Amiga Technical Resource

Working in Antarctica

On the 30th of August 2010 I began a new role of telecommunications technician for Scott Base, Antarctica NZ, Telecom NZ and Downer Engineering. It began with a tightly packed four weeks of a variety of training before flying south to the ice on the 30th of September. The contract length of the position is around 13 months, hence it is known as 'wintering over'.

Below is a blog of progress and interesting events along the way, oldest at the bottom and most current at the top. Note that these are my own personal views and experiences which may not reflect the views of Antarctica NZ, Telecom NZ or Downer Engineering.

Diaries from the 2012-2013, 2014-2015 and 2016 seasons are also available.

Select month to view:
October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011

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April 2011
  • 24/4/11: Easter Sunday today and also the last sunset. Nice day to enjoy it; clear sky and a nippy -34C. We've been losing around 30 minutes of daylight daily over the last week. Todays sunrise is at 12PM and setting at 1:42PM. There will be some daylight until well into May, so it's not too bad getting the occasional job done outside.

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    The sunset at 1PM yesterday afternoon over Mt Discovery with the historic "TAE Hut" in the foreground, one of the few original parts of Scott Base left from 1957.

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    One of the many golden sunsets from many weeks ago. Will be around four months until we see this again.

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    A nice surprise in the dining room this morning. The Easter bunny had paid an overnight visit. Or at least in our case some of the Americans had delivered 14 hand made 'baskets of happiness'.

  • 22/4/11: Easter Friday, completely forgot about it. I'd been unsuccessfully trying to contact a bunch of people in New Zealand all morning regarding some project work. Wasn't until a basket of Easter eggs appeared on the table at lunchtime that I remembered it's a public holiday. Just another 6-day working week for us. Without the usual barrage of advertising you face back home, it's surprising how easy these kinds of things slip by.

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    The hydroponics garden is growing well. We've had a few salads of lettuce and rocket so far. The tomato plants are just beginning to flower.

  • 20/4/11: Finally a windless day for an inspection of the 5km fibre optic cable route. It's actually quite pleasant walking around in -25 degrees C, but even a gentle breeze makes it uncomfortable.

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    A post frosted with ice at T-Site, the recently frozen ocean outside McMurdo Station in the background. My lame attempt at artistic photography.

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    Looking over the power supply cable and fibre optic cable on metal elevation stakes on the way to the Satellite Earth Station (top centre).

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    The Satellite Earth Station radome covered in a sugary frosting of ice.

  • 19/4/11: It was the 55th birthday of the Antarctic Heritage Trust carpenter, so time for the elaborate unveiling of the short movie we'd all been secretly making part-time as a birthday gift. The movie consisted of a collection of short features of individuals. My clip was the filming of a 'live' radio morning broadcast on our radio station with a birthday greeting, etc. Others had sketches of pretending to be lost in the Antarctic wilderness, crawling through the ice in a vain attempt to make it to the party. The whole thing turned out even better than expected and of course plenty of fun.

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    A group photo of everyone at the movie premier. I'm bottom left while Martin the birthday boy is centre right in the yellow shirt and leopard coat. It was a 'formal' dress theme, which always results in a few outrageous get-ups.

  • 10/4/11: Much productivity this week, replacing the -50VDC power supply system that runs all of the communications systems. A moderate sized job that I hope to complete in the coming week. It's one of those jobs where to do it properly you just have to pull out everything and start again from fresh. Makes the job bigger, but at least you end up with a professional result. Turned out to be a good move, the project is progressing well.

    An upcoming birthday in just over week should be interesting. Everyone has recorded short video clips of various things which will be put togther as a short film as a birthday gift/presentation for one of the base members. It's fantastic watching all of these creative ideas unfold.

    With not much happening other than lots of work, it's hard thinking of interesting things to write about. Oh, we did have a small storm yesterday with strong winds and much blowing snow. I took the photos below this morning on a walk up the road.

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    The back of Scott Base with a fresh frosting of ice and snow.

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    A lot of the vehicles are "cold parked" during winter. The D6 bulldozer and Toyota Landcruiser above look a bit chilly.

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    How could I not include a cheesy picture of me by the Scott Base sign? I look like a tourist. The sign (inset) is on the road between Scott Base and McMurdo Station and reflects the population of Scott Base. Not sure who made the current update but I think the robot image is supposed to reflect me, nice touch.

  • 2/4/11: Long weekend today. The first Saturday of each month is a day off whereas we normally work 6 days per week. As expected, it's rapidly getting darker each day with sunrise now at 9:09AM and set at 6:42PM. At present we're loosing 15 minutes daylight per day. Temperatures average from -20C to -30C.

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    The front of Scott Base in the evening sunset.

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    With April Fools day in the air yesterday I decided to retreat to the top of Crater Hill for a number of jobs. Shown above is the remote equipment alarm sender unit and the freshly repaired power supply monitor unit. Turns out there was no pranks pulled that day after all, but it's good to have these jobs finished before it gets too much darker and colder.

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    Another tradition is a wall mounted photo of the winter-over crew. The main hallway is lined with photos dating back to 1957 when the base opened. Most interestingly I discovered this 1978 photo of my first manager from Invercargill. If anyone knows how to get in touch with Mr Dennison, please do let me know. Last I heard he'd moved from Invercargill to Alexandra.