It’s been a gratifying summer for us as we have been cleaning up the redundant masts at Casey and Davis Stations as well as making some unscheduled repairs and doing some maintenance.
We started the season at Casey station then spent six weeks at Davis station over Christmas and completed an audit of all communication, Bureau of Meteorology and science antenna support structures.
We repaired and improved two of the field hut repeater antennas, with a threefold increase in coverage achieved at Browning’s Hut for Channel 20. This was an overnight trip, with a stunning day to do the antenna works but a slow trip back to base running on GPS for most of it due to whiteout conditions. But that is Antarctic weather for you!
After five weeks at Casey we flew over to Davis in the Basler JKB, which was fun as it’s not often we can fly in something older than us. The Davis ice runway was still open so we saw Whoop Whoop skiway on the way past but landed on the ice near station.
At Davis, we did an audit and then got into the main task of removing seven old masts. The stark change to the skyline was a great improvement, particularly from the helicopter pilots point of view as these were all in flight paths. All the mast sections and guys were bundled up and slung out to station for return to Australia.
We did some more repairs to the mast and wind generator at Tarbuc Crag which is a gnarly little hill with the radio repeater on top that covers all the Vestfold Hills with a panoramic view to match.
We managed to complete some maintenance on the HF antennas on station before it was back to Casey via Wilkins on a US Hercules C-130.
Back at Casey, it was all go to get rid of another six masts and clean up all the cabling and mast sections in the remaining three weeks. Again, a helicopter was used to lift out the masts back to station as a recent blizzard made it impossible to get any machinery in to the Tx Farm area. We were lucky to get these lifts into the schedule as the helicopters flew back to Hobart the next day. One of the masts was in an Antarctic Special Protected Area (ASPA) so it was good to reduce our footprint in an area designated to protect several species of lichen.
We squeezed in a few more maintenance tasks like changing out the anemometer, which is a surprisingly important little machine on stations as it is the basis of many safety decisions.
It has been a successful season in which we halved the number of masts at Casey and removed 2/3rds of them at Davis and had a good time doing it.
It’s time to head home as the days are getting shorter, the nights getting darker with stars visible again and all the ski-planes have migrated back to North America already.
We will be on the second last flight A319 for the season, and don’t want to miss that, though a winter would be a great experience…
By Ron Bernardin and Paul Craig.