Sunday, April 24, 2016

70 - Interesting turn of events...the good, bad and the Herc.

Hello friends,

well you've almost caught up to current events but not quite. The season continues giving in a not so good way but more about that a little later. Firstly it took some time and still is to a certain degree to realise I was going to be staying on for winter. For me it was going to take me a different mind set and a total change in pace to make it. I needed to slow down or i would be at risk of burning myself out. This now was a marathon and not the usual sprint I was accustom to.

Better put a pic here as there is a little more writing and need to keep you interested.........
I took this one the other day at dawn, about 920am currently.....

Pic Michael Goldstein
Ive seen it on several occasions where id come back after doing a summer at a station to see those who I had left on station. Some would be really good mentally and others would already be half way home even though the ship hadn't departed yet. Believe it or not it dose take some thought to do it too as you don't want to let anyone down, work needs to be done its more a matter of not burning the candle at both ends I think.

So the Summer season was quickly running out and we were already on winding up all the jobs when V3 departed for a month long marine science voyage before resupplying Mawson. This Marine Science voyages aim was to travel to the "Kerguelen Axis, a biological hotspot where swarms of krill sustain iconic Antarctic wildlife, including fish, seals, penguins and whales. " AAD Media Release.

There was also a couple other AAD Media Releases about the K-Axis part of the voyage they can be found HERE and HERE but more interesting was Blog and the Voyage web site. Now if you look at the Blog its going to cover much of the next bit but you know me I'm going to tell you anyway.

So after V3 departing on the 11 Jan 2016 she finally made it to Mawson on the 20 Feb 2016. Mawson is a difficult harbour to get into and conduct a resupply into. Narrow inlet and tight to moar up into its resupply and refuelling position. A few years ago a ice berg blocked the entrance to the harbour which caused all sorts of problems as it was too difficult to get fuel ashore safely. One good thing I guess is the face they have wind turbines you'd see in many of the station pics from there but this power but they still need to generators when its not windy enough to run the turbines. 

Resupply begun as normal and Mawson being a small station both over summer and the smallest over winter as far as Australian Antarctic Stations are concerned its over really before it begins. The longest thing to do it the fuel transfer more so when the renowned  Mawson Katabatics or blizzard is threatening to ruin your best laid plans. On the 23rd February refuelling was completed just in time for high winds to shut everything down as resupply completed. Unfortunately this didnt leave enough time for the ship to safely leave Horseshoe Harbour (Mawson Harbour). Stuck with the only thing to do but wait it out.


Pic Dave Woods
Great Pic of the Harbour by our late mate who featured in my blog 68............

Waiting it out proved to be a bad idea as in the Blizz the AA broke free from its moorings pushing it up on West arm bottom of the pic above....... 

If you'd like something to put you to sleep then have a look at the SITREPS (Situation Reports) from V3, they are a daily record sent back to the Division as to whats happening on the ship and you can see them HERE for that voyage.

Same as a story I was told sometime ago about the infamous Australian Antarctic resupply ship the Nella Dan, same place almost 50 years earlier on 12th Feb 1966. As the story was told to me, resupply was over and the entire ship empty except the Master and First Mate. Everyone was empty attending the hand over ceremony when out of nowhere a blizzard came. The Nella Dan broke free from the moorings but the quick thinking Master fired up the engine driving the ship onto the rocks keeping the power on until the Blizzard had abated. Horseshoe Harbour drops off very quickly within 5m of the shore it is about 30m deep so this is a good thing. I do remember reading somewhere that it took them 2 days to get it off the rocks but researching this was very difficult with not much popping up anywhere. I only know this through talking to the old-timers......

Nella Dan had a interesting history setting records in 1985 for the longest besetment in the ice taking 7 weeks to get free. She and her 2,500hp was stuck in 13 foot thick ice and ended up needing the help of the 30,000hp Japanese Icebreaker Shirase to break her free. Your going to have to remember the Japanese ship Shirase as she will pop up a little later too. Ultimately at 5:42 pm on 24 December 1987 while on resupply at Macquarie Island she dragged grounding in Buckels Bay and later scuttled in deep water marking the end of her 25 year/season  with  90 voyages and carried over 5000 people to and from Antarctica. 

A couple web sites I was looking at to get this into
Article from The Age 
Story from Tas Parks
History of Australian Antarctic Shipping HERE
Interesting pics of Thala Dan going through heavy seas HERE TOO and more interesting stories.

While doing all the research on the Nella Dan I was reminded about one of the most traveled Antarctic explorers and he is one of our own. Sydney (Syd) Kirkby. He has personally surveyed more Antarctic territory than any other explorer – including Scott, Shackleton and Mawson. More about him HERE.......

So I'm going to jump a little here as i need some pics to keep you all interested............so part of wintering was a little extra training that I've never done and thats SAR or Search and Rescue training.  This is where we were taught by specialists how to safely Ice climb/descend and raise/lower a stretcher. Well it was a blast and dosent need me to say much but have a look at the pics!!!

Our ride to training..........


Pic Michael Goldstein

The set up from top side.........

Pic Michael Goldstein
Getting ready to ascend me in the red............


The hero shots........

Pic Marty Benavente
Pic Marty Benavente
Pic Marty Benavente
Taking a stretcher up was interesting and lets say the guys that do this professional like well hats off to them its not easy.........but not actually having the adrenalin of someone actually hurt was lots of fun. In fact i would go as far as saying its the most fun I've had in recent years.......



Pic James Hamilton
Last haul over the top........


Pic James Hamilton
OK well this little interlude done back to the story..............so AA is currently on the rocks everyone is ok but it took a couple days for the winds to ease and get themselves off. They finally did and went out to assess the damage only to find that they had holed a couple bulkheads and other arrangements were going to have to be made to get everyone home.

So all the passengers and non essential people were moved to Mawson Station filling the station to bursting point. A couple friends that were there said there wasn't a bed not being slept in in almost every room on station. But there was another problem too, the AA was due to be coming to Davis and pick up all the Summers on their way home.

This is where the Shirase Japanese Ice breaker comes in........All the passengers not wintering at Mawson would catch it to Casey where extra flights would be put on to ferry everyone home. This also meant that our 3 Choppers at Davis would have to fly to Mawson to meet up with the Shirase to do the same.

Flying to Mawson would me made in a couple hops. Davis to Sansom Island where we have a fuel cache refuel then to another on the other side of the Amery Ice Shelf before making it to Mawson.

More on the Amery and pictures in previous blogs HERE and HERE

The choppers too would goto Casey where another plan was a foot to get them home............

Davis Summers on the other hand needed a detour via Mcmurdo the US station but this meant the Whoop Whoop Skyway which is located about 15 minute chopper flight from station needed to be reopened. Not a 5 minute job too I might add as I was about to find out.

Below a pic from the chopper flight up to Whoop whoop which is basically in the white at centre top of picture and Lake Stinear and just behind you can see Deep Lake at -51m. A really interesting article on Deep Lake look HERE.

Pic Michael Goldstein
Jenn the SAGSO (Senior Aircraft Ground Support Officer) was going to need a hand so it was Chris and myself along with Johnny the other AGSO up at Whoop Whoop for 2 days getting everything sorted groomed the what felt like 100km (2.2km actual) skyway in readiness for a LC130 Hercules to land and pick up everyone. It was cold and blowing like you wouldn't believe but we needed to get a lot done.......

Whoop Whoop camp..........

Pic Michael Goldstein
Did I mention it was windy and cold......no thats not grey in my beard its ice too by the way!!!!!

Pic Michael Goldstein
Im sure I mention it was windy didn't I......Chris in front in one groomer and me in the other behind. We needed to keep stopping as the snow blowing into Chris's windscreen was freezing and he couldn't see. Me on the other hand didn't have that problem as my heater didn't work so i couldn't get my cab as warm as his and the snow didn't melt onto my windscreen!! The pic below it the right hand side of the skyway and you might make out the wind sock on the other side think we had done 3 passes at that stage..........


Pic Michael Goldstein
Nice sunsets though...............

Pic Michael Goldstein

Frost on the last of the "Spruky Van" name of the accomodation van we were in......

Pic Michael Goldstein
Remember its windy, blowing snow and cold.......D-Day comes and the Herc is on its way..........and yep its bloody windy and bloody cold and I'm thinking is it really going to land in THIS. Next thing we know we can hear it circling over head no sight of it but hearing it over the sound of the wind ripping past your ears is impressive and frightening at the same time. We received word that they would circle for another half an hour before they were going to need to turn around and fly back to Mcmurdo as they were fast approaching their PSR (point of safe return). Just as the half hour was almost up weather lifted just enough to let them land...............Wow it was a tuff one but the boys made it look easy we refuelled and then thechoppers came up picked up all the New York National Guard 109th Airlift Wing  crew for a night on station before we try get everyone gone tomorrow. 

Following day was a little nicer.....the engineers came up in the first chopper we got the Herman Nelsons (over sized hairdryer) to warm up the engine before attempting to start them. Soon after that the first chopper arrived then another and another........all 45 odd expeditionars were here and pilots in bound. Goodbyes all round and then it was time to fire the Herc up........

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein



Pic Michael Goldstein
Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein
Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein
 Firing up the engine.........

Pic Michael Goldstein
 Away they go taxiing off the apron.......

Pic Michael Goldstein
 Hammer down............

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein
Pic Michael Goldstein
Pic Michael Goldstein
Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein
 And that marks the end of a hectic 3 days getting it ready......landing them and getting them away, only packing up to go which too a day. Was a good weight loss exercise in the 4 days i lost 2.5kg mainly due to the hard task master in Jen I think......

Below the 3 Choppers after bringing up everyone.....

Pic Michael Goldstein
About 4.5-5 hours later we got word that the guys had made it to Mac town where a nice group shot was taken by Jimmy..........

Pic James Hamilton
They guys ended up staying there for a couple days and if your interested in knowing more about Mcmurdo check out my old blog HERE and you can see........

A couple day after this is actually when the choppers actually departed to Mawson so my stories are really flowing all that well today but after getting to Casey on the Shirase ( good story in the SMH on the Shirase rescue mission) there was only one way the choppers were going to get home. The Australian Airforce C17 had thankfully done a couple proving flights this season and it was called on to take all the Mawsonites home along with the 3 choppers.....

Tight fit but after a couple hours of the pilots holding in the right direction they managed to fit them in......


Pic Dave Lomas
Pic Dave Lomas

Ive rambled on a little more than normal but a couple other things i wanted to show you was a Aurora Australis or Southern Lights we got about a week ago some good light/faint ones......more to come but these are not tooooooo bad!!

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein

Pic Michael Goldstein
 This blog was lots of googling and trying to find stuff that I knew happened but referencing it was difficult. Ive writers it as accurately as I can but stand corrected if any of it isn't the truth but that being said I've never let the truth get in the road of a good story. Hope this find you all well and warm as the temperature is quickly dropping here. We are averaging -20c most days and the freshness of the air quickly makes your nose hairs freeze, interesting feeling..........

Anyway be good talk soon,

Michael

P.S................with ANZAC day tomorrow I though it would be nice for something that would honour              those that gave so much to give us what we have so with this in mind I found a quote from John.F.Kennedy


As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
            -John F. Kennedy