A first-timer shares her Antarctic experience

Casey summer 2021 reflections

The summer season is wrapping up at Casey research station with all of the summer expeditioners returning to Australia over the coming week. As a first-time expeditioner, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on my experiences in Antarctica and the achievements of the team at Casey during a different and sometimes trying season.

Just over 100 days ago the first expeditioners of the 74th ANARE arrived on station. With the unknown of COVID-19, extra precautions were taken to ensure that the incumbent wintering team were not put at risk from our arrival. On completion of a period of enhanced social distancing, the new team celebrated and the work truly began.

As one of the meteorological forecasters, my season started with a busy inter-continental flying window which saw six A319 Airbus flights bringing in numerous expeditioners, and three RAAF C-17 flights transporting cargo to and from the continent. A major part of my role involves the accurate forecasting of meteorological conditions for the flight path from Hobart and here at Wilkins Aerodrome. With no intra-continental flights due to COVID-19, as the melt approached the forecasting priority shifted to local operations. This included finding weather windows to facilitate integral expeditioner field training.

The holiday season arrived and the station looked forward to the festivities, however, not before the job was complete. Casey station was called on to assist with a medevac of an expeditioner at Australia’s Davis station, about 1400 kilometres away. This involved an intra-continental flight from McMurdo to Wilkins, then Davis and return. It also involved an inter-continental flight from Hobart to Wilkins. The operation involved multiple station members and a sense of accomplishment was felt among all on completion.

The last big piece of my summer season was undertaking a station resupply. Having never experienced one before I was unsure of what to expect. A new ship arriving in Newcomb Bay was exciting for all on station with the delivery of cargo and fuel and much needed coffee!

I'm now finishing off my first Antarctic season with the final flying window and am set to fly out early next week. As a station we have achieved so much this season despite the unknown environment that COVID-19 presented us. We have celebrated multiple events with successful social gatherings, and most expeditioners have had the opportunity to get off station and see the surrounding areas. A highlight was the local boating trips to see some Adelie penguins and leopard seals in their marine environment.

We finalised the season with our end of summer dinner, which also concluded our summer charity fundraising effort with an auction of items made on station by current expeditioners. After Friday afternoon raffles across the season and the auction, the station managed to raise a whopping $14,000 for the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. This is an achievement that should not be ignored and one we are all proud of!

I look back on the summer and feel a great sense of pride to be a member of the 74th ANARE, the friendships and memories made will last a lifetime and the experience only makes me want to come back for another season!

Lieutenant Kylea Jones (Bureau Of Meterology & Australian Defence Force Forecaster)