Meet the chippies

Casey’s carpenters

If the Casey Red Shed is ‘probably’ the largest single structure in Antarctica, then the carpenters of Casey station ‘probably’ have the single most important job in all of Antarctica.

A Casey carpenter or ‘chippy’ plays a diverse role on station. Chippies can commonly be found building new walls, plastering, painting, cabinet making, renovating sections of the red shed, or working on our large cool room style doors.

When we’re not topping up the station supply of man glitter (sawdust), we can be found working on the exterior of the buildings, ensuring that they stay up and the blizzards stay out.

A recent project for our team was the installation of a new solar system comprising 105 panels. The first Australian Antarctic solar farm, deemed as “probably one of the largest systems in Antarctica!” So let’s take a look at these record-breaking blokes in further detail.

Conrad — Hailing from the town of Woombye on the Sunshine Coast, there’s only one thing Conny knows more about than pineapples — and that’s carpentry. There isn’t anything Conny won’t have a crack at. Most weekends you'll find him down at the workshop, making anything from photo frames to ice axes. If Conrad were a species of timber he’d be Blackbutt — straight as a die with plenty of character.

Rhys — The most seasoned of all of the carpenters and a bank of Antarctic knowledge. Rhys made his first trip to Antarctica in 2013 and has returned every year since. Rhys loves the pace of winter and spends his time writing, playing guitar and organising the station band. If Rhys were a species of timber he’d be Blackheart Sassafras — not for an inability to express emotion, but for his dynamic characteristics and finish ability.

Alan — The master of the plaster and a repeat offender to Antarctic seasons. Alan is a jack-of-all-trades and always happy to share his knowledge. When Alan’s not burning out the treadmill you’ll find him cutting laps around the cross country ski loop. If Alan where a species of timber he would be Huon Pine — at home in the Tasmanian wilderness and easy to work with.

Aaron — From Bangalow NSW, Aaron is the youngest of the chippies. Its Aaron’s first season in Antarctica, though his previous experience in alpine areas makes him no stranger to cold-climate building. Out of work you’ll find Aaron playing guitar, riding fat bikes or working on his hollow wooden surfboard. If Aaron were a species of timber he’d be Red Cedar — rare as hens’ teeth, hardy, yet smoothly textured.

And there you have the team. An enthusiastic group of carpenters working on one of the most incredible construction sites life can offer. Each of us from diverse backgrounds, with unique skill sets, that blend together well with each other and Casey station life.


Getting to know a Casey expeditioner — Craig Butsch

Name: Craig Butsch

Nicknames: Butschy

From: Melbourne

Previous seasons? Casey 2010 and Davis 2016

Job title: Senior Meteorological Observer

Describe your role in two sentences: I get paid to look at the clouds and play with balloons. More seriously, I issue weather reports for pilots & forecasters and release weather balloons. I also manage the weather station.

What did you do before you joined the AAD? Met staff in Antarctica are employed by the Bureau Of Meteorology not the AAD. Before I came down here I was an Observer at the Darwin airport Meteorology Office.

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey? Releasing weather balloons in a blizzard at night. It’s quite an extreme experience and requires a bit of planning and technique to ensure the radiosonde doesn’t smash into the ground upon release. You can watch an example

If you were not an Observer what would be your dream job? Space Shuttle pilot.

How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south? So far, a lot busier. This summer we had helicopters based here at the station which is rare for Casey, and we were also releasing an extra weather balloon each day to support an international science program. I didn’t have a technician for half the summer, I had some staff to train and some SOPs to write. All this was extra work on top of my normal job.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Landscape & aurora photography and watch horror movies.

What song sums up your Casey experience so far? Black by Pearl Jam, I can’t stop playing it.

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

Sean Penn after I had seen him play a really interesting photojournalist in “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty”.

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit?

Battery heated undies.

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

Book: Chicken Hawk. It’s about an Iroquois pilot in Vietnam and also because it’s the most vivid, astoundingly detailed description of flying ever written.

Movie: Into The Wild. It’s an amazing adventure driven by something really pure and the soundtrack was written by Eddie Vedder!

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? Do you have a particular favourite? Rhys’s slushy mix…90’s alternate and grunge…thanks Rhys.

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

Sight: The sign post because it’s right in front of you every time you walk out of the Red Shed.

Smell: The smell of the poo plant walking to work when the wind is blowing from the south. You don’t need a strong cup of coffee when you get to work on those mornings to wake up.

Sound: The crunching sound compacted snow makes when you walk on it.

Feeling: Excitement when you’ve got clear skies and good aurora activity being forecast.

Taste: Blackcurrant cordial. For some reason I only drink it in Antarctica.

Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with? When one door closes another one opens.

Something people may not know about you: I have a Commercial Pilot Licence.