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

Anthony-ScottBase-small.jpg (10124 bytes)
March 2011
  • 27/3/11: Almost another month gone already. With so much to do, the days are flying past surprisingly quickly. The days are steadily getting shorter, now completely dark outside by 11:30PM but there are some fantastic sunrises and sunsets to see. The sea ice that broke out at the front of Scott Base has now re-frozen, 500mm thick in places already. Aside from that, bugger all interesting stuff to note this week.

    Wind_turbines_6-3-11.jpg (55511 bytes)
    The wind farm had a record month, producing over 300MW-hours. Each turbine can produce a maximum of 330kW, the total output being around 1MW. Here's a photo I took a few weeks ago while on a job.

    Workshop_ceiling_removed.jpg (98967 bytes)
    Lots of air ducting being replaced in the administration area at present. The ceiling of my workshop is in lots of pieces.

    Lance_Gaddafi.jpg (93436 bytes)
    And we had Colonel Gaddafi call in for dinner this evening. He looked surprisingly similar to our chef, Lance, with a moustache drawn on with green pen.

  • 20/3/11: Day time temperatures are getting somewhat nippy. Between -20C and -30C most of the time, the week's high was -16C. Throw in 20 knots of wind for a windchill factor of around -45C, brrrr! It's steadily getting darker in the evenings now. At the moment it's around 12 hours each of daylight and darkness, the hours of daylight getting shorter with each passing day.

    Nothing significant to mention from the week. Lots of project work underway which everyone seems to getting stuck into with plenty of enthusiasm. I spent a majority of the week writing technical documentation and updating copper cable records. The fact that little or none of the technical documentation has been kept up to date in the last 4-5 years does not make the job any easier. You can't trust any of the records when doing a fault finding job, so in order to get things current, you need to spend a lot of time investigating what literally thousands of copper pairs are connected to and updating records accordingly. It's extremely time consuming.

    Sunset_15-3-11.jpg (31928 bytes)
    On the plus side, I think I managed to take my very first photo which wasn't a complete failure. The sunset above was taken at 9:30PM last Tuesday out the door of my workshop. I'm chalking up my success to the million monkeys with a million camera theory; eventually you're bound to get something usable.

    Budzilla.jpg (48049 bytes)
    Meanwhile, Lance, our chef, has a pet hydroponics project underway. He purchased "Budzilla" at the end of the summer season and is currently growing lettuce, chives, oregano and tomatoes.

    Whiteboard_HNF.jpg (33955 bytes)
    Various whiteboards around the base which carried important notes and messages during the summer now feature quirky and amusing comments and sketches. The photo above of the dining room whiteboard with a reference to Rob McPhail (see 18/1/11), the Helicopters NZ pilot who worked here over summer.

  • 13/3/11: With only 14 of us on station, there's much less activity and excitement than during summer, so far less interesting things to report. This weekend was our first two-day weekend, Saturday and Sunday off. Naturally I couldn't resist getting my teeth into another one of my planned projects instead of sitting around doing bugger all; this time a rack-mounted hold music player for our telephone network. These are productive times for all of Scott Base however, many winter projects are in full swing. At the moment we have an air handler (large fan + heater unit) and switchboard upgrade in progress.

    Sea_ice_in_mist.jpg (35023 bytes)
    Our water engineer, Steve Williams, is much more into photography than I am. And unlike me, he actually knows how to use a camera. He takes some pretty stunning pictures, such as the one above of sea ice in the mist.

    PABX_hold_music_player.jpg (45883 bytes)
    Another project on the go; a new unit that generates music for callers on hold. Should have it finished and in service today.

    SB_stage4_upgrade.jpg (65783 bytes)
    A temporary air handler running in the main corridor to keep the building warm while the main air handler is replaced with a more efficient modern unit. For some reason there is a picture of ET (the alien) stuck to the plastic duct (centre).

  • 11/3/11: Last week's fibre optic cable inspection between Scott Base at the Satellite Earth Station revealed that a snow drift was pulling on the 25-pair copper cable that carries telephone and data between Scott Base and Arrival Heights. The cable was stretched extremely tight to the point that damage would have been likely, so a dig out was in order.

    Cable_dig_out_11-3-11.jpg (109780 bytes)
    Here's Victoria giving me a hand to carefully dig out the cables, which includes the 3000V power cable to the Satellite Station and the fibre optic cables. The 25-pair copper is the thin one by itself which looks as though it's about to snap.

  • 6/3/11: Yesterday we watched the final flight of the summer season depart and celebrated the occasion with a sparkling wine toast. That's it, no transport in or out until at least August. Good, finally some peace and quiet!

    Fantastic weather today, Sunday. Ideal for a routine inspection of the fibre optic cable route plus a few interesting photos along the way.

    ScottBase_6-3-11.jpg (57842 bytes)
    Yet another shot of Scott Base, note the open ocean which tonight has a thin crust of ice forming over it already. The horizontal white line in the sea ice is the road to the Pegasus airfield. Due to further ice breakout over the last few days, the road is now closed.

    Windswept_snow.jpg (62635 bytes)
    A windswept snow drift on the way to the Satellite Earth Station, Mt Erebus in the distance.

  • 4/3/11: The excitement of last week has calmed down at last. Things are beginning to resemble a somewhat more calm and collected state, so this week has been great for productivity. It's also starting to get dark at nights. Not complete darkness in the small hours yet, though not far from it.

    Penguins1_March2011.jpg (49593 bytes)
    Many penguins and seals about locally following the ice breakout.

    Penguins2_March2011.jpg (33239 bytes)
    We're surrounded!.