What it’s like to be a Carpenter and a Comms Tech at Casey

Chippies — you can never have too many

This season, Casey station has a team of seven carpenters: Michael Keating Kearney, Jimmy Douglas, Danny LeFerve, Cam Lea, Mark Green, Scott Clifford, and Glen Pretious. With seven chippies on station you would think we would be cruising. Well, this certainly is not the case with the amount of work on the books this year. Nothing we can’t handle though!

Major projects and installations for this season have seen some awesome efforts from the team, as we are only half way through the summer season (which has flown by), we show no signs of slowing down. The amazing thing about working in Antarctica is the variety of work we get to be involved with. From building huts to be installed 450km from station, assisting NASA with their next major mission to space in the search for life, to installing tea towel rails in the kitchen.

In a major undertaking we have been involved in is the preparation of four new fibreglass huts called Melons. These are to replace the aging huts currently in place at Bunger Hills, 450km from Casey, on an ice-free area of Antarctica. All materials and equipment will be flown out to the site by fixed-wing plane that will land on the sea ice. Not a simple task, with the preparation for the project ensuring that nothing is forgotten. All prefabricated Melons were built on station, bases put together, tools and equipment collated, then packed and prepped. The stage has been set and next season we will be able to install the Melons on site.

With all this work there has been time to get out and about the wilderness and explore all that Antarctica has to offer. It certainly is a special place to live and work, and why I come back.

Glen Pretious

Building Services Supervisor / Winter Carpenter

A fantastic job awaited me

One of the greatest things about this job is the sheer variety of work that I get to experience. From bashing dixies (aka washing dishes) in the kitchen while on cleaning duties to helping a ship to refuel the entire station with fuel to last a year. The job of Station Communications Technical Officer (SCTO) is a fantastic opportunity to practice your technical skills as well as experience new ones. Sure we get to install computers, switches, radio equipment, terminate fibre cables, and all that other good tech stuff, but we also get to muck in with the rest of the trades on station and help in other areas.  

Just last week we got to help with station resupply, including the Aurora Australis in her endeavours to bring 1.7ML of fuel through more than 1km of hose and into the many tanks here at Casey. Once the refuelling was complete, I managed to score myself a gig driving a bus to ensure that the other trades could get to and from the wharf area during the cargo transfer part of the resupply. I’ll forever remember hearing ‘hail to the bus driver’ being sung by grown men with beards.  

Australian Antarctic Program scientists also need a helping hand and this week was a chance for an intrepid team of eight to head to Ardery Island, one of the nearby islands (for those heading to Google maps right now). After cruising past icebergs and penguins, half the team stayed with the IRBs (inflatable rubber boats) and enjoyed the daytime sun on the water. The rest of us scrambled up the steep slopes to complete maintenance on a series of cameras. The automatic cameras are mounted on tripods at selected vantage points to take pictures during the important parts of the year in the life cycle of various bird species. Scientists at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) in Kingston then examine the photos to check on the health of the bird populations and report their findings. Head to the science section of the AAD website for further details. This is a brilliant way to get paid while helping an important scientific project. 

The station received a new Hägglunds this week as part of our resupply. I ensured that the radio system was connected and functioning well and GPS unit loaded with important waypoints, because no one likes to get lost in a blizzard.


The next day took me to the magnetic observations hut where once a week I get to help GeoScience Australia with some of their work. The SCTO has the privilege of taking calibration measurements at the hut. This is part of a global observation network and that calibration data is then compiled back in Canberra by a team of specialists.

There is plenty more but I will leave it there this week. Tomorrow I have search and rescue training where we get sorted out by the Field Training Officers. They will teach us how to find and extract injured and lost souls from the wilderness should the worst happen, plus there’s heaps of knots to learn! While there’s always plenty of work to do occasionally we head to our bar for beer and skittles.  


- Justin, Station Communications Technical Officer/Deputy Station Leader