When the weather packs up in Antarctica, disrupting flights and scientific research, it’s up to Lieutenant Commander (LTCDR) Barry Holmes to find solutions and get things back on track.
The Auckland naval officer also has the responsibility of overseeing New Zealand Defence Force personnel working at Antarctica New Zealand’s Scott Base as Senior National Officer (SNO) for the five month deployment over summer.
"As SNO this is my second season on the ice and I’m really looking forward to it," he says.
"We work really long days where the work is quite different, but it’s a great way to make new friends in a unique and social environment."
LTCDR Holmes, 45, will leave for Antarctica on October 3 to prepare for the rest of the NZ Defence Force personnel who are scheduled to arrive in Antarctica for the summer season on October 5.
The entire team is currently undergoing pre-deployment training at Antarctica New Zealand’s Christchurch base in preparation for living and working in the unique environment alongside scientists and other civilian staff.
The team of eight will work in a variety of roles including cargo handlers, communications and plant operators, while LTCDR Holmes will return to his important role of Operations Scheduler.
"I move all the science events around on the ‘master plan’ in order to reschedule everything when things change – such as bad weather. I also schedule all the helicopter requests to move science events out in the field, move from camp to camp, or return to Scott Base."
And while he’s not working, LTCDR Holmes can be found on the sole Antarctic ski field, in the games room playing cards, darts or snooker, or parked up reading fantasy novels.
"We do work really long days, six days a week, so it’s good to have that time to relax and we have as many social events as possible to keep the spirits up."
From a young age the former James Cook High School student liked the idea of a military life, following in the footsteps of his father who served in the British Army during WWII.
After graduating from University in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science (majoring in computer science) LTCDR Holmes joined the Navy as direct-entry software engineer in January 1989.
After a break from the Defence Force to live and work in the UK, LTCDR Holmes returned to the Navy in 2005. His international deployments saw him based in Timor Leste in 2007 for six months as a communications officer in charge of a small team supporting the computer and radio networks for the Kiwi contingent, the same role he had in Afghanistan in 2010 with the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team.
"In May 2012 I applied for the SNO position for Operation Antarctica and was selected for that posting from July 2012."
He says while working at Scott Base can be hectic, the upside is the opportunity to work in an environment most people will never get to experience.
"Walking around the pressure ridges outside Scott Base is amazing. The sea ice moves against the ice-shelf and forces ice upwards creating amazing ice sculptures and formations. Later in the season you get melt pools forming within the pressure ridge area which adds another dimension and is a pleasant walk."
And it’s also a great place to learn.
"There are incredible scientists conducting world-renowned research at Scott Base and I hope to learn from them and be able to pass on some knowledge about how that research will affect all our lives."