Monday, 31 December 2012

Small craft boating course

Three days were spent doing small boat training at Kettering on the Derwent river near Bruny Island. This course is mainly aimed at people with no boating experience to make them a competent crew. As I have a coxswain license, most of the first two days was spent sucking eggs but on the last day we learnt how to run out, position and anchor the four kilometer fuel line we will be using to refuel both Casey and Mawson stations in a couple of weeks’ time. This I found very interesting and good fun. Having a coxswain license, I will be required to run mooring lines for the Aurora Australis and to run out and maintain four hour watches on the refueling pipe line keeping it in position, watching for any leaks and keeping ice burgess and growlers away. Once the Aurora Australis sails away, we will be using our two boats to go on evening ice burg cruises or burging as its known. It’s quite common to see pods of killer whales cruising around Mawson also.

Oyster cove - Kettering

Give it shit man !

Breaking for lunch on a secluded beach

Can you believe I'm actually getting paid to do this ?

Beautiful cliffs and caves

Inside a cave

What a day !!

Practicing refueling techniques

Fire fighting & Emergency response team training

Seven days were spent doing firefighting & emergency response team training at the Tas Fire training center. 

Over the seven days, subjects covered were;

Structural tactics

Confined space rescue techniques

Basic fire fighting

Breathing apparatus

Fire pump operation

Confined spaces

Foam systems

Hazardous material

Forensic investigation


Highlights of the course were holding (trying to) the 63cm fire hose, removing victims from fire & smoke filled rooms using breathing apparatus,  boiling liquid gas fires and working as a team to fight fires and recover victims. The course was very demanding and hot hard work but also very rewarding. Some of us remained another day to do forensic investigation & management where we learnt to identify and preserve burnt bodies and to investigate the cause of fires. Both the instructors and facility were first class. Let’s hope we won’t have to use these skills down south, but fire remains one of our biggest threats in Antarctica.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Quad bike training and survival training

Lately I have been very busy out doors doing quad bike training and survival training. The quad bike training was a defensive driving course which covered all aspects of riding and handling the machine in all different conditions. This was mostly an introduction and assessment to obtain accreditation to ride a quad in the work place. Further quad bike training will take place on site in real Antarctic conditions.

New type of quad bike being trialed in Antarctica

Survival training consisted of survival techniques in adverse conditions and getting familiar with equipment. We practiced putting up various tents and setting up survival bivi bags. Training then moved on to search and rescue techniques and advanced rope rescue techniques for recovering casualties from crevasses. As I have applied for the position of Search & Rescue team leader I was placed under pressure to organize the rescue team and perform several recovery's.

ARPANSA Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Radionuclide Station Training

Wow, that’s a mouth full.

For three days I was sent to Melbourne for training at the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. This is the Commonwealth Governments nuclear testing and safety agency and one of their tasks is to uphold the nuclear test ban treaty by monitoring for nuclear explosions or radiation leaks by a variety of methods including seismic, air sampling, hydro acoustic and infra-sound.

Air sample station at Mawson

At Mawson there are seismic and air sampling stations and one of my duties each day will be to screen the air samples for radionuclide particulates using a germanium high resolution gamma spectrometry detector. By examining the gamma ray activity of particular radionuclides in a sample, it is possible to determine what the material is, where it came from, where it was processed and who was using it before it was released to the atmosphere.
Dual germanium high resolution gamma spectrometry detectors at Mawson

All sampling test results and material is sent to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), an international organization headquarted in Vienna, Austria.

That's me tweaking a germanium high resolution gamma spectrometry detector

Just imagine if I wake up bored one morning and decide to put the smoke detector in the gamma spectrometry detector…….ha ha, bet that would make a few people shit themselves and cause a fury of activity. As trained professionals we don’t joke about these things.

Linear accelerator 3D imaging machine

On the last hour of training we got taken on a tour of the facility and got to meet a real nice nutty professor who gave us a tour of his two linear particle accelerators, both old and new. He was so passionate about his work and his machines and wanted to explain how every part worked. It’s nice to meet a genius using his powers for the good of mankind. If this bloke ever flipped out he would be the ultimate doctor evil toiling away under six feet of radiation shielding concrete deep down in the basement.

Linear particle accelerator

Another interesting thing we saw was the radio frequency test chamber. We kept hassling them to show us some glowing green fuel rods but they reckon they didn't have any.

Radio frequency test chamber

Saturday, 1 December 2012


Bill asked me what are the boots like that I will be wearing in Antarctica?

As you know, when your feet are cold your whole body is cold. Also, if your feet are wet or sweaty it doesn't take long before you end up with crook feet. The AAD issue us with two types of high quality boots for outdoor Antarctic conditions. For summer we use Baffin boots manufactured in Canada and rated to -40 Celsius.

For winter we use the extreme Sorel glacier boots also manufactured in Canada which have a 13mm felt inner boot and 13mm double felt sole rated to -73 Celsius.

While on the ice, boots are fitted with chains for traction and crampons for ice climbing.

Extreme weather mitts are made by Grandoe in the USA and are the Annapurna mountaineering mitt.

Maintaining body warmth is done by layering cloths.

The bottom layer consists of long thick woolen socks and a pair of woolen thermal underwear. (Top & bottom)
The next layer is micro fleece pants and top.
The next layer is polar fleece pants and top.
Depending on the activity, the next layer is Carhartt quilted bib and brace coveralls and a matching Carhartt quilted jacket.
If you are doing field work in extreme conditions or if it is windy instead of the Carhartt you would wear a custom made Antarctic shell bib and brace and jacket. These layers are adjusted for comfort and temperature control and is supplemented with gloves, mitts, neck warmer, hats, balaclava, goggles and sunglasses.

Whilst on the ship, at all times expeditioners have to have their emergency pack at the ready. This contains a basic set of survival cloths should it be necessary to abandon ship. Expeditioners have to carry a similar emergency pack whilst flying on aircraft or traversing on land vehicles. As well as spare cloths in case you fall through the sea ice, these emergency packs also contain habitations and food.