Throughout the season (like many before us) our expeditioners have been asked the question: “what’s it like to live on an Antarctic station?”
This story will feature our ‘Red Shed’: Casey’s primary communal building where expos spend most of their after-hours time eating, sleeping and partaking in various indoor recreation activities, which is especially handy when there’s a blizzard outside.
The Red Shed alone can house 40-odd expeditioners, but in summer we utilise two additional (and attached) accommodation wings to expand the station’s limit to around 115-120 beds. During the period March to October, we ‘winterise’ these annexes to conserve power, housing all our winterers in the central building over this time. The Red Shed has several communal areas that include the downstairs ‘wallow’ (named after areas where Antarctic seals congregate en-masse to roll around in their own filth, rest and seek relief from moulting), lounge and living areas, library, fitness room, theatrette, bar and messing/kitchen facilities. A little bit more on each:
Wallow and living areas. Very comfortable over winter with our station population of 30. Allows people to find some personal space and relax reading a book, to chat with others or engage in the myriad table, board, puzzle and card games around station. We also have a few additional areas like our ‘quiet room’ should people want some privacy while making a call back home. The whole idea is to create an atmosphere where expos can duplicate what they would experience back home – including lounging around and falling asleep on the couches! Of course it gets a bit more crowded when station populations exceed 100 bodies over the summer!
Kitchen and mess. Not just the epi-centre for sustenance but also a great place for gatherings around the table with coffee, tea or kombucha in hand. The mess is often dressed up for special events like candle-lit dinners, and we are truly spoilt with the variety and quality of food available to us across the entire summer/wintering seasons. Most expos are very comfortable working in the kitchen and it’s theirs to prepare whatever food they desire 24/7 – as long as the chef’s provisions remain untouched! There are also many snacking options available outside of traditional meal times, which makes the battle between ‘eating vs burning’ calories an ongoing consideration.
Theatrette and library. There’s a huge collection of movies, documentaries, TV series, books and magazines on station. Often expos will bring their own collections and share amongst the community. It’s usual that a week’s routine consists of frequent night sittings to watch various drama, sitcom or TV serials – interspersed with regular movies of all genres (note that the snacking options mentioned above are often the pre-requisite for entry into our Odeon Theatre!). The library not only remains the source of a diverse assortment of literature – but also houses computers for expeditioners’ use to check emails, on-line shop (delivery not guaranteed!) and/or to partake in an on-line course.
Splinters’ Bar. The primary area for watching streamed sporting events (footy is featuring at the moment), playing darts or pool, and generally mingling in groups with drink in hand. Often the place for various themed parties and other station celebrations to be held. Some would say many of the world’s problems have been solved around Splinters’ Bar!
Fitness Room. While we have larger gym facilities in another building, it’s handy to have some light weights and cardio equipment available inside the Red Shed. Again, especially during blizzards. Most people also walk past the fitness room as part of their daily movements indoor, so it does serve as a reminder to burn off energy recently consumed.
Personal Rooms. And of course – what does an expeditioner’s room look like? Generally small, compact but functional and comfortable. Walls are pretty thin so headphones are a definite requirement if you like loud music. Some are lucky to have a window with outside views, while others prefer complete darkness (especially in summer with 24-hour sunlight tormenting our bodily circadian rhythms). While some always need more space to store personal items, these rooms are akin to Doctor Who’s TARDIS – it’s surprising how much you can stow away if you’re good at playing Tetris.
So there you go. While the Red Shed will never replace our homes (nor those that live within them), it certainly keeps us warm, comfortable and our well-being intact for our wintering stay.
(note: because most photos are panoramas they may need to be opened fully to see each Red Shed area)
Dave Buller, Station Leader