A Hopelessly Belated Christmas Message….

As usual I’ve found myself ‘not quite getting round to doing the blog again’ which is a bit of a shame as I do enjoy doing it when I finally kick myself up the backside…

I’ve just had another brief yet interesting visit to the ice world at the bottom of our planet again, this time to Casey station to assist with their annual resupply aboard the Aurora Australis. My role this time was to be gainfully employed as the ships comms support person on Voyage 2 (referred to as V2)….What that effectively means is I consistently remind other expeditioners that there really is no internet access on board and offer coping strategies for those suffering from Facebook and snapchat withdrawal. I also print the daily newspapers to remind others that we’re really quite lucky to not be living in a warzone or currently facing the wrath of the planets changing weather moods as the environment tries to slowly boil everything and cause phenomena not recorded before..…

Casey Station is located further East than Davis station where I was posted before, in longitudinal terms it’s just west of Perth so takes about eight days to sail there as opposed to the ten or eleven to Davis….That’s the theory anyway, the sea ice can change those timescales drastically if it doesn’t want us to get through quickly..

My first few days saw me running around trying to get email, phones, network and radio issues resolved so I didn’t have much time to think about anything else. The first few days at sea are usually the worst if you’ve not been offshore for a while, I do get a bit nauseous if I’m down below for too long and the rough conditions usually mean that I’ll take Avomine to hold back the seasickness whilst I’m adjusting. There is a rather nice effect side to Avomine though (well for me anyway) in that it makes me very sleepy and I’ll go into a bit of a ‘ships coma’ for a few days and enjoy sleeping for fourteen hours at a time…I think it’s the closest I will ever get to realizing what it’s like to be a cat e.g. wake up, eat, sleep, repeat…..

On the notion of eating, well that’s something that’s not so good – I am in no way complaining about the food, in fact the complete opposite – The food onboard is some of the best I’ve ever had, if I were to eat Bob’s ‘Moroccan Chicken’ for the remainder of my life I would die with a massive smile on my face, no, no complaints at all…..The problem is my willpower, or to be more precise, my will ‘not’ power….I like to think that during normal life that I’m a fairly fit bloke generally, don’t eat too much, exercise regularly etc…That is not possible on the ship due to facing amazing free food on offer all day long – I reckon I’ll have put on about 40kg during my time onboard and of course, coupled with the fact that there is nowhere to go for a walk or run I shall remain in an exercise debt for my return..

We had a reasonable trip South this time, seas were fairly good, no large twelve metre swells to slam through, not needing to tie myself into my bed with a bit of old rope each night is a sure sign of good conditions. We started to see occasional bergs on about the 6th day and slowly the amount of ice increased until we were in the thick of it, none of it quite as bad as two years ago though when we spent twenty two days trying to crack through two metre thick sea ice to get to Davis station, in comparison this was a doddle.

Another triumph for this voyage was the fact that there were only twenty eight expeditioners – Let’s be blunt, nobody wants to miss Christmas and New Year at home so the usual number of around ninety PAX onboard will be greatly reduced at this time of year….However, one advantage of that is that you get a cabin all to yourself, a cabin that’s normally shared by three…Now for that alone It’s been great and I would say is one of the best voyages I’ve been on to date, everyone was really relaxed.

It was strangely familiar to see Casey, and in the same way strangely different…The systems are the same at different stations, the Ops building is yellow, the RMU’s are Blue, the Green store is, well, it’s green…There’s the sat dome, the Hagglands and all the familiar vehicles etc…..But they’re all in a different place, so you know what they are, what they do but, sort of don’t know where they all are. The main accommodation building is the red shed which I kind of liked, it’s got a good layout and everything is under the one roof unlike Davis which has some Summer accommodation outside which would change the dynamics of it all – I was only there for all of a day ashore anyway before heading back to the ship so it was a quick chance to catch up with old friends who are working there this Summer which was great.
But I’m back now, and the ship has sailed again for V3 which is the Marine science voyage which seems to last forever….and has lots of people on board…..which is more than one person to a cabin…..Eeeeeewwww, no thanks, I’ve obviously been spoiled J

On a sad note it was unfortunate to see the loss of one of the great heli pilots Dave Woods at Davis this year due to an accident during a helicopter refueling op, no doubt a shock to his family and especially those Summering / Wintering at Davis this year – Dave will be sorely missed.

I’ve applied for another SCTO position for the forthcoming intake this year (commencing July / Aug 2016) but we’ll see how that pays out, politics and other factors may get in the way…I have a lot of other things lined up this year too which is going to keep me busy & travelling frequently…Will update with the next chapter (which I’m currently starting tomorrow J) soon…

Cheers

Stu

Stu and Go-Pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back Once Again is the Renegade Master…

D4 damage with the ill behavior? Actually no, it’ll be D5 as that’s the cabin number traditionally allocated to the comms CTO aboard the Aurora Australis…..and that, my esteemed friends is my justified Segway….. OK, enough. If none of that made any sense then you probably shouldn’t bother with the rest of this blog as that was the best bit right there..

So, anyway, I’m back in Hobart again starting another short contract with the Australian Antarctic Division, it all seems very familiar and nice to be here even if the wind is blowing up a nice 30 knots with a bit of sleet and hail thrown in, to be honest it’s just like being back in Wellington, NZ again just without everyone wearing All Blacks jerseys and declaring that another country has stolen its pavlova…

A much shorter stint this time, I’m just contracted to help out with comms support on the ship as it makes its way down to Casey station to resupply and then return to Hobart, all up I’m likely to be back in Hobart by early January but that does of course mean I’ll miss yet another Christmas at home (third one in a row now) – Still, it does save on Christmas presents and means I also get to escape the dreadful office Christmas parties and being forced to talk to the CEO’s wife about how lovely the weather is in Florence at this time of year…blah blah…

I’m reckoning this trip should be fairly cruisey compared with some of the prior ones, not because the work will be any different but because I suspect there will be fewer people on board, in return meaning that there will be more bunks available…Which is nice… The difference with Casey to all other stations is that it has an ice runway that they can land a jet on, specifically the A319 contracted by the AAD to regularly fly in staff, VIP’s and equipment during the Summer months. Obviously the plane can’t carry everything so the ship still sails down to resupply all the containers of food, building materials and transfer the 600,000 litres of fuel to replenish the their fuel supply however, this trip most of the staff will already be there by gift of deployment via the A319. You may have noticed just recently that a trial landing of the RAAF C17 Globe master (nearly a Renegade Master but not as good) was carried out at Casey, this was followed up by an operation to transport some heavy gear to station and perform a practice Medevac run should it be required for future – Have read of the news regarding that trip…

C17 Proof of Concept Article

As for me, I’ll more than likely just be aboard the ship for the whole time, there may be a chance for me to get ashore at Casey but it’s such a transient place with all the guests being flown in and out that accommodation there can be scarce if the weather takes a turn for the worst – If that’s the case it’ll just mean I may just have to stay aboard the Aurora Australis whilst we’re anchored offshore.. It’s not a bad place to be though…

Resupply V3 004

There’s no internet access on the ship, no Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Daily Mail, no media sensationalism, no X Factor and most definitely no Celebrity Come Dancing…I shall most likely find it quite a pleasurable trip given the aforementioned disconnection from reality (shows). There is however very limited email which is limited to 50kb bursts of data every 30 mins via the BGAN system – Enough for me to make a few phone calls or type enough email and keep in touch whilst away.

The main source of entertainment will most likely be LAN gaming with anybody else who happens to be aboard, last time on the trip home we all got a bit excited by playing HALO on our laptops each evening and blowing each other to smithereens – that was actually quite a good laugh!

So, no pictures of penguins or anything remotely interesting to show you, I did make the effort to get some shots of my accommodation here in Hobart though I’m sure you’ll agree I probably shouldn’t have bothered…

Right, toodlepip…

 

Six Months On…(and Man Flu)

Some blogger I am, I go away down South for a bit then come back and don’t write anything for months – You’d think that there’d be much more to ‘blog’ about back in the normal world with so much going on yet for some reason for me it was so much easier to write about the anomalies of being trapped in an ‘ice prison’ for 18 months than what happens here in ‘the real world’….

So here we are, September, I haven’t spent so long out of work since I was about nineteen years old I think, I say that, I did manage to pluck up the courage to do a bit of contracting for a whole six days about a month back..Unfortunately that was cut short due to needing to prepare for a different line of work so I’m probably best saying that I’ve been busy, just not gainfully employed….and by gainfully I mean bringing in any cash 🙂

My last few months have been filled with the desperate attempt to change my career from what I currently do, probably a mid life crisis or some deep fear that if I leave it too long I won’t be able to – I think the one thing that Antarctica taught me is that I hate being tied to a desk in an office and love to get outdoors as much as possible, I guess that in itself is not so much of a revelation as I’ve spent most of my life outdoors in one way or another, this is more clarification to me that I need a change and I need to make it happen before another ten years passes and I realise I’m doing the same old thing. I won’t knock the IT industry in which I’m currently obliged to be involved.., it’s been interesting, ever changing and pretty dynamic, it’s allowed me to have qualifications that transfer from country to country and allow me to travel whilst not having a degree or any real school education (I know, what a slacker!) – It is however a very ‘grey’ industry….Because of it’s constant change you never really seem to get the time to learn a product well before it changes, updates or becomes obsolete….and to be honest, after fifteen years….The passion to learn new products (usually out of work hours and at your own cost) starts to dwindle.

So, the things I currently have in the pipeline are pretty interesting in comparison, I have a nearly complete application with the New Zealand Defence Force, An application for an apprenticeship as an Air Traffic Controller in both Australia and New Zealand and a bit more work scheduled with the Australian Antarctic Division shortly supporting the communications systems on the ship and doing a ’round trip’ down South to drop off and pick up…(Which is incidentally over Christmas, my third one in a row….You can imagine how popular I am for that one ) – So there is plenty on the go, all of which involves medicals and security clearance, I seem to be spending most of my time at the doctors or filling out forms……My doctor and I are particularly looking forward to the anal and genital inspection booked up for next week, I volunteered to inspect them myself but it turns out I can’t do quite as tight ‘forward rolls’ as well as I used to…

Another interesting remnant of down south, I haven’t had a proper cold since I got back which basically means I haven’t had one since 2013….and oh how I’ve missed them….NOT!

This was the man flu of doom, I seriously deserve a Victoria cross for all I’ve been through over the past three days whilst bed ridden at home in a bedroom that resembles that scene from the excorcist, the kids are currently on school hols and I only vaguely remember speaking to them twice since last Friday as I moaned in my death throes… I often find women not understanding the truth behind man flu so I have tried to break down the finer points of it below so that it is clear…Any males who have suffered the same (and are still alive) feel free to comment and I will add them in, anyway:

  • From the very onset of manflu you must, repeat must not change your clothes or shave until you either die or the last remnant of green stuff has left your body – If survival is granted then afterwards those clothes should be burnt to stop the spread of infection (take them off first)
  • As a man, you need certain tools to assist in the exorcism of the inner ‘green’, it’s best to surround yourself early on before the paralysis kicks in, these items vary per man but will likely include many boxes of tissues, toilets rolls, vaseline, pills and potions, socks, lots of socks, and pictures of friends in case the moment to pass away comes close…
  • All deposits of tissues or debris must be placed in a pile, on the floor, by the bed, this must not be tidied by the spouse else the male cannot judge how far he is ‘through’ the terminal process – If he is to have any chance of survival the man needs to conserve every ounce of his life force until the bitter end and spread his energy across the full term of the evil – Tidying the tissues will throw his timings, cause misjudgment and may ultimately cost him his life.
  •   All food must be spicy. During the exorcism the male body can ‘up’ it’s intake levels to extraordinary levels (a bit like when the hulk gets angry and has massive strength) – Foods that he would never even consider owning in the house are life threateningly urgent – Jalfrezi’s, Green Thai and Jalapenos are mere snacks to a man with ‘Man Flu’ tolerance, his appetite must be satisfied and this is the duty of the spouse to assist in keeping her partner alive as ambulances do not provide spicy food.
  • Experimental drinks formed with Lemsip, Rum, Ibuprofen and an old capsule of daizapam you still have from a first aid course you did in 1996 are a good basis for creating a man flu re-hydration package. Be warned however, water is crap and holds no real nutrition – Spice tolerance requires creativity in liquid form and every man has a different recipe handed down to them from their man flu sensai.

I don’t want to give too many secrets away just yet but feel this is enough information to be getting on with, if you have any questions about man flu and how it can affect your family, ask a man close to you and he should be able to sit you down and let you into his secrets…

Any questions, let me know

Cheers

Stu

 

 

 

 

Climbing the walls….

Well it’s not quite that bad yet but I reckon it won’t be too long before I start losing my marbles, drawing pictures of my favourite badgers and having ice cream for breakfast whilst wearing a tutu and flippers…It’s been an interesting three months off, I’ve always wanted to just ‘have some time off’ with no plans or reason but I think you quickly come to realise that unless you’ve got something to do then you soon find yourself twiddling your thumbs and pacing up and down needing a sense of purpose…Relaxing on a beach has never really been my style…I always thought I’d be off running, mountain biking, climbing and paddling but ultimately unless your mates are off at the same time you’ve got nobody to go and play with so tend to find that heading out on your own doesn’t appeal quite as much – I’ve been doing a bit of mountain biking and training though my knee is undergoing a bit of recovery recently so I’ve been laying off the crossfit activity for now, hopefully I should be back up to full strength again in another couple of weeks.

A bit more camping has occurred and I have some more planned for the school holidays with the boys, to be honest I’m looking forward to a week exploring Straddie Island with the trailer now fitted out properly, I’d imagine the boys will be fairly quiet given that I’ve now fitted USB charging ports in their tent, I probably won’t see them for a week apart from feeding times…

In terms of keeping myself busy I’ve finally had my application accepted to join the New Zealand Defence Force – Now before we get carried away that purely means that the initial application process has been allowed to progress further, which means that on paper I am deemed as merely suitable at this stage, there’s still a long way to go in terms of actually achieving a role and I’m obviously in competition with a whole range of other younger and better qualified school leavers who are also keen for positions – The earliest I could possibly be considered for starting, if at all, would be next January however I am a realist and don’t want to pin my hopes on it too much!

I’ve now got to submit all manner of information: details of immunisation as a child, school leavers qualifications (both hilarious & dreadful – I got a ‘G’ grade GCSE in information technology which has gone on to be something I have made a fairly lucrative career out of!), police checks, doctors reports and then hopefully I’ll be allowed to attend an assessment day over in NZ. The assessment day is a range of fitness and aptitude tests designed to show up any weakness, I had a look at a few test questions and although they don’t seem too bad they are timed and to my horror include algebra, something I’ve never had a strong interest or affiliation with……Ironically I’m currently borrowing my eldest sons school math books to cram up on…..He, of course, finds that incredibly hilarious and is mocking me at every opportunity…..Every opportunity that is until he finds his internet access has been revoked at system level…Then the silence returns…

Just a note, should you ever migrate to another country make sure you get all of your doctors and medical details BEFORE you leave – The UK in all it’s wisdom is proving exceptionally difficult to assist in finding me my records of immunisation – Given that my records were written on wax sealed parchments and locked away in a stone vault somewhere in an East London cemetery it’s taking an incredibly long time to find the relative of the gatekeeper who once held the keys to that vault and has long since died so that access can be gained….

I’ve been for a few interviews, nothing particularly solid as yet but that may be down to other factors which are influencing our decision making – NZ or Aus continues to be our dilemma – It’s a real shame the Aussies don’t relax their defence force intake rules (e.g. no kiwis) as that would make the decision making far easier – At present the chances of us getting residency and then citizenship in Aus would be the hardest (and least predictable)  path in order to take up a military career so the NZ route seems the best option – Let’s see how the next few months roll along…..!

Cheers for now

Stu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the slow lane….

So, here we are again – I didn’t really write anything about our trip home, I guess once you’ve spent a bit of time on the Aurora it becomes a bit hum drum to be locked up in a cabin keeping yourself amused with as many books as you can read – It was made interesting by the fact that as soon as we’d left we had to return a couple of days later to perform a medivac for one of the winterers – A quick turnaround, two days of bursting through ice, stealing some more fuel from the station and another round of goodbyes and we were back on board and heading home again…

So, I’ve been back nearly seven weeks now I think, it doesn’t take long to adjust back to the world you left before even if the first few weeks are a bit weird. I departed the Aurora Australis on the morning of the 3rd of April, got rushed through a welcoming ceremony and quickly dashed to the airport with a bunch of others keen to get home in time for the Easter weekend. Being as we departed in Hobart it wasn’t the busiest place in the world and as such we weren’t dunked into a heaving pile of urban scurry, it was all quite palatable…

At the airport a few of us completed shopping errands in terms of buying SIM cards, getting cash out of ATM’s and then sat down for a final beer with each other before all drifting off onto our respective flights back to wherever we first flew in from all that time ago. One thing of note was when we all spotted a ‘fly’ going about his business in the departure lounge, having not seen insects or anything other than penguins or seals for the past 18 months he became quite an object of interest for a few minutes as we chased him around the chairs before finally getting bored of him. The flight back to Brisbane was fine, again, a few of us were on this and again we said our goodbyes at the other end when family and friends emerged at the gate to drag us back to reality and our homes.

For me I’ve kept myself fairly busy with doing up a camping trailer for a bit of time away –  Rewiring the electrics, installing roof tents and awnings, trying to repair broken fridges and fixing my mountain bike etc. I’ve also had the pleasure of fixing all the broken computer equipment that has failed in the last eighteen months whilst also re-establishing the ‘levels of command’ in the house to children who think that using a playstation is a credible career path and must consume numerous hours of study…..Nah, denied….

One thing I was keen to complete before I got involved in anything else was my video of the expedition – I’d done as much work editing as I could on the ship but needed to record my ‘voiceover’ when I got home – I did try to do this on the ship in the cupboard where they stored all the toilet rolls to try and dampen any outside sound but it didn’t work at all….I’m not please with the voiceover, it sounds emotionless but at the end of the day it is finished and gets the information across, so, yes, done, tick, now I can finally delete all 2 TB of footage I’d built up over the past couple of years..

In terms of what we’ve been up to? The kids have been at school, Ellie has been at work, I’ve been ‘hanging’ about the house and trying to think of what to do next – But mostly we’ve been out and about, taking the camper trailer to a few beaches and across to Straddie Island to explore a bit, meeting up with some of the lingerers who may or may not appear in some of the pics 🙂 – The weather hasn’t been fantastic admittedly but then we are English so that is perfectly normal for us when camping…

To keep life interesting and ticking along I applied to do the same job in Antarctica starting this November, that’s not likely to happen now (as with all of these jobs there’s generally a queue of people who want to do it!) so I’ve not been selected to come back next year – I’ve looked into the Australian Air force but unfortunately I need to be an Australian Citizen, to become a citizen I first need to become a permanent resident, to become a permanent resident I need to have my IT and management skills assessed (even though I’ve been doing the job for govt clients for fifteen years) – This will all take time and every step of the application costs money (permanent residency I reckon is going to cost about $15k alone) – It all gets a bit too difficult what with paying family bills etc so I have turned my attention to the NZ Air Force instead – Yes they’re smaller, yes the likelyhood of me getting to role I want is far less likely but it will cost heaps less, take less time and will have less barriers hopefully……The application was submitted this morning, let the next chapter begin……(He says with fingers crossed…)

 

 

 

 

 

Helping the Homeless

So, I’m back.

It’s been an interesting few weeks of camping and general odd jobs at home whilst trying to morph back into ‘normal’ existence. I use the word ‘normal’ carefully as I’m not convinced yet…I’m not convinced that walking round with your face in a mobile phone is particularly safe nor does it allow you to enjoy what’s going on in the world around you…(Shut up Stu you miserable old man)

Anyway, today I saw a homeless person who had broken down on the side of the freeway, he looked so wretched and disheveled that I offered him somewhere for the evening which he duly accepted with great thanks…He looked as if he’d traveled a great distance on what can only be described as a barely road worthy vehicle that had all his worldly possessions strapped to the sides. I gave him beer and fajitas for which he was very thankful, he looked as if he hadn’t washed for months, nay, years….T’was a sorry sight…

I asked him where he was going and what his story was – His name was ‘Josh’ and he was travelling by postie bike from Hobart up to Bundaberg in order to raise money for the “Flying Doctor Service”….Not something most of us have done, pretty admirable I thought….

Anyway, he drunk my beer, ate my Fajitas, burped, farted, swore and spawned beard hairs around the place…..But he was happy…

Anyway, please assist this man with his cause, as it is righteous….

Details can be found at:

https://thepostalexpedition.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/day-19-140km/?fb_action_ids=10204068897142753&fb_action_types=news.publishes&fb_ref=pub-standard

Please support him…

Cheers

Stu

 

Goodbye Davis

It’s finally happening – After 517 days since leaving Australian shores to come and work at Davis station I will be boarding the Aurora Australis tomorrow to head back home…..Well, that is as long as I can get all my hand luggage on board otherwise I’ll wait for the next boat… 🙂
Resupply V3 004

This week has gone quicker than I thought, thankfully we were on top of everything so even the last minute surprises weren’t that much of an issue to deal with – I’m now sat in my room with a short list of things to finish off tomorrow and I should be on the ship sometime shortly after midday ready to be jammed into a cabin with no doubt three other people, most likely the worst snorers or those with bad personal body odour…(He says sniffing his own pits to decide whether he’s in the running for that role…)

It’s been an unforgettable couple of years, I’ve met some amazing people, been to places I never thought I’d see and done things I still look back on with amazement. It’s hard to not get hooked on the adrenalin that this place can offer you at times, I feel in some ways like I’m stepping off of a ride at Movie World and am now going back to join the queue again. I was trying to think of a list of things that we’ve done here over the last eighteen or so months that stand out as being special, I know I’ll remember heaps more later but for now I think this list is a good summary – In no particular order here are some things that happened:

  • I grew a small and unimpressive beard (a bit like Blackadder)
  • I ran a community radio station
  • We crashed a helicopter
  • I played “Killing in the Name of” on guitar in a band called “Sausage Fist”
  • I held a conversation with a penguin for twenty minutes
  • We built a nightclub (twice)
  • I laid on my back on the ice for 30 mins and watched an Aurora fall into my face
  • I instantly froze the moisture on my eyelids driving a quad with my helmet visor up
  • I managed to aim for a ‘shang’ in darts and actually get it…
  • I did science..
  • I once had a hangover that lasted six days and I had to see the doctor (fact…!!)
  • I stayed off Facebook for three months
  • Drunk Chinese wice rine & lived
  • I visited the last continent I’d not been to (have been to all seven now)
  • I found an entire fish in my butt crack and didn’t know it was there (true story)
  • I learnt to drink tea

A special mention – iCom F50 Radio #002

Last Night on Davis 021

I need to pay a special mention to radio number two – I have lived, slept, worked, eaten, drunk, poooed, weeed and froze with this little friend over the past 18 months since being handed to me by my predecessor Mark Kaisler, this little fella, traditionally the SCTO’s radio, has been lost, thrown, dropped, hidden in the fridge, shouted at, spat into and even dressed up as a Christmas tree during his time with myself and has never missed a beat……..As of tomorrow morning I’m handing him over to Greg Bird to further adventures of his little life journey, good luck my friend, I’m going to miss you…..Apart from when you wake me up beeping in the middle of the night because your battery is running out….I really hated you then…Just saying..

There’s really so much more I could say about Davis, about Antarctica and about what I’m going to miss about being here but it’s probably already been said in prior posts – I reckon I’m going to find it pretty hard stepping onto that ship tomorrow even though I know it’s time to go home now – I have no idea of what I’ll be doing when I get home apart from taking two weeks out to go and sit on some Queensland beaches and try to get some colour back into this pale skin – I’ve got two weeks onboard the Aurora to finally have a bit of a break, sit, read, drink tea and generally lounge about, it’s going to take some getting used to..

I hope anybody reading this has got some enjoyment out of seeing friends and family doing bizarre stuff in other parts of the world, there’s been around 50,000 visits to this blog over the last year so I hope it’s provided some insight into what we do down here – Thanks for putting up with my often strange ramblings, doing this blog has been a great thing for me and a good reminder to look back through every now and again, hopefully I can get it printed into a book when I get some time, I get the feeling I’ll be looking back on these experiences a lot.

So…Well, I guess that’s it….Thanks again, stay safe..

Cheers

Stu

“This is VLZ Davis………Out”