At Casey, Browning Hut is the hut furthest from station. Situated 58 kilometres from station on the Browning Pennisula this hut is renowned for its beautiful scenic surrounds and is a 'must visit' for all that spend time at Casey. Some also say Browning Hut is renowned for being cursed! The tyranny of the long distance commute (just over 3 hours) has claimed many a Hägglunds casualty over the years. Add in the brutal localised weather that can spin-up blizzard whiteouts in minutes and possibly the coldest hut conditions in all Antarctica - it lends some credence to the theory Browning is cursed!
Undeterred by the existence/non-existence of a curse, five intrepid Casey winter expeditoners (Haydn, Tadeusz, Andy, Macca, and Kyle) set off on Friday 14 May 2021 for a maintenance mission to Browning.
The day started off beautifully, with clear skies, minimal wind, blazing sunshine, and a balmy -25 degrees. After an uneventful three-odd hours of driving, things started to go slightly off plan when the scenic southern Browning skyline quickly started to dissolve into a blur of wind and an ominous blowing snow backdrop. The increasing winds became even more noticeable for some of the team whilst driving when one vehicle's windows blew right open due to a latch mechanism failing!
Pressing on, the team arrived soon after at the Browning Automatic Weather Station (AWS) to complete their first maintenance task of the mission: A visual check and solar panel re-alignment of the AWS. After expediting the work due to the increasingly cold conditions, the team were quickly back in their vehicles and rolled on to Browning Hut by 12pm for their remaining maintenance tasks - a range of carpentry and communications installation works
Upon arrival, the 'local' Browning Hut weather gave us a rude shock. 30 knot winds (55km/h), -30 degrees Celsius temperature and blowing snow seemed quite surreal when, seemingly a stone throw to the north, a calm clear horizon lay. Nevertheless, the team started prepping for their hut-based work when things again started to go slightly off plan, with the generator failing to start. Faced with overnighting in a very cold hut that would get even colder with no genny, a quick chat about what to do next over a hot cup of tea was undertaken...suffice to say, when your tea bag starts to freeze immediately after steeping due to how cold the surrounding hut is, it's not a positive sign! Based on all of the above, the sharp decison was made to tactically withdraw (a.k.a. run away, retreat, get the hell outta Dodge!). But, not before the team set about making the most of the remaining daylight to complete their maintenance tasks.
As last light approached around 4:30pm, Browning Hut was bolstered with a brand new hut sign along with tweaked guywires and turnbuckles (thanks Haydn), a new satellite phone internal antenna (thanks Andy + Macca), and an upgraded remote first-aid kit (thanks Tad).
And with day turning to night at 4:31pm, the team launched back into the Antarctic darkness for the long three-hour drive back home to Casey Station.
Antarctic scoreboard for this mission: Browning 1 - Casey maintenance team 0.5 (1/2 point awarded for completion of all maintenance tasks in spite of the Browning curse).
- Kyle (Station Leader).