From September 2014 to October 2015 I'm on my third summer-winter 13-month contract as the Scott Base
communications engineer for Antarctica NZ,
Telecom NZ International and Downer Engineering. I'm still uncertain what keeps me coming
back, possibly a combination of great people and interesting work. Temperatures of +3
to -50degC, the constant daylight of summer and the relentless darkness of winter are
part of the many challenges of living and working at New Zealand's Antarctic research
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:
30/9/2014: So 24 hours later the flight
went ahead and we landed at Scott Base at 3:30PM to a beautiful day.
See October 2014 for the images.
29/9/2014: Back by popular demand is my
all new 2014-2015 Scott Base photo diary. I'm unsure why I've
had so many requests for these badly written anecdotes featuring
my tragic attempts at photography, lengthy commentary of various
work projects which would probably bore most people senseless,
quirky writing style and all too frequent sarcasm.
While I was due to be landing on the ice this afternoon for day
one of the new season, flights have been delayed by 24 hours due
unfavourable weather down south. Suits me, it's still sunny and
warm here in Christchurch, so a good opportunity to tackle the
remaining list of low priority jobs, plus juggling around a bunch
of HTML code to get this diary kick started for another season.
Let's see how many links I manage to break in the process.
Tomorrow is take two for the same flight, so we'll wait and see what
the weather delivers.
To quickly bash out a few answers to frequent questions I've been
recently bantered with:
So as usual, the last couple of weeks have been filled with the
pre-deployment training. So that's the 'Awareness Week' with
Antarctica NZ in Christchurch followed by five days of rigorous
fire training with the NZ Fire Service in Woolston, Christchurch.
The flight in the C-17 Globemaster
aircraft takes about five hours from Christchurch to the Pegasus airfield by McMurdo Station.
Not sure what electronic development projects I'll tackle this winter. I do
have a few things in mind, but will wait and see what else comes through the pipeline.
No, I'm not really looking forward to the start of the season. There's always an awkward vibe
from the previous winter crew who have had just had their quiet home invaded by a bunch of
overenthusiastic newbies. Then week two of the season is on-site fire training, so the many jobs
and handover tasks are all too frequently interrupted by the abrupt blaring of the fire alarm,
followed by a base-wide evacuation and an hour or two of being part of the fire crew undertaking
the latest training scenario. A necessary evil of course, but it really does cheese you right off
when you're attempting to get a lot of stuff done in a short time.
We do have a good mixture of returnees this season, possibly a quarter of the staff have worked
at Scott Base before in previous years. It certainly helps when you know a few people at
Yes, I'm bringing my guitar down again. No, I haven't really got a band as yet, but it's certain that
something will fall together. Maybe something like that scene in The Blues Brothers:
"We're putting the band back together."
Don't worry Lorraine; we'll attempt to look after Alec (Ale Can Jr). He's a bit of a cheeky monkey
but he's got some great plans for a few new craft beers at the Scott Base bar, which I'm particularly
In addition, the biennial (that's once every two years)
IceFest festival is
currently featuring in the centre of Christchurch city. They
talked me into doing a 'Winter Antics' presentation there
yesterday afternoon, in which no-one stormed out in a great fury,
no little kids started crying, no little old ladies fainted from
being generally offended and only about half of the large audience
appeared to be deeply shocked. Certainly a world first in my books.
Anyway, here are a few photos from fire training last week. These
are actually from last season (2012), but it looks virtually the same
each time. It was interesting to note that the intensity of the
training week had been scaled back a lot compared to previous years.
For the first time we only had a few people screaming in fear and
no-one pulled out or refused to have a go at anything.
Marching around the Woolston fire training centre to get used to
working in BA (breathing apparatus) sets.
Here's me pondering what scenario the fire trainers will spring
on us next. Chemical spill, vehicle fire, missing person, helicopter
crash, gas explosion or kitchen fire?
Nope, just the building on fire with any number of 'victims' in
dire need of liberation from the heat and flames. Go on, get in
there! It's only 300-400 degrees C, what could possibly go wrong?
Everyone gets very black, wet, smoky, battered and bruised. But at
the conclusion of the week everyone agreed it was a hell of a lot of
fun, even though most people are well outside their comfort zones on