This week at Casey its grooming the ski-loop and moving snow

Sunday chores

Grooming the ski loop would be considered a Sunday chore for some but there is a certain satisfaction and relaxation in laying down the corduroy.

Learning how to operate the groomer to achieve a good surface has not been easy. Luckily summering Dieso, Chris Burnsy, gave me a good lesson. We groomed from Station to Wilkes and back, where I first discovered it’s not as easy as it looks.

We (the Diesos, aka station mechanics) often joked that Chris could perfectly spread the cream on his Mum’s pavlova with a groomer.

Now all I gotta do is work out the cross-country skiing part.

Yours truly,

Seabass (Casey Station Mechanical Supervisor)

It’s all about moving snow — A day in the life of an Aerodrome Plant Operator

With multiple summer seasons under my belt, this is my first summer/winter as an Aerodrome Plant Operator.

Wilkins Aerodrome is located around 70km inland from Casey research station. Working in this remote and challenging environment makes summers on station seem mild. It’s colder, windier, and there’s a whole lot of nothing for miles!

To say that there’s a lot of snow to push at Wilkins would definitely be an understatement! There seemed to be no end of snow that needed moving around the runway and camp area and meant we were running 2 dozers on both day and night shifts for a good part of the season.

When a ‘fly day’ was approaching, our routine would get changed up. There was a whole host of things we’d need to get done to make fly day happen — snow blowing to clear the ice runway; flagging of the runway to make it visible to the pilots; tilling with the groomers so that the passengers would have a nice smooth landing; generator sets to fuel to keep everything running on the day; plus so many other jobs.  

While ‘pushing snow’ doesn’t sound like much to keep you busy, when you have around 3500m of runway to maintain, it can take quite a while. And then, because we’re in Antarctica, as soon as you think you’re done, the winds will blow across the ice sheet, bringing with it more snow that collects on your nicely groomed runway, and you have to start all over again!

A good crew can make or break the summer. With only 8 people at the Wilkins camp for the summer you really do get to know each other. And I have no complaints — we had a great crew!

With Wilkins all packed up now for the winter and the 4 remaining crew back at Casey, we’re settling into the station routine and looking forward to spending the winter with the rest of the Casey wintering team. We’ll enjoy this little piece of luxury while we can, because before we know it, the time will have come to head back up the hill. From around mid-August, we’ll be back at Wilkins, setting up camp and preparing the runway for that first flight of the next summer season.

Glenn Harradine, Aerodrome Plant Operator