As the summer months depart and the weather turns cold and dark, a mysterious presence stalks the grounds of Casey station, East Antarctica.
ANAREs gone by have spoken of a mythical creature. One who appears only in times of need and despair, to perform tasks that others find too gruesome or macabre. It is this onset of darkness that highlights the true challenges of living and working through an Antarctic winter. Inhabitants of Casey can all agree that our enigmatic protagonist thrives in the cold, dark and windy conditions.
Here at Casey station, we are a diverse bunch, made up of tradespeople, chefs, doctors, weather experts, operators and leaders but one thing we all have in common are the basic needs of comfort and homely features. The warmth of the red shed and running water are just two of the necessities we require to live and work ‘down south’. In the support of science, the winter crew keeps Casey ticking over until that first flight lands and a new season starts. Part of the job for many of us is working outside of our comfort zones, often in unsavoury conditions at all hours of the day and night. But this is done with one thing in mind: to play a role in support of our community.
It is here that our legend is born. There are times on station when things may not be as they seem. Water from the tap may be dripping slowly, or not at all. The wastewater treatment plant may be having a meltdown. The rubbish may be piling up, wishing for someone or ‘something’ to simply make it vanish. To the folks here at Casey these problems may often seem a world away, as they lavishly live up their lives of relative comfort and ease while a mysterious force lurks the station limits, braving temperatures and wind chills dropping below -40°C or wind speeds of up to 100 knots.
Who might stand up in times of such madness, you ask? For there is only one special type of expeditioner. One who fears not trekking down CUB road in times of despair at 2am. One who does not shy from providing our station with the valuable drinking water we need to sustain life. One who can be called upon, via radio or alarm, at the onset of any hydraulic problem, day or night, snow or wind.
Acronymically known as the OCP, our hero works in the shadows and the plant rooms of our Antarctic home. With a tip of his hat and a "Yeeee m8", he’s off to answer the call - whatever it may be.
For he is not the hero Casey asked for, but the hero that Casey deserves right now …
He is … the ‘On call plumber’.
Pat Kinsella – Expeditioner of the 75th ANARE and part time ‘On Call Plumber’