: Matt McKay

Name: Matt McKay

From: Sydney

Previous seasons? Nil

Job title: Communications Operator

Describe your role in two sentences: Provide communication and coordination for all Air Land Sea assets on and personnel off the station. Maintain tracking of all off-station personnel whereabouts. Stationary cupboard organiser and staple counter. (Sorry - I realise that was 3 but I needed to get full scope.)

What did you do before your joined the AAD? Pilot by trade. Currently consulting in Aviation Industry, and on Off-Shore Oil and Gas platforms.

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey? All the good people I live and work with, the humour that is relentless, looking out the window, endless days.

If you were not a Communications Operator what would be your dream job? Trades Assistant Casey Station

How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south? Hopefully the first of many.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Socialise. Turn wood into sawdust and noise. Annoy the Tradies.

What song sums up your Casey experience so far? 'My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don’t love Jesus’ by Jimmy Buffet, or perhaps ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd.

What actor would play you in a film version of our 71st ANARE season here at Casey? Definitely Vin Diesal. I lot of people note that the resemblance is uncanny 

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit? Not surprisingly — the Beanie

What is your favourite book and movie and why? Books  — anything by Irvine Welsh.  Movie — Pulp Fiction

What’s your favorite short Video clip?  Why thanks you for asking, I think that’s a very relevant question… I’d have to go with the Penguin jumping into the boat — the one that has had over 18 million views worldwide on last count and been on nearly all major channels and news outlets.Why thanks you for asking, I think that's a very relevant question... I'd have to go with the Penguin jumping into the boat - the one that has had over 18 million views worldwide on last count and been on nearly all major channels and news outlets.

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? Do you have a particular favourite? As a child of the Countdown era, it’s hard to get away from 80s and 90s Australian Rock

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

Sight: Ice Bergs — never get tired of looking at them. Grumpy old men at gathered around Splinters. Penguins waddling by. Hägglunds coming and going.

Smell: Grumpy old men at gathered around Splinters.

Sound: Laughter, pool balls clacking, Penguins squawking, ​hum of equipment, wind, Slushy FM, Horse snoring next door — or is it Dimitry — never quite sure.​hum of equipment, wind, Slushy FM, Horse snoring next door - or is it Dimitry - never quite sure.

Feeling: Privileged, Enriched, Grateful.

Taste: Arvid’s corned beef and mustard sauce.

Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with? I have two; 'Plans mean nothing, Planning is everything' Eisenhower; and, 'I’m wondering where this barrel is?' Pete Davy