Well, it’s that time of the season for the winterers of the 75th ANARE. The temperature is plummeting and the wild weather is becoming more frequent as we enter the dark depths of winter. Midwinter’s day is but a distant memory of a bone-chilling swim and cheerful good times. We ask ourselves, "Where to from here?" as we wait for longer days and the return of wildlife. It’s now 8 months since most of us set foot on this icy continent. And with not much time between sun up and sun down, we find ourselves spending more time inside than we might like. For first-timers such as myself, we turn to those Antarctic veterans, the men and women who have done it all before – the ones that call this icy continent their second home.
So I ask those veterans about what they do to keep happy and busy at this time of year.
First stop on my fact-finding tour is our SMS (Station Mechanical Supervisor), one man who does the work of three diesos (station mechanics). He’s not too hard to find – if he’s not sleeping, or decompressing in the bar, you’ll find him in the workshop no matter what day it is.
How he keeps busy? It’s pretty simple: work. He likes to remind us, “If you're bored, there’s plenty of work I can find for you in the workshop.” I have to say, I’ve never been that bored. Not yet, anyway.
Next stop: the man, the myth, the legend … Our resident chippy, a veteran of veterans. He doesn’t have to worry about finding ways to keep busy, all the other expeditioners do that for him. With so much spare time, expeditioners do a lot of thinking and the wonderful and grand ideas start to flow. With all these wonderful ideas people have, there is a chippy in the background turning pipe dreams into works of art.
Next on the list we have our photography connoisseurs, the people who capture those special moments and mesmerising images of this extraordinary place where we live and work. At every minute they have to spare, day or night, you will find them with their cameras around their necks, setting off in freezing temperatures in search of that perfect photo.
I find myself in such awe of how they do it. I recall saying to myself, it can’t be that hard, get a camera and it does it all for you. Point and shoot – easy.
Oh, how wrong I was. Some would describe me as “All the gear and no idea.”
Next stop, the bar. But not for what you might think. Our bar has no beer. (Now that I think of it, I am not quite sure we can call it a bar anymore.) What you do find in a bar with no beer is a dartboard, a staple in every kind of bar (long before my time, that is). So, we have a few who occupy their time playing Shangzi, honing their skills for the annual interstation darts competition. A game I have tried many a time to master, but don’t quite have the attention span for.
So when I am not outside enjoying this spectacular landscape on our very doorstep, what do I do to occupy my time? Well, you might say my inner child has had a second wind. The video games and Wii console have been dusted off, and the crowd favourites, Mario Kart and Wii Sports, have been getting a fair amount of screen time.
As we eagerly await the return of longer days and wildlife, we have all found an abundance of activities to keep us upbeat and busy.
-James McGregor (Station Mechanic)