A summer at Casey station is not so different to a summer in one of Australia’s mainland coastal communities: the beaches are full of birds, there’s an oversupply of Thirsty Merc on the radio, and a bunch of blow-ins from up North are taking up all the best spots at the bar.
Unlike their mainland equivalents, the Casey ‘blow-ins’ aren’t just here to escape the monotony of city life and drive up the cost of living. The Casey summerers play an important part in ensuring that Casey station is well prepared to handle the gruelling Antarctic winter. To find out exactly what this entails, our correspondent hit the ice to talk to those who know best.
Traversing the snow-covered streets, the crisp morning stillness was broken by the young Nicholas McWaters leading a group of his fellow plumbers in a rousing chant. The enthusiastic crowd of assembled tradesmen responded in chorus before dispersing to go about their daily work. “It gets the team going, really lights a fire in their bellies, and lord knows we need a little heat down here,” chuckled Nick before quickly barking an order down his two-way radio. When Nick was asked why he swaps his summers in sunny Brisbane for the frigid Antarctic environment, he responded, “It’s for the love of the work, and nothing else. A lot of people come down here for the scenery or an adventure, but for me it’s about being part of a team that’s pushing the boundaries of science and exploration every day, that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
As the day progressed, the sounds of heavy machinery drew us in to an otherwise quiet corner of Casey station. There we found Kasey Williams diligently supervising soil remediation works. “Well, this site’s seen its fair share of fuel spills, but you get that on the big jobs,” she explained as she overlooked a large excavator sifting through piles of soil. When asked why this work was happening over the Antarctic summer Kasey responded, “The AAD is really committed to remediating historic fuel spills and summer is the only time when the ground is warm enough for us to really have a crack at it.”
To escape the cold, we took refuge in the station’s well-equipped medical facility. There we found Dr John Cherry, Casey station's summer doctor. Two doctors are typically on station over summer due to the large number of expeditioners based at Casey each year. “We’re lucky to have such high-quality medical facilities within the Australian Antarctic Program, they are a testament to the excellent work of the Polar Medicine Unit over many years,” explained Dr John.
And what does the wintering crew think of the soon-to-be-departing summer crew? We asked wintering carpenter and prominent local personality from Smithton, Tasmania, Zack Mitchell for his thoughts. “Well, as one of the younger people on station, I’ve found that I have been able to leverage off the diverse skills of the summer crew, and I think that will help set me up for winter. I’ve especially learned a lot from the Engineering Services Supervisor,” Zack paused to wipe away a tear. “I’m just going to miss him so much,” Zack explained through intermittent sobbing.
After getting down into the trenches with the hardworking people of Casey station there is no doubt in this reporter’s mind about the stellar work being carried out. As we look towards closing out the 21/22 Antarctic summer, it is clear that we haven’t just been building Australia’s Antarctic legacy, we’ve also been building a few friendships along the way.
– Shaun Azzopardi – Engineering Services Supervisor and Icy News Correspondent-at-Large
Note: Our correspondent has admitted to applying some artistic flair to the quotes given by Antarctic expeditioners, but maintains that they are essentially accurate.