Antarctica

HF Radio Darts

11am Sunday 2nd June 1996

Its blowing an average of 45 knots, gusting to 55, from the south, and -25 degrees C. Thats a wind chill factor of, well I dont know because the chart doesn't got that far. Its more than -70 anyway. The most surprising thing is that its from the south. The wind doesnt blow from the south much here. It blows even less from the north and west. Because of the Law Ice Dome, most of the strong wind is from the east, and all the blizz tails are on the western end of the buildings. Very strange. I think the DPS tape change will have to wait. No one will notice the small data gap, and Im not going out in wind that cant make up its mind about which way its going to blow!

Because of the Firemans Ball on Friday night, last night was very quite. This has resulted in more people making it to breakfast on Sunday than usual. The Casey mess is half the width of the building, and twice as long as wide. There is no second floor above the mess, giving it high ceilings. There are two picture windows giving views over Newcomb Bay, with Clark Peninsula on the other side, and a row of grounded bergs on the horizon. Sunsets from the mess are wonderful as the bergs and the plateau go through the spectrum of orange-red, then turn steely grey.

The mess and kitchen are at the east end of the Red Shed. and when you walk into the mess, the kitchen is on the right., the back half of the Red Shed. It has the Odeon Theatre and a small balcony above it (which overlooks the mess). The balcony is called Pelligrinis Coffee Shop. Because its quite a hike from the kitchen its seldom used, except by me. Im here most Saturday and Sunday mornings, and am here now.Most are unaware that Im up here watching them (Im not sure where they think I go with my coffee and orange juice). Its the closest Ive got to getting the relaxed feeling of being in a real cafe. Im thinking of renaming it Tillys.

Friday saw the revival of an old Antarctic tradition, HF radio darts between stations. HF communications is not very common since we all have satellite links and can pick up the phone. Using HF was great fun, as the interference, voices fading in and out, and distortion reminded us how far apart we were, and yet our next door neighbours.

The teams for the competition were, for Australia: Casey, Davis, and Mawson, for New Zealand: Scott Base, and for The U S of A: The Pole Station. A true international competition. All the talking is done by the radio operators, while we all listen in. The game played is 301. To start each team throws one dart at the bull to determine the starting order. Closest goes first etc. Then the game starts. Each player takes turns for their team, throwing three darts, the score of which is subtracted from the total, which starts at 301. The catch is that to win your score must be exactly zero, and the last dart thrown must be a double. If the score of your three darts is more than your total, then you bust and your total stays the same. An example is the game Mawson won. They reached a score of three. This is a very difficult number, as the only option is a single one followed by a double one. A double is the narrow (approximately 1cm wide) ring at the outer edge of the numbers.

Playing for Casey was Mark Goodal, Adam Ewig, and myself, and Andrew Bicknell operated the radio. We did very well, leading most of the way in both games, but as usual in 301, luck came into play getting the final double, and Scott Base and Mawson were the winners of the night. Of course if we had won it would have been due to skill.

By the end of the second game it was almost 7pm and we had to leave for the Firemans Ball, which had been in the planning before the darts. We caught a taxi (a Toyota ute) to the workshop, where pre-ball drinks were being help in the workshop bar, The Refinery.

The Refinery is the most original bar on station, closely followed by Mets Iso-Bar. The Refinery is almost completely matt black and made of left overs from the petroleum industry. The bar is a row of 44 gallon drums with a steel plate across the top. An old hand operated petrol pump sits in place of a beer pump (but doesn't work). Lighting is provided by lights hanging a few feet above the bar, the shades made of half 20 litre drums. At one end is an old fridge (black of course) with messages from visitors written in fluoro coloured pen. Suspended above the bar at this end is an old motorbike. I believe this bike was brought down by a Casey legend, Richard Penny. He came to Wilkes and Casey a few times.  Penny Bay, Landing, and  Ravine, are named after him. It is mentioned in the 1960 Wilkes station log that people rode this bike around. Bar stools are made of old pieces of equipment such as shovel heads for seats, pieces of crow bars and pinch bars for stands and foot rests. Contrasting with the blindingly matt black theme is the ominous Hazchem stickers.

At the stroke of seven, Alby in full fire chief outfit, with the wail of sirens, and the Doors Light my Fire in the background, announced the ball room open. We walked into a confusion of sound, light and smoke.

One bay of the workshop had been cleared as a dance floor and coloured flashing lights were placed around and above it. In the next bay was the Fire Hagg with its red lights and sirens going. In the back half of the Hagg, which contains the water pump and hoses, were spot lights, one shining on a disco ball made of a hand drill, round chunk of wood, and broken mirror, cable tied to the roof. The smoke from a smoke machine (sent down this summer for fire exercise, entertainment ? Who knows ?) completed the affect.

Dinner was a spit roast which had been set up in the welding bay. Vegos had roast spud with salad and sour cream. Merriment went on until late with the Dancing Queen (the Doc) keeping the ball room floor active. An apocalyptic scene was created by me climbing into the back of the Hagg for a snooze atop the fire hoses. the harsh side lighting, and beams of flashing light through the haze of smoke, surrounded by pipes and machinery, was very striking (photos of all party goers appeared in the social pages of the Petrel Press today).

Saturday was unofficially cancelled, but Saturday duties still managed to be completed. All effort will now go into the next big social event, Mid-Winters.

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