Hello, my name is Chris. Our good friend Milan has asked me to introduce myself, so I’ll briefly tell
you all a little bit about my life. How I was lucky enough to be one of the few to be selected and
spend a winter (one year) at Mawson Station in Antarctica 2006-2007.
I am 41 years of age and an Australian citizen, residing in Tasmania, Australia and currently
undertaking a trainee-ship with ASP shipping as a Marine Engineer.
I was born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1970. The first child, to my parents, Keith & Jane. We lived in a
modest house about 15 km north of the city of Hobart. My father worked as a pharmacy technician
producing medicines and medical supplies for the state government, and my mother a registered
nurse. Three years later my younger brother Peter was born.
I went to Rosetta primary school until 1982, then Rosetta High school until 1986. The school was
primarily a trades based school with studies like technical drawing, metal work, wood work etc. in
preparation to those students who would go into the workforce as apprentices learning a trade. Of
course the main studies being English, Science, Maths & Social studies or History.
I was eager to get an apprenticeship in the Electrical sector as an Electrician. Though I was less
keen in working, so I enrolled into Hobart Tafe (a college for Technical and Further Education) to
do a Pre-vocational course, comprising in Electrical, Refrigeration and Electronics. I soon realised
that my interests in electronics as a young man were next to nothing, refrigeration I found dull, so
Electrical seemed like the choice to make.
I secured an Electrical apprenticeship later on in the year with the Royal Hobart Hospital. It seemed
ironic as both my parents had worked there at some stage beforehand. This was great news as I
would be earning a wage and could buy a new (second hand) motorbike. This was to become my
preferred mode of transport as on an apprentices wage as I couldn’t afford the fuel to drive a car to
Things progressed and I moved out of home and became independent at 18 years old. After I
completed my studies and 4 years as an apprentice I applied and received my Electrical Licence. My
ticket to work, and as I found out later on….. Travel.
I moved to Perth, Western Australia shortly after, though I found it difficult to get a job as an
Electrician with such little experience, and the country was in a recession at the time. So I lived by
the beach, partied and had a fantastic time funded by the government on welfare for a few months,
(about 6). I became bored and broke, so I enrolled in a 5* cocktail and bar course. Things changed.
I got a job, moved in with two beautiful barmaids I worked with and had some money again. The
nocturnal lifestyle was a great experience, though I soon secured a job as an electrician earning
twice my wage as a barman, in the construction industry.
I had been working with a company building huge satellite dishes for a new telecommunications
company that had started in Australia. When this was completed the company I was working for
offered me a job in Sydney, building two more dish’s. I jumped at the chance and drove 4000 km
from Perth to Melbourne. Caught the Car ferry to Tasmania and saw my family for Christmas. I
sold my car to pay for my plane ticket to Sydney in the new year and started work again with my
Towards the end of the year the project was completed and I headed back to Tasmania. I worked as
a motor mechanic for a friend and bought myself another vehicle, a van this time. It was already
decked out for travelling so I loaded my toolboxes and a other assorted items and moved to
Melbourne. I worked there as an arborist, or tree lopper for my cousin for a few months then
headed north, up through New South Wales into Queensland. I was travelling with a friend at this
stage. He had his own vehicle, so we arrived in Brisbane and found work as Electricians building a
bottle line in one of the breweries. This was pretty good money for a couple of young blokes and we
had a lot of fun too in this new city.
The project was to finish, so we left Brisbane and travelled north again. We stopped at Port Douglas,
north of Cairns and spent a few weeks enjoying the tropics. My mate left, and I stayed for nearly 2
years working as an Electrician on the building sites in the local area. This was a fantastic place and
I was having so much fun. Lots of bars, beautiful women & warm weather, sunshine and wet
seasons…. I was 24 years old and single and loving it. I met a beautiful Lady in Cairns and we
eventually moved in together in Port Douglas.
We left Port Douglas early in 1995 and headed to Darwin. It was the build up to the rainy season
when we got there and I was enjoying it. I looked for work the following day and started the day
after, as an electrician working on fishing trawlers.
Soon after I changed jobs again and started some remote work, flying in and out of the aboriginal
communities, still working as an Electrician. I saw crocodiles, buffalo, pigs, snakes and some
amazing wilderness and lifestyles around Ahrnemland. And I had a new travelling companion, a dog,
a puppy called Jess.
We left towards the end of the year and headed South towards South Australia, past Ayres Rock,
stopping in Whyalla. The steel works was there and I got some work at the plant. Great fishing
around Whyalla, the cold waters of the Australian Bite.
I left my girlfriend there and headed off to Melbourne again. Worked as a tree lopper with my cousin
again until I applied for a position in the local paper for a job as an Electrician in NSW. Construction
of 2 oil rigs in Wollongong. I got the job and drove up to the ‘gong’. The work was good. Long
hours, 7 days a week, the pay was even better. We worked hard & partied harder.
This project was to end, but I had heard about a lot of work around central Queensland, so the dog
and I headed off again and stopped in Gladstone. This time I had sold the good old van and had a
near new F100 ute. Great for long interstate trips. You could drive 1500 klm in a day without feeling
I based myself in Gladstone for the next 4 years. Working with every large Electrical construction
company in Qld, and interstate. Mostly fly in and out, 4 weeks on 1 off. Servicing the growing
mining sector and mineral processing facilities.
In this time I was to be engaged to a wonderful woman and bought a house. Though after a few
years working away from home led to another failed romance. I changed jobs and turned my hand
to the two things I was good at. An Electrician with a chainsaw. We were clearing the vegetation
from around the overhead high voltage power lines. This was great. Outdoors every day, driving
trucks, using chainsaws turning logs into woodchips. But I started to become complacent and
sooner or later I would have made a mistake and High voltage power doesn’t, so to much regret I
left. I was the fittest and physically the strongest I had ever been in my life.
I sold the house and the dog and I lived in a camp accommodation in central Queensland. Obviously
the dog outside! We were constructing another power station, coal fired. I was restless and I heard
my brother was getting married. I quit that job and drove back to Tasmania for the wedding. This
was the year 2000.
I bought a house just out of Hobart and turned my hand to many Electrical vocations. Shipyards,
construction, renewable energy and the likes. I had started to move into the High Voltage area and
did quite well. However I became restless and sold the properties I had bought and moved to
Northern Tasmania to Launceston and moved in with my girlfriend of a few years. She had a level
head and we are still together. I started to go for the big fly in and out (fifo) jobs again. 4 weeks on,
and 1 off. I’d work for 8-9 months of the year and kick back at home for the rest.
In-between jobs I noticed an advertisement in the local paper seeking Electricians for work in
Antarctica. The closing date for the job was that day. I rang the number and asked if I applied would
it be too late. Send your application through they said.
It took me quite some time to fill out the questionnaire and to fill in all the details but I persevered
and posted the application that afternoon. A week later I received news that I had made the short list
and would I attend an interview in Melbourne next week.
From memory 26 prospective expeditioners were there for the same thing. People looking to work in
Antarctica as plumbers, cooks, mechanics… and Electricians. We worked in teams, spoke publicly,
had 1 on 1 interviews, technical assessments, and all the time being monitored and watched by up to
4 assessors, people who were writing their reports ascertaining who might be eligible. Then the
evening dinner and socialising, every man against each other hoping to be picked. Still under the
examiners watchful eye.
I flew back to Tasmania the following day not sure how I had gone and decided that fate would let
me know. A job offer came through in North Queensland and I was on the plane the next day. A
month later the phone rang…. Congratulations you have made it through to the next level. I quit my
job and flew home by the end of that week.
So next we had the psychological review, medical clearance, dental check ups to get done. No
problem. All the box’s were ticked and then it was off to the Antarctic Headquarters south of Hobart
for our training. We started training in September 2006. We covered everything from computer
systems, maintenance schedules, technical learning involving mechanical & Electrical systems,
advanced fire fighting, search and rescue training etc. One other Electrician and myself flew to
Perth, Western Australia to be trained on the wind turbines similar to the ones we would encounter
‘down south’. These would prove to be our biggest workload.
The months passed and before long it was December. Time to go. I still remember the tingly feeling
in my stomach. Wondering what it would be like. We bid farewell to family and friends and boarded
the ship. The RV Aurora Australis.
It took a little less than two weeks to reach Davis station in Antarctica. I loved the trip. It was a
rough voyage. We had 116 expeditioners aboard, a large number, 40+ were Chinese expeditioners
getting a ride with us, then off to their own base not far from Davis. I think there were only about 8
– 10 people apart from the crew who I saw regularly. Everyone else was too seasick and cabin
bound until we hit the sea ice and calm waters. I had passed the 50 degree mark and met King
Neptune. This was an initiation, ritual and public humiliation (good fun) all new sailors had to look
forward to. I had seen my first Ice berg. My first seal, and penguins. Now I was actually there.
We flew a short distance from the ship by helicopter to an island where we were to board a plane
and fly the 600 miles from Davis to Mawson. A large number of people stayed aboard the ship for
the week long trip to Casey station, Others got off for their tour at Davis.
The ship got stuck in heavy ice and was another week late in arriving at Casey.
The flight in the Casa (airplane) was noisy and all you could see for miles all around was the white
blue ice. Brown rocky mountain peaks jutted out of the ice every once in a while. Then we flew
over Mawson, home for the next 12 months, and landed at Rumdoodle airstrip on the plateau a few
kilometres from the station.
We were met by the rest of the crew shortly afterwards and helped unload the plane, drums of fuel,
supplies, machinery parts and some personal effects etc. There was a shortage of space in the
vehicles so 4 of us decided to stay at the plateau and take it all in and wait for the vehicles to return
and watched the plane fly off. It was a warm -1 degree day, sunny with no wind. Which meant it
was very easy to get sunburnt from the reflection of the ice. Very difficult to stand up too if you
weren’t wearing chains on your boots either, as we were to find out.
So I was finally there. It was summer and the sun was up for 24 hours a day. Winter came and it
was dark for 20 hours a day. There were blizzards and storms too. The Aurora’s, the green
southern lights in the nights sky. Parties, good food, the high’s and lows and always work to be
done regardless of the conditions and temperature outside. The coldest we had was -26c. We had
winds over 200kph. (The average wind speed at Mawson is about 30 knots) So if you combine the
two with the wind chill it can be a bit cool at times.
In march the Summer crew left by helicopter as the ship was 50klm away and couldn’t get through
the ice to the station. The sea ice didn’t disappear that year. After constant, non stop supply drops
by 3 choppers for the best part of a week, there was an eerie silence as we watched the last chopper
disappear from view. The 14 of us left looked at each other and slowly walked off in different
directions with our own thoughts. We wouldn’t see a chopper again for 9 months or any one else.
The time passed quickly enough I think. I saw some amazing sights and did some amazing things. I
saw some things that only a few will see in this lifetime. I jumped into a crevasse with only a rope
around my waist to stop me dropping hundreds of meters into the abyss. I saw the first penguin
chicks for the year hatch from eggs kept warm on their fathers feet for months. Then subsequent
visits to the penguin rookery watching them grow from little grey fluffy chicks to adolescents . The
baby seals were also born near the end of winter.
During winter it is like a wasteland. No animals or birds anywhere, apart from the penguins out on
the sea ice in their colonies. You wake up one morning and all the wildlife has gone. Gone to the
edge of the sea ice to feed. Maybe hundreds of kilometres away. Months will pass before they
return. It is a very hostile environment.
Antarctica is actually classified as a desert. The rate of evaporation is greater than the rate of
So the year passed and we were on the ship back to Australia. We had a psych evaluation on the
way back to supposedly help us cope with the hustle and bustle of life back in the real world. I don’t
know about that but I was interested in getting back into the saddle again. A year without sex is a
long time for a young man!
So I had done my bit for my country. My community service so to speak. I had a nice 6 week break
over the Christmas period before I got itchy feet and headed back to work. Back to the Northern
Territory again. Rainy season. From Ice to humidity in 8 weeks.
I stayed with the fly in and out construction and mining jobs working as an Electrician until late
2010. By this stage I was an Electrical Supervisor working in Northern Western Australia. But I
needed a change. I have a nice rural property in Northern Tasmania which is my home base. I run
some sheep on it for a bit of interest and fun. So I decided it was time to sit at home for a while and
think about things.
Ever since the voyage on the Aurora Australis heading to Antarctica I had been thinking about
becoming a Marine Engineer. I loved that first voyage. I applied to the authorities and got my Trade
and work experience recognized to be eligible to become a Marine Engineer. I went to college and
did my pre-sea training and applied to every company available in the hope of gaining a traineeship. I
I am now over halfway in accruing my sea time. I start college next year and after that will
hopefully get the qualifications of Watchkeeper. A beginning to a new career. I wonder where it will
One day I might get to work on the Aurora Australis as part of the crew and go back to
Above is a link to the Australian Antarctic Division website. You can click on the ‘Mawson’ link and
see whats going on for yourself.
If you like my story let me know. (Post a comment on Milans web site).
Its just the way things have turned out. Nothing has been panned. It just sort of happened that way.
Take care & stay safe.