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2 flights, 2 buses and 30hrs later I’ve arrived in Pichilemu, Chile. This is the first stop of a 5 month voyage exploring the cold and powerful coastline of Chile and Peru. Only 3.5hrs south west of Santiago, Pichilemu is the the Chilean equivalent of Byron Bay though there is only one paved road through the middle of town and horse and cart are still a common method of transport. It is a very popular holiday destination for Chilean/International surfers and holiday makers alike, attracted here by the wide range of waves and relaxed vibes.
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When I arrived at my hostel situated on a black sandy beach over looking a sand bottom left point named Infiernillo, the onshore was blowing hard and the surf looked ugly, 5-6ft death rides into random prongs of dry rock and kelp didn’t look particularly inviting. I had met an american backpacker and he assured me that the morning would bring glass-off perfection, not totally convinced i collapsed in my bed.
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I awoke the next day to a pumping 5ft empty lineup!! I wanted my first surf in Chile to be at a nearby hotspot called Punta De Lobos, this infamous wave is 6km away and starts to break at 2ft but can handle 30ft, it is usually a few feet bigger than its neighbouring waves so i flagged down a cab and headed south. As i arrived the fog was thick and the wave couldn’t be seen until I was standing directly above it on the cliffs, I looked down and saw a hooded surfer drop into a double over head bomb set, pick his line and shoot off down the point, I couldn’t wipe the cheesy grin off my face. I suited up and stashed my clothes under a cactus then jumped/fell down the cliff to the water. The rock jump is sketchy and requires good timing. Firstly theres a paddle across a small channel to an island that is covered in Kelp and stained with bird shit. From there its a scuttle across an open rock shelf between sets and into the lineup. In front of me a local kid slips and gets bounced across the kelp beds before getting sucked into the surf.
In the lineup the waves are powerful and the water is freezing (12 degrees), next to the rocks a few sea lions are floundering about checking everybody out. After watching a few sets roll through its time to pick a few off. A medium set with a bulky shoulder pops up so I spin and go, after a fast takeoff the thing just walled for days as I raced and bashed my way down the line, 200m later I kick out and begin over frothing on my first wave in chile.
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Two days on the swell really kicks in, pulsing 20ft faces, 20 sec period. I spend the morningrepairing my board which is cracked down the fin box and into the rail, no surf for me today its huge and my knee needs a day off. I meet some crew at a nearby hostel and they offer me a lift to check out Punta de Lobos so I jump in the car with my camera. There are 2 guys out with 8ft guns and there charging the sets. It was awesome to see the place come to life and it can handle so much more! I’m looking forward to buying and gun and having a crack in the upcoming weeks.
The bar has been set and with the swell forecast staying consistently solid theres going to be no shortage of waves, combined with friendly locals and amazing food, I’m falling in love with Chile already.
It was just over 2yrs ago a Ken Borak Air Twin Otter under charter for the Italians, piloted by Bob Heath,crewed by Perry Anderson and Mike Denton, crashed into the side of Mt Elizabeth. KBA (Ken Borak Air) contract annually to the AAD( Australian Antarctic Division) to transport Expeditioners between stations, the Crew where well known and respected by the AAD and my fellow Expeditioners. The news of the accident came as a shock and rocked the AAD stations. As a tribute and in memory of Bob, Perry and Mike the Annual KBA Challenge was established. The Second Inaugral KBA challenge between Casey and Davis station was held on Feb 14, the goal of this station event is to cover as many Kilometres on Skis, Bike, Running or Walking to accumulate a larger overall distance than the other station (Davis). Our coarse was a 22.9km circuit to the Skiway return. The Skiway is located on the Plateau, 11km uphill from the station.
The Base of the climb
The track was cut up the hill with a D7 Dozer and a dragbar creating asurprisingly suitable path for running and riding on the snow. With Subzero temperatures and Blue Skies it was a perfect day for the event. While half the station where transported to the top for a relaxed return walk, a handful of us ran/rode the half marathon ( I rode). After a gruelling leg burner into a 19kt headwind I finally reached the top and was swiftly rewarded with a lightning fast 10min downhill gliding over the snow and ice, hooting at the others making there way up/down the hill.
Burning up the Plateau
The view from the top over Newcomb Bay, pack ice in the distance.
A massive shootout to all involved, it took a lot of preparation and organising to run such a successful event. Caseys numbers where sweetly crunched totalling at over 460km! smashing Davis’ total of just over 280. The day was later topped off with the end of Summer Dinner, a formal meal much like Christmas to celebrate an enjoyable and successful Season.
First over the line!
With the last weekend of the season apon us, we had our trip application approved to take a 3.5hr Hagglund drive to Brownings Peninsula for the 2 days. This Peninsula is adjacent to the Vanderford Glacier, an 8km wide Ice Berg Factory first discovered by the Americans under Captain Wilkes between 1838-42. Under the glacier is the Vanderford Valley, at 2287m deep it is one of the deepest ice carved valleys in the world.
We left for Brownings early and made it to the Plateau for sunrise
Our trusty red steed
No words needed….
The Peninsula itself is geographically very different to the landscape surrounding Casey, with rugged, loosely packed peaks diving steeply into the ocean below. It is also home to Elephant Seal Colonies and Orcas are often spotted here. Just beyond Brownings is the Windmill Islands, this area was used by the US navy during 1947-48 for exploration and training missions. The name was derived from the extensive use of Helicopters during the operation here.
The Vanderford Glacier
Giant Crevass Field
Stitching these peaks together are a series of frozen lakes and rivers, the Ice on these lakes is so clear you see right through to the bottom. On the edge of the Peninsula we climbed down a rocky face to an Elephant Seal Colony. From a distance they camouflage into the rocky landscape only revealed by the strong stench of there wallow.
Mother and Pup
You have to wonder how these 3-4 Tonne mammals drag there massive blubbery bodies out of the ocean and up the rocks. As we approach they show little concern for our presence and continue to relax side by side in a puddle of there own waste. In the middle is the beachmaster, a large male surrounded by 6 females. He has blood and puss leaking from his right eye, he has recently been fighting with another male for domination of the Colony. Injuries are common in these furious battles.
After walking over 15km around the Peninsula we returned to the Hut for a hot meal and a cold Lager, a perfect way to end another incredible day and of coarse an incredible season.
Looking over the Windmill Islands
Sneaky Ice cave shot by Jay Burgers
End of an Adventure shot by Jay Burgers
Today brings our flight back to Australia and Civilisation, i cannot thank everyone enough for this experience it has been truly life changing, but its time for the next adventure. South America and Endless Lefthand Pointbreaks await. I will be writing and shooting my South American Adventures and Stories and continuing the never-ending search for what is Behind that Compass…..
So after an amazing festive season we dove into 2015 with some solid working weeks bringing some much needed consistency back into station life. My first Job for the year was to spend a week up a Wilkins aerodrome ticking off further maintenance work on the buildings at the runway. This beautiful and remote location really provides the antarctic experience that i had been craving, a sense of utter insignificance as i stand alone amongst a White and Blue glowing desert. This feeling really makes me realise how much of a speck I am in the scheme of things.
Glowing Blizz tails
After driving across the antarctic circle and back to station, the next weeks where topped off with Recreational Trips (Jollies) out to the field huts on the weekends. Casey has 3 huts (Jacks, Robbos and Brownings) that can be visited on the weekend giving us the opportunity to get off base and explore what the surrounding coastline has to offer. There is also Wilkes base across Newcomb Bay, abandoned in the 60’s it still has a Cabin sleeping 8 people that we can use (the Wilkes Hilton)
Chilling in the Wilkes Hilton
Two expeditioners laid to rest overlooking Wilkes
This Station was built by the Americans and was given to the Australians, it was later found out that the Location of the Base was one of the main reasons for this exchange as it was a constant battle to keep the snow drifts out of station. Amongst the exposed rooftops of the building are crates apon crates of left over supplies including cherries, 50yr old SPAM and Iron flakes. These are also accompanied by thousands of old Fuel and Oil Drums encased in solid Ice.
Preserved Supplies Litter the Station
Sunsets over abandoned fuel drums
Inside the old satellite dome
For my birthday we stayed at Jacks Hut which is located a 45min Hagglund ride to the East of Casey. This Hut sits on the Morraine Line overlooking a large Glacier. A Morraine is a Line of Exposed Rocks at the Edge of a Glacier. A wide variety of rocks (including Meteorites) are found here which become a hunting ground for Geologists. These rocks have been pushed, rolled and crushed from the internals of the Glacier covering huge distances before finally being spat into the Ocean as the Frozen river moves slowly downstream. Similar rocks found in this area are also found in South Australia, proof of where the two Continents were once joined. Sitting on these rocks as the sunsets for a brief moment, we can feel the rocks cracking and shuddering beneath, 50m down you can hear them launching from the cliff face into the Freezing Ocean. This Whole Landscape is Alive!
The toilet on the Morraine Line with the worlds best veiw
View from Jacks toilet
Last weekend i was lucky enough to get out on travel training. This 2 day adventure involved Riding around on Quad bikes learning navigation, trip leadership, survival and rescue skills. The conditions had been sunny and a soaring 3 degrees, turning any small melt streams into an icy quagmire. We travelled out onto the Plateau, stopped past the Skiway to check out the Aircraft, then spent the night at Jacks Donga. The Next day we rode to Robbos hut for lunch where we got to tip toe through the moss beds before riding back through the melt towards station. Every 5m i was driving into an ice covered melt hole where id break through the surface and end up bogged knee deep in slush, the 4 of us would skull drag the bikes out and repeat the process again as we moved along our given route. Admitting Defeat we where forced to ride further uphill to traverse over the smaller streams and make our way back to base.
Quad bike Bivvy Tents
Keep your eyes peeled!
Stopped past the Skiway to check out the Bazzler and Twin Otter
Moss Beds near Robbos Hut
Australia Day… Many would say the best day of the Year, certainly delivered the goods. I awoke pumped and ready to jump in on the Annual Antarctic Australia Day swim. Nothing can prepare you for taking the plunge into sub zero water. Dressed up in summer outfits and skimpy swimwear we trekked it to the wharf where we ran into the Ocean, after 30 seconds your whole body goes completely numb and the sensation of burning acid starts lashing your skin, its a wild experience. After thawing out we played Cricket and jammed out to the Hottest 100 for the rest of the day.
Half melted Igloo built by the Casey Crew
With only a few weeks remaining here this season its hard to believe I arrived almost 3mths ago. So far its been one of the most incredible and eye opening experiences of my life. Surrounded by such a great team its impossible not to have a great time. Cant wait until next season!
The news came over the radio that the Aurora had blitzed across the Southern Ocean and was making speedy headway through the sea ice, due to arrive in the Newcombe Bay on Friday night. Weather permitting the resupply was to begin 24hrs earlier than expected. Unlike other stations Casey cannot be directly accessed by the Ship, therefore she had to moore out in the bay where 500 tonnes of cargo including a 27 tonne Excavator where to be carried in by Barge.
The Aurora moored in a glowing Pink Newcombe Bay
The Weather plays the major factor during this period, winds over 30 knots stop all Barge work and a forecast of unsteady weather prevents the Bulk fuel transfer of 840,000L of Antarctic Blend Diesel (non-freeze) from being undertaken. This process consists of a high pressure floating hose pumping Diesel across the water and up the hill to both of the stations Fuel Farms, the line is constantly monitored for the 30hr refuelling period by IRB (rubber ducky) or on foot. This is a very crucial and sensitive operation as a burst pipe could result in a catastrophic disaster, so all precautions and safety measures are taken to make sure not a drop is spilled. This diesel will supply the station for the entire year.
Clearing the ice for the barge
Running out ice lines
Rising for work at 3am each morning I was greeted by luminescent pink Icebergs glowing on the Horizon while we drove down the dirt track towards the Wharf, such a perfect way to start to the day. We where on shift and I was assigned to the Wharf Crew. In between card games and Coffees whilst waiting for the Barge to run its round trips, we unloaded containers of supplies and machinery off the Barge.
Smoko at the Wharf
The Boys on the Wharf crew
Cleaning a Hagglund before being returned to Australia
Sunday brought Day 9 and the end of Resupply. As the Aurora powered out of Newcombe Bay that afternoon we stood on the Helipad out front of the Redshed and let off handfuls of Flares into the air in Celebration of a successful resupply. In previous years this process has taken over 2 weeks due to poor weather so we where all pretty happy it had run so smoothy. The Ship now turns its focus to research, its currently sitting off a large Glacier up the coast where a team of Scientists on board will carry out experiments before returning home next month.
The 3 Musketeers
Monday was announced a Station Lay-day and Berg Cruises in the IRB’s where on offer. The weather was sunny and perfectly still at 7pm when we motored out to ‘Iceberg Alley’ where there are hundreds of Bergs that have become beached on shallow reefs after breaking off a nearly Glacier, some of them standing over 30m tall (these are just baby’s).
The Cathedral Berg
Magic Day on the Water
All around Parcels of Penguins where fishing and lazing on chunks of floating ice enjoying the calm afternoon. Some of these Bergs had been there for years stuck in the same spot slowly weathering away producing incredible shapes and colours, one of the most popular is called the Cathedral Berg which surely lived up to its name.
Electric Blue Berg
Yesterday I enjoyed my first White Christmas Day and it shaped up to be an awesome one! Santa arrived on his Sleigh and handed out all the gifts for everyone, then we dug into an amazing Aussie Christmas feast scoffing down mountains of Prawns, Oysters and Crays, it really felt like home.Today Im lazing around station before 8 of us head out to Wilkes station for the night, an abandoned American Base nearby.
Santa and his Elves
From Casey Station Antarctica have a fun and safe festive season! Ill be keeping you posted on life down South and some insight into the reasons why we are actually here? Merry Christmas!!..
Come Monday the weather had eased and we were given the go ahead to complete our survival training. This involved learning basic navigational skills, Sea Ice testing, Cooking and Sleeping in the snow for 24hrs. We set out with backpacks stocked with Ice axes, freezer dried food packs (looks like dog food but tastes pretty good!), sleeping and bivvy bags, compass, maps and the necessary pee bottle and poo bags.Nothing Foreign in Antarctica is to be introduced into the Environment, this means that everything you take in must come out, including all Human waste. Even spilling Coffee or Milk on the Ice must be scooped up and taken away.
Spending a night on the snow proved to more difficult than expected. For starters it never gets dark, you can get quite sunburnt at 3am. We also had to sleep in a waterproof bag called a Bivvy. Watching the rest of my team attempt to get changed and setup there sleeping bags whilst inside the Bivvy was hilarious!
11.30pm…the crew getting ready for bed!
We Ventured over to Shirley Island which lies around 2km from Casey Station. This Island can be accessed over the Sea Ice for most of the year but during the peak of Summer the Ice breaks out cutting access to the island by foot. Its imperative to test the thickness and quality of the ice every time you cross, a fall into the -1.8 degree water can easily lead to hyperthermia or death in just minutes. Testing is carried out with a hand held orga and the results are taken back to station and written up on a whiteboard for other expeditioners to see. On our first trip over the Ice was 165cm thick with 50cm of quality ice on top, I travelled there again yesterday and the ice was the same thickness, yet the entirety was poor and rotting. By next week the Ice may be closed for access.
The island is home to a rookery of Adelie Penguins. These inquisitive, cheeky little characters live here year round waddling up and down the rocky hills collecting fish and returning to there nests. These nests are situated on the summit of each hill on the Island and are constructed out of small pebbles. The Adelies are often caught stealing pebbles from each other’s nests and scuttling away frantically with the loot for there own beds. Its currently breeding season so many nests are occupied with an Adelie incubating an egg wedged nicely under there plump little Tummys.
Rotating the egg
Skewers fly over head and loiter around waiting for an unsuspecting Penguin to expose an egg. At the sign of an opportunity the Skewers race in and attempt to snatch the egg out from under the Parent. We watched as the Predators burrowed in under a Nesting Penguin forcing it off its nest and stealing a meal. Once the surviving eggs have hatched the chicks become even easier prey for the Skewers, The Adelie Adults must be on high alert to protect there young.
A Skewer scouting for eggs
On Friday we drove a Hagglund up to Wilkins Aerodrome to knock out a few jobs. Wilkins is situated on an icy desert up on the plateau. It is a remote location camp that is home to 8 men who build and maintain the 3.2km runway, the ice here is 700m thick. We scored perfect weather and spent 2 days a top a double storey container surrounded by blue skies and a vast white blanket as far as the eye can see. We got home late Saturday afternoon in time for a Romanian themed dinner and to rock out to the station band, the ‘Meltdowns”. The party then flared into the early hours of the Morning!
The work truck on the way to Wilkins
This coming weekend will bring the beginning of resupply. The Aurora Australis (Australian Icebreaker) is currently chugging across the Southern Ocean towards us and will hopefully arrive at Casey on Sunday. With the base at record capacity right now and Resupply around the corner, things are shaping up to be a very hectic few weeks.
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.
shippies from the lookout
Dad under the Bluff
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!
After confirmation that i would be going on an antarctic expedition, i sat back and began to think about where this opportunity would lead me.What was in store for me in the next few years?, where did i want to be? and what where my goals? I came to the conclusion that i was going to leave my day to day life and commit myself to pursuing adventure, experience and knowledge. This is not a soul searching mission, it is a mission to open my eyes to the world and hopefully shed some light back.
So it starts in the bubble, Byron Bay. Its called the ‘bubble’ because once you go in, the outside world can appear very distant and its difficult to get out. It is a hub for many including myself, you just don’t want to leave! Byron has amazing cultural diversity, thriving activity and of course consistent surf which attracts almost 2 million tourists every year!. Hearing amazing tales of people”s travels and backgrounds during my time there couldn’t help but be inspiring. So 3 weeks ago after an epic farewell I left Byron.
on the road
I planned to have a few weeks on the road heading to Victoria for a surftrip before commencing training for Antarctica. So i picked up my good mate Patty in my home town Bowral and Camped, Fished and Surfed down the coast stopping in Bendalong and Eden for a night before heading to Torquay.
In Torquay we where greeted by Adam Stanley, a mate and amazing artist who told us the surf down south was going to be pumping the following day!We set off early the next morning, after arriving at the spot and bashing our way through the scrub we stood on the cliff face to find perfect empty head-high Barrels, clinically pulsing down the bank with lines backed to the horizon! We where jumping out of our skin to get down there! (Id be shot if i disclosed the location) After surfing for 5 1/2hrs we dragged our crusty, aching bodies back up the cliff face and we sat there mind surfing every unridden barrel for an hour before the thirst and hunger pains became too much.
After Surf Beers
We headed back up to Melbourne after a few days to check out the buzz of the city and meet up with our good friends Rhys and Coral. Melbourne is my favourite Australian City. It has the coolest vibe with bars, restaurants, street performers and art on every corner, we even got up at the casino!After the weekend there we travelledback up the highway towards Bowral, camping on Lake Hume and fished atSanctuary Point on the way home.
After 3000km’s it was nice to get home without breaking down, hitting a single Roo or receiving a speeding fine. Its now time to start preparing for the Deep South, training begins in Hobart next week. Living in Tasmania for 2 1/2 weeks is going to awesome, Im looking forward to tapping into what this isolated state has to offer.