Geoff Payne – ANARE Club Representative 2015-2016
Voyage 2 Aurora Australis
Hobart to Casey and return
Saturday 24 October 2015
I’ve heard it referred to as being “bipolar” – being among the people who get a kick out of journeying to both north & south polar regions on a regular basis. I don’t quite qualify among the obsessive but last year Beverly and I both had a couple of weeks in Norway which included 10 days on the Hurtigruten Line coastal supply and passenger ship (300 people) and took the opportunity to call in on the polar museums – very rewarding and fascinating for some real insights into their polar heroes. So this year finds me journeying south again in a very different guise. After wintering at Wilkes many years ago, I am looking forward to comparing the facilities, programs and particularly the science and communications at Casey with those I remember from Wilkes. I was electronic engineer with the Cosray (upper atmosphere) program then and after initial studies at Heard and Macquarie Island particularly, biological and oceanographic sciences weren’t really on the map in the sixties on the continent. And the penetration of the blizzes into our packing case timber corridors at Wilkes will I’m sure, be a very different story to Casey.
My thanks to the Antarctic Division for its on-going support of the ANARE Club and its annual award of a berth for the purposes of promoting the Club, and in turn my appreciation of the Club for my selection which is a great honour. Apart from the Club’s most familiar face for its organisation of mid-winter dinners within Australia, it works to support past expeditioners, maintain contacts and record much of ANARE’s (and now AAD’s) history and stories.
To date, I have worked through the medicals and forms for AAD. Neil Brandie, last year’s berth rep, and I are compiling some notes and guidance for future berth holders and to anticipate a few FAQ’s as there is quite a lot to work between nomination as berth holder and sailing south. Hopefully, I will see many people I meet this summer again at a mid-winter in Australia next June.
Saturday 5 December 2015
Back again in Hobart and staying coincidently in Davey Street not far from where I stayed over 40 years ago whilst working at the Uni of Tassie with Geoff Fenton and Attilla Vrana on the Cosray program prior to wintering at Wilkes. Memories of the beautiful Georgian styled buildings and reminders everywhere in this area of its convict past. It’s been a hectic couple of months preparing for the trip including digitising much neglected ektachrome slides of many years ago and preparing material for the ANARE Club and I appreciate the assistance of many people.
I have been following the aurora’s webcam and sitreps. Following the additional round trip of 6-7 days to Macquarie island, the time has evidently been made up by a good trip for V1 through pack ice to Davis, at least one day cut off cargo discharge and load and a fast return with a SW wind behind. Congratulations to leaders Leanne and Mick for their efforts.
I’ll be at Kingston on Monday for the outdoor clothing kit, meeting people and picking up info for the trip. It would appear that V2 will now leave on Tuesday (as originally planned) or perhaps a day later.
I visited the Mawson’s Huts Replica museum and was extremely impressed by everything that has gone into this project and particularly the care taken to reproduce as accurately as possible the items that were part of Mawson’s huts. Of great personal interest to me as a radio/electronic design engineer was the first spark transmitter that I had seen (as either a genuine artefact or a replica) although I had known of them as the beginnings of radio communication so my congratulations to John Gillies for his research and construction of it.
Wednesday 9 December 2015
After two delays in the embarkation time, we were away at 10 pm. Winds have been strong and the ship was rolling and pitching as soon as we left the Derwent so it has been a subdued day for many. The Aurora Australis is set up for 114 expeditioners in 40 cabins but with only 28 expeditioners we all have the luxury of a cabin each. Nearly half of the expeditioners are watercraft operators and there is some biological oceanographic work. For the first time though, the Casey 2015 expeditioners have been flown out and 2016 expeditioners flown in at Wilkins aerodrome with inaugural flights of the C17 Globemaster which means contact with the wintering personnel will have to await our arrival at Casey
Thursday 10 December 2015
I didn’t make extravagant plans for the first day at sea. I felt fairly woozy until late in the day and had a quiet time. Seas have been moderate. There have been some enthusiasts for two sessions of “car racing” using wii’s in the cinema; it appears to be turning into a regular pastime. AAD people, other expeditioners and crew all interact well with each other and I have enjoyed talking to various people. I had expected to have to explain my role here as ANARE Club Rep but found that most people were well aware that I would be part of the ship’s contingent. Last night, Paul showed an excellent conservation film “Black Fish” which centred on the issues of keeping orcas (more commonly called “killer whales”) in relatively small pools for stunt performances; not unlike the issues of using the big cats in circuses.
Friday 11 December 2015
Feeling good and confident, I ploughed into some work on the laptop, arranging slides, writing emails etc but I paid for it a bit later in the day. A rolling ship and eyes fixed on a screen don’t necessarily work well together but another couple of hours on the bunk fixed that although I resolved not to push my head so much until I really had my sea legs. We had another interesting talk/movie clip show on Friday evening, this time on rescue helicopters presented by a “swimmer;” he is the guy who goes down on the winch cable into the drink to haul people to safety. There is more to keeping helicopters in position than I realised.
Saturday 12 December 2015
We had another muster on Saturday in full antarctic survival gear with lifejackets. The Sat night show (following oysters and pasta for the evening meal) was the film “Snow Petrol down under” of Ben Tucker’s 6 week voyage in his 34 foot yacht (3 crew – Ben, his brother Matt and father Jon) from Hobart to Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison and then on to Dumont D’Urville where they were feted for a few days before returning to Hobart. Very well produced film mainly by Matt with assistance from various people and some input from organisations including AAD but largely a solo effort nevertheless – an inspiring effort. Jon and Matt have worked on Mawson’s Huts at Commonwealth Bay and Jon was principle builder of the replica huts in Hobart.
It is becoming competitive to grab an evening spot although I have now lined up Monday night for an historical Wilkes show. A number of expeditioners have led some very interesting lives. Not really surprising given that most of the expeditioners are water craft operators, air support crew or with supervisory backgrounds from other Antarctic trips. Cheers Geoff
Sunday 13 December 2015
Quiet often there is some scientific work of interest. Every 450 km or so, the plankton recorder/sampler (CPR) is hauled in onto the trawl deck, the spools are replaced and then the CPR is putt back to sea again. It is on a long cable. The work is tricky – only trained people are allowed on the trawl deck which is open to the sea except for a wire gate across the end. The trawl deck is for dropping or retrieving items directly from the sea which is frothing behind the ship and sometimes washing over the trawl deck.
Meetings are on in earnest this coming week – planning for operations at Casey and beforehand and checking out each person’s work agreement and activities so that everyone understands what is expected of them at Casey. It seems that quite a few people want to see old Wilkes and there is some survey work to be done of the old Wilkes rubbish dump. I will need to work quickly at Casey as I only have that time to make contact as Club representative with 2016 & summer expeditioners and possibly some Davis people in transit. Most of the returning expeditioners will be flown back with the C17 from Wilkins Aerodrome behind Casey.
I have spent quite a bit of time blending in some additional slides for my historical Wilkes presentation scheduled for Monday evening. All told, everything is going well. We may be in ice by Tuesday.
Monday 14 December 2015
Seas a bit calmer than they have been although there is still the odd rogue wave. I finished preparation for the Wilkes slide show and could relax a bit more. Visited the gym this afternoon and spent 20 minutes on the cycling machine. The bike machine is anchored laterally across the ship and has a friction brake to regulate the effort. Problem is that as the ship lurches one way it throws your body against the handlebar and the slight distortion of the frame increases the braking of the wheel. Then it lurches the other way and throws your body weight partially off the handlebar. So you have to cycle with the ship’s rolling. Some would say it’s all good training but personally I find it easier to hop on my bike at home and ride 70-80 km with the Club than the joyless chore of a gym machine. Twenty years ago, I would rather run 5 miles than spend 10 minutes stretching.
Most people including myself met with Andy, Voyage Leader, to discuss work agreements and work at Casey – all good.
The slide show went over well and seemed appreciated particularly by people who had been to Casey previously but knew little of Wilkes beyond the seeing the old station almost buried in snow and ice. I opened with a few historical slides of Wilkes 1956-58 and then mostly my slides of 1967 including a few mainly indoor shots lent by Jeff Stickland from our year. I also ran a youtube video of an ASR33 teleprinter (communication at 110 bits per second) and a voice recording of amateur single-sideband (SSB) radio. I was one of two people with a “ham” ticket in 1967. All great stuff in those days.
Tuesday 15 December 2015
We passed our first iceberg in the early hours of this morning. The third iceberg which was the biggest so far brought out all the cameras in the afternoon. There are occasional small floes also floating by. We are not into regular ice yet. But now the ship is rolling only slightly so travel is much more comfortable.
We had a tour (in small groups) of the engine room. Certainly a warmer place than outside. There are two main engines but both are coupled through one gearbox to the propeller drive shaft which runs almost half the length of the ship. Either engine or both (as in heavy ice) can drive the shaft. Quite something to be standing beside this mighty steel shaft turning at about 175 rpm only a couple of feet away.
And then on to the big ANARE event after lunch – sale table of the Club merchandise. I sold quite a few things but am up against the small numbers of expeditioners (27) and the fact that a lot of the expeditioners are regular summer contractors or leaders and so have “been there – bought that” before.
The era of meetings is well underway and all expeditioners attended one on watercraft operations – how it is done, what to take, packing anything in waterproof bags etc (nothing is guaranteed). The watercraft operators themselves have numerous detail meetings in addition.
Wednesday 16 December 2015
We awoke to a foggy morning and a damp cold outside which remained for the rest of the day. But the wind had dropped almost completely and it was not difficult to shelter from it even at the bow of the ship. Later in the day the fog lifted and visibility was very good. We passed floes of all shapes, sizes and orientations continually and the cameras were out in force.
After my first session of shutter-bugging, I reviewed yesterday’s sales and fortunately the cash tin and the stock balanced.
We had another compulsory session this time on the environment and the need to avoid contaminating the mainland, particularly with grass seeds or anything that might possibly take root, plus the rules for avoiding disturbance to penguins and other wildlife. There has been significant recent research in quantitative measurements of stress among penguins and birds when approached. And then the afternoon was spent putting that knowledge to work, vacuuming bags, clothing and boots and scrubbing any footwear which could carry contaminants.
I joined Tim’s now regular gym stretching class this afternoon. More fun than a solo bicycle machine.
The ship stopped for a few hours to locate and pick up the whale audio recorder and release a new one. James took advantage of the stop to do some work with his drones which he will be using for survey work ashore.
There have been spottings of whales and Orcas (“killer whales”) by the lucky and the quick. So far, I’ve just caught on camera one whale diving.
Somehow, this voyage is no picnic. I seem to be getting busier and busier as we get closer to Casey although I have to confess that with the calmer seas and the fantastic scenery of bergy bits floating by, the camera and I have spent quite a bit of time working together.
Thursday 17 December 2015
Very overcast all day. The sun made a feeble attempt to break through at one time but gave up discouraged. Ice has still been in the form of flat floating floes but at times have been packed a little tightly. The ship has stopped two or three times while an ice reconnaissance with the drones has been carried out. But this evening, we still have a mix of fairly open water between floes and for the most part the ship is progressing steadily. However, the floes are now typically up to 1 metre above the surface and some are quite extensive – up to football field size. They seem a mix of older and first year ice. We are seeing at least a couple of large icebergs each day. Many people were still up late last night watching the ship work through the ice. Whales, penguins and various sea birds are being sighted.
More short meetings and info – using radios and this evening, Andy talked on operations for Casey tomorrow. It’s all happening. The gym exercise class continues to grow and at times I surprise myself.
Friday 18 December 2015
This was it. At about midnight Thursday the Aurora Australis stopped about 24 km from Casey and then later nosed into Newcomb Bay off Casey and dropped anchor around 7 am. Well before then, I joined other enthusiasts and let loose with the camera. Most touching was moving past the Clarke Peninsula where the old yellow radome still stands sentinel over the ridge above Noonan Cove at Wilkes. I spotted the riometer aerial frame which I hadn’t known still existed and the receiver aerial masts still erect. Several people have asked through the day how I felt about it. I left on this trip fairly open minded about expectations but there is a sentimental attachment to Wilkes with its leaky timber passages, its raw accommodation and simplicity of purpose[GP1] . But then, my profession has been about changing things and I’ve seen too many people wallow in sentiment. Still, it was a place, a great year there and a wonderful memory.
The day was still and clear apart from some light snowfalls. Boating and cargo operations were underway immediately. After lunch about 10 expeditioners including myself went across to Casey. We explored the red shed and some areas of specialist interests and then a walk to Reeve Hill. We returned to the ship in the late afternoon.
I will be going to Casey tomorrow (Saturday) in the morning and then on to Wilkes with several others in the Hagglands (tracked vehicles). We intend to stay at the Wilkes Hilton (the old transmitter building) overnight. I am scheduled to remain at Casey at least for the next two nights. The Wilkes 1967 slide show is booked for Monday night and a Club merchandise sale probably Tuesday. At this stage, the weather is expected to break up around Monday and cargo operations may be put on hold in which case the sale might be brought forward. Emails to me until Tuesday morning at least should be directed to the @aad address instead of @aurora.aad. Probably best to CC: the other address just in case of changes and missed emails.
Many containers and equipment were moved ashore today and the leaders expressed their appreciation with the progress.
Saturday 19 December 2015
A day of high expectations. About 10 “round trippers” plus Rachel, the medical doctor, who will winter here, came over to Casey after breakfast with gear for a stay of at least 2 nights. Six of us were to go to Wilkes later in the day and stay overnight at the “Wilkes Hilton” but not until after several inductions which took until after lunch. Others from the Aurora Australis were involved with drones surveys and science work.
Along with the other five from the Aurora Australis plus two field training officers (FTO’s) destined for the Hilton, we loaded two Hagglunds not only with food and other supplies and needs, but three tents; we were going to experience the “real Antarctica” – well, sort of, because the forecast was for reasonably benign weather. Each Hagglund consists of a passenger vehicle towing a cargo unit. Interestingly, they use rubberised tracks instead the steel plates of the D4 tractors and Nodwells of yesteryear. They are hardly less noisy though as the engine and gearboxes let you know that they are working hard and effective communication amongst passengers and driver really requires a headset.
We first drove to the Mitchell Peninsula several km in the direction of the Vanderford Glacier. We chanced on a pair of Emperor Penguins (an uncommon site on “East” Antarctica). Leaving the Hagglunds at a distance we sat quietly while the two curious and seemingly unconcerned penguins approached us to within about 15m. Then after a couple of look-see stops, we turned for Wilkes and set up tents outside the Wilkes Hilton. There I found that “Chompers” Currie had written a note just inside the door, I suspect quite some years ago, to the effect that this was the remote transmitter building from 1960 to 1969 (when Wilkes was closed). Graeme wintered here in 1963 and 1967 (my year). Whilst much of the USA facilities and equipment was retained when Wilkes came under Australian control from 1959, practically all the scientific and communications equipment was replaced by Australian built and sourced equipment shortly afterwards. Much of the radio gear was made by AWA, once and Australian icon.
With restrained impatience on my part, we finally headed down the hill around 7:30 pm to the main Wilkes complex. I began recording photos not only of buildings and sites for my own edification but also of spoilage such as dumps of tins and alignments of posts and markers for the completeness of Wilkes’ history and current state. I confirmed the identity of the building which was originally the Geomagnetic hut and later (in my time) the location of the amateur radio where I conducted many “skeds” with family and with the global amateur radio community. This building, along with others, suffered from severe winds and blizzards in 2013 and was now little more than a shell. Some remains of the cubical quad antenna were lying around. We continued around all the major buildings where I became a default tour guide. The auroral tower which was still present during the big melt of 1992 and in later photos had gone completely. The only building we could enter was the yellow radome, still intact and ice free on the top of the ridge. Practically all buildings in the main complex were snowed and iced in up to their rooftops but the building outlines were clear enough. I could pick locations from all sorts of clues such as the array of steel posts which once held the microwave channel to the Cosray building.
Enough of all that or I’ll never stop. We returned to the Hilton for our meal from dehy’d meat & veg. Five of use slept in the tents and three on the bunks inside the Hilton.
Back at Casey and the ship where the real work was being carried out, there was another successful day of cargo movement including two huge tracked vehicles in benign conditions although the forecast is still for the weather to break up by Monday.
Sunday 20 December 2015
A planned rude awakening. The Hagglunds were needed back at Casey by mid-morning so we were awoken either by the alarms we had set for 5 am or a little earlier as a ghost outside could be felt pulling out the pegs. Our very capable field training officers (FTO’s) had us back to Casey before 7 am but alas, not immediately for brekka but for our sign-offs and tour of the rubbish waste disposal units and equipment returns. Work, training, OH&S and environmental processes take precedence over all else and with good reason. We had seen the spoilage still lying around at Wilkes and at the old rubbish dump up the hill.
I am still asked by all and sundry how it felt to have seen Wilkes again and the truth is I don’t really know. In one sense, I take it in my stride, knowing that many others have also revisited places. In another, I feel a quiet ecstasy at seeing it and knowing that I was there is the “early” days. But I accept that time has moved on and it is one thing among many that I have had to leave behind. Still, I hope to have time to blend in a few “this is it now” photos among the other slides planned for Monday night at Casey.
The remainder of today has been fairly quiet. I found that the telephone link to Australia was excellent and any signal delay barely noticeable. In the evening, James repeated his excellent talk on drones with the addition of the video records taken since his talk on the Aurora Australis. We are anticipating that the Aurora Australis will leave the immediate area of Casey for a safer anchorage before the forecasted blow tomorrow.
Monday 21 December 2015
Following the trip to Wilkes, I spent a while picking some photos to add to the slide show for that evening. Before getting very far, Brad Collins put his head in to ask me if I would like a tour of the engineering side of Casey. Would I what? Jumped at it. And so I was taken through the engineering marvel that is Casey with its massive waste processing, storages, workshops, laboratories and data processing. In sense, not overwhelming as I have seen similar works through my career. But in another, a tremendous contrast with the facilities at Wilkes where much of what existed in 1967 would fit into a small corner or perhaps a mezzanine of the respective counter-parts at Casey. It would certainly be a different winter with less people than we had at Wilkes; yet at Casey one would be surrounded by all this infrastructure to keep comfortable and safe whilst also protecting the environment which suffered only for a sketchy mention in early years.
Much of what exists at Casey is there for the large summer parties and I have realised that many people, although never having wintered on a base or perhaps only once, return for summer after summer as part of the building and operations that intensify during that part of the year when the weather and sunlight make it possible.
Wind gusts up to 60 knots (over 100 km/H) blew on and off. However, there was very little snow carried or precipitation and perhaps this says something of climate change. Consequentially, the horizon and visibility remained clear. My memory of Wilkes was that any blizzard at any time of year carried considerable snow. The first hours of a blizzard picked up enormous quantities of snow dumped since the previous blizzard. Visibility might be a few metres in the next couple of days while we commenced shovelling snow out of the passages and away from essential exits. By the third day or so, it would be clear enough to take some interesting photos from the top of the auroral tower of the low level snow drift as the blizzard petered out.
The evening slide show was well attended and received. It was basically the same show that I had on the Aurora Australis but I added a photographic “walking tour guide” more or less following our walk on Saturday so that other people could identify the buildings and their purpose.
Tuesday 22 December 2015
With the ship back at Casey and the wind down to a zephyr again, cargo operations recommenced and we saw some of the Aurora Australis people back at Casey.
Having spruiked it the previous evening, I had a sale for the ANARE Club in the late afternoon. It seemed to start slowly but people kept coming in, particularly as some finished their day’s work and I was then kept fairly busy. Overall, it was a very satisfactory sale and at last the bag of merchandise was significantly lighter. Quite a number of people took advantage of a 6 month free membership of the Club and we hope to see them at midwinter dinners in future years.
Brad had a few more places to show me including the hydrophonics lab, electrical power, fire station and water system. To illustrate one point – despite the fire risk that Wilkes was, we had only basic extinguishers and hoses with a very limited water supply; Casey has a fire station with a Hagglund especially fitted out with pumps, breathing apparatus, tanks, hoses and generators as well as other vehicles and equipment which would make many Melbourne metropolitan fire stations envious.
Before knocking off for the evening, I had a stocktake and was relieved that despite the full on pace at the table, it all balanced and I could go to sleep happy.
Wednesday 23 December 2015
Wednesday was a computer and catch up day more or less after the merchandise sale. I rehashed the spreadsheet somewhat and much of the morning was occupied with some report writing particularly with respect to sales of merchandise and then a Christmas email catch up. After that, I felt that I could escape the job list for a while. I seem to have lapsed into busyness somewhat and it was a change to catch up a little with some reading in the late afternoon.
Thursday 24 December 2015
In the morning, I went across to the Aurora Australis where the refuelling operations were still being held up by ice blown out from shore on Tuesday night. They needed to clear the fuel line route with a combination of tide, time and pushing ice around with the boats. I picked up some items and checked emails addressed to me at the Aurora Australis and returned to Casey after lunch. But I fell into the malaise of some people – I had been very busy at Casey and suddenly had some time to myself and wasn’t wanted anywhere while the refuel setup was still in obeyance and all other work seemed well in hand. Fortunately, I had slushy duty to look forward to for Christmas Day.
Best wishes for Christmas to all you ANARE people and past expeditioners who I have been involved with this year. A late celebration for us as the fuel line is laid out for Casey from the Aurora Australis. Think of us also as you tuck into Christmas pudd with those close to you.
It has been a wonderful trip for me with support from the Voyage and Casey leaders and a great bunch of people to work with here. Again, my appreciation to all that have contributed to it and to the ANARE Club.
Regards to you all
Friday 25 December 2015
The wallow had been well decorated, Pete was wearing a gaudy Hawaiian style shirt, a couple of others wore antlers or Christmas hats and there were greetings from other stations and from Neil Brandie as ANARE Club President on the wall but otherwise it was another day. At least the fuel line was running and I had a job again. At times though, I could barely elbow my way into the sink or kitchen benches for the others that found it hard to get away from a kitchen. A couple of people mentioned that it was good to have a job or to be busy so I felt I was not the only one similarly motivated. What is it about the midnight sun or perhaps it is all year here? I took my chance at morning break to put in a couple of Christmas calls (phone lines to Oz are excellent here). During the afternoon break, I photographed a few areas that I had not covered. The sun was out in force and I was hot even in a cotton shirt and light pullover even though the station temperature was just 0.5 Celsius. Melt water was streaming on to the road. En route back from the wharf via the fuel line, I noticed a group of Adelie penguins around a melt lake and seeming to be turning to make their way up the hill. I squatted and then sat for the next ten minutes while they walked right up to where I was sitting and unobtrusively taking a video of them doing so. The nearest was within a metre and I found later that the sound of their footsteps had been recorded faithfully. It was well worth the frozen bum I suffered for a while.
Back at the evening meal, Donna and Jordan catered to some tradition with ham and turkey and plum pudding. And to add to that, there was a rich birthday cake and birthday wishes for Bec.
Saturday 26 December 2015
I am back on the boat but that wasn’t the plan last night. I assumed I might stay until we ready to sail. However, there was a forecast for the wind to pick up and I thought that time might be limited. Following a couple of inquiries, I had already put up a notice of sale of the remaining stock of ANARE Club merchandise after the evening meal. But then I and some other round trippers were asked to return to the Aurora Australis (AA) that evening. After a hurried clean up, I set up a sale table after lunch but to little avail at that time of day. The followed another quick stock & money check as time ran out.
After a couple of “welcome back” greetings at the AA, I felt at home again after changing and the evening meal. I had really seen what I wanted to see and generally covered what was required for the Club. As a minister without portfolio I was free to volunteer for some jobs starting with slushy work.
Despite resolutions of an early night, I later reflected at some length on where I belonged and on the trip as a whole. I had felt at home on the AA initially but it seems to be sinking in that we might soon be on our way to Hobart although there is still cargo and heavy equipment to transfer. Winds are expected to pick up and we might be anchoring off Fraser Island again for a day or two and then return for final cargo loading. I had spent the previous hour replaying some of the movie clips I had taken, ostensibly to see how they came out (I am fairly pleased) but letting some nostalgia creep in. I can see why people come down again and again. Put up with hell at times, working odd hours (not me on this trip of course although Wilkes was another story), solid work and sea sickness for the first days (Phil Law was notoriously a poor traveller). But it can draw people back and back. I can see it in my clips – the mighty ocean, the ice (always the ice), the majestic bergs, the light and shadows, the moraine, the broken ice cliffs and off course the station itself and the sort of people who make their way here amongst tails of obscure places and adventures.
I had seriously considered applying in the recession in 1990 and 1992 in between job losses but life was then in too much turmoil for me to be confident of where I’d be at for a year at a stretch and I had other issues to work through. Part of resilience is the art of accepting the decisions made for better or worse and I’ve made a few good ones and poor ones. And I certainly am glad of the era that I lived through although every generation adapts (hopefully) to its own imperatives.
I’ve had a jab via email that I really should add photos to my narratives so I’ll make a start at this time while I have some of it in hand. I’ll start with some recent views around Casey and the work there which perhaps represent why so many are here. The station does have the feeling (and others have commented in the same way) of it being a bit like a shire depot in so far as there is machinery of all kinds – tractors, dozers, cranes, trucks, gravel roads and slush. But it is driven by the necessity of life at the stations and the need to have more sophisticated means of dealing with waste for example. In the 1960’s, cruder disposal was just to dump and burn; at Casey there is a sophisticated plant to cover waste treatment.
I’ve had to restrict the size of photos but hopefully they will sit well with Col’s excellent work on maintaining the Club website.
Enjoy the pics. Geoff
Sunday 27 December 2015
A bit of catch up day for me amidst slushy work. With Col’s help, I tidied up some of the berth reports and then sorted and reduced photos for uploading to the Club’s website. The refuelling had been completed the previous day and cargo operations were on in earnest as the weather forecast indicated that by Monday the Aurora Australis would have to sojourn to Fraser Island again. I had taken a number of photos (of course) at Wilkes on the first Saturday, but with the slide show and Club sale following soon afterwards, I hadn’t picked out and processed photos for the blog so belatedly, I’ll present a few at this stage. Cheers Geoff
Monday 28 December 2015
In the morning, the Aurora Australis moved NW to around Fraser Island again. The 50 knot katabatic winds dissipate within a short distance of the shore. Hence, the ship was is comparatively quiet waters. On the route out, penguins could be seen on the ice floes and swimming near them.I did some slushy work while people who had been involved with cargo and fuel operations could take a well earned break.
The crew are great supporters of Camp Quality. One of their fund raisers is via a message board on the helideck where 3 lines can be slotted in for a nominal donation to the Camp. I had a greeting there for my family. The kids were quite impressed I gather, with their names plastered for a while across part of the Antarctic Territory.
With a day off intensive work, Andy managed to muster a few additional people for Halo so that about half a dozen expeditioners could stalk each other on the laptops in the E deck conference area in between the piles of life jackets and heavy weather gear.
Last week, James who has a business doing aerial survey work with drones, had flights over both the ship and the stations and there was a media release of this work. I have attached an aerial view of the Aurora Australis taken with the drone.
Tuesday 29 December 2015
I returned to Casey for a few minor jobs outstanding. One of these was to upload quite a few photos (reduced in size) to the Clubs Assistant webmaster(voyages), Col, taking advantage of the internet access at Casey. I also needed to check the Club website.
There had been a fresh cover of snow during the night and I enjoyed the walk up from the wharf following where the furrow from the fuel line was still visible in the snow. The wind had almost ceased so it seems fairly certain that the RTA (Return to Australia) cargo would be completed by Wednesday evening.
Wednesday 30 December 2015
The wind had died almost completely this morning and for the most part, the sea was like a millpond, creating intense shades of light and dark across the water. This morning has been sunny and around 2 degrees giving way to strata-cumulus cloud this afternoon. Even within the one anchorage, the scene changes with the position of the sun, strength of the light and the surreal cloud formations which can often reflect the light and dark of the land and sea.
There were more drone flights this morning, taking advantage of the lack of wind.
Once again, I have spent some time catching up with photos and reports.
Tonight, Casey SL, Pete Pedersen came on board and there was a presentation to the Aurora Australis’ master, Murray Doyle, who had announced his retirement after many years with the AA. He will be making a final voyage to Macquarie Island but this will be his last time to the Antarctic continent. The heli-deck message board also farewelled him. Various other short speeches were made but VL, Andy, took the show. Last weekend, there had been a bit of a foul up in the fuel line at one time which had wound around some bergy bits. Accordingly, Andy presented each of watercraft operators with beautiful certificates for their “Diploma of Aquatic & Maritime Advance Fuelpipe Crochet & Knitting”.
Thursday 31 December 2015
Ever had one of those times when you think you have taken every photo you might possibly want and you could put the camera aside for a while? I did when I saw through the port window that it was snowing and visibility was poor. After brekky, I glanced out at the starboard side and immediately dived for the camera. On that side, the mirror reflections in the perfectly still water were something else.
We had an emergency muster at 11 am at about the same time that the cargo loading had been completed and the barge was taken on board. While waiting for the send-off from Casey, the scenery unfolded as the flat sea began to freeze creating myriad patterns like a skin created by an arts school. Fractal enthusiasts – eat your hearts out. Furrows and cracks and the wakes from the Casey craft only enhanced the patterns and reflections as the monkey deck soon attracted the shutterbugs.
Finally just before midday, the Aurora Australis tooted and Casey, now visible through the snow which had abated, responded with their send off flares (as well as some from their boats). Then we were off.
Moving through ever changing patterns of sea ice, a group of penguins obliged after diving in from a floe and then swimming and diving through the water alongside the ship. I mentally waved a final farewell to Wilkes.
Further out, some whales were spotted as the glass-like sea continued to unfold.
Lunch finally beckoned and then a clean-up of the bunker room and E-deck conference room which had been the despatch point for people moving between ship and shore and home to life-jackets, cold weather gear and wet boots plus the board. At last the “Halo” enthusiastic could move back in for their virtual shoot-em-ups.
We are looking forward to our much deferred Christmas celebration tomorrow with promises of all good things around 2 pm. New Year greetings to all of you for whom Christmas is now a past event. Enjoy the NY festivities.
Happy New Year to all you ANARE people and Antarctic travellers.
Loading of cargo to Hobart was completed yesterday (Thursday) morning and we farewelled Casey just before midday. It was a very still morning and the sea began to freeze creating some wonderful patterns. It was fairly open until about 3 PM and then we were in pack ice on and off till about 9 AM this morning. The AA has is a fairly full load of RTA cargo.
I have had a great trip. I haven’t yet looked at just how many photos and video clips I have taken but it sure beats the film days for economy. At Wilkes in 1967, I had an SLR for slides and a 120 roll film camera for the B&W. I still have them and wonder if, as with my slide rule, they may become collector’s items.
Hope you are enjoying my scribbles on the Club Berth website. With a little urging from Col, I have been adding a few photos to colour it a little.
Friday 1 January 2016
Christmas celebrations for us while all you people in more temperate territory enjoy New Year’s day. But first, there was a call from the bridge after sighting what turned out to be at least 30 humpback whales. Within a short while, the bridge was crowded with cameras and their owners. We sighted many spouts blowing and the whales surfacing and diving, some quite close to the ship. So now, I have seen and photographed them all – penguins, seal (one only for me), birds and whales.
Just in case we couldn’t wait for a late lunch, the galley people prepared late morning snacks but the wiser one’s waited for what turned out to be a magnificent buffet spread at 2 PM – all manner of shellfish plus the traditional roasts and deserts. The chefs here have really done a great job throughout the voyage. We could then waddle off until a later get-together on the trawl deck in the evening for some convivial chatter whilst rugged up against a fairly solid breeze.
Saturday 2 January 2016
It was impossible to write this at the time i.e. on Saturday. The seas picked up through the morning and like quite a few others, I ate very lightly. We had a muster at 10:30 am and all expeditioners made it despite the ship rolling in rough seas. By early afternoon though, the Aurora Australis was rolling heavily with fairly sudden excesses of over 40 degrees from centre which could easily catch you unawares. Chairs and objects could go flying until locked down or put away and for the first time since Hobart, the desktop in my cabin looked respectable. Attendances at meals were noticeably light. Out of my experience on the way down, I avoided any reading or computing. Like many, I just spent much of the day in the bunk not just from feeling off but also because there was little else I could do.
The crew however, had to carry out their checks and duties but all things had been stowed and secured well. Towards the back and lower decks, the stabiliser ballast could be heard working hard but with very limited scope to reduce the rolling of the ship. There was some abatement in the evening and Sandra presented some interesting films from her travels to various other Antarctic stations and on other polar ships.
Cheers (well, wonky ones) Geoff
Sunday 3 January 2016
The seas moderated around 5 am and we could return to more normal activities. Despite the rough seas until this morning, the ship had made good progress. With the ice now well behind us, people are looking forward to Hobart and being home.
There is a lot more to our voyage leader than meets the eye. In the evening, Andy presented a talk, short videos and photos on his “other life” as a logistics officer for the World Food Program (WFP.ord) which is the largest division within the UN and is the largest non-government, non-commercial organisation in the world. Andy had 20 staff in Nepal and up to 80 casual workers each day and obviously a very hands on role in videos of passing out food to people isolated by floods.
There are in fact, some people who have held significant positions in organisations which have given them great insights and experience which AAD has obviously benefited from. Vic as deputy voyage leader, for example, had an extensive background in planning and logistics with military. Often such people work on various contracts through the year and then on contract with AAD for the summer voyages.
Monday 4 January 2016
Back to the more mundane tasks of washing and preparing for disembarkation at Hobart, hopefully in 3 days time. Surely you don’t really want to read all about that?
Another interesting talk, this time by Eloise as negotiator for Oz with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Resources (CCAMLR) which is part of the Antarctic Treaty System. CCAMLR is concerned mainly with fishing legalities south of the convergence zone. Among other things, it has effectively reduced bird fatalities from long line fishing almost to nil, by persuasion and pressure on offending countries.
Tuesday 5 January 2016
A little more of yesterday but broken by a very insightful personal tour of the biological labs by John K who wants people to know more of the science being carried out by AAD. He has to maintain several systems which involve analysis of water and contents flowing in from special inlets underneath the Aurora Australis. The various instrumentations either measure water characteristics by automatically sampling data such as conductivity, salinity, oxygen content and fluorescence typically at 5 second intervals or else they are associated with analysis of micro-organisms such as phytoplankton collected in filters and then preserved for later analysis by microscope, chromatograph or electron microscope back at Kingston.
Additionally, John is responsible for the phytoplankton recorder capsule towed behind the ship and which is hauled in at intervals of about 450 km for removal and analysis of organisms and material collected. There is a large computer and instrumentation room in the centre of the ship which collates the masses of meteorological, biological and navigational data.
After lunch, there was a final sale of ANARE Club items and then a reckoning and pack up of remaining stock to pass to Brett for V3.
We are scheduled to dock at 7 am Thursday and interstate people are already arranging their flights.
Wednesday 6 January 2016
It’s all happening – the final countdown with cleaning, sorting and packing as gear gets shuffled to it appropriate location for disembarkation.
Many people, particularly first timers, have expressed what a great trip this has been. Generally, work and operations went smoothly, no-one was injured, equipment worked well and voyage objectives were all realised. Head office staff who travelled here for the first time found it a great eye-opener and could appreciate the work and logistics involved at ground level in the Antarctic. The ship is returning with a very full load of items for overhaul or replacement. Three days were lost due to high winds at Casey but otherwise we are close to the schedule set at the beginning of summer.
This will be my last entry from the Aurora Australis although I intend to add some summing up further along the track. My thanks to all on the Aurora Australis and at Casey as well as AAD staff involved who I have met, worked and have helped me. I have kept in contact with the technologies that have developed over the many years since I wintered at Casey in the 1960’s but nothing beats being close up and I have appreciated the personal tours of engineering at Casey (plus the Aurora Australis’ engine room) and the personal tours of science facilities and laboratories both on ship and at Casey. Australia through AAD and many other bodies carries out excellent work in the Antarctic and has been a lead player in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic exploration, establishment of stations, science and management of these territories. It has been particularly forthright from the outset in the drawing up and execution of treaties and in matters of international cooperation and environmental concerns.
My final thanks and appreciation to the ANARE Club for my nomination as Club Berth Representative. I have enjoyed my involvement on this voyage and in writing the reports and at times, reflecting on everything; I have done what I can to live up to the status
of the position.
For those of you reading this blog but unaware perhaps of the role of the ANARE Club, please explore the website (www.anareclub.org,au ) which contains a great deal of information – topical and historical and which contains many photographs and stories. The Club organises mid-winter dinners in each state to coincide with the celebration of this event in the Antarctic and the Club is a focus for maintaining the contacts and experiences of working in this part of the world.
Best wishes to everyone for 2016.