Rescue training at Casey station, a gorgeous field expedition to Law Dome, a rare sub-glacial eruption and the KBA Challenge commences remembering our friends from Kenn Borek Air.

KBA challenge

On the weekend, Casey expeditioners competed in the annual ‘KBA Challenge'. This event is held in memory of three Kenn Borek pilots who tragically lost their lives in Antarctica when their plane crashed in 2013. This has become an annual event and is staged by Davis and Casey station where the challenge is to determine which station can cover the most kilometres on a set day. 

Competitors can compete in a number of different modes and can walk, ski, run, ride a bike or any other mechanism to rack up the kilometres. Every competitor is limited to ten kilometres, although many do considerably more.

This year at Casey the ‘KBA Challenge’ was combined with the half marathon where a number of runners wanted to test themselves against the 22 kilometre distance. As the Casey skiway is 12 kilometres from station on the Antarctic plateau, it was decided to stage the event from there. The half marathon runners would run from station to the skiway and return and the rest of the competitors would be taken to the skiway and walk, run, ride or ski back. 

Like any such event a lot or organising and preparation took place with drink and food stations placed along the way, checkpoints created and support vehicles supplied. Forty-six Casey expeditioners entered the event and had a very memorable experience, and all for a good cause. Of course in any challenge there must be a winner and a loser and this article probably would not have been in the weekly news should Casey have lost. The result Casey 460 kms to Davis 282 kms.

Despite some sore bodies that night, Casey rocked the night away with the formal end of summer dinner and with the station band ‘The Meltdowns’ making their last appearance to a very appreciative audience. A very special day.

SAR training for the new 2015 winter crew

This week saw the start of the winter search and rescue (SAR) training under the guidance of our field training officers (FTOs), Anthea Fisher and Drew Coleman. For most of us, this was our first time using the ropes and equipment that is required to carry out the highly technical rescues that we hopefully will never have to put into practice for real. Good instructors, a good attitude and the weather being kind to us made for some good hard training which we all enjoyed — we learned a lot. By the end of the week it was clear to see that the winter crew was shaping up to be well equipped to deal with any situation should it arise, working well as a team no matter what role we played.

As a team, we are trained to respond to many different situations should the need arise and there is great deal of equipment that is at our disposal. This ranges from simple day packs containing survival equipment to the crevasse rescue systems. We also have a Hägglunds and two quads permanently set up for SAR rescue should we need them. The training also gave us a greater awareness and respect of how unforgiving this environment can be, but we are safe in the knowledge that we have the tools to keep us safe over winter.

Law Dome traverse

During February 2015, a traverse was undertaken by four expeditioners from Casey station to Law Dome. The team consisted of Dr Andrew Smith (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation), Dr David Etheridge (marine and atmospheric science ), Billy Eallace (field trip leader) and Gordon Tait (expedition mechanic.) This traverse is approximately 120 kilometres in each direction. Law Dome is an ice capped circular high, rising to 1400 metres above sea level.

Energy from the sun drives the Earth’s climate system but this energy varies: there is an 11 year solar cycle and the sun’s intensity has varied over longer timescales. Reconstructing how the sun’s output has varied in past times is crucial to understanding the Earth’s past climate which is key to predicting future climate change. Naturally occurring radioactive isotopes such as 7Be and 10Be are produced in the Earth’s atmosphere by cosmic rays, at a rate controlled by the activity of the sun, and are layered in ice sheets, thus providing a means of reconstructing past solar output. The visit to law Dome was to take samples from the ice there. The samples give a better understanding how the Earth’s climate system works.

Rare Antarctic sub-glacial eruption

Australian scientists are hoping a rare sub-glacial water eruption near Australia’s Casey station, will reveal the extent of a vast river system flowing under the Law Dome ice cap. In only the second reported incident of its type in Antarctica a Jökulhlaup, or sudden outburst of basal melt water from beneath the ice cap, erupted near Robinsons Ridge, 15 kilometres south of Casey. The first recorded Antarctic Jökulhlaup, also near Casey station, was 1985–86. As a result, this located a large subglacial lake near the ice margin.

The new eruption was first noticed by Casey expeditioners over the 2014 winter, who were puzzled by springs of flowing water erupting from the surface of the ice. The re-frozen Jökulhlaup water is very prominent because of its striking olive-green colour, which contrasts sharply with the surrounding blue glacial ice and white snow. Samples of the frozen Jökalhlaup water were collected by scientists from the CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

It is hoped the samples can assist with estimating the age of the water and whether there is any evidence of life forms in the lake by sampling for microbes and ancient DNA, as well as an opportunity to measure the methane and greenhouse gas content in the sub-glacial meltwater.

More information 

Full media release