Keith Godfrey ANARE, Club Vice President, Club Representative 1990-1991 – MV Icebird
A number of ANARE Club representatives have recently visited the old Americal/Australian station of Wilkes, near the current site of Casey station, including Ian Mackie in 1989 and Dick Saxton in 1986. When both Ian and Dick reported back on their visits, the impression was that the station was rapidly becoming engulfed in ice and soon nothing would be visible apart from the odd chimney and antenna. The two photographs by ian show the appearance of the station area when he was there.
This year I was able to go across to Wilkes from Casey during my visit, on behalf of the Club, to Antarctica. The reaction from my travelling companions and myself as Wilkes came into view was one of astonishment. The whole station area was almost completely free of ice and snow, the buildings and most of the ground suface are almost completely exposed. Unfortunately what is also exposed is the vast amount of junk which was left lying around in the early days and then became buried in snow. I believe that Wilkes was the last station to be constructed by the US in 1956-7, when they set up their IGY bases. All left-over supplies were dumped there. Certainly after the Australian take-over in 1959, early ANARE parties were often unearthing caches of unusual equipment.
Wilkes is an are of historical interest and parts of the station whould be preserved. However its attraction is lessened by its general appearance of disorder. A good clean-up of the area is called for and I suggest that the ANARE Club could provide volunteer labour (highly experienced in Antarctic conditions) to do the job.
The opinion of the Meteorological staff at Casey is that the large scale melt of the ice cover is not associated with the greenhouse effect or ozone layer but rather part of a cyclic weather pattern.