Seasons Greetings from Casey station!

Christmas cheer, Casey style.

It’s 8:45pm on Christmas Eve and I’m up to my elbows in dough. The kitchen bench is awash with bowls, pots and containers of ingredients in various stages of preparation. At my side, Perry calls out instructions as I stand in front of eight sausages of Challa dough.

“Eight under seven, over to strand one . . . eight over five . . . two under three, all the way to the right . . . one to four . . . seven under six, and all the way to the left . . .”

I crack up laughing at the tangle of dough, but we plough onwards and it all comes together. An eight-braid Challa, ready to be sliced for Christmas lunch, as accompaniment to duck and green peppercorn rillettes, alongside pickled cherries and beetroot chutney. Just one of the many dishes the Casey kitchen team prepared for this year’s festivities. By loaf number three, I am swinging dough strands like a Jewish bubbe. A cross-cultural festive day indeed.

It took a week of piece-meal preparation and another week of planning and creative energy to achieve a stress-free and thoroughly delicious lunch for our 116 strong Casey community. Myself and fellow chefs Anne and Leah divided and conquered an extensive menu: smorresbrod in eight styles for nibbling with a post-Santa glass of bubbles; a seafood buffet replete with oysters, prawns and mussels; nut loaf, roast turkey, mustard glazed ham and spit roast pig with all the trimmings and then some, and a dessert buffet that made the table groan.

Our team of amazing Station Support Officers (affectionately known as ‘super slushies’ - dedicated providores of community well-being), wrangled tables and lengths of tinsel, searched mysterious store-rooms and hidden cupboards for the right number of napkins and appropriately coloured tables cloths, cajoled assorted volunteers into ironing said table cloths (many ran and hid at this juncture), and did it all with a smile. Many hands (in fact, all hands) contributed to our day of fun. On numerous nights leading up to the 25th I convened late night mince pie making sessions, collecting volunteers from our community to roll, cut pastry and fill with fruit mince. These beauties were baked and sent to our distant colleagues at the Bunger Hills field camp and our brave Million Year Ice Core project traverse team who left station just before Christmas (of course, we saved plenty for ourselves, too!)

After our long lunch and plenty of laughter and good cheer, the sunny weather called many outdoors to play frisbee and cricket in front of the Red Shed accommodation building, while others practiced their seal impersonations on various couches and patches of carpet throughout the living quarters. My seal impersonation was second to none, and involved lying prostrate for a solid hour while I contemplated the generous spirit of our Casey community, the wonders of good planning, and the boon of Christmas leftovers for Boxing Day, ensuring a day off for three tired chefs. All while looking out over the beautiful Antarctic landscape, with sunlight glittering on the deep blue waters of Newcomb Bay and turning the icebergs dotting the horizon to dazzling brightness; a sight from which I will never tire.

- Claire Moser

Antarctic weather blows my mind

Antarctica is well known for being the windiest continent on the planet. The coldest temperatures on earth are found deep within its icy interior. This cold air is extremely dense, and gravity forces it to flow downhill like a stream, off the Antarctic plateau towards the coast. It accelerates just before it meets the ocean, where the slope is steepest. These are the famous 'katabatic winds'. While they are strongest in winter (when the air is coldest), they will consistently produce high wind speeds year-round. The strongest winds occur when the katabatics are enhanced by passing low pressure systems, which periodically circle the Antarctic coastline. These lows also provide the necessary injection of moisture to add snow into the equation which can result in blizzards that last for days. Somewhat counterintuitively, the air temperature generally increases during blizzards, as the strong winds mix down a layer of slightly warmer air that usually persists above the extremely cold surface air.

Casey station (66.28S) is situated further south than 'the roaring forties', 'the furious fifties' and 'the screaming sixties', and regularly experiences its fair share of extreme wind speeds. It is sited on the western edge of Law Dome, which projects out of the Antarctic continent into the Southern Ocean. This means that it typically avoids the strongest katabatic winds, so passing low pressure systems are required to produce the strong winds.

While the summer months are less windy on average, for summer expeditioners at Casey in 2022/23, the first half of December felt a little anticlimactic, experiencing day after day of relatively light winds and mild temperatures (average maximum 0.4 degrees!). T-shirts, shorts and thongs were the attire of choice when moving between station buildings. It therefore felt somewhat overdue when forecasters warned of likely blizzard conditions for Sunday 18th December with an approaching weather system expected to bring winds in excess of 50 knots (~90km/h).

The weather map showed a deep low pressure system approaching the coastline west of Casey on the Sunday night. The graph showed the rapid jump in winds around 0600 UTC (1700 local time Sunday) as winds accelerated down the flank of Law Dome during the late afternoon. Wind speeds peaked around 50 knots at 10pm, with gusts to 60 knots (~110km/h), before slowly easing during Monday morning. While there was little snowfall associated with this system, snow blowing off the station reduced visibility, particularly overnight when winds were strongest.

Once we ticked off our first major wind event for the season, the shorts and t-shirt weather returned just in time for Christmas!

- Chris Arvier

The Great Outdoors!

The role of Field Training Officer (FTO) is varied and interesting, and mostly involves being outdoors - well that’s why us FTOs love what we do! We are all into adventuring in the outdoors, and Antarctica is as wild and adventurous as you can get! This summer at Casey, there are four FTOs, Maddie, Tim, Gideon and myself; Senior FTO Nick, and the Winter FTO Sean who is out at Bunger Hills for the summer with a small team establishing a base camp for future project work.

We hit the ground running when we arrived on station, delivering survival training, field travel training and Hägglunds driver training (for our much loved, tracked snow vehicles). The field store is almost deplete of personal field equipment now, as over 100 expeditioners have been issued backpacks, sleeping mats, bivvy bags, sleeping bags, maps, compass, and an array of other survival gear to take when they head out into the field. We also work with scientists conducting field work. I have been lucky to work with Anya and Toby on their seismic surveys, AKA ‘Digging for Science’ as it involves quite a bit of digging in snow and ice. Maddie is working with some ‘mossies’ (moss biologists) - yes plants do grow in Antarctica; well moss and lichen at least!

FTOs are also the station boating officers, and lately we’ve been getting the boats ready for refueling, putting out ‘ice lines’, which are chunky ropes that float on the water to hold back small icebergs from the fuel hose, and we’ve been training with the watercraft operators who recently arrived on the Aiviq carrying the station’s fuel and more expeditioners. FTOs are also the summer Search and Rescue team, gear repairers, trip leaders on ‘jollies’ (recreational trips) and operational trips, field safety officers, and all-round handy people to have on station!

- Gemma Woldendorp