Saturday, 4 February 2017

Part 2. Coloured Lego Block Buildings, an Orange Roughy and Yellow Chip Packets in a White Winter Wonderland – the Colourful World of Casey.

Well here I am again on my computer typing away, I try and sit in a different spot each evening as my room in the West Wing is dark with no natural light as it has no windows (great for sleeping), is small and keeps houses my peanut butter stash! Tonight (when I wrote this line a while ago) I’m in the wallow, the common room/lounge area of Casey which has a floor to ceiling window which looks out towards the bay and the icebergs. Ferret, one of the plumbers down her for the summer, kindly told me to stop typing so loudly the other the day and then suggested that my blog is work. Ahhh he does not know the true Wisey who is known for her dedication to her work including, Greg Hince close your eyes, visits to the lab to deal with the Gas Chromatograph otherwise known as MOFO.
Two Docs out on field on survival training, Doc Elise on the left.
(Photo courtsey of Dr Elise Roberts)
So let’s get back to Part 2 of Coloured Lego Block Buildings, an Orange Roughy and Yellow Chip Packets in a White Winter Wonderland – the Colourful World of Casey and we’re definitely up to the next part of the story, Yellow Chip Packets! For those that have ventured south to an Australian Antarctic Station you know exactly what I’m talking about – it’s survival training time. For the lucky readers out there that received my newsletters home last time I was down at Casey you’re probably thinking – why are you doing survival training again. Your training only remains current for 3 years and so mine was just out of date meaning that it was time to do a refresher, it’s a good way to get off station and meet other expeditioners not in your own team. Our group of Lucas, Wei, Lenneke, Felicity (All ICECAP), Linda, Georgia (Inventory Program), Dr Elise and myself would be heading off with FTO Paula and we would be doing this while the ship was still carrying out resupply. Linda, Georgia and Elise had recently arrived from the ship where they had been residing during resupply and had only just settled into their rooms before they were “whisked” away for survival training.

Getting gear for our packs ready in the Field Store to head
off, all ready to survive!
In order to go out into the field you have to be survival trained and you need to take certain things with you. Not all of these items you will find in your issued AAD kit, some is in your survival bag, but the extra bits and pieces you need are found in the Field Store, off we traipsed down to the Field Store to get extra bits and pieces. One of the first things you need for survival training, well it makes life a lot easier, is a pack. This year I had bought my own pack down with me, the division does supply very good quality One Planet packs however, I know that mine fits me perfectly. Next on the list is a pack liner (dead dog bag), sleeping bag, liner, mat and a yellow chip packet (otherwise known as a bivvy). The challenge is to then roll up the mat inside the bivvy and keep it small enough and neat enough, no extra bits and pieces to flap in the wind. This then gets attached to the outside of your pack and it kind of helps to do this first before putting things onto your pack. Next goes your sleeping bag and liner. Other items obtained from the field store include microspikes (chains with spikes which go over your boots to give you better grip), pee bottle (different colour to you water bottle), maps of the area, a compass with a whistle attached (so no light to attract attention) and last but not least an ice axe. Inside your pack along with the sleeping bag and liner (well again I always bring my own down) a spare pair of thermals and socks, extra gloves, goggles, balaclava and my synthetic puffer jacket.

Before we could leave the Field Training store we got a lesson on some map and compass work, it’s always good to have a refresher on this and remind yourself how to find a bearing and how to give a grid reference. It was then time to head downstairs but before we could head off into the big bad outside we had to pick up tonight’s dinner – ration packs. These ration packs are dehydrated meals in a sealed bag that you add hot water to in order to get a delicious meal ... I had been warned my first season at Casey not to get the pack with  tuna which I remembered so I got a Veal Italienne, a tomato based meal. Also on offer were some muesli bars, packets of milo and the all important chocolate. We also picked up some tea and tim tams from the mess for “dessert” after dinner. We then had time to ditch any unwanted items we had back in out rooms before meeting in the wallow where we would be leaving from. Upon meeting in the mess we learnt the etiquette of leaving station. In order to leave station there are a few things to do before you can actually depart which I’ll list here:

  • Pick up a first aid kit from the Docs.
  • In the mess turn your tag from white (meaning you’re on station) to red and write what your intentions are on the board along with when you are expected back and what radio channel can be contacted on.
  • Go to comms in the Operations building and collect a hand held GPS with spare batteries, radio and spare battery, EPIRB and in some cases a sat phone.
  • Write your intentions on the board at comms including who is in the field party, where you are heading to and  the time which you will sked in with them in the evening (a bit like a check up call).
  • And finally as you leave the station limits you radio into comms letting them know you are about to leave station – the call sign for Casey is “VNJ Casey”.
Snow Petrels putting on an aerial display at Reeve Hill

So with everything that we needed collected we radioed into Comms and we were on our way making our way along the cane line. Our first destination would be down towards the sea ice which connects the Bailey Peninsular, where Casey is, to Shirley Island, home to a rowdy group of Adelié penguins. But first Paula got us to use our maps to make sure we were going in the correct direction by looking at the landmarks around us. One prominent feature at Casey is Reeve Hill which bears a cross in memory of Geoffrey Reeve who passed away at Casey 1979 of exposure after he became lost in a blizzard at Robinson Ridge some 10 km away from the station (thanks Goldie for this information). The hill and the cross are clearly marked on the station maps and can be easily identified when you are walking around the station.

Little Tuxedoed visitors from
Shirley Island
With our bearings we made our way forward, I admit I hung at the back as I could clearly remember how to get to the edge of Shirley Island from the last time I was here at Casey. We headed along straight before we took a right and headed down towards the entrance to the sea ice towards Shirley Island. It was here that stopped and put our microspikes on to ensure there were no unwanted slips and slides or falls on the way down. At Casey you have to be careful and keep a good distance from the edge as there are many overhanging cliff faces that could give way. We actually stopped half way down as coming towards us up the slope were a group of curious Adeliés. Now there are set distances that you can approach the animals down here and these can increase if say penguins are sitting on eggs or the animal has young, you can read about these distances here. If you are too close or within the comfort zone of the animal there are very clear signals and displays they may exhibit to let you know that you need to step back! However some of the critters down here are just as curious about us as we are about them.

A curious Adelié
We sat down very quietly and sat still watching out little black and white tuxedoed friends make their way toward us. They’d often stretch their necks out as if to be saying I’m interested but I’m still not so sure about you! Now the colony from where these little guys came is across the sea ice on Shirley Island. However the sea ice starts to deteriorate in late spring and then into summer at Casey the sea ice is notoriously unstable and a big blow is sometimes enough for the sea ice to disappear. For this reason the sea ice is closely monitored and is shut for travel at the hint of any deterioration or rot by the Field Training Officers who are responsible for checking things like this and the state of the vehicle travel tracks. Due to these reasons the sea ice to Shirley Island had been closed and we were unable to make the trip across.  That and the Adelié eggs were either very close to hatching or had
indeed hatched and there were now chicks, hopefully I might get to see the fluffy little ones if I get out on an iceberg cruise in the coming weeks from a distance.

With our penguin experience over it was now time to do a little bit more navigation this time it would be compass vs GPS. So half of us used the good old method of GPS and map and the other half pulled out their GPS, just like the ones you use Mum and Dad for geocaching (link to geocaching). We then headed off to the receiver hut in the antennae farm using our trusty implements. It’s always interesting to compare the two and while we got there by both methods it highlights that in order to get your GPS to correctly point in the right direction you need to be moving. So after arriving there we had a quick discussion before going to the campsite way point in the GPS and heading off in the direction towards where we would be staying the night. While it wasn’t freezing cold and the sun was
Successful navigation!
out it didn’t mean that we didn’t have to be careful where we walked. There were areas melting out which could result in very wet feet if we didn’t watch where we put them and patches of blue ice under a very thin veil of snow. Blue ice is very, very slippery and I’m very nervous walking on slippery surface post the rupturing and repair of my PCL. So in order not to come a cropper you walk on the patches which are not light blue instead you walk on the snow and little shuffle steps much like a penguin.

MSR stove lighting 101 in our ice kitchen
Down we went passing what looked like a small melt lake on the right before heading up and then down to where the survival camp was. It was obvious where the camp is as it still had the remnants of previous survival camps in the form of the ice breaks you make to lie your bivvy in to protect you from the wind. The first thing to do after taking our packs off was to go and grab the bags that Paula and I had dropped off the day before. These bags contained the MSR stoves, tent (for Paula to sleep in), shovels and various other bits and pieces. So task number 1 was to learn how to light the MSR stoves. Compact and light these Shellac fuelled stoves are an excellent way to make water. Make water I hear you say – well we melt snow to get liquid water but note you MUST have a some water in the bottom of the pot with the snow otherwise the pots don’t like it very much. So those who had never put together and lit one of the MSR stoves took it in turns, it’s always good to do a refresher as well. So without snow melted and water boiled it was time for a cup of milo or tea.

Survival camp site already for "sleep".
After this it was time to put up Paula’s sleeping quarters for the night, the dome/tunnel tent. While we wouldn’t be sleeping in this tonight it was important that we knew how to piece it together, especially the ICECAP guys as this type of tent is carried in the planes as part of the emergency/survival kits. Once this had been erected it was time to put together the sitrep for our sked which would was scheduled for 1900. There is a set formula for the sitreps that you follow. Now before I start for those that have been to Macca where the nightly skeds have a relaxed format the ones here on the continent are quite formal and follow a very set format. So without further a due here we go:

  • Alpha – Position information. Can be a lat/long, grid reference or feature or hut name.
  • Bravo – Health of party: number, health and fitness of party.
  • Charlie – Condition of vehicles, in our case not applicable.
  • Delta – Intentions: what are going to be doing in the next 24 hours.
  • Echo – Weather, cloud cover which is reported in octas and if you know your clouds what type they are, wind direction, horizon definition.
  • Foxtrot – State of track, is it firm, melting, thin ice etc …
  • Golf – Other information or requests, stand by for the next blog to see what request we put in on a trip out in the field J

Waiting patiently for food to rehydrate.
While some of us prepared the nightly sked the others started finding areas and digging into the snowy ground to create a nice little area to sleep in within the bivvy. 1900 rolled around and Dr Elise gave our sitrep to the comms operator - the smooth sultry tones over the airways this season are operators Robyne Chawner, Andy Merlot and Nigel Corey (funny story here Nigel knows my cousin Mark from their jobs in the RAAF in air traffic control, rumour has it they worked together too). Sitrep given it was time to eat dinner: first thing first melt snow and boil water, next make cut towards very top of ration pack, take out paper bag containing meal, place dehydrated meal in bag, add one cup of hot water, stir before folding down the top and sealing, keep like this for 12-15 minutes then unseal and eat. Now there are a few tricks you need to make sure the cut across the top is as close to the top as possible otherwise it becomes very, very difficult to seal! The next kind of important thing will ensure that you don’t have a meal that is crunchy – you have to be patient and wait the full time given on the packet. So my cut may have been a little not as close as it need to be to the top and there was a little leakage but that’s okay. With it sealed I waited my 15 minutes, well close enough, before tucking into my tasty little meal and yes that is it there in the picture and yes it was actually tasty. We then washed up out cutlery and mugs – all you do is wipe out the utensil and mug and then rinse with hot water.
Dehydrated goodness ready to eat!

Pee Bottle - orange in
colour so not to mix up with
your water bottle.
The tim tams then came out for dessert before we set about finishing our sleeping abodes for the night and putting out our chip packets. But first I can hear you ask umm what about visiting the toilet before sleeping. Let me introduce to the pee bottle, this one is orange but some white, they are basically a very different colour to the water bottles we are issued which are transparent blue. And yes you pee into the bottle as you are only permitted to pee into a tide crack, into your pee bottle or the pee drum when out in the field. A little different to Macca where you go down to the beach. Number 2’s go into a double lined bag which you throw talc in with. All this goes back to station where no 1 if in pee bottle can go down the toilet or if it is a pee drum down to the Water Treat Facility, fondly known as the WTF, No 2 go to Warren for incineration, yes the incinerator has a name in fact all the incinerators at the Australian stations are known as Warren. As a side piece Warren does not like aerosol cans.

Packed in like a sardine in my chip packet ready for a
"restful" night ...
Okay so with that taken care of it’s time to jump into bed, well I still had to put mine out which I did so in the kitchen area. Now everything fits inside your chip packet and I mean everything: sleeping mat with bag on to, pack, spare clothes, boots, water, pee bottle (one of the party did use theirs in the bivvy it is possible) and of course yourself. You then pull the draw string close however you leave a small hole which is propped up and open with your ice axe, this also ensures the bivvy is not directly on your face either. That night, a night of 24 hrs of light with a weird twilight period, I fell asleep to the snow falling on the outside of my bivvy and the sound of some gentle snoring from one of the nearby chip packets. This time around I got more sleep than the first time I did survival training, I think I got about 5 hours which is more than what I normally get at home.

Time to pack up and head back to the Red Shed.
We all woke around 6 ish to a brilliant sun lit sky and began packing up. There was a thin layer of ice on the inside of the bivvy which forms from the condensation of the water in my breath, during the night some of it fell onto my face. I then got to start a challenge I love the one of getting dressed and then packing everything inside my bivvy into my pack before I emerge from my cocoon before I roll up the chip packet and place it back on my pack. Most people get out of their bivvy and pack from the outside. The advantage of being able to do this process inside the bag is that you minimise your exposure to the environment and everything that needs to stay dry stays dry – mission accomplished. With the camp packed up it was time to head back to station for breakfast – Elise and I had some fun taking photos of our shadows in the snow as we headed back. Back on station everything is done in reverse from when you leave: call in to let comms know you are back on station, return GPS and spare batteries and remove intentions from the comms board and then change your fire tag back to white. We then headed down to the field training store to hang our chip packets, mats and sleeping bags to dry and air. We would collect these in a couple of days as we were to keep hold of these for the rest of the season. It was then time to eat breakfast and have a shower. For most people they take the afternoon off but I went to see what needed to be done on site, we all know I’m bad at sitting still.

What was left of the camp site ...
The end of survival training also coincided with the final stages of resupply, with the next day very late nearly the next day the Orange Roughy turned her back on the station and headed out of Newcomb Bay off to the Mertz Glacier to conduct science and collect krill for the krill aquarium back at Kingston. With the end of resupply bought about the realisation that what I was here to do was about to start. While we had worked a little during resupply I was about to get back into all things remediation here at Casey, back into the field after 2 seasons back home in the lab at Kingston.
And like resupply being over so is this post, I’m writing listening to two friends practise an acoustic set in the music area, it’s what I needed today to help me finish this so thanks guys.

See you later Aurora Australis.
Thanks for for the visit and the cargo!
“It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live” – Mae Jemison (NASA astronaut, 1956)

Next up Meet the Remediation Team, plus Crib, Christmas and New Year all rolled into one!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Part 1. Coloured Lego Block Buildings, an Orange Roughy and Yellow Chip Packets in a White Winter Wonderland – the Colourful World of Casey.

Ice on the water's surface down at the wharf during resupply.

When I was writing this on Saturday evening I was sitting in the library in the bay window here at Casey looking up at the moraine line and it’s beginning to blow outside – the snow is being whipped up into the air and passing quickly past me outside as I write. It’s almost reaching speeds that are a “No Wisey outside speed”. Tomorrow, on Sunday the 8th of January, it’s meant to gust up to 70 knots, perfect Wisey flying weather if only was allowed outside. We have different levels of travel here at the Australian Stations: Green - Normal (unrestricted travel); Yellow – Caution (outside travel restricted to station or camp limits); Red – Danger (Outside travel restricted to movement between buildings within station limits or camp limits with Station Leader or Field Leader approval) and Black (No outside travel permitted). It’s very pretty to watch the snow bow past but you can see why it becomes dangerous when the wind is blowing there is snow being blown around – the potential to become disorientated and lost in these unforgiving conditions is real. Currently I can only just make out Penguin Pass which is about 1 km out from station as you head up towards the A line (sort of like an Antarctic Highway) out of station and can no longer see the moraine line.

Travel Conditions for various weather conditions in Australian Antarctic Stations
Note: No going outside when wind speeds above your weight e.g. 58 - 59 knots is my limit!

So let me pick up where I left off last time.  I’d arrived safely at Casey after a trip down in the Blue Hägg from Wilkins, for the record a Hägglund trip is not smoothest or quietest of trips, a bit bumpy and lumpy but loads of fun – well I think so anyway. I didn’t put this in the last post but here is a very short clip of what it’s like to ride in a Hägglund (hopefully it works if not you'll have to wait). No sooner had my feet touched the ground at Casey and I was well and truly back in the mix being thrown into Slushy the very next day, as one person commented to me “It’s like you’d never left”. Before we could venture and where outside the red shed we would need an induction by station leader Paul Ross.

Wilkes Station in February 2014 covered under snow and ice.
But before I launch into anything else perhaps it’s time for a quick history lesson on Casey as the current station was not the first in this area. Casey station as we know it today is located on the Bailey Peninsula overlooking Vincennes Bay on the Budd Coast of Wilkes Land in East Antarctica. However the first station in the area was the American station Wilkes. This was built during the International Geophysical Year, 1957-58, the main part took 16 days, yes that’s right a very short period of time. However in February of 1959 Australia took custody of Wilkes station from the Americans however the location of the station was less than ideal as it was subject to being buried in snow and ice. So it was decided to build another station across Newcomb Bay, this station was known as Casey Repstat (Replacement Station as I have just learnt). In 1969 the new station was opened and Wilkes was decommissioned, the station remains and is covered in snow and ice, during the melt the station becomes slightly exposed and in big melt events the whole station and old tip site can be seen. As part of the Human Impacts program we visit Wilkes to observe, photograph and record the tip site and station so standby for a blog post on Wilkes at a later date.

The construction of Casey Repstat started in 1964 and as mentioned was completed in 1969. In order to combat the build-up of ice the construction of the station including placing the buildings on stilts with the hope of encouraging the wind to blow beneath as well as above. The buildings were connected by a corrugated iron tunnel, leading the station to be known simply and fondly known as “The Tunnel”. However with time it became evident due to corrosion that Repstat would need to be replaced and in the late 1980’s construction of the current Casey Red Shed commenced. The Red Shed was prefabricated in Hobart and was erected on the wharf on Hobart as a trial before it was dismantled, packaged and shipped to Casey where it was erected during the summer months. My friend Jason fathers was one of the trades people who were involved at Casey in the construction phase. The new Casey station was first occupied in 1988 and over the coming years Casey Repstat was dismantled, all that remains of the station are some iron bolts in the rocks and the old chippy’s workshop. Casey as it currently exists comprises of the “The Red Shed” with the West and East wing extensions (the east wing is yet to take occupants) where all the living quarters are including bedrooms, mess, theatre and Doctors’ surgery there are various other coloured buildings –
The Green Buildings of the Water Treatment Facility and CUB
and the Blue Emergency Power House.
Green: the green store (where all the frozen, refrigerated and warm store foods are kept plus various other supplies), the water treatment plant and the new Casey Utility Building which is currently being constructed;

Blue: Main and Emergency Power Houses and Ring mains

Yellow: Operations Building which houses the Comms Team (Comms Techs and Operators) and the Met Team and the Science Building, home to all things boffin

Red: Emergency Vehicle Storage (EVS), fire Hägg and also has the dress ups and band area upstairs

Orange/Yellow: Home to the Field Training Store, and the workshops for the Sparkies, Chippies, Plumbers and Diesos.

As you can probably imagine the Casey footprint is quite large. It is however about normal size for an Antarctic research station with the exception of the American Station McMurdo which has 1100 people.

And where does the name Casey come from?

Lord Casey and the plaque for the opening of Casey Repstat
(Old Casey) located now in the Wallow at Casey.
Casey Station (Repstat and the current establishment) is named in honour of Lord Richard Casey served as Australia’s 16th Governor General from May 1965 until April 1969. Lord Casey was the member for the seat of Latrobe in the Menzies' government which came into power in 1949. He held various ministerial positions including the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation, what we know as CSIRO. During this ministerial position Casey became a keen supporter and advocate for the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) which had been established under the Labour government in 1947. Stations had been already established at Heard and Macquarie Islands but not on the continent. As chairman of the ANARE Executive Planning Committee Lord Casey worked closely with Dr Phillip Law, the head of the Antarctic Division at the time, and in 1953 he announced that Australia would send an expedition to Antarctica. This expedition in 1954 determined the suitable location for a station and in the December of 1954 saw the establishment of Mawson station. Davis Station was later established in January 1957. I remember talking with Nod Parsons just before I left where he told me of being on the ship in 1955 on the way to Mawson to winter and going into Prydz Bay and at the possible locations for second Australian station. I feel very fortunate to have met and spent time with Nod hearing him share and recount his Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stories.

Stacking fresh fruit, vegies and eggs from the ship in
the cool store.
Now back to business once we had received the station induction from the station leader and gone for a walk around the station with one of the scientists we would be allowed to walk around the station limits and the recreational limits which include Reeve Hill, the Ski Loop (ski here not really for walking) and down to the wharf. Although for now the road to the wharf was a no go as the following day we would be graced by an orange ship in the bay.  Low and behold that Saturday morning when I got up and headed down to the mess and looked across into the bay there she was the Aurora Australis in all her safety orange glory packed to the brim with goodies for the station including food, work equipment and over a million litres of fuel for the station. Everyone gets assigned duties during resupply whether it being helping down at the wharf with the containers coming off the barge from the ship to unpacking the food reefers as the come up to the Green Store to being part of the refuelling roster. However today I would be in the kitchen on Slushy which involves washing the dishes from the chefs (we have three here at Casey over the summer), wiping down tables and benches in the mess, restocking food items as requested by the chefs, cleaning the common area in the wallow, doing any additional chores as required by the chefs such as prepping vegies plus choosing/inflicting station with your music choices. Now there is more than slushy as with over 80 people on station you can imagine the numberof pots and pans that end up being used in preparing food for everyone, today there were 3 as there would be old stock coming over from the Green store to make way for the new food stuffs coming from the ship so a pair of extra hands would be required.

Marine Scientists came ashore with some flags made by school children
from Kingston, Tasmania.
MariSo let me now tell you the story of Casey Resupply, all the ins and outs. If I give you the simplified version first: ship arrives; ship discharges cargo; station receives cargo over multiple days certain containers are unpacked straight away like food reefers and personal effects which makes expeditioners very happy; round trip scientists visit station to conduct work; fuel line is deployed from shore to chip; fuel is pumped to fuel farms; fuel line is pigged (terminology used to remove any residual fuel from the line prior to retrieval of the line); fuel line retrieval; Cargo for Return To Australia (RTA) is sent back to ship over multiple days; ship completes discharge and acceptance of cargo; ship secures load; ship departs Newcomb Bay – Happy Days. But it’s never as smooth as this little things like the weather get in the way and change the course of resupply. During resupply at Casey in my first season here (2013/14) I remember getting up to do my refuelling duty on Christmas Day which was walking the fuel line to check for leaks and finding there was no line there – the line had been pigged. The ship had been called to respond to Maritime distress call by the Akademik Shokalskiy who had become stuck in ice in Commonwealth Bay, the Aurora was one of three ships in the “neighbourhood”, the other two being the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong and the French vessel Astrolabe. The Aurora Australis returned later with a few extra passengers including one very important addition - Stay to complete refuelling and resupply duties, it did have to leave the bay one more time during that resupply as the winds picked up for a couple of days. It was a long and drawn out event and we were all glad to see the tail end of her that season.

The Peter Gormly makes its way to the Aurora Australis to collect another
load of cargo.
Resupply this season ran smoothly like clockwork and was not a repeat of what seemed like the never ending resupply I encountered in 13/14. Each station employs different methods to get cargo to shore. Macquarie Island where I have spent two summer seasons uses LARCs (Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo) and helicopters for ship to shore operations and then helicopters to resupply and collect RTA from the field huts down island. At Davis resupply is done over ice with some early high priority cargo flown off before the ship reaches its fast ice position, later in the season a top up resupply is carried out using helicopters. Cargo at Casey and Mawson is transported from ship to shore via a jet barge, this year the lucky barge to make the trip to Casey was the Peter Gormly. The cargo is offloaded from the ship and brought to shore using the barge where it loaded from the barge onto trucks using the crane at the wharf and then bought up to station where the container is unloaded. Now depending what the container/cage pallet holds then depends whether it gets unpacked straight away or it is left until after resupply. In the case of the containers which have the food (which come in reefers at -18 or +4), the station alcohol and personal effects, these are unloaded straight away or as soon as possible. Other items which get unpacked immediately is anything which may be required in an operational sense. Casey unlike the other 3 Australian Antarctic Division stations is fortunate to have the A319 and C17 flights and gets fresh food top ups, needless to say I am slowly making my way through the oranges and pears that came in on resupply.

Fuel line going from ship to shore with the IRBs patrolling
the line and pushing bergy bits out of the way.

Now one of the big and very important tasks of resupply is refuelling the station! In order to carry out refuelling good weather is required for the period. Unlike Macquarie Island where I am used to seeing  refuelling occur in a single day with about 8 hours of pumping (a lot less fuel is transferred at the Sponge), refuelling at Casey requires a couple of days and pumping of the fuel is done around the clock until the job is complete, endless days during summer help with this. Casey has two fuel farms, the lower and the upper farm where Special Antarctic Blend fuel is stored to run the station and Wilkins Aerodrome, fuel is transferred and transported up to Wilkins every couple of weeks. During refuelling there are various jobs which are carried out: setup and pressure testing of the fuel line, on the IRBs pushing bergy bits off the line and  checking the line for leaks during the pumping, walking the fuel line to check for leaks and the monitoring at both upper and lower fuel farms. This season I had drawn the upper fuel farm monitoring, my partner in crime for this would be none other than Dieso Pat. Pat works up at Perisher during the winter maintaining their plant up there, he trained the guys form the AAD on the maintenance, fine tuning and operation of the groomers and other equipment used at the Wilkins, Casey and Davis ski ways and last winter. I still remember one of the first conversations I had with Pat, he asked if I’d been to Perisher as he knew the snowflake necklace I was wearing came from the Alpine Bear. We had good chat about snow sports, where to go skiing/boarding and what he did at Perisher.

Pat the Dieso, partner in crime for Upper Fuel Farm monitoring.
There are various shift times for the refuelling roster and we’d also been allotted 12:00 – 16:00 and then 00:00 – 04:00, not the most pleasant of times but for someone who doesn’t require huge amounts of sleep worked out just fine. An added advantage of having a room in the West Wing is that your room is sooo dark, no windows, it makes it much easier to sleep especially when on shift. Our first shift was at 12:00 and while mainly uneventful, however we did help with collecting the hose from the barge and bring it to shore before it was towed out to the ship to be connected. Brad Collins is in charge of station refuelling so Pat, Lucius and I worked with him to bring the fuel line up over the ice – we didn’t go on the ice we pulled it up using another rope which it had been attached to and placed there by the field training officers (FTOs). Once at the connection point Brad and Pat connected the hose. The line was then pressure tested before it was time to pump the SAB to some of the ISO tanks down at the lower fuel farm, once these were filled they began pumping to the upper fuel farm, this happened on our first shift. Prior to this though Franz and Brad had come down from Wilkins and needed to fill up the fuel tank to take back up the hill, this was done before refuelling started. Once refuelling commenced the person on the focsle would radio in every fifteen minutes for the level in the tank we were filling. The first tank we needed to fill was not empty so within that first shift we topped up that tank before opening the valve to the next tank - I learnt a bit about how the fuel tank system operates. Pat and I did a quick calculation and worked out that we should have one more shift before the upper fuel farm was completely full. This season Brad would be trying to pump 1 million litres of SAB fuel to station, that’s a lot of fuel!!

The colours in the wee hours of the morning on a berg way in the distance.
So with our first shift over is was back to the Red Shed for some rest, I went to the gym before getting about 4.5 hours sleep. At about 10:45 there were a group of blear eyed people in the mess eating “dinner” before heading off to their respective refuelling duties. Pat and I headed back to the Upper Fuel Farm – standing on top of the tanks you are quite exposed to the elements so it can get quite chilly up there but you also get the most amazing views. Yes it did cool down during the early morning shift, my index fingers are always the first thing that go numb and start to get painful but the pain was dulled by the amazing colours in the sky and the snow petrel flying display we were treated to in the wee hours of morning. The sky was pink with a purplish hue in colour and the water was like glass the reflection of the ship almost mirror like. There was not a ripple except for those caused by the IRBs as the carefully manoeuvred up and down the lines checking it and pushing little bergy bits that could pierce it. One of the boat operators on this shift was Noel Tennant whose job back Kingston HQ is in operations in particular he works with the chefs on station, why mention Noel as I’d like to thank him for not finding my peanut butter and eating it, thank you Noel!!!  As it drew close to the end of the shift Pat and I noticed a change in the water, it looked like there was a breeze across the top of it but it wasn’t. Ice had started to form, this ice is known as grease ice and forms before pancake ice forms, interested to know more about ice formation in the sea check out this link: It was then time to tag with Woll and Lenneke and head off for a bite to eat and bed.

Taken about 3:00am in the morning from the Upper Fuel Farm,
so still and quiet and amazing colours.

The next day refuelling to the upper fuel farm had been complete so we walked down to the lower fuel farm to help out on anything that we could, also my body clock was out from the shifts. Pat helped out on filling the ISO tanks and I gave a hand switching in between the tanks which were being used to fill the ISO tanks. At the end of that shift I got a ride back up to station with Johan who was driving the Mack Truck, I was even allowed to blow the horn – no it doesn’t have one on the steering wheel it has a pulley J As refuelling had been completed in the upper fuel farm Pat and I were now stood down from the refuelling roster which meant I could go back to duties on the Remediation site.  But that wasn’t to last for long as it was time to do this little thing called Survival Training or as I like to call it – “How much sleep can you really get in a Chip Packet?”
Big Boss, Little Boss and the Mack Truck.

But you’re just going to have to wait for that in part 2 as I’ve managed to drag part 1 on for way too long and I’m worried about you all falling asleep out there. So wait you must for part 2 and the quote as they will come together with the tales of the Gobbledok monster (for those of you unsure what I’m talking about click on this Gobbledok).  So until then - Chiiiipeees or Penguin Cookie by Julia in this case!!!!

Hmmm Penguin Cookie and some Orange Ship.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

See you when I see you, not if I see you first - Never ending goodbyes and Valpen returns to the ice.

How far away are you from Casey?
Well when I started writing this I was two hours into the four and a half hour flight down to Wilkins aerodrome from Hobart airport – it’s taken me over two weeks to finish writing this blog post! Normally passengers for the Australian Antarctic Program who fly to the continent go on the A319, affectionately known as Snowbird, however this was not the case for me. I was fortunate enough to go on the chartered RAAF C-17A Globemaster III. The AAD began using the C-17 last year (15/16 season) where a number of proving flights were conducted. These included a simulated medivac, transporting back to Hobart from station a Challenger tractor for service and various cargo bits and pieces – the lads may have had a hit out of cricket at Wilkins at the time. Fast forward to the 16/17 and there are several C-17 flights scheduled for the season. The first C17 flight of the season took the helicopters in for the glacier work that has been conducted at Casey: Impact of East Antarctica glacial melt on sea-level rise, the third saw the successful deployment of 40 drums of fuel in to the Bunger Hills, check out the video here: Deep-field air drop supports Antarctic science and the one that I am on currently (16/12) has a little cargo going in but its main priority is to collect the helicopters and bring them back to Hobart. Yes it’s taken me a while to finish this one!

But let’s step back in time a couple of weeks – how long can you stretch out good byes? Well if you’re me it can be a while. It all started when one Sunday (27/11) I realised it would be my last Metafit Class with the Sunday crew at the Kingborough Gym before I headed to Casey. For those who have never heard of Metafit it is high intensity interval training which takes a mere 30 minutes (that’s one of the longer ones to!). Due to other bits and pieces over the next couple of Sundays were filled up with other engagements. So at the end of the Hammer Fist Metafit it was time to say bye to Tamara and the rest of the crew. I would have one more Metafit session the following Thursday. The Friday that week also saw the finally time for 2016 I would attend Power Hour with Lisa O – things were starting to begin to feel real, time was running out to get everything done before heading south.

Nod and Jennifer Parsons at Nod's ANARE
 Club life membership presentation.
The following week I had lunch with Nod Parsons and his wife Jennifer, Nod was an ANARE expeditioner who went to Macqaurie Island in the early 1950s and in the mid 1960’s as well as to Mawson in the mid 1950s. I met Nod when I was asked to present his ANARE Club life membership in early September this year. Nod was an auroral physicist that ran the cosmic ray huts at both Macquarie Island and Mawson. Nod has a great array of stories including when the cosmic ray hut was built at Macca where they started construction from both ends and no there was not a gap they actually had an overlap. The only remnants of the hut at Macca is a single concrete block on the west side as the hut burnt down some 4 to 5 years after it was constructed.

My next set of goodbyes would be at Cath King’s place where a few of us had gathered to say good bye to the one and only Helena, aka H/H-Bomb. Helena has just embarked on a very exciting adventure as part of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (ACE) voyage which set sail on the Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov from Cape Town in South Africa in late December. The ACE projects is comprised of 22 projects, 55 researchers and 19 countries. A number of different projects from biology to climatology to oceanography will studied to gain a better understanding of Antarctica and in turn the whole planet. If you want to keep a track of this what is going on you can follow the journey on twitter:

Louise and I at the Big Ugg Boot, Thorton
The very next day I headed north to the big island up to New Castle and then onto Maitland for my good friend Danielle’s wedding in the Hunter Valley. Danielle was a PhD student who was from Macquarie University in Sydney who did part of her studies at the AAD and I was fortunate to spend the summer of 2013/14 at Casey with her – we were known as the Pocket Rockets. So arriving on the Friday at New Castle airport it was a tad warmer than Hobart then it was hurry up and wait for the bus to take me to Maitland East. Across the runway at New Castle airport is the RAAF Williamtown Base, so while waiting for the bus to show I got treated to a Spartan flying over and two Hornets doing a little bit of a fly by, they were buzzing around. And I also got to see the aircraft that would take me down to the frozen continent the next week – the C-17 Globemaster III. To cut a long story short the wedding was amazing and it was good to catch up with a few of the Casey crew. Whilst also in the area Louise (forecaster with BOM who has been to Davis, Casey and Macca) and I also visited the big Ugg Boot in Thorton It was then back to Hobart to put the finishing touches on preparations prior to heading south. And over that weekend something else unfolded – I found out that a good friend would be returning back to Australia from Davis for medical reasons, just the A Factor hitting early. Lucky for Goldie that he’d get back before I left so he could be greeted by the small welcoming committee that was Cliff and myself at the airport – not sure he’d call it that though he might use other words instead!
Danielle and Reese's Wedding

Before I knew it Thursday rolled around and it was time for the preflight briefing. This consists of a series of short presentations including cleaning your gear prior to departure (the motto is take it clean or take it new) and is important in ensuring alien species are not introduced into Antarctica, about and how to prepare for the flight and what to expect on landing at Wilkins Aerodrome. We were then also briefed on additional safety items specific for travelling on the C-17 before being told we would need to be at the airport at 5:30 am the next morning for a 7 am departure, not too bad but still early. Later that evening we got an updated departure time of 5 am which meant being at the airport by no later than 3:30 am!! This meant I should have had an early night but those that know me well know that this is next to near impossible. After the preflight briefing I returned back to my place to do the final bits and pieces and catch up with Mum and Dad, thanks Geoff for my awesome Christmas present of Family Feud the game. After wood fired pizza from Lower Sandy Bay I then put the final touches on my packing before toddling off to bed, but as is the case before I leave on any early morning flight sleep was minimal.

At the ungodly  hour of 2:15 am my alarm went off it was time to extract myself out of bed, get dressed and move on out to the airport, a big thank you to Goldie for collecting me and taking me out to the airport at that  rather rude hour. The reason for the time being bought forward was that the weather was meant to crack up later in the day and there were two helicopters that needed to be transported back from Casey/Wilkins to Hobart. Leaving earlier meant that the weather time frame would be more amenable to operations. So at the hour of 3:30 some 10 or so bleary eyed people collected at the Virgin Check in area at Hobart International Airport. It was here that Micky from the AAD handed me the newspapers that I was to hand over to the lads at Wilkins Aerodrome. Micky then loaded us and our gear onto the bus and we made the very short journey to the where the C-17 would be waiting. But before boarding our winged chariot we went into a small building with all our kit where we were informed that they would be checking all our kit bags. We filled out a dangerous goods declaration and then it was time for the check which was painless and quick – talk about efficiency. All I had to show them was the spare batteries for my cameras which were packaged correctly with their terminals sealed. We then grabbed our gear and all filed back onto the bus where we sat for about 30 minutes while the flight crew, load masters and technicians completed their checks. We then drove less than 300m to the beast and loaded ourselves and our gear on up through the rear hatch of the plane. Sorry I have no pictures of the plane myself but here’s one from the RAAF web page to give you an idea of the size of the beast.

C-17 Globemaster III picture from RAAF webpage:

With the final checks all done we were then sealed into the plane with tail hatch being closed. This was followed by the RAAF crew briefing us on emergency procedures and the locations of items such as personal flotation devices, oxygen masks, toilets and the all-important eskys with food. With our bags, including our red survival bags, and the cargo secured safely to the floor down the centre of the plane it was then time to take our seats which were located on the side of the plane. We belted up and began to move, it was very disorientating sitting in a large space with not many windows not know which direction you were travelling or when you’d hit the end of the runway ready for take-off. At about 4:50am the noise coming from the C-17 stallion jet engines changed and the speed of the large craft increased, the sudden movement pushing us sideways in our seats – you definitely knew when we had left the ground as it felt like a steep climb upwards into the sky. Like a normal civilian aircraft when the Captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign we were free to move around the large, spacious “cabin” – advantage number 1 of the C-17, oodles of space to stretch out and move around. However there are a couple of down sides: the noise (noise cancelling head phones are an essential) and lack of windows. There were four larger porthole sized windows that you could look out of lucky for us it was pretty cloudy the whole way, but on the whole it was a very enjoyable flight down.

Back on the ice at Wilkins Aerodrome with a couple of
flying machines in the distance.

As we approached Wilkins and we began to make our descent it was time to get into our warm gear and survival outer layers. Not too long after you could feel the plane pitch as it changed direction and its speed slowing as it made its final approach to the blue ice runway. The sound of the landing gear being deployed signalled the soon we would be touching down and just like that the wheels hit the ground and the plane began to break. Now I learnt from Sealy (William Seal) who is the diesel mechanic up at Wilkins that the C-17 takes nearly 2/3 of the runway to slow down completely. In order to aid this the ice run way has snow mixed into it to give it a higher friction rate enabling the plane to come to a safe stop. We waited for a little while before the Wilkins manager, Jeff, boarded the aircraft and gave us a briefing on the conditions at Wilkins. Three years when I arrived at Wilkins I had recently ruptured my PCL and was wearing my knee brace and was instructed by then Wilkins manager Micky to be very, very careful. Jeff said the conditions were fine and boot chains would not be required – I was still uber careful as I made my way down the steps, departing the plane from the front this time as the cargo was being discharged from the tail.

Window won't stay shut, try
Stu's Jelly Bean Method! 
We then made our way to the Ops building where I handed over the precious cargo of newspapers to Wilkins chef Adam. I was then greeted by Jenn (a senior AGSO from Casey) who was returning home, I’d left a mango on the plane for her as a treat. I then encountered a masked individual in a blue Carhartt jacket who according to Jenn I apparently knew. It took the peeling back of a neck warmer to see the ginger hair which belonged to my good friend Stu – YAY Stu would be driving me down to station along with Lucas and Wei Wei from the ICECAP Team in the blue Hägg, K14 I think from memory, which came complete with jelly beans to hold the passenger’s window closed. After a quick chat it was time to depart for station. As we turned our back to head off the Wilkins lads continued to unload the plane and then load the two heli resources helicopters on board ready for their trip back home.

Mario Karts Antarctic style - meet two of the Casey Hägglunds
It was time for the Mario karts of Antarctica, the blue and green Hägglunds, to make the 70 km journey to station. Stu led off and we had a good chin wag on the way down – you use headsets to talk to each other as it is quite noisy inside the machines. Not only is it quite noisy but it’s also quite bumpy there is no nice sealed highway down to station. The A-line down to station is marked with GPS way points enabling people to travel if they need to in white out conditions, no need on that day as the sun was out and there was great definition between the blue sky and the white land which seemed stretch on forever. Now the I soon realised that one jelly bean was insufficient to keep the window from sliding open so this was upgraded to two – I think the combination of one black and one orange worked the best but am still open to other options as the window still likes to come open as we found out recently on a field trip to Jack’s Donga (more about that in couple of blogs time).

Just a bit of a stretch on the way down to Casey,
it's hard with all that gear on and Sorel boots!
Now we could have ploughed through to station not stopping on the way, which takes about 3.5 hours, but instead we stopped at the Antarctic circle for a break and photos – kind of like when, for those that live in Tasmania, you stop at Campbell Town to stretch your legs as you make your way from one end of the state to the other. So it was here I decided to do have a stretch and broke out Camel Posture (ustrasana) – thanks to photographer Stu for capturing this moment. It was then back into the Hägg and with Tripod’s Hot Dog Man blaring out the head sets we got back to the task at hand and got back on the white road with icy aqua blue patches to the side and headed down to station. As we made our way down on the left hand side we started to see the ocean and the ice cliffs in the areas nearby. One rocky outcrop with two large antennae looked familiar and when I asked Stu if Robbo’s was over in that direction he said “Yep!”

May favorite cafe,
Cafe Lola, makes it to Antarctica
We then passed the turn off to Browning and then as we made our way closer a Basler aircraft passed over the top of us, I knew that meant we were close by the ski way. We then passed the sign to Jacks and at this point as we started to head down the hill I could see forever changing blue sea (tonight, 1/1/17, it is a grey indigo blue) with the stark white ice bergs in the distance and the bays in front of me that Casey Station, which is situated on the Bailey Peninsular, looks out onto. I saw the familiar shapes to my right of the moraine line and the rocky outcrops which lead the way to Wilkes Hut and the old Wilkes Station. And in the distance on my left I could see the coloured buildings that make up Casey Research Station. As we approached Penguin Pass I remembered when I helped my friend Zbyněk, a remote sensing biologist, with some of his work on Antarctic moss in Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) 135, which was on my right. Stu then radioed into station to let Comms know we had arrived on station.

We then drove up to the Red Shed, the living quarters, at the heart of Casey Station and out we tumbled, tired but I was pleased to be back. We made our way in, found our rooms in the West Wing and then had a bite to eat – our luggage would arrive latter with the rest of the cargo. At lunch I was greeted by some familiar faces in the remediation team – B (Bianca), Bec, Ness, Jack and Jake and I got the biggest hug from Johan. Later that afternoon we had a station induction which meant we could leave the confines of the Red Shed. Being tired from an early start and a day full of travel I just took it easy, well easy for me. Unlike last time I was here where resupply was at least 2-3 weeks after I arrived when I would wake tomorrow there would be an orange ship in Newcomb Bay meaning no rest for the wicked – I was back and on slushy that very next day. But you’ll just have to wait for the “Tale of the Orange Ship and the Gobbledock Monster that slept in a Yellow Chip Packet” until next time.

A Yellow Chip Packet and Collective Hub,
only in Antarctica!
For so many years as a child, teenager and adult I lacked belief in many things convincing myself that certain things were impossible and it was no use even attempting them. I now look at all I have achieved and contributed to and know that the impossible is not otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today – back here on the ice. 

So I’ll leave you with this quote as it sums up some of the thought patterns I’ve had over the past couple of years. Until next time.

“It always seems impossible until it is done” Nelson Mandela

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Clothes Horse Rides Again ...

The Clothes Horse Rides Again ...

When I was in year 12  this was a discussion that would quite often happen between my father and I (haven't let you down Dad managed to acquire something waiting for my flight the other day).

“So what did you do during your line off Friday afternoon this week young lady?” Dad
“A bit of study and then went to the Mall with the girls.” 17 year old Lauren
“Ahh the Clothes Horse.” Dad

Dad helping me in the Drive Thru in
Devonport on McHappy Day about 20 years ago
At the age of 15 I got a job at McDonald’s when it opened in Devonport in order to fund myself on my school French trip to New Caledonia. I worked there handing out brown paper bags and ice cream cones hanging out the window of Drive Thru until I left the North West Coast for University. In year 12 at The Don College (Is Don Is Good) I had a free line and the chemistry class I was in had our scheduled hour off Friday afternoon. This often resulted, probably once a month, in a trip down the hill and to the mall to the shops where the Clothes Horse was in her element. It’s okay I did study as well otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today, Mum knew I did as she taught at the College I attended, no hiding there.

To this day this  statement of Dad's still holds true statement.  If you were to delve into my wardrobe and drawers you’d find the following all segregated on a shelf or in a drawer (yes I am a bit OCD when it comes to segregating my gear, makes it easier when I’m in a hurry): hockey uniforms (playing and umpiring) plus training gear; running clothing; yoga wear; cycling attire for both road and mountain bike; swimmers for both pool and beach; gym wear; skiing kit; hiking stuff not to mention my every day wear and dress up attire – yes I occasionally might wear a dress but it’s a rare occurrence. So where am I going with all this well the one category I left to the end was all my warm clothing that I have and get issued for heading down to Macca or Casey.

Meet Mana who'll kit you out from head to toe! 
Let me introduce to you Mana Inoue, provider of all your Antarctic and sub-Antarctic clothing attire. But I’ve known Mana before her days hidden in the depths of the clothing store. I first met Mana during my season at Casey in 13/14 where she was a PhD student and part of the Aurora Basin campaign. Mana’s main focus for her PhD was the interpretation of a 97 year climate record from an ice core from Mill Island. This core was 120m drilled in 2009 and is from one of the most northern locations in Antarctica. Due to this site's extremely high snow accumulation it contains a very high resolution climate record, pretty amazing stuff hey!

Quick peek behind the doors of the field store 
Mana is heading down on V2 which departed Hobart last week and will be assisting with the marine science component of the voyage. V2 is also the resupply voyage for Casey station so hopefully I’ll get to see Mana across on station when the Orange Roughy rocks into Newcomb Bay a few days after I arrive on the RAAF C-17A Globemaster III, I’m a plane nerd for those of you who weren’t aware but that’ll be saved for another blog. I had a ball sitting waiting for the bus recently at Newcastle airport right next to Williamtown RAAF Base, just a bit of plane spotting – 2 airborne F/A-18 Hornets as well as those resting in the shade under their shelters (seen from inside the plane as I landed), one C-17A Globemaster III preparing for take-off, an airborne C-27J Spartan and a couple of E-7A Wedgetails on the ground. If you‘re interested in some more information of the planes in the RAAF check out RAAF Aircraft. While Mana is away Luca Vanzino will be looking after everyone’s kitting needs. Luca, along with the wonderful Sue Hillam, works in the field equipment store which manages and looks after all the gear required for the field. From tents, to sleeping bags, packs, survival kits for the various aircraft and all essential pee bottles these guys keep things ticking over.

Just one of the rows of kit in the clothing
store at Kingston
I should stop digressing from what I’m here to do and get back to the task at hand – clothing and kitting. What to wear when you’re faced with temperatures which are at the opposite end of the spectrum to the 40 degree Bikram room. Now working for the Australian Antarctic Division we are very fortunate that we are provided with gear that has been carefully selected to suit the work we do in the temperatures we work in. As we’re not able to be able to trap air between layers of feathers or fur and don’t have a thick layer of blubber to protect us from the cold like the animals which live down here do. Instead the secret to us keeping warm, no not staying inside in the warmth of the red shed, is indeed the age old trick of layering. I definitely prefer lots of thin insulating layers, don’t ask me how many thermals, thin merino tops, mid fleeces, light insulated jacket then the higher rated outer jackets I have because there are a few. Comes from running the gauntlet training for hockey in the middle of a Tasmanian winter when the pitch can turn into an ice skating rink, and for those interested yes I have trained, played and umpired whilst it has snowed. 

What's in the red survival bag
So what do we get issued with? Well that does depend on the work which you are heading down for.  One of the important items that is uniform issue to all expeditioners is the red survival bag and its contents. So what does this contain - well instead of me writing out I’ve taken a picture of the card which is found in the outside pocket of the bag. As with all good layering systems it starts with a good set of merino thermals, followed by a mid fleece layer (rest assured the pants will never take off in the world of fashion) and then to top it off you have a water and wind proof outer layer. You then also have what are called bear paw mitts, a balaclava (remembered that most thermal heat is lost through your noggin) insulated boots and boot chains - my feet like my height are not long enough to fit into the Baffins usually issued so I’m issued with good ol’ Sorels.

Now back to that final outer layer if you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to dress up as one of the Bananas sans their Pajamas then look no further – may I introduce to you Lauren the human banana and no I don’t chase bears or have a friend called Rat in a Hat. When getting kitted it’s important to try on all these layers to ensure all the sizes are correct – too big and you’ll lose heat and if at Macca have gaps for the rain to come in, too small and it’s uncomfortable. This can be a bit of chore in itself as layering up inside a 20 degree room soon gets quite warm and you just want to get dressed and undressed as quickly as possible. Also found in my survival bag is my essential survival food – Ye Ol’ Spikey Bridge Peanut Butter, thanks Ash and Terri.

Ever wanted to look like a Banana sans pajamas
then look no further. Geez I have short legs!!!
As I mentioned not everyone gets exactly the same items. Trades are issued with Carhartt jackets and pants which are robust insulated gear great for working outside, while scientists get down jackets and if you’re on marine science you’re going to need a whole lot of different water proof gloves and clothing for conducting work on the ship. We all get trusty Hard Yakka pants and florescent orange hi-vis work shirts and vests, oh so attractive but essential for being visible to the plant operating in and around station. So once you’ve tried things on and are happy with sizes you have the joy of packing everything into bags and then signing your life away for items you have received. Some of the items such as thermals you get to keep but many items are returned to the field store at the end of the season where they are inspected and cleaned ready for issuing next season. When I saw Mana for kitting she had kitted some 350 expeditioners, the total number for this season is somewhere between 500 and 550. Now that’s a lot of kit to get ready and a lot to receive back at the end of the season and sort!

Packing at home - all laid out ready to go into bags.
Note magical blankie all ready to go - enables good night's sleep
But let’s be honest no one really wants to wear thermals, work pants and hi-vis at the end of the work day, I only choose to wear hi-vis when umpiring hockey (hmm that's not so much a choice really either), so taking some casual gear down with you is always advisable. It’s amazing how putting on your own gear from home can make you feel more like you’re at home. In my case it’s a matter of deciding what to take and what to leave behind at home. There’s the obligatory jeans and comfy trackies (pair of much loved Roots Canada pants from my friend Bec), my snuggly Tigerlily jacket, a few dresses (yes believe it or not I own more than one), and t-shirts of various colours and patterns. I also got a new pair of felted slippers with corked rubber soles for this season which will come in quite handy, my beloved ugg slippers are a little to worn and battered. A little side story about my new slippers/shoes the lady that was looking after me in the store when I was looking at them actually wintered at Casey in 1990 as the station chef, it’s amazing who you meet.

Merrimaking Hood -
 An Arctic Fox in Antarctica

For those that know me I like to have things all organised even right down to how I pack my clothes. I have a multitude of different coloured dry bags in which different categories of clothing gets pack – one for sports/gym/yoga wear (not Bikram unfortunately), work gear, casual lounging stuff, nice stuff for special occasions, socks, gloves and beanies all in one, then an important one that contains my blanket. Yes that’s right I take my mohair blanket down with me. I’m convinced it has magical powers as soon as I pull it up over me I can fall asleep. Also in my bags you’ll find my runners (2 pairs one for the gym and the other for running outside), a plethora of cables and chargers, swimmers for the spa and Australia Day, a couple of furry animal hoods like the one in the picture from Merrimaking in the UK and my toiletry bags - yes there are multiple this is me we’re talking about after all!

Extra bits and pieces going down on V2 - Peanut butter and
Tadhg the toucan safely packed in top left box.
But wait I can hear some of you say – what about that pink hippo costume? Well late in October I packed a few boxes and consigned them in on Voyage 2, the Casey resupply voyage. These contain: some dress up costumes (pink hippo onsie, thank you Danielle) for parties on station; bulk toiletries (I suffer from eczema so take things in I know I won’t react to including clothes washing detergent, thanks Brendan); bulk vitamins and supplements; 3 tubs of Spike Bridge Peanut Butter to get me through the season (I’ll leave one for the winterers at the end of the summer) and some bits pieces for a secret Santa present. There might also be a rather large inflatable toucan by the name of Tadhg in there as well … watch this space for his appearance. I’m trying to remember what else I packed but am struggling, it will be like Christmas when the boxes turn up. Funny thing is they will turn up around Christmas time as resupply at Casey commences not long after I arrive, the big orange ship will rock up into the bay and it will be all stations go for about 7 days while the station is restocked, refuelled and return to Australia (RTA) cargo is loaded. If you’d like to follow the progress of the Aurora on her way down you can follow the site reps and track in this link here.

H gives Tadhg Toucan the thumbs up for comfort factor

I can hear my Dad saying though, “Where are your cameras and lens Lauren?” Don’t worry these precious items along with my work lap top will be safely packed into my small backpack (the one most of you have seen me lug around Hobart so maybe not that small) which will travel with me and along with my survival bag. My replacement field weight as I call it, my new Canon 7D Mark II (the Mark I’s shutter mechanism died earlier this year), will make its maiden expedition this season and is completed with a couple of lenses plus my little point and shoot. Oh and a couple of hard drives to store the pictures on (second is for a back-up, lessons learnt while writing a 300 page plus thesis). They also contain viewing material to keep me entertained in the evenings when I’m not writing this blog, as well as any documentation which I might need – recipes, knitting patterns, random information I have stored away!

So with that I think we’ll leave all things clothes and kit related there, please feel free to send me any questions you may have about what we wear down on the continent and why.  I’ve currently just returned from a wedding of a close Antarctic friend in the Hunter Valley and am in the process of doing the final packing of my bags, they are mostly packed. Actually they have been for over a week, I’ve been doing what I like to call fine tuning.
Bags nearly all packed ...

I’m going to end with this little rhyme, it contains shoes, but really it’s more about you being the one who decides your own adventure and no one else and I’m about to embark on my next one.

“You have brains in your head,
You have feet in your shoes,
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Dr Seuss

So get ready people the next adventure of the Pocket Rocket is about to begin - up next “See you when I see you, not if I see you First! - the never ending goodbyes” (Yes I stole this line from the movie Gallipoli)

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