This week at Casey we meet two little known expeditioners. One flew planes and sailed submarines in first time feats of extraordinary bravery in the Arctic and Antarctic, and was so remarkable that our Aerodrome bears his name. The other, the youngest expeditioner at Casey this winter, has started life’s adventures with stints in Antarctica. If he keeps going this way he'll one day have as many tales to tell as the first.

Station update

As I write this update today, the snow is falling outside, and not just the usual light flurry but a significant dumping. I thought we were on the driest continent on earth but here at Casey we have had quite a lot of snow over the last couple of weeks, so I’m not sure we fit that generalisation. (If only I’d bought my skis…and there was a chair lift or cable car somewhere nearby!)

I’m also sitting at my desk in a jacket, gloves and beanie as someone (I blame Scotty) has turned off the heating in the Ops building to undertake repairs. But, a little hardship is character building and drives us to contemplate what it might have been like for the initial explorers, Mawson, Shackleton, and Wilkins (the most under-rated of explorers and adventurers, of whom Misty& writes below). We live in the lap of luxury in today's Australian Antarctic stations in comparison with the living conditions they experienced. A visit to the field hut at Browning Peninsula a few weeks ago probably gave a better example of their Antarctic experience; we arrived to find it -10 degrees inside the hut and the water frozen solid in the kettle on the stove (and this in March, what will we find in July or August?). So, surviving a few goose bumps in my office is nothing; I'll stop complaining and count myself lucky.

The weather in Antarctica is frequently astounding, and not just the cold and wind. This week we were lucky enough to see sun dogs and diamond dust as the sun rose over the horizon and the light made magical work of the ice crystals floating in the air. (See Zach’s photo below). Sun dogs are an optical phenomena where glowing spots, or mock suns, form on the horizon either side of the sun within a halo; they are created by sunlight refracting off plate shaped ice crystals in cirrus clouds. While diamond dust is a cloud composed of tiny ice crystals that forms near the ground and during daylight, bright sparks of light can be generated as the sun hits the ice crystals. This makes the air sparkle, much like a diamond ring can sparkle if the light hits the ring at the right angle. Simply magical.

I digress. Back on track…! This week at Casey (apart from weather phenomena) we have been cracking on with the red shed refurbishment, end of summer report writing and audits, and emergency response continuation training -to name just a few. Splinters (the old Casey bar) has been partially demolished, the roof portion, and returned from whence it came (built from scrap wood from Wilkes decades ago, the wood has been returned to Wilkes for the hut’s fire, warming expeditioners visiting over the winter). And we are now without stairs in the Wallow area, with the old removed and the structure for the new being installed. For the next few weeks we have a slightly longer walk to get upstairs. Progress is constant and every day we return to the red shed and are surprised by the changes.

We had a lovely BBQ on Saturday night, chef’s night off, so our super slushies (Shane and Scotty, with some station support) prepared a delicious BBQ cooked outside in the Casey beer garden. Unfortunately (but to be expected) the temperatures dropped and the beer started to freeze, so we retreated inside to finish up the meal.

All is well here, loving life in Antarctica. And we look ahead to a unique but contemplative Anzac Day next Wednesday. Lest we forget.

Rebecca (Casey SL)

Wilkins Aerodrome… why Wilkins?

There have been many heroes in the history of Antarctic exploration, but none more overlooked than South Australian Sir Hubert Wilkins, namesake of our Wilkins Aerodrome in Antarctica. 

Not many Australians have ever heard of him, so here is a very small snapshot to get you started. While searching for information on Sir Hubert Wilkins, he is always listed with a string of talents including war correspondent and photographer, polar explorer, naturalist, geographer, climatologist, submariner, navigator, World War I hero, government advisor, expedition manager and aviator. Fascinated, I have been reading for a few hours now and I am finding it hard to stop. But I must! This story is due tomorrow! 

Our man was born in 1888 at Mount Bryan East, South Australia. Named George Hubert Wilkins, he was one of thirteen children in a sheep farming family. Growing up in harsh rural conditions, he developed the diversification and improvisation skills needed to make the best of any situation. First drought, then his own restlessness cut his formal education short but not before he dabbled in engineering, music, photography and cinematography. 

At the age of 20, searching for adventure, Hubert became a stowaway on a ship out of Port Adelaide (which was quite a common thing to do at the time). Heroic exploits followed and I have highlighted only some of them below. You will notice there are a number of firsts.

1908: Kicked off the ship in Algiers, caught up in a gun running gang, escapes to England in 1909.

1910: Learns how to fly airplanes and dirigibles. Realises the possibilities of aerial photography.

1912: War correspondent covering the Balkan War. First person to take moving pictures of battle. Captured and escaped from the firing line.

1913 to 1916:  Second in command, Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s Canadian Arctic Expedition.  Walks thousands of kms mapping unexplored territory.  Learns to live off the polar ice. Conceives idea to establish meteorological stations at the poles and forecast weather.

1917 to 1918: WW1 is ongoing. Returns to Australia to enlist in the Australian Flying Corps. Travels to France as an official photographer.  Records images of the front line, refuses to carry arms, captures German prisoners, gathers intelligence from the front, rescues injured and lost soldiers. He is decorated twice for bravery.

1919: Accompanies Charles Bean, war historian, to Gallipoli to reconstruct Australia’s part in the campaign.

1919: Sponsored to compete in an air race from Britain to Australia. Crashes in Crete.

1920: His first visit to Antarctica with the British Graham Land Expedition led by Commander John Cope.

1921 to 1922: Ornithologist on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s last expedition.

1923 to 1925: Leads expedition for the British Museum collecting rare flora and fauna from Queensland and the Northern Territory. Reports on Aboriginal tribal life.

1927: First flights across the Arctic earn Hubert and his friend Ben Eilson a place in the aviator’s Hall of Fame. 

1928: Wilkins and Eilson are the first to fly 3350 kms across the Arctic from Alaska to Norway.  Flying time 20hrs and 20 minutes over mostly uncharted territory. Hubert receives a Knighthood from the King of England, Patron’s Gold Medal, Royal Geographical Society and Morse Medal, American Geographical Society.

1928: First aerial exploration over Antarctic Peninsula and continent. Hubert and Eilson map uncharted land from the air.

1929: Joins the Graf Zeppelin for a history making flight around the world.

1931: First to attempt to reach the North Pole under ice in a submarine Nautilus. Unsuccessful but proves submarines can operate under the polar ice cap. 

1933 to 1939: Visits to Antarctica for walking and aerial explorations with friend Lincoln Ellsworth. Lincoln Ellsworth becomes the first to successfully fly across the continent.  Sir Hubert participates at all attempts and even rescues Ellsworth in the Wyatt Earp. Foils attempt by Ellsworth to claim territory from Mawson by flying to Rauer Islands and the extent of the Vestfold Hills to fly the Australian flag and deposit records of the visit.

1957: Last trip to Antarctica as a guest of Operation Deep Freeze. Sees the rewards of campaigning for a string of weather observatories around the Antarctic coast. Sees his dream realised of many nations involved in weather studies during the International Geophysical Year.

1958: Learns of the successful under-ice Artic mission of Nautilus II.  Passes away and his ashes are taken by submarine USS Skate and scattered at the North Pole.

Books by Sir Hubert Wilkins:

Flying the Arctic; Undiscovered Australia; Under The North Pole.

About Sir Hubert:

Wings of Ice and The Unknown ANZAC both by Jeff Maynard; Hubert Who? by Malcolm Andrews; and The Last Explorer by Simon Nasht.

By Misty McCain, Wilkins Aerodrome Manager

5 min with the 71st ANARE: Pat Burchett

Name: Patrick Burchett.

From: Clifton in Queensland.

Previous seasons? 2015/16 summer at Casey.  

Job title: Dieso/Professional bus driver

Describe your role in two sentences:

Maintain and repair things that go brummm. Help our SMS Shane stay sane.

What did you do before your joined the AAD?

Worked in at a ski resort as a dieso.

What is your favourite part of your job here at Casey?

Seeing all the smiles on happy customer’s faces.

If you were not a dieso what would be your dream job?

A plumber

How does this season at Casey compare to your previous seasons down south?

The summer and winter seasons are both enjoyable and learning experiences

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Practice guitar, peel onions, get out on the ski loop for a ski or travel out to a hut for an adventurous weekend away off station.

What song sums up your Casey experience so far?

Hotel California by the Eagles  

What actor would play you in a film version of our 71st ANARE season here at Casey?

Hopefully a good one.

Favourite piece of Australian Antarctic Division kit?

The beanie. Without it brain freeze is inevitable. 

What is your favourite book and movie and why?

Chris Hadfield’s Astronauts guide to life on Earth. This is my favourite book because I enjoy reading about his endeavours in space and on earth.

My favourite movie would have to be the Blade runner 2049. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, how can you go wrong?

What is your typical ‘Slushy FM’ genre? Do you have a particular favourite?

Heavy metal, punk, rock, country.

Describe your Casey experience with: a sight, a smell, a sound, a feeling and a taste.

Sight: Unfathomable abyss

Smell: Poo and orange toilet spray.

Sound: No sound now all the penguins are gone.

Feeling: The feeling of the cool winter breeze through seven layers of clothing. 

Taste: The taste of our chefs awesome cooking.

Do you have a favourite quote that you’d like to leave us with?

Boys will be boys and penguins will be scared.

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