KZN engineer sets off on 14-month Antarctic space research expedition

KZN engineer sets off on 14-month Antarctic space research expedition


An Amanzimtoti engineer has swapped the sunny shores of South Africa for the harsh environment of Antarctica for 14 months as he works on space weather research equipmen, South Coast Sun reports.

Travis Duck (26) left on 6 December from Cape Town to live on the South African National Antarctic Expedition 4 base (SANAE IV), which is the fourth South African base, until February 2020.

“I am part of the 58th overwintering team and I am maintaining and monitoring the South African National Space Agency’s (SANSA) high frequency radar, looking at space weather data for research. We sailed from Cape Town to Antarctica on the SA Agulhas 2, a science and research ice-breaker vessel. From there we flew to the base on 19 December and have started a rather crazy work schedule.

After studying electronic engineering, I found out about the South African Nation Antarctic Programme (SANAP) and applied for a job on Marion Island for the space agency. I could not pass up the opportunity to apply for the Antarctic base as well. I was lucky enough to get both positions.”

Travis, who schooled at Doon Heights Primary and matriculated at Kingsway High in 2010, worked on Marion Island, South Africa’s most southern territory, for 14 months, while also working for SANSA on space weather research equipment.

“As a bonus I got to help out with many different kinds of researchers on the island, so I was able to get close to some amazing animals while helping them. This is not something an engineer normally gets to do, so I was extremely grateful for the experience.

Before leaving for Antarctica, I felt a fair amount of stress to get everything packed for a year, including for my projects, entertainment, clothes and drinks.

There is no chance of getting anything in to us in the middle of winter, as the environment is just too harsh, so everything needs to be thought of before we leave.

Worry is part of life but stressing about things that can happen during the year would just take away from this excellent experience. I choose to just take things as they come and know I am as prepared as I can be.”

Travis can keep in touch with his loved ones, as the base has satellite internet and phones lines to the rest of the world.

“Although it is generally extremely slow, it is enough to speak to family back home and get out all the work-related data and reports needed.”

Travis was born in Amanzimtoti but will relocate to Cape Town once this expedition is done. He got into electronics because of his father when his interest was piqued from all the interesting things he had in his workshop while growing up.

He studied electronic engineering in computer systems at the Durban University of Technology.

“Being away from home for this long, in a remote place, is difficult but having communication back home really makes it easier. That being said the team ends up being a very close-knit unit, as close as family at the end of a year together.”


Pictured: Travis Duck

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