Hard but joyful work

Seabird research in the Casey region

Our travel to far-flung penguin colonies has so far been by Hagg and quad bikes and an awful lot on foot. The heavy packs wear us down, but the joy of seeing the penguins and achieving our research without our gloves blowing away in the fierce wind helps us feel a sense of lightness.

This year we have been setting up new remote operated cameras to expand our monitoring of the penguins across the Wilkes Land region. We have found some stunning sites to position the cameras which capture good views of penguins (of course), large chunks of the population, and stunning views of the sea-ice. The time lapse imagery will perfectly capture the cycle and success of the penguin breeding season, as well as the annual retreat and regrowth of the ice over which they travel to reach their colonies.

Our work has included attaching satellite trackers to Adélie penguins at the southern- and northern-most range of their breeding populations in the Wilkes Land region. This research will help us understand where the penguins breeding in this area forage, whether their foraging ranges overlap and to help identify how they get to their distant foraging grounds.

We have also been collecting preening gland oil from the penguins which has required mastering the art of juggling many items in the wind while gently swabbing the birds preening gland. This work will reveal the level of phthalates contamination in the preening oil.

The trips to the breeding colonies have involved an awe-inspiring trek across the plateau with tufts of snow swirling across the landscape and patches of deep mesmerising blue ice beneath. It helps you remember that in the Casey region, you really get the sense you're in Antarctica.

Louise Emmerson and Colin Southwell 

Getting to know a Casey Expeditioner — Ken Cheung


Ken Cheung



Previous seasons?

First time in Antarctica

Job title:

Senior Meteorologist

Describe your role in two sentences:

I manage Casey’s Antarctic Meteorological Centre and we deliver weather forecasts for the station and aviation, marine and field activities. We are always watching for the next blizz.

What did you do before you joined the AAD?

I am a meteorologist at the National Operations Centre of the Bureau of Meteorology.

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey?

Briefing pilots on their inflight satellite phone when they are flying across the continent — it’s noisy as hell in the background and we spend half the time yelling at each other.  Writing “mostly sunny” for the evening forecast.

If you were not a weatherman what would be your dream job?
A pilot…while we both look at clouds, they have a great view from the cockpit.

How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south?

First season is the sweetest.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I will go to the Shirley Island to check out the penguin colonies, take my camera out to shoot time-lapse videos of the skies and landscape, and I’m still practicing cross-country skiing on the ski loop.

What song sums up your Casey experience so far?

Ice Ice Baby

What actor would play you in a film version of our 72nd ANARE season here at Casey?

Ken Jeong — he’s my bro….I understand it maybe a low budget production, that may save us some makeup cost.

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit?

The Baffin boots. They don’t usually get acknowledged, but they are comfy, keep the feet warm and take you across all sorts of things…ice, snow, mud, rocks and penguin poo.

What is your favourite book / movie (or both) and why?

Tuesdays with Morrie: So much wisdom, one of the few books that I go back to.

Love Actually: it is Christmas again!

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? Do you have a particular favourite?

I don’t usually stick with one particular genre, but I like the goldie 80s music, they just have the right tune that always makes everyone happy.

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

Sight: Collapsed ice cliff plunging into water and sending a mini tsunami across the bay.

Smell: Penguin poo.

Sound: That noise when ice presses against each other near the tidal cracks.

Feeling: This is like 100th time I’m putting my boots on today! (yes I live in East Wing aka The Ghetto)

Taste: Dehydrated dinner pack during the survival training.

Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with?

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.” — Stephen Hawking

Something people may not know about you:

I was once closer to the other pole at 79N.