Beaufort Delta
Travel

Gwich’in aircraft engineer en route to Antarctica


Andrew Jerome was never a huge fan of flying long distances, but – with a posting to Antarctica – he’s now on the trip of a lifetime.

“I didn’t think I would ever make it down to the Antarctic,” he said. “It’s just not one of those places where you think you’d go to. It’s gonna be a trip.”

It will take Jerome four flights to get to the southernmost tip of South America and, from there, another four-hour flight to the world’s southernmost continent. He spoke to Cabin Radio during a layover at Edmonton’s airport.

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An aircraft maintenance engineer with Kenn Borek Air – which operates flights across the Beaufort Delta, in addition to an Antarctica contract – Jerome will spend two and a half months working on a modified and upgraded DC-3. The aircraft can be used for surveying, hauling cargo or bulk fuel, deliveries by parachute, and sea ice and glacier operations.

In terms of what life will be like, Jerome said he’ll be staying in a camp. This is something he’s accustomed to, having worked at camp during the construction of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway. “It shouldn’t be too much of a difference, just a little bit less trees,” he said.

Similarly, the cold is not about to bother Jerome. “Being from Inuvik, the temperatures aren’t too dramatically different,” he said. “I already had winter gear and winter clothing all prepared.”

Spending a week in Yellowknife prior to his travels, Jerome welcomed a days-long run of temperatures dropping to -40C. He spent the time outdoors.

“It’s just to kind-of prepare myself for the isolation, more so than what I would have in Inuvik,” he said. “I’m excited to see what happens and maybe go next year for even longer.”

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Wishing him well, the Gwich’in Tribal Council stated on Facebook that it believes Jerome is the first Gwich’in person to work in Antarctica. Saying that’s “pretty awesome,” Jerome has packed a large Gwich’in Nation flag for the occasion.

“I went to school in the south and I’m just happy to have this opportunity and to represent my people. I brought a big flag down so I’ll probably be taking a few pictures with our Gwich’in Nation flag,” he said.

A turbine DC-3, the type of aircraft Jerome will work on while in Antarctica. Photo: Kenn Borek Air

Having worked with Kenn Borek for three years, Jerome said he enjoys the wide range of work he does on a daily basis as an aircraft maintenance engineer – as well as the travelling he gets to do.

Jerome urged others growing up in the North to keep their options open and look at getting an education down south if it doesn’t exist here.

“Hopefully, one day, the North will catch up in the education department – that these programs could be offered in the North and more northerners be able to do these kinds of things,” he said.

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