Time to push off and push some snow

The journey back to Wilkins

Well, the time has come.

The Wilkins Aerodrome team is finally heading off back up the hill. For those of you unaware, the Wilkins team has been living at Casey station since April. While there have been many jobs to do around station, the main role for the team is to establish and then maintain the 3.5 km long ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome. The key for this year is to prepare Wilkins for the first inter-continental flight of the season, which officially opens Casey’s 22/23 summer!

First, some background info. Wilkins runway is put to bed in March and remains in hibernaton over the cold winter months when the weather isn’t favourable for flying aircraft into Antarctica. The winterising process involves dragging all the buildings (which are on sleds) using our heavy machinery into a winter location, then relocating the machines to Casey so that maintenance and annual services can be conducted in the comfort of a heated workshop. We also drain all the services of water to prevent pipes bursting when the buildings freeze.

Over the past couple of months we have been slowly relocating our machinery back to Wilkins (a 140 km round trip from Casey Station each time) and getting prepared for the day where we will depart from station and try to wake the runway from its deep sleep. One of the most critical phases is the first few days, when we need to get the buildings powered up and heated so that our team has a warm and safe refuge. Then begins the arduous process of preparing the runway, which will take the best part of two and a half months. With the runway left alone over the winter we will have all the snow build-up to contend with: a mammoth amount varying from a few centimetres up to metres deep, over an area of approximately 265 acres, all to be completely removed back to blue ice.

Wish us luck as we head into the deep field and establish one of the world’s most remote runways.


Dylan Scott (Wilkins Aerodrome Manager, Winter ‘22)

Casey's farewell to the Wilkins team

The station has become a little bit emptier and quieter with our Wilkins comrades gone. Their mechanical skills were put to good use over the winter, as they helped out in the workshop and drove around after every blizzard to clear out the mountains of snow piled up around and between the station buildings.

As a thank you for the past months, one station member offered this poetic parting gift:

We love our bread
We love our butter
We also love our Wilkins brothers

It's clear to us
We hope you know
We appreciate you moving all that snow.

No hum from a loader
No clunk from an excavator
Where the hell's our operator?

Hats off to the skill
That we've all seen
What it takes to prep ice for a C-17

In distant times
In fairer weather
We hope to share a beer together

A farewell dinner
A shake of hand
Make sure that bloody plane can land!