Hervey Bay mates swap our summer for icy Antarctic job

Hervey Bay's Graeme Briggs is heading to Antarctica for the sixth time.
Hervey Bay's Graeme Briggs is heading to Antarctica for the sixth time. Contributed

WHILE most of us are bracing for a sweltering summer, two Hervey Bay men are preparing for conditions at the other extreme.

Mates Graeme Briggs and Glenn Stocks are soaking up the warm Fraser Coast sunshine while they can before they head off on Monday for a summer of ice and snow as plant operators at Antarctica's Casey station.

It will be Glenn's first time to the icecap, while Graeme is an old hand, already having been six times - including one stint of 17 months.

"I help maintain the runway at Wilkins, on a glacier about 70km from Casey. It's a blue ice runway," Graeme said.

He said the specialised airstrip allowed larger planes with wheels to land on the icecap, as opposed to smaller planes on skis, which could land on a runway closer to Casey.

The former Hervey Bay High student said he stumbled across the gig in 2009 when he was looking online for work opportunities, and decided to give it a shot.

"I thought, why not? It's something different."

It was a lengthy application process. There was also training in Hobart before departure, with the small station population of about 100 requiring extra skills such as wilderness first aid.

Graeme said tradies were often theatre nurses on the station, for example, while the site doctor was also in charge of hydroponic fruit and vegetable gardens.

Because of Graeme's requirement to spend time away from Casey at Wilkins, he has had a less critical - but still important - role as "brewmaster" - maintaining the station's homebrew beer supplies.

It was over a brew and polar stories at a local pub back in Hervey Bay that his mate Glenn was convinced he should give it a go too.

Graeme said anyone with a relevant trade or qualification who was up for the challenge of living away from home in close quarters in the cold could give it a shot.

"There's a high turnover of people - you get your box-tickers, people who only do it once, and you have people wanting to have kids," he said.

"It's a good job - it's the best job I've ever had."

Graeme Briggs and Glenn Stocks are bound for Antarctica.
Graeme Briggs and Glenn Stocks are bound for Antarctica. Contributed

Topics:  antarctica hervey bay travel

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