This week at Casey we look at ICT and the Baslers that are based here for the summer

Communications and IT at Casey

The Communications and I.T. Technicians take care of a wide variety of systems on station. Some systems are quite familiar like servers, network equipment, computers, copiers, phones, and radios. Others are quite a bit different than what you would see in a normal workplace. Some examples are a mobile network connected to our PABX & paging systems, long range radio transmitters that you need a Hägglunds (yes, that is the singular for these vehicles) to get to, GPS/radar in vehicles, remote cameras, science support, and satellite equipment.

The mobile network is not a commercial network and calls to it (and all station numbers) are international calls from Australia. It is only voice and old style SMS on a 2G mobile network. Most Australian carriers have or are phasing out 2G networks as they are not really suitable for data. Data on station is via WiFi & cables only.

The satellite connection has been upgraded in recent years to 9Mbit (slightly faster than adsl1).

This link is shared by up to 100 people during the summer and less than 30 over winter. The traffic over the satellite is prioritised to produce the best experience from this limited resource.

Station staff can use the link for a wide variety of purposes, official email, file transfers, updates, phone calls, apps like Whatsapp, Facebook messenger chat (to contact home for free), web surfing, webmail, and we even live-streamed the Melbourne Cup. (People had to limit their use for this to happen!)

Antarctica really is an amazing place to work and play.

- David Pilon, Comms and IT Technician

The Mighty Baslers

The Basler BT 67 is one of the main stays of Antarctic aviation. Basler’s JKB operated by ANARE, and Basler GCX operated by Chinare are both regular visitors to Casey as well as the other Australian stations at Davis and Mawson.

They are used for a variety of work from passenger and cargo transport between stations to scientific research. Their ability to undertake a multitude of tasks is one of the keys to their great success. The interior of the aircraft can be easily and relatively quickly reconfigured to take passengers, cargo and scientific equipment in a multitude of combinations.

The Baslers are based in Canada for the Southern hemisphere winter. During spring they make their way to East Antarctica via the USA, Ecuador, Chile, down to Punta Arenas. They then cross the open sea to the British Antarctic station at Rothera. From there they fly on to the South Pole, then across the continental ice cap to Davis — a total of 9 days flying. Just to get to East Antarctic is a major expedition in itself.

If they look vaguely familiar to you, and well not exactly modern, it is because they are based on the Douglas DC3. The DC3 first flew in 1935. Nearly 2000 of the civil versions and over 10,000 of the military C47 version were built between 1935 — 1962 (when production ceased). It was one of the most successful aircraft ever built.

The Basler (of which 65 have been built so far) is a very highly modified version of the original DC3. At the Basler factory in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA, the aircraft are stripped back to the original frames where they undergo a complete overhaul. Airframes are strengthened, as well as some aerodynamic improvements made. However, the biggest change is the fitting of modern Pratt and Whitney turbine engines and the latest Hartzell propellers. The aircraft are also fitted with the latest avionic cockpits. The huge power increase enables them to carry large loads from very short runways. When fitted with the retractable skis they make they become the perfect aircraft for Antarctic (and Arctic) operations.

Recently, a few lucky people and myself were fortunate enough to grab a seat on board whilst the aircraft undertook a low light recce flight out of Casey Skiway. The flight was undertaken to look for crevasses between Casey and the Peterson Glacier. Whilst not as quiet as a modern jet aircraft, it was certainly better than I expected. As we flew low level on a beautiful sunny morning over some magnificent scenery it was easy to see why the pilots who fly these remarkable airplanes love what they’re doing.

Basler JKB will be based at Casey for Project Ice Cap Eagle from mid-November to mid December 2019.

Many thanks to Dean Emberley and his crew for allowing us to fly with them.

Peter Webb, BoM Forecaster