This week a victim’s view of a search and rescue exercise, Jane explains what the expos do to keep themselves busy during winter, and we see why a Browning trip is the ‘golden ticket'.

Station update

Winterisation continues of the Casey vehicles, buildings and people. Training is ongoing, work and social routines established, and everyone has hunkered down to life on station in winter. This week we've even had some weather to indicate that winter is coming with a bliz on Tuesday, a mild bliz but a bliz no less.

The compulsory search and rescue (SAR) exercise to ensure our SAR capability is up and running for winter went well on Friday and Barry has provided a good summary from a ‘victims’ viewpoint below.

Red Shed (living quarters) refurbishments encroach on our life a little more each week in such sneaky slow little adjustments that we'll soon be living and eating in our rooms and we won’t know how we got there! (Maybe a slight exaggeration; but a corner of the mess has been ‘wrapped in plastic’ for the insertion of a dumb waiter this week. Now just to work out how to keep the expeditioners out of it?) 

Field trips continue at a slow and steady pace; I think we know that we have months to get out and about and many are waiting for the sea ice travel via quad as that seems a much more efficient and comfortable means of getting from point to point than the wonderful but very bumpy Hägglunds.

With field trips in mind… what is it that makes the Browning Peninsula the ultimate rec trip for the Casey community… the golden ticket… the duck’s nuts… the bees knees…? It can’t be the three hour drive over a very bumpy track in a Hägglunds, much of it across the featureless ice plateau. It can’t be the hut (there are better, more spacious huts in the Casey operating area). It can’t be the weather – known to be colder and winder than at Casey.

Having just experienced it last weekend, I think it’s the absolutely breathtakingly beautiful scenery; snow covered peaks rolling down to the ocean and reflected in the mirror smooth water, the Vanderford Glacier jutting out into Eyres Bay just tempting you to stand in awe and hope to see icebergs form as chunks of ice break off, and quiet secluded coves where wildlife shelter – elephant seals wallowing, moulting, fighting (and smelling) and Adélie penguins moulting with their feathers making avant-garde hairstyles and fashions of which Vivienne Westwood would be proud. Yes, I can see now why Browning is the golden ticket. Next time I might be lucky enough to get the trifecta and have clear skies for aurora spotting far from bright station lights.

Rebecca (Casey Station Leader) 

Casey’s SAR scenario – A victim’s perspective

Our search and rescue (SAR) training exercise this week involved a party (Al and Barry) heading out to Wilkes Hut, which is approximately five kilometres off station. While on route, a slight deviation was made to take photos from a nearby rocky outcrop.

Unfortunately Al had a fall on the slippery incline and with a possible broken ankle, a call was made to Casey for assistance. Unfortunately, while making the radio call to Casey, Barry had also slipped dislocating his elbow as well as breaking the radio.

With lost communications and only an approximation of where they were on their last transmission a SAR was organised.

After a search, the first responders Scott and Patty located the injured party, assessed them, relayed their condition to our doctor, Catz, and applied first aid.

The SAR Hägg was dispatched with a backup crew for assistance. By the time the Hägg had arrived, the first responders had stabilised the patients and applied first aid. Steps were cut into the slope to make access safe. The patients were then stretchered out to the waiting SAR Hägg and returned to station for further assessment.

Catz treated the two patients in the surgery with the assistance of the lay surgical team. A debrief followed in the mess with all on station attending.

Barry Balkin

What do our days in Antarctica look like?

Today, it looks white! It’s windy out there and the snow being blown around is obscuring our usual view of Newcomb Bay and the icebergs beyond. And for part of the day, we’ve technically been in a blizzard!

Even a blizzard doesn’t stop work from going on around here. It may be a little tougher to get to some of the workplaces — like the diesel mechanics workshop, the waste treatment facilities, or the power houses — but once you’re tucked up cosily inside, work can continue as usual.

One of the main questions I get asked about my time in Antarctica is “What do you do during your spare time?”

During winter, with such a small complement of expeditioners on station, it can be easy to not see people regularly as you move around station, especially if you happen to miss a meal. So, social activities become very important to keep in touch with your colleagues/house mates.

We have movie nights and bookings in the cinema room to watch a TV series one night a week. Another evening is booked in for board and card games – activities where we can actually have conversations and share some laughs. Group exercise sessions are also being scheduled into the weekly plan, as our chef is way too talented and our waistlines are suffering — much to the despair of the Doc!

Then there is our personal down time. How do we keep ourselves occupied when we’re so isolated down here? What do we do to distinguish between work time and down time when our workplace and living spaces are all combined? How do we keep our days from feeling like Groundhog Day, where the same routine happens day after day?

This differs for everyone.

Some of the crew focuses on fitness. They’re at the gym before or after work, with their own goals and programs for what they want to achieve during their winter here.

A few of my colleagues are studying online during their stay. They’re working towards gaining further credentials or just studying out of personal interest, to keep their minds engaged over the long period of isolation.

There are some who love to work with their hands and spend their free time in one of the workshops, creating personal projects that are often inspired by their Antarctic surroundings.

Speaking of being inspired by the Antarctic surroundings, many of you would be jealous of the array of photographic gear that can be found on any of the stations. Everyone aspires to take that perfect shot of Antarctica that will leave jaws dropping on friends and family at home. With the onset of winter and the ever-increasing night, the current photography highlight is the elusive aurora australis. If only the clouds would clear!

Some evenings, sitting around the bar, we may hear the strumming of a guitar or two as people practice their skills. A mini-jam session, if you will. And I’ve heard rumours that some of my colleagues have taken up the challenge of learning an instrument while they’re here. Tucked away in a vacant room in the Red Shed, they practice on a piano or guitar, hitting wrong keys and playing the same melody over, and over, and over again, but slowly getting better as the winter passes.

I myself have some arts and crafts on the agenda for this winter. Crochet and knitting are quite popular activities to while away the time. Who doesn’t need a new beanie or scarf in the Antarctic? Additionally, an interest in penmanship has got me hoping to learn some calligraphy while I’m here. Pots of ink, reams of paper, and a pointed pen await.

We all have our own hobbies. Some remind of us home, some get us through the day; others move us toward whatever adventure awaits us next, after winter.

That’s what I love about working in Antarctica. While we all have a fascination for this amazing continent and often similar reasons for wanting to come here, we are still individuals with our own passions in life.  Discovering the person behind their Antarctic role makes for very interesting conversations.

Jane Leggate