Whoever thought a career start in delivering light and sound gear in a dodgy truck would lead to many seasons in Antarctica? This week Graham, one of our sparkies, shares his favourite things about the icy continent.

Not work or penguins by Graham, Team Sparky

It was the year 1995 and I was 17 in year 11, (3 years before our youngest expeditioner was born) on two-weeks of work experience at a local Hobart sound & light company. A course I thought would be a fun thing to do with some spare periods.

One morning I needed to start late because I was doing my driving test (for my P’s) when I rocked up. Whoever was looking after us was like, “Did you pass your test, one of the guys is sick?”

“You know the trucks you guys loaded yesterday; well we need you to drive one! Follow me & let’s deliver this gear and go set it up.” The two trucks they had were old pieces of junk, also column shift. The brakes were super touchy, but the rest was junk. A screwdriver held the window in place & the indicator stem was a stick of wood that sometimes would fall out.

With no car of my own, and zero chance of me getting one any time soon, there I was. I’d had my P’s for an hour. Now I was driving this piece of junk truck around Hobart, with the other work experience kid delivering lighting & sound equipment to who even knows where. But having so much fun. The highlight of my two weeks was setting up lighting & sound gear for Lee Kernigan at the Wrest Point Casino. Also sitting back stage watching the gig. Apparently, I was training to be a roadie, lol.

That’s about as far as I developed this particular set of skills, as fun as it was, life just took me in another direction; sewing machine mechanic, but that’s a story for another day.

Fast forward to 2018, when I was an electrician at Davis, I’d completed the winter and was asked to stay on for a second summer. One of the plumbers decided that they would start a band. A three-piece called Pineapple Express.

The band was lovingly named after the building on station referred to as the Pineapple. It’s must be one of the oldest buildings on station. It can be seen in photos dating back to 1976, (2 years before I was born) when Davis station was the old “donga line,” before any of the major buildings were even established. Only the old balloon building can be seen, and who knows what the function of the pineapple building was back in the 70’s?

As the name suggests it’s yellow and looks like a cut in half pineapple on its side. Inside the pineapple is a plethora of musical equipment. A drum set, several amps, electric, acoustic and bass guitars, speakers, microphones and a mixing desk. Everything you’d need if you were keen enough to start your own band.

The walls are adorned with band posters and set lists from previous expos and one can only think of the amount of fun that would have been had. There's Big Orange Taxi, from March 2012's “End of summer show” (obviously named after the Aurora Australis), along with some posters from the Antarctic Rolling Stone, Frost Fighters from ANARE 74, and A Day on the Green from September 2022.

When I heard that Pineapple Express were going to put on some shows, I was like “do you guys need a roadie?” and “Yes”, was the answer. I’d also seen some lighting gear and a smoke machine “kicking around” station. I also discovered a big roadie case in the green store with “band gear” stencilled on it. Inside was a gold mine of lighting equipment, coloured gels, extension cords etc. In fact, probably enough gear to put on a full theatrical performance, if you were keen. So, that 17-year-old Streety’s roadie skills were finally getting some use.

I’m somewhat envious of people’s musical talents, but this was one way I could contribute to the station community by helping put on wicked shows.

Fast forward to 2022, I was so excited to hear Davis would have a band again!

This season’s band, The Red Hot Chilli Penguins (RHCP) consists of around seven. It’s good that not everyone plays at once, but interesting to watch people change in and out, pick up different instruments and the different collaborations that happen.

Thus far RHCP’s have chalked up two gigs. The first was on New Year’s Eve, a post dinner show and great way to start celebrations to see in the new year. The line-up included an impressive eight-song set-list and two encore songs.

The second gig was after lunch on Australia Day and it was decided to do something a bit different. The boat-shed was chosen for the venue, to host lunch and the band. A custom stage was built, and area decked out for the afternoon’s celebrations. This time with a nine-song set and a two-song encore. We even found an indoor bowls green and balls for a bit of “crackerjack” style of fun after the band had finished playing.

My favourite part of hanging out with the band, was the sound check for the Australia Day Gig, it felt like I pretty much had my own private show.

During our recent resupply my job was assisting to unloading sea containers and delivering “things” with the telehandler (similar to a forklift) to their various owners around station. In our first container was a stack of boxes labelled “band equipment.”


So many boxes full of shiny new gear, such as amplifiers, leads, microphones, electric guitars, a keyboard, a set of speakers, and a portable mixing desk, which is Bluetooth compatible. I was so excited I took a picture of all this new gear in the pineapple & posted a picture with the caption “Merry Xmas band kids” to the group chat.

The next band practice was a celebration of opening all these boxes and checking out all this cool new band gear, that will no doubt get a work out over the coming season.

Going into the field & exploring the Vestfold Hills is awesome, and penguins are still very cute! I guess this is the part of living and working in Antarctica, as sold on the brochures, that we sign up for. However, for me it’s the people that you get to hang out with for a year that makes the experience worth it.

Sure, we have our jobs, as in what we do in a professional capacity, which is what gets us our ticket here in first place. But the exciting thing is getting to know people and find out what makes them who they are. Like other aspects of our lives, hobbies and interest, what cool adventures we’ve been on, and how we ended up here in the first place.

It’s only been three months on station, and it’s been loads of fun hanging out with the team from the 76th ANARE. I’m sure the rest of the season will be just as much fun. Anyhow, who knows, maybe I’ll pick up one of those shiny new guitars and try be as cool as the rest of the kids in the RHCP’s.