A returning expeditioner and a very special guest settle into their home away from home for the summer.

Coming Home

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling” – Cecilia Ahern

My first Antarctic expedition over the summer of 2022/23 concluded with leaving Casey Station back in February feeling entirely fulfilled on every conceivable level. So, when the call came requesting my availability for another summer on the ice, well that's a call that only has one response. On the calmest of mornings at Casey, Mother Nature seemed to hold her breath, and I would find myself unintentionally holding mine, in an ephemeral stillness that welcomed my presence. I was her guest. I was a world away from the chaos I had left behind, yet in the silence of those mornings I couldn’t have felt more at home; and it was time to go back. 
The build up to this summer season couldn’t have been more different to the last. The weather was playing the game which gave the crew down at Wilkins the opportunity to work their magic and commission a gorgeous stretch of blue-ice runway for us to land on, and things looked to be on schedule (give or take 24hrs of course). The anticipation and excitement may have felt similar to last year, only this time round there were fewer unknowns attached to what a summer at Casey looked like. It was an opportunity to take a step back and enjoy the nuance and anticipation attached to the pre-departure process.

Departure day is a unique situation in itself. The check-out rigmarole at our various lodgings scattered around Hobart with 6 bags each, containing the full complement of our 55kg baggage allowance. The bus pick-up with a steadily growing number of expeditioners adding to the equally growing air of excited energy reverberating through the group. Introductions, nervous anticipation and the occasional “war-story” all mixing together in a cocktail-shaker of excitement with every step closer to our seat on the A319 – callsign “Snowbird;” our ticket to Wilkin’s Aerodrome, Antarctica.

Inquisitive looks from passengers checking in for commercial flights bound for the mainland generated questions around what we were all up to. Their reactions upon hearing of our destination only added to our excitement. Whether it was a first or return season, we were all going to be calling Casey Station “Home” for the summer. There were messages from the winter crew still based at Casey; the friends we left earlier in the year. Some were excited at the prospect of seeing familiar faces – or any faces for that matter – for the first time in 216 days, others joked about our potential ‘boomerang’ back to Hobart should the weather do what the weather sometimes did.

If it’s difficult to describe the emotional response upon seeing the ice for the first time as we crossed the Antarctic coast at 36,000ft, then it’s impossible to do justice to the sound of boots crunching snow upon taking your first step onto the seventh continent. “We’d arrived… I was back!” Familiar disbelief quickly gave way to pure joy thanks to the reception we received at Wilkins. Upon arriving on station at Casey we were further met with more beaming smiles by the quality people we were fortunate enough to have spent such quality time with last summer, which only added to our homecoming.

Casey station has recently completed its seasonal handover period which marks the conclusion of the 76th season of the Australian Antarctic Program and welcomes the 77th. The baton has been passed to the next custodians of this special place for what is shaping up to be another memorable year ahead.

It feels as though my influence on this part of the world has been infinitely insignificant compared to what it’s gifted me. I know Casey will always hold a part of me that I will look back on fondly which motivates me to contribute in a way that gives something back to it and the people I am fortunate enough to share this experience with. That’s what opportunities like this can do; they wake you up to possibility. They plant the seed of perspective and invite you to water it; then it’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do with it. This season for me may have been unintentional, unplanned, almost an accident, yet in some way I can't help but smile at the thought that this was also always going to happen. 

It’s certainly been a “welcome back” to Casey, but on a more personal level, it’s been a warm “welcome Home.”

- Sean Menère – Communications Operator  

'Midnight' in Antarctica

**An election was held amongst Class 1B at Rangeville State School for whom would best represent the class on a trip to Casey Station for Summer in Antarctica. With an overwhelming majority, “Midnight” the Cat was elected.**

"My 'tail' started at the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart where I learnt what my role entailed and where I got 'kittened' out in survival gear for my journey ahead. My journey to Wilkins Aerodrome was on an Airbus A319 and it was the most comfortable flight a cat could ask for! We landed on a perfectly groomed ice runway, and I know a few things about grooming!

From the Aerodrome we took the Terra Bus to my new home for the Summer; Casey Station. I was inducted by the Station Leader and it was straight to work exploring and reporting back to my constituents. I have been helping out in the “Greenstore”- the big, green warehouse where the chocolate, ice-cream and chips are kept. I keep getting told there is more to my job than the choccies though, like preparing for the incoming resupply of equipment, scientific instruments, fuel and more chocolate.

I’ve also been able to sink my claws into some exploring around the station. I enjoy walking to the wharf and taking in all the beauty that Antarctica has to offer here at Casey Station. Not to mention the Adelie Penguins; the bird version of Midnight!

My journey so far has been absolutely purrfect, and to all the students at Rangeville State School, keep being the great learners that you are and I hope to see you down in Antarctica one day in one of the many roles that keep our stations running and keep our science programs going!"

By 'Midnight' the cat.

- Dave Wardle - Station Supply Officer (on behalf of Class 1B)