This week we hear from Jenn McGhee, a seasoned veteran of Antarctic operations. Over the years Jenn has fulfilled a range of roles ranging from Plant Operator, Aviation Ground Support Officer, and most recently as the Operations Coordinator at Davis Station. She has worked at all three of Australia’s Antarctic research stations and knows better than most how important it is to be able to adapt your skills to the constantly changing environment. Jenn takes us through the things you need to remember to ensure the job, no matter what it is, is done safely.

Things to remember

There are a few lists; AGSO lists, OpsCo lists, manifests, refuelling lists, sea ice drilling, timings and results as well as liaising with aircrew that use our sea ice to park their beautiful aircraft. I check all my lists and sometimes wake up in the night and tweak a list or add tasks. Twenty-four hours of daylight ensures there is always enough light to see the list no matter the time.

This season, different as usual to any other, started with a spectacular ice crystal shower on approach to Davis station. Breaking through the sea ice on the MPOV Aiviq was a beautiful day and the new team arriving for their year on the ice were treated to a pretty spectacular landscape.

Although in a new role this summer, I launched straight into my past role as Aviation Ground Support Officer as no AGSOs had been able to make it to Davis due to mechanical issues on their ship. This is a wonderful role providing ground support to our fixed wing assets from Kenn Borek - a Twin Otter and a DC3 Basler crewed by a lovely bunch of Canadian aviators. The outgoing wintering crew headed up by Hayden Reid, were doing a terrific job running the sea ice operations, ensuring serviceability inspections were carried out each day, providing an emergency response capability and carrying out refuelling operations. I joined this team of gentlemen and together we looked after Davis to Mawson passenger and cargo flights and Davis to Casey passenger and cargo flights. Once this crew boarded the Aiviq for their passage home, I had to engage a new crew to help me as providing ground support for aircraft is not a one person show. It really does take a village and luckily I found support from some generous souls who were quite adept with fuel pumps and refuelling, usually of non-aviation assets.

Having aircraft parked on the sea ice requires regular monitoring, drilling and inspection of the drilled ice. The moisture content of the sea ice is a tell-tale sign of the integrity of the sea ice. The sea ice generally degrades from the bottom to the top so it is always important to look at the spoil coming out of the drill hole to check for moisture content. Our sea ice this year was 1.7m-1.56m.This information is provided to the Captains of the aircraft, Season Operations Group, Station Leader and Field Training Officers so we can all be aware of any changes to thickness, moisture content and cracking.

Generally, 15 December is a sure end of service day for our sea ice here at Davis and this year we decided to close the sea ice out the front of station on 13 December due to a major softening of the sea ice after a four-day blow and warm temperatures. Interestingly, each year around this time there is a big blow and high tides which chip away our sea ice quite noticeably. It is always a good feeling to pack up the ski landing area flags and windsock sled and know we have used the sea ice well and safely.

Now for an inventory, a couple of new lists, clean up and pack away of the aviation assets for next year’s team to build a sea ice runway at the end of winter to greet our Canadian aircrews when they arrive at Davis to begin a new season of aviation operations. Currently both aircraft are located at Casey station on the plateau ski landing area, solid ground under the snow.

I dabbled in my new role as Operations Coordinator and had quite a few lists to guide me through that first exciting period which ended abruptly with the last aircraft departing Davis on 5 December. Without helicopters or fixed wing aircraft and therefore a quieter summer at Davis I have turned my hand to new roles, including aviation future planning and Resupply Coordinator which I will become for the V5 resupply. Rosters, available machinery, laydown areas for cargo, more lists. Each job requires attention to detail to ensure smooth, safe operations.