A career in logistics and resupply planning paved the way for an Army officer to lead a team of expeditioners across the Southern Ocean during the summer period.
CAPTION: ‘AIVIQ’ providing a fuel resupply to Casey Station, Antarctica. Story by Flight Lieutenant Suellen Heath. All photos by Major Cameron Elston.
Major Cameron Elston deployed on Operation Southern Discovery as the voyage leader for the Australian Antarctic Division’s (AAD) Voyage 4, leading a team of 47 crew, AAD personnel, contractors and scientists to supply fuel to Casey Station.
His background as a road and terminal transport officer gave Maj Elston skills in coordinating the movement of fuel from ship to shore, as well as managing capability.
CAPTION: Major Cameron Elston, Australian Antarctic Program Voyage 4 Leader at Casey Station, Antarctica.
“We travelled about 7250 kilometres on AIVIQ, a US icebreaker ship, to deliver over a million litres of special Antarctic blend – a fuel that contains additives to prevent it from freezing – to Casey Station,” Major Elston said.
“The education and training I’ve received as a logistics officer in Army prepared me really well for this role. I came into this not knowing how the AAD conducts a refuel, but we were able to apply the same planning principles, and worked with watercraft and fuel resupply experts in order to plan and execute the voyage effectively.
“AIVIQ is a modern ship with dynamic positioning, which allowed the team to safely position the vessel close to Casey Station.
“Using only 600 metres of fuel hose compared to the normal 2000 metres, meant it only took 25 hours for the fuel to be fully unloaded, which was a lot quicker than expected.”
The team also deployed five Argo floats. The floats operate up to 2000m below the surface of the ocean to record data, including salinity, ocean temperature and currents.
The crew also recovered sensors from the ocean floor that recorded whale movements on known whale migration routes.
Major Elston said watching penguins in their natural habitat, and looking at icebergs on Christmas morning while deploying an Argo float, were two of the highlights.
CAPTION: Penguins at Casey Station.
He said it was a surreal moment when he stepped foot on Antarctic ice.
“We arrived at Casey Station at 1.15am on Boxing Day, and from there the entire operation took just seven days, including a three-day period where we were stuck on the ship due to winds in excess of 120 kilometres per hour,” Major Elston said.
“Travelling to Antarctica has always been a life goal for me, and I never thought I would have the opportunity to work there while serving.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and amazing experience. I learnt a lot along the way and enjoyed working with a great bunch of people who I would never normally come across.”
CAPTION: Casey Station, Antarctica Leader, Benjamin Patrick welcomes ‘AIVIQ’ Voyage Leader, Major Cameron Elston.