Davis this week has an in depth interview with Comms Tech Greg, a trip to Platcha Hut and a dieso’s perspective on work in Antarctica.

Platcha Hut work jolly

Last Wednesday a specialist crew of four set off on a work jolly to Platcha Hut to carry out some maintenance tasks and spend a bit time off station to unwind.

The entire crew consisted of trip leader Chris Hill (Chippy), Tom Luttrell (SCTO), Mark Baker (Sparkie) and Linc Mainsbridge (Snr MET Observer). Of course Linc decided four people just wasn’t enough and thought it would be a great idea to take some extra souvenirs along for the trip. (An idea that Linc is now paying the price for! Has your shampoo been returned yet Linc?)

So now the four of us, plus Emily the life-sized cardboard cut-out, “Scrappy” the friendly guard dog, 1 comfy chair “borrowed” from the smokers hut, the kitchen menu board (sorry Brigid), the “ding-ding” dinner bell (sorry again Brigid) and the chocolate rations box.

With the extra cargo packed we all jumped in the red Hägglunds bound for Platcha Hut. Upon arrival, it was all systems go. Tom began repairing the hut’s VHF radio. Right beside him was Chris installing the bed rails on the two top bunks and Mark who had the most challenging job of all inspecting one circuit breaker, one GPO (power point) and a 15m extension lead. With the four of us plus all the gear crammed inside the hut, Linc decided it was the perfect time to grab his camera and head out to the helipad for a photo shoot. Sounds pretty innocent but we were all glad to be inside the hut at the time put it that way.

With all the work successfully completed, it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy a feed. We rang the dinner bell over the radio for the others back on station!

Chris Hill

Diesel torque

Even though the nemesis of every diesel fitter, the feared plant operator, has migrated north for the winter, the work load for the tortured souls of the mechanical underworld remains constant. Although, there haven’t been any interesting mishaps since the sea trials and submersible capabilities of a Honda quad bike were explored at the start of summer.

The weekly ritual of transferring fuel from the fuel farm to the main power house settling tank is one that can’t be avoided, as much as we try. Whilst standing of top of the fuel tanks, metres above the ground, the slightest breath of wind ensures that every layer of clothing is breached. At −30ºC one’s mind begins to drift and wander, to realise we don’t get paid enough to do this.

Having a small workshop, we sometimes find ourselves playing a game of Tetris. With a lot of maneuvering, a little bit of cringing, and plenty of lube, one can fit an oversized crane into an undersized workshop.

When the temperature drops, nothing wants to work, including us. A lot of time, effort and swearing is required to get a vehicle started that hasn’t run for a while when it’s -30ºC . Foresight is required from all on station when it comes to vehicle use. If not, the all too disappointing sound of a click will be all that is heard when the ignition key is turned.

The mechanical crew, led by the Angry man himself and his loyal band of slightly competent misfits (one extra absorbent the other Teflon coated and oil resistant), continue to enjoy the trials and tribulations of maintaining the power on and the vehicles moving with the added bonus of conducting the feared, the hated, the greatly despised, annual stock take.

Jose Campos

Checking the State of the Environment

This week Joe, Steph and Greg went to Brookes Hut in the blue Hägglunds, firstly to do the monthly check of the water level at super-saline Deep Lake as part of the State of the Environment monitoring programme, and secondly to get away from station for a few days and enjoy the snow covered Vestfold Hills while there was still a little light to do so.

The wind started to blow while they were away which made the trip back to station somewhat difficult. Luckily the Häggs all have radar installed which makes seeing through the murk much easier.

Doc’s Dozen with Greg Wilson

Communications Technical Officer/Fire team/SAR team/Hydroponics team

Greg, how many trips have you done to Antarctica, and what keeps you coming back?

Three summers previously and this is my first winter. At first it was the adventure thing but now it is a force of habit almost. The work is great, the people are great and the environment is totally mesmerising.

What is it like being a Comms Tech here?

Good. You don’t want to overstate these things or everyone might want to come here.

If not a Comms Tech, what job would you do Greg?

Well a merchant banker is a pretty good earner, but I’m probably not dodgy enough for that. My work has always been in communications operations and technical roles so I’d probably gravitate to something like that.

Best gig as a Comms Tech?

We did some tower inspections a couple of months ago and I had to climb to the top of one of our radio masts. That was pretty funky. Nice pics from up there. Was also great watching all the people on the ground, like little ants, looking up waiting for me to fall off. (There was one person very happy to see you get down safely from there Greg!)

What is the worst/funniest thing you have seen someone do to a computer?

Oh, where do you start? I’ve had laptops in 30 or so pieces cleaning spilled beer out of them. I’ve had to fix problems with people’s computers where the problem was, it wasn’t turned on. Vegemite in the DVD drive. There is an old saying in I.T. that for every idiot-proof system, the world goes ahead and creates a new level of idiot, but that would be unkind to repeat such things.

Are you a Microsoft or Mac person, and do you think this is related to whether you are a dog or a cat person?

So there are three main types of computer operating systems around: Microsoft, Apple Mac and Linux/Unix variants. We won’t talk about Linux people because they’re a bit odd, but the rest of the world is Microsoft or Mac. I’m a Microsoft person, done all my work with that technology. My first PC was a Mac. I’ve never gone back. As for the relationship between Mac/Microsoft vs. cat/dog, I’ve not been able to prove a direct link there. I think there is a relationship between Mac/Microsoft and thinking with the left/right side of the brain though. Don’t ask me which is which.

We have all admired your aurora and lights photography, what do you like about these sort of images?

I love the camera as a tool for both capturing and creating images. They can be as simple as a snapshot or more complex as a time lapse movie but they are all about expression. I’m not very good at it but I try to stop and think before I take a photo and ask myself, what makes this image interesting? What would a stranger want to see in this image?

What has been your best Antarctic experience?

Going home’s pretty good. Too many good experiences to mention. Probably the highlight for me is discovering all those unexpected skills that people have. Many of them are simply amazing. Who’d have thought that our Doc was such a talented quilter (and pretty handy with a band-aid too I must report). (Why thank you Greg. Ah yes, I do recall that you were in the running for the most innovative injury award over the summer.)

Who inspires you Greg?

I’m inspired by people who selflessly make a contribution to the people around them: thinking the late Mother Theresa of Calcutta or the late Fred Hollows. People who could have sat on their hands but decided to use their skills to make a difference for others. I’m also inspired by those early Antarctic explorers who came down here, with a compass and a sextant and not much else for navigation, to a place which was uncharted and managed to survive and explore this wonderful place. I’m easily inspired.

Greg, what have you learned living in our little Davis community?

I’ve learned three things down here.

1. It’s a long time between ships when there’s no tomato sauce. (Ahem. Who had a girl-look in the green store and found six boxes of said tomato sauce?)

2. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

3. You don’t need to have a long neck to be a goose. Quite pertinent don’t you think? (Indeed)

What kind of car would you be Greg?

Not sure. Something efficient and reliable, but not too fancy. Bit of an A to B car. Someone suggested a Mini Moke, but I don’t know that it qualifies as either efficient or reliable. I think they may have been getting personal (not sure).

What is in store for you when you return home Greg?

Home is still a long way off. I don’t have work plans yet. Having my wife Nicki stay down here over the winter would be a nice wish to fulfill. She’d love to work down here and 12 or 13 months is a long time separated. I am looking forward to seeing Nicki and our two cats (Boags and Cooper). The cats miss me. I think Nicki does too.

Thank you so much for your time Greg. You know I am always in awe of the IT magic you manage to perform for me! And always with a smile.