In September 2012 I began a second 13-month contract as the Scott Base communications engineer for
Antarctica NZ, Telecom NZ and Downer Engineering.
Six months of sunlight, six months of darkness, temperatures of +3 to -50degC, interesting people
and varied work are just some of the many features of spending a year in this icy environment.
Below is a diary 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 2010-2011,
2016 seasons are also available.
Select month to view:
30/9/12: Less than a day until myself and the rest
of the 2012-2013 season winter crew for Scott Base are due to fly south
from Christchurch. If we actually make it or not is totally dependant
on the variable Antarctica weather, although the
suggests that it looks promising until the evening. Takeoff is 10AM and
all going well we'll land near Scott Base about 3PM. Also my 34th
birthday tomorrow, so will be my 3rd consecutive birthday at Scott Base
if we get there as scheduled. Essentially that involves me putting free
drinks on the bar.
There was an open day held at Christchurch Airport on Saturday to allow
the public to walk through some of the aircraft, including the
we'll be riding on tomorrow. I didn't go to the open day, sounds as
though it was very busy anyway. Will probably see more than enough of
the inside of it tomorrow. Even more so if we get a 'boomerang' flight,
which involves flying to Antarctica, circling for an hour or so until
they decide the weather is unsuitable for landing, then flying back to
Christchurch. A 10+ hour flight where you get off where you started from.
I'm hoping that will not be the case, fingers crossed.
Here's the C17 aircraft we'll be on tomorrow. Special thanks to Vaughan H
who took this photo at the open day yesterday at Christchurch Airport.
And of course we completed the fire training this week. Lots of flames and fun
as always, although it seemed much tamer than when I last had this training
23/9/12: As expected, the awareness week at Antarctica
NZ in Christchurch had an air of repetition from last season, though of course
there was new content as the result of continuous improvement. Always nice to
see. Naturally there were many different presentations and activities on
subjects ranging from health & safety, environmental protection, logistics,
operations, reading weather conditions and many others. Plus of course there
were a few of those touchy-feely subjects and a number of team building exercises.
Wasn't as bad as it may sound, it was all good fun and of course a good way to
help meet all of the new people and remember names.
This week was also the first time the 35 or so new staff have all been together.
One of my delights was meeting the winter chef, who commented to me "I was
thinking about getting some pork belly sent down, but I'm not sure if anyone
would eat it". Needless to say that there was an emergency action to rapidly
ensure the chef that these delicacies would indeed be consumed. Death by pork
overdose is one of my secret fantasies.
On the cards for next week is five days of fire training with the NZ Fire
Service. It's very much hands on, everyone gets hot and sweaty and of course we
get to play with real fire. It's also an incredibly good way to know each other
as it's all heavily focused around operating as a team.
So only seven days left in the real world. The more I think about the many
annoyances of living in a city, the more I'm looking forward to getting back
to Scott Base. No traffic, no crime, no barking dogs, no advertising,
no cellphones. The place sounds almost too good to be true. Shooting my
neighbour's incessantly barking dog is also one of my secret fantasies.
Time to get back to packing. At least this time round I know exactly what I need
to take with me. Still, it's not a small job bringing enough clothing, tools
and equipment to last you the year while avoiding the temptation to bring too
much crap. Taking my nice guitar this time, it already looks like we may have
a few musically talented people in our group so I have high hopes of bashing
out a few tunes.
Hazardous substances training with the NZ fire service, this is a photo from 2010.
We'll be covering this and many other fire training subjects next week.
Much of the fire training we'll be doing is with self contained breathing
apparatus (SCBA). You quickly get hot and tired running about all day in that
clothing while carrying a heavy steel cylinder on your back.
16/9/12: I'm back for another year and by popular demand
I'll also be maintaining this photo diary again which I expect to update weekly
as before in the 2010-2011 season.
I'm not sure if it's insanity or if I'm just a sucker for punishment, but I
agreed to sign up for another 13-month stint on the ice. Deep down I suspect
that the delicious food and cheap beer available at Scott Base may have had
an influence. Plus there's the interesting project work from last season
that I ran out of time to even start last time round.
This week was the official kick off, so I met the new Scott Base engineering
team on Monday. A few familiar faces in the bunch was a warm welcome and the
new people are all very friendly and enthusiastic.
A day trip to Wellington on Thursday was used for a catchup with the Telecom
International technical managers to see what's on the plate for the coming season.
Not too much it turns out, which is a potentially good thing. While some of the
Telecom equipment at Scott Base is a little aged, the reliability and quality
of the equipment suggests it should be good for at least a few more rounds.
In fact I'm hugely in favour of the older stuff. If it isn't broken, why fix
Next week is the first time the entire Scott Base 2012 season crew will all be
together. It's the Antarctica NZ induction week. Of course I've done it before
in 2010 so there won't be as much to remember as last time. The other purpose
of the week is to give everyone the opportunity to know each other. The photo
below shows one of the many team building exercises we had in 2010.
My scheduled date to fly to Scott Base is the 1st of October. After meeting the
new engineering team, I'm now quite looking forward to the new season.
Although it looks a bit cheesy, the various team building exercises we'll have
over the coming week is a surprisingly good way to meet and understand the 30-something
new people I'll be spending the next year with.