Each year a group of trades men and women are selected to participate in the Australian Antarctic Program. This year at Mawson the Infrastructure team comprises a Building Services Supervisor (BSS), two electricians, two plumbers and a carpenter.
My role, as the BSS at Mawson, is to coordinate the on-site activities of the small group of multi-skilled trades personnel, engaged in all operational and maintenance aspects of the station buildings and infrastructure.
The challenge of managing complex systems such as power generation, potable water, fire detection and protection services, heating and ventilation, sewage and waste, as well as general structural maintenance on station buildings and field huts, is made easier by an incredible group of professional tradespeople this year who support and respect each other fully (not to say we don’t serve it up to each other occasionally with a good healthy dose of ribbing and banter).
The positive culture of our trades contributes to the sense of community on station. The working week generally begins with a short combined toolbox meeting for both Infrastructure and Mechanical trades. Any issues are highlighted and prioritised in accordance with current worklists and resourced appropriately. Safety is our by-word.
Weather plays a big part in our planning. Priorities consistently change in order to ensure that outside work is completed on time. The weather can change quickly, and outside work may need to be postponed at short notice. Not to mention the availability of daylight hours quickly dwindling as we head into mid-winter.
The typical day for our trade teams over winter may consist of a quick walk-through of all our buildings and plantrooms across stations before carrying out any repairs to station infrastructure. This year has already seen repairs and refurbishment work on equipment such as pumps and pipework in and outside of buildings, regular trips up and down the wind turbine to carry out routine maintenance, installation of new equipment such as fire protection systems and medical sterilisation units, fitting out new science facilities, installing walkways in ceiling spaces, upgrading lighting systems and maintaining the waste water treatment plant.
Some of the more routine tasks include transferring potable water to storage tanks, incineration burns, fire services testing, powerhouse observations, mechanical and electrical services building inspections, potable water filter management and regular maintenance of doors. Overall, there is a huge variety of work that our trades need to cover within their specific roles to ensure that the station infrastructure remains operational.
Unplanned tasks can often happen in the middle of the night with temperatures outside as low as −30°C degrees or more, with the wind at times over 60 knots and in blinding blizzard conditions. Some issues are identified through our building monitoring control systems, sending out text messages to our phones waking up those on-call, four or five times during the night. They don’t always require an immediate response, but still require you to wake up, consider the implications, complete a mental risk assessment and get up and have a look at the computer system to ascertain if a response is required or not.
While the idea of experiencing Antarctica for most seems the dream of a lifetime, and it is, what people may not realise is the personal sacrifice, the hardships of separation, the harsh climate of the working environment, living in a close community and personal challenges that comes with the sacrifice up to 15 months of their lives to do a winter in Antarctica.
Before introducing you to the infrastructure team that has made that sacrifice for the 72nd ANARE at Mawson, I would firstly like to thank all of the team for their dedication and commitment thus far. It’s a pleasure to work with such a dedicated group.
Now let me introduce you to the team…
Chris ‘Scottish’ George — Well known for his prodigious feats of endurance over multiple winters and summers. Chris is our resident chippy (carpenter) and also a member of the Lay Surgical Assistant team. Chris brings a wealth of experience to the group. Escaped from Scotland.
Geoff ‘Geoffrey’ Wallace — electrician. Geoff has been to all stations and wintered at Davis, Macca and now Mawson. He adds a colossal amount of electrical experience and knowledge to the team. A passionate Melbournian.
Warren ‘Wazza’ Arnold — electrician. Wazza is a first-timer to Antarctica and has fitted into the team exceptionally well after picking him up late in the pre-season draft. He is also a member of the Search and Rescue team. Wazza is a Queenslander from Brisbane.
Thomas ‘Tom the Elder’ Carew — Also known as ‘Plumber Tom’. Tom is our station plumber and this is also his first trip south to Antarctica. Tom is also a member of the Lay Surgical Assistant team and the Search and Rescue team. Passionate country boy from Seaspray, Victoria.
James ‘Terry’ Terrett — Terry, as we all know him, is our station plumber and first-timeer south. He is also a member of the Search and Rescue team. Terry is a Queenslander from sunny Brisbane.
Glenn Blackwell — Building Services Supervisor. Member of the Lay Surgical Assistant team and Search and Rescue. I’m a local from Tassie, normally work at Head Office as a Maintenance Planner.
Glenn Blackwell (Mawson Building Services Supervisor 2019)