Well, lets start off the latest happenings on a positive note!
Every wintering expeditioner has to complete multiple forms of field training once on station. There is Survival training which is an overnight camp in an emergency shelter called a 'bivvy bag'. Field travel training which involves multiple days and nights out in the field navigating with maps, compasses and GPS (kind of orienteering), some do 48hr familiarisation training if they aren’t already familiar with this particular location then finally we do numerous SAR (Search and Rescue) training exercises in case of an unfortunate incident out in the field.
Field travel training this year involved Quad biking around the many Fjords of the Vestfolds, staying at Platcha hut at the base of the Antarctic Plateau, setting up a field camp and staying in a Polar pyramid tent and finally a sightseeing and navigation tour through 'Iceberg alley'. It was an amazing trip, we experienced most of the weather Antarctica has to offer, from icy cold winds and blowing snow to scorching sunshine that will burn any exposed piece of skin in the blink of an eye. Check it...
|Platcha at the base of the Plateau|
|Fjords, Vestfolds and the Plateau|
|I wish I knew more about rocks...|
|Tryne Islands and Iceberg Alley|
|Anthea deliciously explaining how Crevasses form|
|Not a bad backdrop for some training!|
Now for the not so great stuff...
As some of you may have heard, we had an incident with one of our helicopters recently. We had 2x choppers out in the field checking out a rarely seen Emperor Penguin colony out past the Amery ice shelf. On the return voyage they experienced white-out conditions which is an occasional problem down here and also a very disorientating effect where you can lose sight of the horizon and all surface definition.
One chopper clipped the ground while attempting to move out of the 'white-out' area. The other Heli landed nearby and proceeded to assist the passengers of the downed aircraft. Miraculously they were all breathing and were immediately stabilised by the second crew.
Meanwhile we received the call on station and proceeded to make plans for a rescue. Luckily we had 2x Canadian Kenn Borek crews stationed here with a Twin Otter and Basler DC3 fixed-wing aircraft. Most of the rescue can be read about here: http://www.smh.com.au/national/antarctic-helicopter-crash-survivors-had-luck-on-side-20131206-2ywom.html
As expected an incident like this can affect the station greatly, which it did and has. From the outside it may look like these people are just work colleagues but in reality we had been through quite a lot together from training, living on the ship and at station and we knew every member on a quite personal level.
I also had a challenging and unexpected role to play as I am part of the Lay Surgical team with the job of assisting our Doctor with incidents such as these. I wont go into detail for obvious reasons but this was something I have never experienced before but I am very proud to be a part of. I was also asked to help monitor the patients during the medivac to Casey station where they were picked up by our A319 Airbus to be returned to Hobart hospital.
It was nice to visit one of our other stations for a few days but it would have been better to be under different circumstances...
|The Airbus at Wilkins awaiting our injured expeditioners.|
|They have some impressive machinery up there!|
|Priscilla, Queen of the snow!|
|Our trusty steed. The DC3.|
|From any angle its a beautiful plane.|
|First class only. (on the way home)|
Safely home now (Davis)
Talk again soon!