Working tough in Antarctica

Working tough in Antarctica

“I was sitting alone on the snow, it was minus 25C outside. Looking up at the Aurora Australis lighting up the sky I thought to myself, how did I get here?”

Shane Ness Director of Enertech Electrical Communications and Air-Conditioning.

Where was I? I was at Mawson Station in Antarctica, working for the Australian Antarctic Division. How did this boy from Perth, end up working in Antarctica, the most isolated place on earth? Antarctica was the culmination of years of experience across a broad range of industries.

Over the years I have worked in the Residential, Commercial, Mining, and Power Generation industries. It was this diverse experience that helped me land the job of a lifetime. Coupled with the experience of FIFO and working in remote regions of Western Australia, put me in good stead to be able to handle the isolation of an Antarctic station.

“Working in Antarctica is tough on a whole other level.”

So, what was my role in Antarctica?

I was the Senior Electrical Fitter Mechanic, which means I was one of the two “Wintering Electricians.” We looked after everything from the two 300kW Wind Turbines, to the Fire Detection and the Refrigeration systems. We even got to maintain some of the scientific experiments.

Hansel and Gretel, as the two wind turbines are affectionately known, are a defining symbol of Mawson Station.  The two turbines stand over 30m tall, standing as a symbol of Australia’s dedication to the protection of theenvironment and Antarctica. I spent many days and nights watching the turbines spin, producing clean energy for our station to use. I also spent many days crammed into the tight Nacelle completing programmed maintenance and some unique repairs.

The weather is so extreme in Antarctica that we completely snapped a 12mm steel plate bracket. The turbine was out of service until we could get the bracket out, repaired and back in. No small feat, when you cannot get any new parts until summer returns and it is -25C on average. You can’t just get a new part delivered when you are in Antarctica.

When summer rolled around, it was time to complete the Annual Shutdown of the Main Power House. This is a huge 2-week shutdown, which includes any major repairs that are needed, testing all the instrumentation, fire detection and suppression systems and load testing all our main generators.

It was a real challenge working in that environment and being away from family and friends. I was living and working in Antarctica for 13 months all up. We were lucky enough to see some Orca’s, heaps of Emperor Penguins, seals and see some spots that only a handful of people ever get to see. The Fold Island Rookery, which is 5 day traverse across sea ice, to a remote emperor rookery, was a serious adventure, where I was lucky enough to see my first Emperor Penguin chick.

Now that I am back in Australia I have launched Enertech Electrical, Communications and Air-Conditioning. A West Australian owned and operated electrical contractor that prides itself on our ability to supply a diverse range of to all our clients. Our small but highly skilled team are ready to tackle your project.

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