Living and working in Antarctica throughout a winter brings together a crew of people like no other place does. Working alongside other trades comes with its fair share of banter and a years-gone-by rivalry over which trade is most important, an argument that some say goes back as far as time itself.
In this week's edition of our Station Update, an unbiased diesel mechanic, or "Dieso", explores each trade in-depth and puts it to the readers to decide once and for all: who reigns supreme?
To begin this journey for the answer to the ultimate question, I decided to go undercover and seek out our closest rivals, the electricians (a.k.a "sparkies"). I found the Electrical Team enjoying their second morning coffee meeting in the Red Shed while discussing ohms, voltages and the stock market.
Breaking the ice, I joked, “Don’t let the smoke out, right! Ha-ha.”
Not much in return from the table. Harsh crowd. Cutting to the point to break the awkward silence, I asked, “What makes the electricians the most important trade onsite?”
“Well you can’t charge your phone or turn the lights on without us, so I’d say electricians are the most important,” one of the sparkies said between sips of his caramel latte. No way was I getting into a debate with a group of sparkies, especially by myself. I took that reasoning and decided to make a quick getaway.
For the next stop I decided to venture down to the waste water plant to find our crack team of plumbers, and maybe even spot the revered OCP (On-call Plumber). Following my nose down CUB road I found myself in a different world - pipes running from one tank to another, strange beeping noises, and a smell that was not-too-closely related to that of daisies. I truly felt I was up the creek without a paddle. Struggling to keep calm, I thought to myself, if a plumber can work here day in, day out, it can’t be all that scary.
In the abyss of the waste water plant, I heard a reassuring voice: a “yeeeeeeaah mate” rang out, cutting through the whir of the pumps. Like a warm blanket spreading over me, I felt the reassurance that I was in the presence of self-proclaimed greatness: the OCP. As he sauntered through the junction of pipes towards me, I could only stop this deity for a minute to ask what would make the plumbing team the most important trade on station. With just a tip of the hat and a subtle "Yeah mate", I felt I had received all the answers I've searched for in life and also none at all.
Still star-struck, I exited the waste water treatment plant as quick as I could. Where to next but the carpentry workshop? No-one was there. CUB building? Quiet as a church mouse. I gave a call-out on the radio - to no avail. The carpenters (a.k.a. "chippies") must have been too busy to answer the call.
Lost in my quest, I decided to venture into familiar territory, to the diesos' home away from home - a three bay workshop I have grown fond of in the last 6 months. The familiar smell of diesel and grease hit me as I walked through the door. Even though the bays were full of hard-working diesos, I didn't dare to interrupt them. Would you interrupt a surgeon at work? Instead I went to our Commander-in-Chief, the man they say does not rest: Shane Mann, the mechanical supervisor.
I found Shane in the parts racking, searching for a part he remembered seeing 3 years ago. I asked him, "Shane, what makes the diesos the most important trade here?"
A moment of silence went by.
"Walk with me, my son." Shane put a hand on my shoulder and took me outside. In the glowing sunrise he pointed: "See this? Everything the light touches, we diesos must take care of. From the main powerhouse to the lower fuel farm, and everything in between. If it has a moving part or a grease nipple, we are the ones to carry the burden."
Perplexed, I asked, “But if we take care of everything, then why is there a need for other trades here?”
“As Batman needs Robin and Starsky needs Hutch, we too need the other trades here as a trusty back-up. Someone we can rely on to assist in times of need, as we can only do as much as our 16 hour work day allows.”
As I gazed into the distance piecing together the information I had been handed, a vehicle entered my field of vision, hurtling down the road and coming to an unintended stop in a mound of soft snow. I had finally found a chippie. Shane let out a defeated sigh and trudged off toward the now bogged vehicle. The only other words that came from him were the iconic: "Go hard or go home."
-Lachlan Sturgess (Dieso)