So it begins…While leaving for the Airport a few Sundays ago It began to sink in that this was actually becoming reality. Strolling through the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) in Kingston, gazing at all the photos mounted through the Division hallways gave me a true understanding of what life was really like when the pioneering explorers first set foot and began to inhabit Antarctica. They donned woollen jumpers and animal skin foot warmers, building tiny wooden huts to survive in the harshest climate on the planet. A true testament to the resilience and determination of those in search of the unknown. These huts have since been abandoned and replaced with fully heated “luxury” buildings with spa’s, pingpong tables, bars and fully catered kitchens. These modern stations are the homes of Scientists, tradesman, chefs and other visitors year round.
Over past few weeks we’ve had a busy training schedule every day preparing for life in the Deep South. We finish off most days with a quick walk down to Salamanca for a cold one by the water! On one sunny afternoon we took a drive up Mt Wellington which towers over Hobart casting a massive shadow onto the city as the sun sets. It stands 1200m above sea level and is often powdered with snow throughout the year. From the moon-like summit you can see every corner of Hobart and far beyond.
My Dad flew down to chill for a few days and see what Hobart has to offer. We took a drive down to a one of the world’s heaviest big wave surf spots, Shippies. After 2hrs of trekking through the bush and scaling a cliff we stood at the base of Shipsterns Bluff, a mountainous rock protruding into the ocean that houses the infamous wave. This is a spot I have wanted to see since i was a Grommet. Unfortunately it wasn’t breaking as seen on the cover of Tracks or Surfing Life Magazine, but it was easy to see the potential the place has to Crack sculls or deliver the best Barrel of your life. We sat under the rock and watched 6ft+ bombs blow there guts out onto the reef as the tide filled into afternoon.
Next was MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. The Museum is an Architectural masterpiece on the side of the Derwent River, if you haven’ t been to Hobart this is a must on your to do list. Its not your generic museum full of traditional art and old artefacts. Its an interactive, quirky and twisted experience leaving your mind boggled at what you’ve just seen. One piece displaying 50 plaster cast vaginas on the wall comes to mind.
After another week of training my cousin flew down for the weekend. We had decided to hire an Audi TT and go touring for the day. Heading up the east coast we flogged the little red sports car along the empty tasmanian roads leading us through meadows, steep mountain passes and winding endless coastline, it was an epic, thrilling experience.
The plan was for our flight to leave Wednesday, these leave dates are always considered a guestimate as the weather is incredibly volatile down south. We received the message that the flight had been postponed but there was a small window on Thursday afternoon that would allow us to land! So Thursday morning we boarded the custom built plane and rocketed south.
Landing on an Ice runway 4 1/2hrs later in -10c was a surreal seachange indeed. After a 4hrs and 65km driving over snow/ice we finally arrived at Casey Station, my home for the next 3mths. This place truly is incredible, the vastness of the landscape with its glowing blue ice, rocks, icebergs, extreme weather and extraordinary wildlife make it an addictive and scary place to be. At present where stuck inside the ‘Red Shed’ (the accommodation building) as the wind has picked up over the last few days to around 60kts throwing buckets of ice and snow everywhere! Hopefully it eases by Monday, I have to spend a night with no tent out on the ice for survival training. Wish me luck!