A field trip to enjoy the quiet splendour

The many ways to get around Antarctica

There are many ways to get around Antarctica. In the modern era the first choice tends to be powered by diesel, and for us that is mainly in the Hägglunds. They can get most places, carry a lot of gear and importantly have heating. However, if you have a bit more time and are willing to brave the elements, there is much to be said for grabbing a sled and some skis, or boot chains, and heading out on foot. Now that the days are getting longer and warmer it's an opportunity to get back out on foot.

If you have the time and inclination here are some good reasons to head out without a vehicle:

The Scenery

Travelling at walking pace brings out aspects of the scenery that you might miss in a vehicle, and some places you just can’t get to without travelling on foot. The moraine line, as seen from station, is a rocky brown line across the otherwise white plateau. Up close though it is an undulating path with spectacular views over the Windmill Islands. Instead of cutting straight across a white expanse you are able to pick your way between snow and rocks, while keeping an eagle-eye out for the elusive meteors that accumulate in moraines.

The ski down to Robinson peninsula is similarly spectacular. Dropping down from the plateau to Kros moraine and out onto Robinson ridge with views over Sparkes and Penney bay is mind-blowing. It is no black diamond ski run, but is there any resort out there where you can ski right down to the ocean?

The Freedom

Over summer it gets pretty busy at Casey and vehicles can get booked out. There are plenty of skis however, and at a moment’s notice you can be out in the field enjoying Antarctica. A great example of this was following an early morning fire alarm. As we mustered an eerie sea fog blew across station. We took this opportunity to head up the A-Line on skis, and after skiing for 30 minutes emerged into bright sunshine looking over the dense fog enveloping station.

The Noise

Anyone who has been in a Hägglunds will understand, it is not the place to hold a conversation. Nothing demonstrates the beauty of skiing more than the quiet swish of skis through fresh powder. It’s a dream run on the days after some fresh snowfall as you carve the first tracks into the snow.

The heating isn’t too bad either. Once you get going you tend to warm up pretty quickly, and with a smart layering system you can stay comfortable all day. There is the occasional bump if you lose balance on the skis but not nearly as much as driving a Hägglunds over sastrugi. Overall it is a fantastic way to explore a totally unique environment.

- Dr Tadeusz Davenport (Casey winter doctor 2021)