A trip to Law Dome and hydro-daydreaming

A dot on a map

A map tells a story of place. How we interpret that story is often the start of another journey. For me that is how the trip to Law Dome began. I looked at a dot on a map.

The main feature (and the only feature) at Law Dome is an Automatic Weather Station (AWS), and it was due to be serviced.

A trip to Law Dome is not the usual overnight stopover. It is 124km off station and at approximately 1300m elevation. Armed with these basic facts I put up my hand to be part of this trip.

Preparation and co-ordination included a shake-out overnight trip to test vehicles, equipment and trial camp layout. Once everything was ready we just needed a weather window. Luckily the Bureau of Meteorology gurus had put in the appropriate paperwork to the head office and we were granted a four day good weather window and were off into the sunrise.

Now everyone loves a drive in a Hägglunds, but after 124km at 13km/h we were all happy to stop and get out of those infernal beasts. We were ready to set up camp and explore our new destination. Exploring took all of 10 seconds. Law Dome has the million dollar view if you are into flat open expanses of ice and snow. But it is not quite featureless - it has an AWS, our purpose for being there.

The following day dawned bright, clear and thankfully no wind. It was a cracker of a day but it was still minus 30 something and the day was spent removing the old AWS and fitting a new one in its place. It was very much a tag team event with a constant turnover of people either working or warming up in the 'silver chalet', our sled mounted warm refuge. Once complete we did some more exploring and determined that it was still flat and white, but we were treated to an awesome sunset and then a moonrise in a sky so clear you didn’t mind standing in the cold...for at least 2 minutes.

Day three again dawned bright but with a little wind and camp was quickly dismantled and we started our return to station. Our little wind slowly increased throughout the day (so much for good weather paperwork) and by the time we were 20km from station we were into poor visibility, blowing snow and wind strong enough to almost tear your doors off. The last hour was pretty much zero visibility with ice-covered windscreens and driving via pure GPS. I, for one, was happy to see the station appear out of the wraith-like blowing snow, disconnect our trailers and park up our ice encrusted vehicles!

Once on station it was not long before we were in the comfort of the warm 'red shed' and recounting the journey.

This little journey is what I came to Antarctica for, to be part of the environment at is best and worst. To feel it and learn from it. Nowhere else can you experience an environment like this. Not bad for a dot on a map.

Bill S, fitter and turner

That time of the year

Well time sure is flying here at Casey and at times it seems like spring has sprung already around here. As the time of our return home draws closer, our thoughts start drifting off sometimes to the other world up there.

I can almost smell the scent of all the fresh herbs and vegetables in my little courtyard garden; the basil ready to be torn and sprinkled over the fresh sliced, juicy beef steak tomatoes, maybe with some labna, a good glug of pumpkin seed oil or virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamico and fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. Or maybe I should team those tomatoes up with some beautiful crunchy and fresh diced capsicums and cucumbers. Sprinkle some fresh thyme and parsley over it as well, to dish up a refreshing crisp Greek salad with chunky cut cubes of marinated feta and some kalamata olives.

Opposite the tomatoes and cucumbers are containers with more herbs. The dill is going crazy, maybe time for another two sides of gravlax, that beautiful Scandinavian way of curing salmon? And the scent of the sage leaves in the corner, perfect size for a classic veal saltimbocca, placing them between a juicy veal medallion and a paper thin slice of prosciutto before panfrying them gently and serving them on a small bed of saffron risotto, the pan jus deglazed with some sherry or port drizzled over it.

The glossy coriander leaves look like they are ready to buddy up with the mint and some bright red chillies from the bush thriving vigorously in the corner, to be chopped into the dressing for a tantalising Thai beef salad at lunch. The cos lettuce gives me that “I wanna be a Caesar salad when I grow up” look and the rocket, endive and coral lettuce are eager to get their turn too. They look happy to be just tossed together with all the other herbs, kale and chard in a wholesome garden salad sprinkled with some sprouts and thin sliced capsicums for extra crunch and colour.

I could just keep going around the world looking at all that thriving produce and thinking about what to do with it. Better get back in the kitchen. And as I wrap myself in my goose down jacket, beanie and gloves it hits me with a fresh breeze and crispy cold air as soon as I open the door. Ha!, I’m not in my backyard in Queensland, I’m in our hydroponics hut here at Casey! And it still makes me smile every time I have to dress up to go inside the garden . You can stay a little longer baby!

Happy cooking and eating,