17/10/2015: Back home for two days and it still
feels great. A group of us met at the Antarctica NZ office on Thursday
morning for clothing returns, morning tea and final farewells. When we
were finished, everyone stood in a group just kind of blankly staring at
nothing. Then the reality suddenly set in; after a year of constant
routine and knowing what was on the work schedule, we were all suddenly
free and no-one knew what to do. Though it didn't take long to draw up
ideas for a barbeque and beers at my place that evening and invite
I think returning to NZ like this after a year, for the third time, is
somehow easier than it used to be. You know that you're going to feel
awkward being around many other people, traffic, trees and other things
you've not seen in over a year. And because you're expecting some level
of anxiety, you're somehow able to cope with it much easier.
Everyone has now gone their separate ways; no doubt I'll bump into some
of our 2014-2015 crew again. There are certainly a number of people
I'll keep in touch with.
And that's it for another season at Scott Base. Would I do another?
Who knows. I do find that working for a solid 12 months with no actual
holidays is wearing thin, so I may consider a winter only contract
(February to October) due to the much more relaxed pace of winter. It's
only when you're at the forefront of yet another summer season that you
recall how hectic they are.
And a final thanks to all my friends and family who kept me sane with
regular contact, photos, phone calls and some great beers. Every little
bit helped a lot!
Until next time?
This was the scene at 1:30PM on Wednesday, walking out the Scott Base
locker room door for the last time. For most of us, it was anything
but a sad moment, we were all itching to get back home to NZ.
Looking out the back window of the vehicle as we set off to Pegasus
Airfield. This is the view south, Black Island seen in the
Our convoy of two Toyota Land Cruisers departing Scott Base for the
30-40 minute ride to Pegasus Airfield.
As we approached Pegasus, we saw the US Air Force C17 approaching
and landing on the ice runway. Who'd have guessed it would be so
We arrived at the airfield in time to see the C17 parking up for
passengers to depart and cargo to be unloaded.
The mixture of NZ and American passengers were loaded onto the
Kress for transport back to Scott Base and McMurdo Station.
The American cargo handlers unloaded a couple of shipping containers
out of the C17.
Meanwhile, we waited while the C17 was unloaded before the eight
of us from Scott Base and seven Americans climbed on.
Finally we were ushered on. Pick any seat you like, the plane is
returning to NZ practically empty.
The only cargo on the plane was a small pallet of our checked in
luggage. The five hour flight to Christchurch went smoothly up
until we reached the passport control desk at Christchurch airport
at 9PM. All the lights were off and no-one was about. A man
told us all just to skip the entire passport/immigration thing and
just go. We were just about to leave the airport when they found
some customs officers, so we had to go back and do the official
And the following afternoon; enjoying long awaited craft beers and
barbecued bratwurst from my favourite German delicatessen.
15/10/2015: We landed on time in Christchurch last
night at 9PM. It really is brilliant to be back home!
Clothing returns and stuff this morning followed by beers and barbecues.
I'll add some photos and more in a day or two....
11/10/2015: What more can I say other than I'm
pleased that we're on the final home run. Most of our remaining winter
crew of 14 people are due to return to Christchurch tomorrow. Myself
and a few others with more work to go are expected to be here until
Wednesday. Weather permitting of course.
Everyone asks what I'll do when I get back. First up are some beers
and barbeques of course. Plus catching up with many friends, the
Fleetwood Mac concert in November and hopefully not too much else for
With the summer flag ceremony held yesterday afternoon, signalling the
official handover from the winter to summer crew, it really does feel
like time to move on.
All going well, my next and final update here will be from my home
The tradition is for the youngest person on base to perform the seasonal
flag changeover. For the ceremony yesterday, this was the job of Shannon,
one of the new Communications Operators.
And this was the new summer flag seeing some action yesterday after it
For the last few years, Grumps and I have been doing alternate years
in this role at Scott Base. He's a telephone systems technician by
trade while I'm a radio communications/electronics engineer. So here
he is in all his bearded glory, settling in for the next 12 months at
Among the familiar faces that arrived this week is Anthony Powell,
renowned for his Antarctic photos and documentaries.
I understand he's spending the coming 12 months at Scott Base,
partially to work on filming projects for National Geographic and
his own video projects, plus some 'special project' work for
Antarctica NZ. Yes, he has significantly greater interest and skill
in photography than I'll ever have. And I'll bet his posh camera is
worth more than my second hand $70 Canon PowerShot A410.
It's also the fire training time of the year. Three trainers from the
NZ Fire Service are on site this week to conduct several fire drills
per day as part of fire training for the new crew. The scenario shown
above was a mock fire in the Wet Lab.
One of my jobs this week was planning of some summer work on the fibre and
power cable that runs to the Satellite Earth Station at Arrival Heights,
which isn't what's shown here. This is on the way to the Earth Station;
seen above is T-Site with the wind farm, plus the frozen Star Lake seen
right of centre.
Yet another photo of Mt Erebus, seen from the 5km cable route from Scott
Base to the Satellite Earth Station.
4/10/2015: I can finally see light at the end
of the tunnel, but knowing my luck, it's probably a train. As
expected, a great deal has been happening this week, starting with the
arrival of the first summer flight on Monday as scheduled. In true
Antarctic fashion, the weather soon took a turn for the worse, resulting
in a number of flight cancellations over the week, though the second
half of the new crew eventually arrived on Wednesday evening.
The chef reminded me that I had another birthday on Thursday, making
me now 37 years old, also my sixth consecutive birthday here. The
kitchen made a honey Jack Daniels layer cake, which was delicious.
I'd share a photo of the cake, but it was devoured before I could get
the camera out. Besides, you probably know what a cake looks like,
and everyone hates photos of food posted on the internet.
Despite the insane influx of people this week, bringing staff numbers
from our winter crew of 14 to a total of 51, it is quite fun to see so
many people that are eager and excited. I'll be eager and excited too
in around 10 days when I hope to be back home in Christchurch!
This was the scene at 2:30PM at Pegasus Airfield on Monday. This US
Air Force C17 made the first touchdown of the summer season.
All the excited new people getting off the plane. For many of them,
this is their first footsteps in Antarctica. I was once this excited
back in January this year after some friends in Christchurch sent me
a bottle of 8-Wired iStout
and Epic Imperium. Ahhh yes; that was indeed a great day....
Before I drool off into dream land again, I'll point out there were 18
or so NZ folks on the flight plus over 80 Americans bound for McMurdo
Station. The Americans have the red coats, the Scott Base people wear
orange and black.
When Lex and I walked to McMurdo Station last Sunday to catch up with
a few friends and enjoy some suckling roast pig (which happened to
be delicious!), we remembered how many problems the Americans have
been having with their vehicles. Of their winter fleet of heavy
machinery, 50 or so machines, they had about three machines that were
not broken down. Unfortunately many of the new vehicles that have
recently replaced the older ones don't appear to be very reliable in
the cold. The older mechanical machines used to just work, but these
modern computer equipped machines seem to have no end of issues.
The Case tractor pictured above is part of the broken down fleet, they
keep the blade up so that it's able to be towed.
Not sure if the Kress is broken down or just parked in the middle
of the road. It's yet another one of these newer vehicles which are
generally in one of two states; either broken down or about to break
The Americans are defrosting portable buildings and things that have
been stored away during the winter. The problem with storing things
such as these outside is that any tiny gap in the building means that
the entire thing fills up completely with wind-blown snow. One way to
remove it is to cut a hole in the side of the building and jam a hose
blowing hot air into it. The problem of course is that the snow turns
to water, which runs out the bottom and freezes into a solid waterfall,
as you can see above.
This is Grumps, my replacement. He and I have been doing alternate years
since 2013, so he's back here for another year. He's also the fire
chief, which somehow chews up a lot more time than you'd expect. I've
been spending the odd few minutes of handover time with him in between
him making fire crew signs and the likes.
Talking to my uncle and cousin from Australia yesterday, they mentioned
that they really wanted to see a wildlife photo. I had a dig around and
remembered that I don't really have much. Of course I find machinery
and electronics infinitely more interesting than penguins and things.
But I found the photo above that I'd copied from someone back in 2010.
They're emperor penguins walking by one of the Americans' fuel lines.
The blue flags warn vehicles of fuel lines so that they don't run into
the pipes and create an environmental disaster of