Antarctic video gallery

Mark Williams – Mawson station leader 2011

Mark Williams – Mawson station leader 2011

Video transcript

Mawson Station Leader Mark Williams:

My name’s Mark Williams I’m from Brisbane in Queensland and I am a Police Officer by occupation. I am going down to Mawson for the winter of 2011.

I have been in the Police for over 30 years now and most of that time was spent with criminal investigation anything from basic crime, right through to murders. I love the outdoors, I am tri-athlete, I go bushwalking, surfing, it’s going to be a challenge to realign the things I like to do down south. I’ve looked for this sort of a job for the last 10 years. It’s an opportunity to do something that is really different and to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest explorers that Australia has ever known.

I’ve worked with people for many years, I really enjoy the interaction with people. The opportunity to work in a small environment with very enthusiastic people is something that I have always dreamed of and to be a platform for the launching of some great scientific expeditions, in particular the Adelie penguins.

Some of the challenges I may face over the next year will be during the winter period, when we have periods of darkness and really bad weather and to keep the morale of the people high and keep them busy so they continue to enjoy their stay.

I am the luckiest guy on earth, if you asked me could I pick a station to go to, I would have picked Mawson. I have been a fan of Sir Douglas Mawson for many many years and to go to Mawson station as the Station Leader for a year is probably one of the highlights of my life.

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Graham Cook – Davis station leader 2011

Graham Cook – Davis station leader 2011

Video transcript

Davis Station Leader Graham Cook:

Hi I’m Graham Cook, commonly known as Cookie, I’m off to Davis this winter. This is my fourth trip to Antarctica. I’ve been a station leader at Mawson, Davis and Casey in the past, I have a background in people and project management and I head South because I love it. As a 12 year old I read a book about Frank Hurley called “Once more on my adventure” and was inspired to work in Antarctica as a result of reading that book. It took me till I was about 52 to get there, so I am pretty slow, but I did get there.

Your first trip to Antarctica and any subsequent trip after that is an absolutely amazing experience. My first iceberg was quite a small iceberg but wow it was amazing. My first time cracking through sea ice, I stood on the bow of the ship with several other people and one of them said to me, “I’m sorry I’ve got tears in my eyes”, and I said “So have I”, and the person next to me said “Well so have I”. It ended up five of us on the bow of the ship had tears in our eyes from this amazing first experience. Once you get through the ice and step on the land it’s the culmination of a dream, pretty amazing stuff.

Davis has a major infrastructure program this summer to finish off a new LQ (Living Quarters) there. A lot of exciting science, there’s a fair size flying program which will take some of our Geoscience Australia guys into the Prince Charles mountains. We have some Chinese working with our AAD scientists at Amanda Rookery with emperor penguins. We have some guys doing some snorkelling looking at the near shore marine environment and the impacts of our habitation and other impacts like ocean acidification. Work on the Amery Ice shelf and some comings and goings between the stations. Which is going to make it an exciting summer and a few programs during the winter that will keep us busy as well.

Working through the winter there is a few challenges for the station leader. Some of those are the separation issues, it’s not unusual for relationships to either end or become fragile, so you work with your expeditioners through those. There’s obviously the community living type things, we live together, we have a long period of darkness and sometimes we are not that happy with one other, but we work through that and nut it out and usually end up a fairly happy family by the end of it.

This winter there’s a few things that I would like to do, I would like to explore some of the areas of Davis that I didn’t get to see last time. I get a great deal of pleasure out of watching the people that are there for the first time enjoy the place and hopefully can show them some places that add to the enjoyment that they have.

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OktoKopter set to soar Antarctic skies

Setting up to go south

Setting up to go south

Video transcript

Robb Clifton — Australian Antarctic Division Support and Coordination Manager: On average we’ll move between about 450 and 500 people to and from Antarctica over a summer period and that’s by ship and aeroplane. [Music]

Rob Bryson Australian Antarctic Division Shipping Manager: Last season we shipped 3000 tonnes of cargo south. [Music]

Steve Daw — Australian Antarctic Division Aviation Manager: Arguably aviation in Antarctica is one of the three most challenging environments in the world. [Music]

Robb Clifton: Preparation for the season starts quite a long way out, effectively for us it’s about 12 months out. What we start looking at is the whole range of projects and activities we have to do and then try to work out how we can fit all of those projects and activities in together across the breadth of the season.

So for example this season we have about 80 different projects going to Antarctica. We’ve got voyages, so ships we are using, probably about 3 different ships. We are flying our aircraft, using our helicopters. So we look at that at a macro level across our four stations and how we slot all of those 80 projects in and in fact if we can, when they best fit and what resources they need on the ground.

So each person needs training before they go, they need to have considered what they need to take with them, the design of their science or their project. You know it might be a media project or a construction project, they need to consider the equipment they need, their power needs, what they need on station, whether they need field support and a field camp. How they are then going to get samples and equipment back to Australia, and all their contingencies. Because of course impacting all of this is the great thing we can’t control, which is the Antarctic weather.

Rob Bryson: The main stay and the back bone of our program shipping wise is the Aurora Australis, which has been doing the Antarctic work for the last 20 years. She is a super 1A ice breaker.

Our season is pretty much dictated by environmental conditions and we like to be at certain stations at certain times, dependent on what the ice is like. At the beginning of the season we will always aim to go to Davis first because we can break into the ice there and do our resupply over the ice. And then at the other end of the season we like to be at Mawson after about Australia Day because that’s when the ice is gone and we can actually get into Horseshoe Harbour and do a mooring with the ship and get in there.

So it’s all about timing people, resources, cargo and all that stuff around the environmental conditions. It’s all about herding cats and everything into the one place at the one time to get them out. So it makes an interesting job.

Steve Daw: The AAD operates an airbus 319 that takes our expeditioners to and from Wilkins airdrome from Hobart. The airbus flies about 75,000 nautical miles a year over about 20 odd flights. Normally about 12 flights-14 flights will be down to Wilkins airdrome, with the rest providing support to our other Antarctic partner nations. We also operate a couple of CASA 212 aircraft. The CASA 212’s undertake about 40,000 nautical miles of flying a year. The helicopters also undertake a large number of flights, sometimes up to 1500 flights a season, providing utility support, support to science and shuttling people to and from the skiway at Davis station as well.

Each season probably the most complicated challenge is ensuring that we are providing the right type of support, overcoming weather issues during the course of the season. For the pilots some of the most significant issues would be weather and waiting for the right weather to get off the ground. The pilots have a white on white environment, almost akin to flying in a ping pong ball which can be very demanding.

Robb Clifton: We have a really great team here at head office, who work with our teams through our station leaders on the ground to adjust who’s going, when they are going, when we are going to send certain flights and how we are going to fit the whole jigsaw together. So it’s a pretty non-stop activity that runs for about 6 months and certainly keeps us on our toes because it seems to changes very regularly. [Music]

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