The Doc interviews Matt Ryan, Aircraft Ground Support Officer
Matt, I know this is definitely not your first trip to Antarctica, what brings you back here?
This is my third trip to the ice. I wintered at Davis in 2007 and Casey in 2010. This is a very addictive place. Generally Antarctica attracts people who are looking for ‘something else’.
What is it like being an Aircraft Ground Support Officer here (AGSO)?
In short, great. It’s a very diverse and challenging role.
If not an AGSO what job would you do?
Florist. (Not my first pick for you, but yes, I can see it. Creative, personable, chatting to the ladies…)
Best gig as an AGSO?
I had some great opportunities as an AGSO this season, but there is nothing like the smell of ATK in the morning as the sun rises over a frozen continent. That said, the few trips I managed out to places like the Prince Charles Mountains or Mawson Escarpment this year will take some beating.
Best experience in Antarctica so far?
Hard to say. Basically when there are so many ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences packed into such a short period of time it is hard to identify just one. There are so many things that I have been lucky enough to be part of as an expeditioner with the AAD. I have been involved in traverses, visited the Chinese, Russian, American and Kiwi bases, had my breath taken away by a sky full of auroras, had my eyelashes freeze together, been for a swim in Antarctica on midwinter’s day, flown over glaciers, been stuck in blizzards, shared the comradery and privilege of being part of a small group for a very long time, along with many, many more experiences that words cannot describe.
What do you love about Antarctica?
The sheer remoteness of the place requires adaptability and resourcefulness. (Of that, you are the master Matt. Need anything? “Ask Matt”, I say.) It is nice to be judged on what you can achieve and the role you can play in the community rather than the usual ‘what do you do, and where do you live’ type mentality.
What have you learned living in our little Davis community?
Along with the fact that the walls are very thin and have ears, there is a big difference in the experience each time you head south depending on who you are lucky or unlucky enough to share the experience with. No two trips will ever be the same. I was very lucky this time to be surrounded by so many good people. Good people always make for a good experience.
What has been the toughest gig in Antarctica?
Apart from the politics, answering questions from school kids proved a challenge for me. Questions like, “What bugs are in Antarctica?”, or “How many different types of wildlife are present in Antarctica?” required some significant research. One of the toughest questions I had was “What can I do to help Antarctic animals struggling to cope with climate change?”.
Matt, if you were a car, what would you be?
An 80 series Toyota Landcruiser. (Practical, tough, dependable, that’s you all over Matt, although I wouldn’t describe a Landcruiser as cheeky!)
If you could be someone else, who would you be?
The guy on the other side of the looking glass.
Matt, are you a morning or a night person?
It’s fair to say that I take a while to warm up in the mornings, as people who approach me for deep and meaningful conversation before my two standard morning coffees work out. (…really?)
What is likely to be in store for you when you get home?
I’ll head back to Darwin and enjoy good friends and a great place. I suppose one day I should try and get a real job and live a normal life, but I’m in no rush.
Matt, as always, it has been a delight, and again, a big thank you for my surprise little stainless steel creation.