A rundown from our one man 'Team Boilermaker'.

Team Boilermaker

I was recently browsing the notice board with our many rosters pinned up -

  • Hydroponics roster, for who is to water and tend the veggies and herbs
  • Cleaning roster, who is to clean and tidy an area of station on Saturday morning
  • Fire team roster, who will respond to alarms
  • Slushy roster, who is to help in the kitchen

And a new roster caught my eye, the “Station Updates roster”. On the roster was a list of departments scheduled to write an article. “Team Boilermaker” happened to be next. Being the only Boilermaker on station, I figured I’d better hurry up.

The role of Boilermaker on station varies significantly. Since arriving at Casey for my first Antarctic experience I have helped out builders and plumbers, driven a snow groomer, pushed icebergs around with an inflatable boat and collected penguin feathers for a science project.

Jobs that my trade of boilermaker/welder entails are equally varied. Chef Claire requested a special shaped cake tin for Christmas desert, Field Training Officers (FTOs) wanted their tent pegs straightened and the scientists asked for a home-made icecore drill to be sharpened.

Welding lessons and some metal art classes have also been keenly talked about.

My Antarctic experience so far has been an immense learning curve yet incredibly rewarding. The list of learnings is extensive. Starting with how to get dressed. Hailing from Central Queensland, a distinct lack of cold weather left me unprepared for temperatures under 10 degrees. Learning how to layer clothing for the outdoors has been an entertaining and interesting experience.

Still on the topic of learning. With a vast field of people, their professions, backgrounds and lived experiences here on station, the everyday conversations can be truly captivating. Some of which I have listed below.

  • Driving a bus through every country in Africa
  • Operating a submarine in areas we can’t be told about
  • Helicopter evacuations off oil rigs
  • Dragging a surfboard from San Francisco to Chile over 7 months
  • Walking with two donkeys from Cairns to Melbourne
  • Firefighting on a US aircraft carrier
  • Engineering a world class drone from the ground up
  • Designing and building Antarctic stations for multiple countries

The opportunity to listen and talk with people I would have never otherwise met is quite special. I have no doubt conversations will continue to prove intriguing as we move into the winter months.

A highlight of learning has been through the SAR (search and rescue) team, under guidance and leadership from the FTO department. We practice setting up rope rescue systems with both lowering and hauling capabilities. It has been a rewarding experience to be a part of this team, learning how to be comfortable and confident in an otherwise challenging environment.

A final reflection on highlights so far is the environment and opportunity I’ve had to experience it. As a generally outdoors type person I have been pleasantly surprised by the convenience afforded to us for getting out and about. Within walking distance of station there are multiple places explore.

  • Budnick Hill – a great spot to survey Casey in its entirety
  • The wharf – a favourite of mine to spot seals, penguins and in summer, listen to the gentle sounds of waves rolling in
  • Reeves Hill – prime position for a GoPro timelapse of Auroras
  • Ski loop – opportunity for a cross-country ski, mountain bike or walk around a 2km loop of snow track
  • Silver Chalet – a small shelter for easy, off station overnighters.

Slightly further afield, I have been lucky enough to spend time at all four huts associated with Casey station. Every night with great company and usually, (some charcoal pizzas aside) great food. Each hut has a selling point and optimal photo opportunity. A trip to Robbo’s hut that gave us photos of a baby penguin and its watchful mum was particularly stunning. A trip to Wilkes hut with an amazing sunset and a trip to Jacks hut with a moon in the cloudless sky and savoury mince toasted sandwiches was rather hearty.

Closer to station, however still outdoors, was the summer boating program. Immense thanks to the FTO team for their determined approach to tour everyone on station around the bays and islands surrounding Casey. Coinciding with some truly perfect weather, the boating trips provided amazing photos and season highlights for many.

A brief mention must be made here to report that its not all sunshine and Auroras. With two blizzards in two weeks the harshness cannot be understated. For everyone north of Bundaberg this means a category two or three cyclone every week. I am eagerly waiting to see a windspeed of 100kn - 185 km/h on our electronic weather board!

The “Team Boilermaker” article has proved easy to write with so many experiences, stories and people met so far. All of the above and I’ve only been here four months. New experiences and stories lie in wait as the winter arrives. Sea ice travel in particular, stunning Aurora displays, midwinter swim, and some milestone birthdays within the community to be celebrated.

There is much to look forward to.

By Dom Vidler

Casey station Boilermaker