I have a bit of a thing for Antarctica. I’ve always wanted to go and always will want to go, even with the lack of reception my mobile phone would be sure to have.
I’m not sure what first sparked this interest. Perhaps it’s the fact that heat makes me so very
unreasonable grumpy while cold weather gives me an excuse (like I need one) to drink copious amount of hot chocolate. Then there’s the fact you can see penguins and don’t have to worry about being eaten by a polar bear. It’s also the setting for one of my favourite books – Ice Station by Matthew Reilly.
Anyway, my hunger to go was made all the worse earlier this year when my parents embarked on my – and to be fair their – trip of a lifetime down south, spending weeks on end exploring the southernmost reaches of our planet.
I asked them to bring back a penguin but instead got Gucci’s new Envy perfume, which I imagine tastes far less palatable roasted over an open flame. But on a serious note they did manage to fulfil one of my bucket list items – to visit one of the permanent stations. And the stories they bought back only made me want to learn more. Here’s what I discovered.
The Australian Antarctic Division maintains four permanent research stations, which are occupied year-round by scientists and support staff. They are:
* Mawson (Antarctic continent)
* Casey (Antarctic continent)
* Davis (Antarctic continent)
* Macquarie Island (subantarctic)
You can read more about them here, with information ranging from webcams and science overviews to cultural heritage and information on station facilities. But I found the write-ups so fascinating I had to share one. Here goes…
“About 150-160 expeditioners, including Wilkins Aerodrome ground crew, visit Casey during the summer. About 16-20 remain on station over winter.
Living at Casey is very comfortable and has often been compared to ski lodges, with the odd exceptions. The local ‘supermarket’ is substituted by a walk in cupboard called “Woolies”, where all expeditioners can browse the shelves for soap, linen etc. in a cashless society.
When blizzard days inhibit fieldwork, the main living area (the Red Shed) has indoor climbing, a home theatre, gym, photographic dark room, library and many communal sitting areas for expeditioners to pass the time.
Casey living is very communal and all expeditioners contribute to the day-to-day running of the station. Rosters are set up for Saturday duties that may include vacuuming the living area, shovelling snow, cleaning the cold porches etc. Expeditioners are rostered on to help the chef out in the kitchen (“Slushy duty”) to help feed the station.
Expeditioners have private bedrooms and share a bathroom between three people. Before the summer melt, water is scarce and therefore all expeditioners are limited to two-minute showers every second day.
Casey living is also very social after work and on days off. Every Saturday night expeditioners dress up for dinner and occasionally a theme night will be organised – with very adventurous costumes! The Casey bar “Splinters” is often occupied after work and on weekends with expeditioners playing pool and darts and drinking the home brewed beer.
Casey also boasts a special hydroponics building, which we use to grow lettuce, green vegetables, tomatoes and fresh herbs. These are welcome additions to our winter diet.”
Wow, sounds amazing, doesn’t it? And I would love nothing more than to spend six months living and working there. But sadly sarcasm, a comprehensive knowledge of power ballads and a liking for D-grade monster movies don’t seem to appear anywhere on the list of preferred candidate attributes. As Homer J Simpson would say: “D’oh”.