Antarctic tales for solstice meet
For Lee Sice, Bruce Alden and David Bridger, the hardest thing about working long stints in Antarctica was neither the isolation nor the boredom.
It was re-adapting to life in Australia.
“Working in Antarctica is like being in a big fuzzy cocoon,” Mr Alden said.
“You do your work, no one bothers you, and then you sit back and enjoy the silence and the view.”
The trio were reminiscing about their experiences ahead of an annual winter solstice dinner they hold for the 10 or so Antarctic alumni living in Geraldton.
Mr Alden, 69, spent 364 days working as a weather observer at Davis, one of Australia’s four permanent Antarctic research outposts, back in 1976.
It was such an unforgettable experience he went back in December, 2002 and did not return until March, 2004.
After 26 years, he said communications technology had advanced so much that the feeling of isolation was greatly diminished.
“I’m not sure if it’s necessarily for the better. I liked the isolation,” Mr Alden said.
David Bridger, 67, worked as an electrician at Casey Station between November, 1980 and February, 1982.
One of his fondest memories was him and the crew brewing their own beer, which they dubbed “penguin p...”.
“We even used to put our own labels on it,” he said.
“You couldn’t drink too much though, in case anything happened.”
Of course, all manner of problems can arise in the remote Antarctic wilderness.
“Things happen that you don’t expect,” Mr Bridger said.
“If anything’s going to break or go wrong, it’ll happen there.
“You just have to be prepared to fix things that are broken for no reason. But, all that aside, the experience changes everything.
“You certainly come back a different person.”
The youngest of the three men, Mr Sice, worked as an electrician at Mawson Station from September, 2008 to December, 2009.
The 54-year-old said getting work in Antarctica was much like applying for any other job, albeit with a more rigorous selection process.
“The Australian Antarctic Division advertises for various roles like electricians, mechanics, chefs, doctors, etc,” he said.
“If you’re shortlisted, you do a medical and psych test, and if that works out, you usually end up in Hobart for a couple of months of pre-departure training.
“The pay is OK, but no one does it for the money.”
All three said they would go again, although Mr Alden and Mr Bridger conceded they might be a bit past their “use-by dates”.
The group will hold this year’s winter solstice dinner on June 22.
They are hoping to hear from anyone who has worked in Antarctica and would like to join them.
Contact Mr Sice on 0417 733 203.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails