Some of the great jobs in Antarctica

Experts in their field

As Field Training Officers (FTOs), our role is to support science projects, deliver a range of expeditioner field training, and build the capacity of the station to operate safely and effectively in the ever changing Antarctic environment.

On any given day, this could mean anything from clearing aviation landing sites for potential crevassing, teaching expeditioners how to rescue a quad bike if it falls through sea ice, assisting scientists in their search for microscopic moss-dwellers, responding to a search-and-rescue alarm, leading a trip to a deep field camp, sorting through 14-year old chicken noodle soups in the field store, or drafting teaching plans for upcoming training.

Like many jobs in Antarctica, we're required to wear many hats. Sometimes those hats are incredibly exciting, sometimes it’s emptying other peoples pee into the waste treatment plant…and sometimes it’s just a beanie because our heads get cold.

There’s no denying it. We love our jobs! Life as an FTO at Casey is varied, challenging, fulfilling and unlike any other work environment in the world. Many days we wake up not knowing what the day (read: weather) will bring, and the current FTO team is as varied as the job itself.

Firstly we have Juan, this year’s wintering FTO, who enjoys paragliding, salsa, and playing several musical instruments at once. Juan once walked into a Bunnings to figure out which paint sample he most closely resembled — it was ‘Caramel Indulgence’.

We have Nick — ever cool, calm and collected — who, along with his background as a mountain guide, offers up an innate ability to deliver a perfectly timed one-liner and then disappear before you even noticed he had entered the room.

Then there’s Mark, a CFA career firefighter back home, but also head Casey ski coach, master of the immaculate waypoint list and holder of an extensive repertoire of 90’s cartoon references.

Maddie traded in her gig as an Outdoor Ed teacher and is spending her first summer in Antarctica. After getting over the disappointment of not actually being able to hug the penguins, Maddie has spent her downtime on Station laughing at her own jokes and teaching tradies to embroider. She did get to hug a penguin scientist however, which was pretty close.

Mic hails from the Blue Mountains and brings with him all the serenity of his home range. Casting an alert-but-never-alarmed eye over the team as the Senior FTO, Mic’s finger-on-the-pulse approach to his role is matched only by the quality of headwear that accompanied him to Antarctica.

It has been wonderful to see how each of our skills and backgrounds has contributed to the multi-faceted work of the FTO team this season. Another highlight has been seeing the number of expeditioners getting out and about off-station in their free time to explore the surrounding huts and peninsulas. It’s special to see people gain skills and confidence throughout their field training and time here at Casey, to the point where they are leading their own trips out into the field.

It’s been a team effort this season, and we're all looking forward to the coming busy weeks as we endeavour to maintain a high standard of safety and efficiency in all aspects of Antarctic field work, and leave the wintering team in the best possible position to have a safe and successful rest of the year.

Maddie Ovens 

Get to know a Casey expeditioner — Justin Chambers

Name: Justin Chambers

From: Full-blooded Kiwi calling Noosa home for many years

Previous seasons? Davis, Mawson, Macquarie Island winters and a nice 6 month summer at Scott Base

Job title: Chef

Describe your role in two sentences: I guess most would understand the role of a chef. Down here it’s a bit more with limited stocks, varied diets, and loads more ‘thank yous'. In a nutshell it’s about being happy in the kitchen and allowing the food we cook to make the rest of the station happy as well.

What did you do before your joined the AAD? Surfed most days, slept, then surfed some more. Actually before the AAD I was a chef who travelled with rock bands around the world cooking for cool people in cool locations……….not much has changed!

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey? Working alongside Jordan and Arvid, slushy music and the chance to hang out with a nice varied group of people.

If you were not a Chef what would be your dream job? Photographer. In Antarctica there are many great opportunities for some nice photos. To be paid for this would be awesome. I love photographing wildlife back home as well and writing my equipment off on tax would be a nice bonus.

How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south? They have all been very different. The weather, people and projects each year and at each station have been amazing. Sure it’s not always going to be roses, but I am thankful for each and every person down here and the skills and knowledge they impart.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Sleep or get out in the field. Photography does take up a lot of my time and allows me to really look for the beauty in all things Antarctic.

What song sums up your Casey experience so far? Any from the Triple J top 100 between 2009 and 2013. These seem to come on quite a bit over slushy radio…….and when I hear these again at home it’ll bring me right back to here.

What actor would play you in a film version of our 72nd ANARE season here at Casey? Vin Diesel cos we have the same hair, Russell Crowe because we be both come from NZ, or George Clooney cos I would be able to do coffee ads just as well.

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit? For sure the thermals. Close second is the sun glasses. Both quality and both well used by all.

What is your favourite book and movie and why? Fav book would be Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I love the story and soundtrack. As for a movie? The original Watership Down. I was very young when it came out.  It pulled at my heart strings and continues to do so today. And no I don’t want to watch it again now. I will let the magic of that movie follow me around as it was.

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? Do you have a particular favourite? Anything that annoys Arvid…he finds some rock stuff a bit heavy and this makes him grumpy. More metal please Slushies!

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

Sight: a contrail-less sky

Smell: absolutely nothing

Sound: The crunch of footsteps on the frozen snow. Then stop…….listen……………………….silence.

Feeling: The snow under me as I sleep out in a tent…camping in Antarctica…the whole experience feels surreal.

Taste: Our daily bread! Thanks to the helpers, Casey bread is amazing

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

I chose life over death for myself and my friends… I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all. Ernest Shackleton