Steve, ETO Communications (Radio Officer), RRS Ernest Shackleton
Born in Middlesbrough, Teesside, when he is not ‘down south’ Steve now calls Karlsruhe in Germany, home.
Steve was a radio officer on various cruise liners before joining BAS vessels, RRS John Biscoe in 1985 to 1987 then RRS Ernest Shackleton in 1999.
Steve had no prior knowledge of Antarctica and imagined a cold, foreboding and lonely destination but was excited by the opportunities it offered.
Steve felt working for BAS would offer something unique for his C.V that would “look impressive and has subsequently been the subject of many a conversation”.
The Role of Radio Officer:
Steve is a ship’s officer serving onboard one of the BAS research vessels. No longer primarily responsible for communications, his remit involves more maintenance, repair and operation of a multitude of electrical and electronic equipment with minimal use of the Radios onboard. However there is enough work to keep him fully occupied during his 4-month tours of duty.
“During the Summer season down South which is the only time Shipping can access Antarctica, I found it to be (comparatively) warm and wonderful weather, fantastic vistas, and with the nature of the population living in Antarctica, you are never lonely.
Everyone down South are kindred folk and I have never felt more at home, felt more companionship and enjoyed better company. It has turned out to be less remote than anticipated, largely due to the availability of communications these days, but the world is becoming a smaller place and Antarctica is no longer as inaccessible and remote.
Working for BAS has taken me from Grimsby to Grytviken, from Bergen to Bird Island, and Hull to Halley. Antarctica is the most amazing travel destination and I still feel blessed to have been able to visit there repeatedly”.
Working in Antarctica:
Marine personnel only ever see the Antarctica in the Austral Summer, which must be a million miles away from the harsh conditions of winter. In summer it is comparatively warm “I often work outside in a shirt or light jacket, and the weather is usually good. The scenery — is breathtaking” .
Steve describes the Stations as “modern and comfortable places to visit. The station staff are always friendly and welcoming. The facilities, vehicles and operations are modern and impressive”.
Deadlines and schedules make it difficult for Steve to fit in too much sightseeing, rest or relaxation, so what about recreational time? “I have ridden on Skidoos, travelled in Snocats and I sometime manage to take the time to go skiing and walking. One of my lifetime achievements was cycling 15 km across the ice shelf from ship to base”.
“Crushing through pack ice with the ship and getting up close to massive Icebergs and Ice cliffs is probably the most exciting part of life down south”.
Steve describes his work as fulfilling and varied, and unlike many marine jobs in the commercial sector, he feels the constraints and pressures of budget and competitive enterprise do not impact on his daily duties.