Lieutenant Hannah Phelps has one of the more interesting weather forecasting jobs in the Navy, providing meteorological support at Casey research station, Antarctica, for Operation Southern Discovery during this austral summer period.
During her deployment to Casey, Lieutenant Phelps is working alongside other forecasters from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
To prepare for the deployment, she completed a month of Antarctic-specific weather training with the BOM in Hobart, including a few days of training with the Australian Antarctic Division.
Once on station, the Navy Lieutenant and her colleagues underwent further training in basic survival skills to ensure safe operations.
“We covered navigation, sea ice travel and how to minimise human impact on the environment,” Lieutenant Phelps said.
“We finished our training with a night out in the snow to familiarise ourselves with the use of emergency survival equipment.”
Operations at the station this season have been varied, including testing of one of NASA’s under-ice robots, which may eventually be used in a mission to one of Jupiter's moons, to air drops from the Air Force’s C17, to remediation work cleaning up soil contaminants.
The annual station resupply is always busy, with Australia’s icebreaker Aurora Australis anchored just offshore from Casey and delivering a year’s worth of food, fuel and other supplies.
“It’s not all work at the station, there have been plenty of opportunities for recreation as well,” Lieutenant Phelps said.
“There are a number of huts around the local area that can be visited for multi day trips, there are accessible areas for cross country skiing and hiking, as well as camping for those who are happy to spend a night in the snow.”
There are also regular barbecues, quiz nights and station dinners.
For the brave, there was even a swim at the wharf to celebrate Australia Day, with the water temperature at minus 1.5C.
Lieutenant Phelps’ deployment ends in early March, when the station population decreases from 88 to 29 people. The station will be kept running during winter to prepare for the 2020-2021 season, when the Australian Defence Force will continue its support of Operation Southern Discovery.