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Short Stint Turns Into Adventure of a Lifetime

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The Bureau of Meteorology has kicked off its annual Antarctic season and travelling to the icy continent will be easier than ever for one forecaster this year after a four-month stint was extended into a 17-month long adventure. Meteorologist, Rachel McInerney, ventured to Antarctica’s Davis Station as part of the Bureau’s 2019–20 summer season with […]

The Bureau of Meteorology has kicked off its annual Antarctic season and travelling to the icy continent will be easier than ever for one forecaster this year after a four-month stint was extended into a 17-month long adventure.

Meteorologist, Rachel McInerney, ventured to Antarctica’s Davis Station as part of the Bureau’s 2019–20 summer season with the intention of returning to Hobart in early 2020, but when a last minute offer to stay over winter as an Environmental Officer for the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) came, she couldn’t say no.

“It was one week before the Aurora Australis was due to depart Davis Station and take me home at the end of summer when I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to stay over winter,” McInerney said. “As a forecaster, I would never have had the opportunity to winter in Antarctica as forecasters are only deployed here to support operations, such as aviation, over summer.

“The hardest thing about coming for four months and staying for 17 though, is that I didn’t bring enough supplies.”I’m about to run out of my preferred shampoo and conditioner, I ran out of lip balm long ago, and it has been a long time since I finished my favourite chocolates.”

McInerney said it was too good an opportunity to pass up as after three trips to Antarctica she has never experienced a winter, and as an added bonus, she was able to spend time with her husband who was part of the Bureau’s winter crew.

She had travelled to Davis Station in late 2019 with her husband and said she felt incredibly lucky to share the experience with him as one of the hardest parts of going to Antarctica is missing time with family and friends.

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“Being here with Damien makes that aspect a bit easier, it also means neither of us is missing out on the amazing experiences the other is having,” she said. “We both love getting out and exploring areas, so we will have great shared memories from our winter at Davis.”

With the COVID pandemic resulting in delayed departures from Antarctica for winter crew, she’s now returning to the forecasting team as part of the Bureau’s 2020–21 summer season taking her total time in Antarctica from four months to a long 17 months.

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster having to adjust my mindset to staying for winter, and then a combination of factors led to all of the Davis expeditioners staying on for an extra summer this year,” McInerney said.

Ms McInerney said that although it did produce mixed feelings initially, she understood the impacts of the pandemic and the efforts being taken by AAD to keep Antarctica COVID free. She said she has focused on the positives of staying longer as Antarctica has so many wonderful perks.

“Antarctica is beautiful…there’s nowhere else quite like it,” she said. “Sea ice, ice bergs, glaziers, frozen lakes, penguins, seals, birds – it’s a really stunning landscape. As part of my role with AAD I got to survey seal populations, and the seal pups are just adorable.

“Staying for summer means we will see the full change in seasons and the breeding cycles of the animals, as well as the transformation of the Davis area from snow covered frozen landscape back to rocky ground and open water.”

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The work McInerney undertakes as a summer forecaster includes monitoring the ever-changing weather, holding briefings, and providing forecasts to station expeditioners, aircraft pilots, boat drivers and remote field teams to support the safety of their work.

The Bureau’s observers and technicians, who are sent for over-winter duties, maintain a strict routine of observations for climate monitoring to a globally agreed standard. Their observations also underpin the quality of the daily forecasts.

Many over winter crew have had their stay extended by around four months this year as the COVID pandemic has delayed the return of some expeditioners.

The Bureau’s 2020–21 embedded summer forecaster team will be a three-person effort this year, with only two forecasters travelling to Antarctica this week as McInerney is already based at Davis Station, and our next winter crew travelling via ship in December.

The 2020–21 crew have fully complied with all COVID safety processes, including multiple COVID testing, isolation, and training in COVID-safe practices and procedures. Bureau staff currently based in Antarctica will fully comply with all COVID requirements upon their return to Hobart in 2021.

Text and image courtesy Bureau of Meteorology.

Source: Tasmanian Times https://www.tasmaniantimes.com/2020/11/short-stint-turns-into-adventure-of-lifetime/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=short-stint-turns-into-adventure-of-lifetime

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