His first time down here, Keldyn Francis, a plumber and second half of the S.P.U.D team, full of energy, wit and enthusiasm, takes on ‘the nine'.
Our interview takes place this week on a well worn piece of carpet just in front of the bar. Over a game of darts (Shanghai) and freshly brewed coffee we delve into the world that is Keldyn. First up, freshly ground Vittoria Brazil Rex coffee beans that have been converted into a steaming cappuccino by the Rancilio machine located in the mess. Powdered milk is turned into frothy foam and then dusted with cocoa powder, flights are adjusted and a sense that something big is about to happen descends upon the dimly lit room.
Hailing from the small town of Melbourne you’ve managed to work around the place. What motivated you to apply for Antarctica?
Keldyn throws a couple of twenties to kick start the game.
Well I was in Mackay and work was getting a bit quiet up there in the mines and such. So I was doing a job search on the internet and came across the AAD website. I was just looking around at what was available, job wise, and that site came up. I applied and didn’t think much of it. I actually thought it was a real long shot. When I was a first year apprentice I read up about the opportunities available in the Antarctic, and yeah so later on when I saw the ad I just had to apply.
I throw my poorly aimed darts and begin the slow push to get back into the game.
I guess I’m lucky to have a trade that allows me the opportunity to come down here.
Enter Cliff: Can you believe this? Does he have to be in every interview?
“Hey guys. Alright time out! I’ve put your food in trays downstairs” (This means kitchen shopping brought back from the green store) “Thanks mate”. Spuds do it again.
Did you come down here with any pre-conceived ideas? And if so, describe them.
No. I didn’t.
Darts: his triples now all out.
I guess I just take it as it comes. I think travelling has done that to me in general. When you start out you have an idea of what a place is like, and when you get there it’s different? So, um, yeah it’s — “it is what it is”. It’s definitely a great challenge down here. You wouldn’t think there’s much to do, but you end up running out of time.
Or scoring lots of points against an interviewer that can’t multitask.
Can you explain the difference between life back home and down here for yourself?
The difference down here is each day you get to choose what you do at work — a little different from back home a lot of the time. So like there’s a job list you can choose from each day and you get to do as little or as much as you like. So then I sort of want to do as much as I can.
Always work with this guy.
It’s been amazing, probably more amazing than I thought it would be. I can understand why people want to come down here again and again. It sort of gets in your blood I guess. The days are always changing due to the Antarctic conditions.
And so is my luck in the game with beds all out and only bulls to go.
It’s only early days yet, but are there things miss having around or thought you’d miss but don’t?
I guess every now and then I’d like to see my family, like I’d miss anyway. I don’t really miss anything else really. I’m quite contented actually, yeah.
Thanks for the elaboration mate — it made great reading.
You’re growing your hair and making an attempt likewise on your face. What is the motivation for this?
Why not? I think it keeps things a little warmer down here. I’m not sure? I think those that know me, know I like to try different things. I’m always doing something different.
So in a nutshell, letting yourself go is just being different?
I wouldn’t really say I was letting myself go? It’s just a new style.
So you’re not doing this to impress the station leader?
Nah. I reckon he’s already impressed.
How much about Antarctica did you know before coming down here?
I just manage to beat Kel in our first game. It’s one of the closest we’ve had. “Want another?” “Sure, let’s go.” And so it begins again.
I knew about penguins.
Keldyn gets the twenties out again and starts scoring. What the?
I knew it was cold. I knew it was remote. I guess I knew as much of it as anybody else back home. I think most people think there are polar bears down here, and I probably did too at one stage, until I found out a bit more about it. I sort of look things up before I came down here. I read a few books. I read up about Mawson. At first I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to go to Casey or Davis, the bigger stations. But then I did a bit more research and found out that this place is pretty awesome.
Are you thinking about what you’d like to achieve when you get back home?
Ah, not really. I’m just like, it doesn’t matter. Wherever the work, is I’ll go. I don’t know where that will be. It might be overseas? Interstate? I would like to go back and see my sister in South Africa — it’s high up there on the list. Catch up with family, yeah. It depends on the mines and what work is happening. With the mines, it’s not just about the work; it’s also about what you do with your down time, your weeks off. So yeah, I’m thinking about that.
So your darts playing is progressing nicely down here. Are there any other interests that you’re also pursuing?
Photography. Just taking photos and working out how to edit in Photoshop and Lightroom. I want to take away some photos of down here. I can’t take coming down here for granted so I’ve got to make the most of it.
I know how you feel.
I’d definitely come back down. I’ll definitely reapply. I’d love to come back down here.
Thanks Keldyn, not only for throwing the game (as if I was the station leader Cookie), but for putting such a great effort into everything you do down here for us. I think the tap maybe dripping on Mt Henderson?