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.