This Katherine couple spends their days chilled to the bone while most are sweating in the scorching build-up heat.
Pat Curtain and Jodie Hart quite possibly have the coolest job in town. Literally.
The owners of Katherine Ice Supplies spend a good portion of their day in sub-zero temperatures.
And when it’s knock-off time, they always have the option to “jump in the cool room for an instant body cool down”.
Unlike the rest of us who aim to wear as little as possible during these sticky months, they pack gloves and jumpers for their work shift.
Some of the workers go as far as beanies and a scarf.
In the build up, Katherine Ice Supplies will deliver up to 20 tonnes of ice to about 30 businesses in town, every single week.
It is so hot in Katherine more than two tonnes of ice is delivered to the construction sites at Tindal RAAF Base and the new servo’ station on Stuart Highway, on a daily basis.
In these conditions, newly poured concrete cracks without the ice.
“We have been taking ice out for the last two weeks so the tradies can mix it in with the concrete mix in replace of water, that really says a lot about how hot it is,” Mr Curtain said.
The build-up is the craziest time of the year for this family run business.
“We have all the tradies and fruit pickers who work out in the sun all day and definitely need to stay cool with ice, plus everyone needs ice for their BBQs,” Mr Curtain said.
For these workers, the day starts early, and from the get go it is fast paced.
Dealing with ice on these blistering-hot 40-degree days takes skill and speed. Depending on how frozen the ice packs are to begin with, the workers have just 10 minutes to get the bags from the cool of one freezer to the next.
Mr Curtain said that while he has the ability to make ice on site, with the ongoing issue of PFAS contamination in the town’s aquifers, he said he had to resort to partnering with NT Ice Supplies.
“We start early in the morning to beat the heat and we have to transport it really quickly when we are making deliveries,” Mr Curtain said.
“And in the build-up we go flat out to get it inside the cool.”
For the small business owners, the luxury of the job goes beyond setting their own hours.
Previously both teachers, the couple have owned Katherine Ice Supplies for about a year and a half.
“We are constantly told we have the best job in town. I feel a bit sorry for the tradies, the most ice they come across is when they have some in their water cooler,” Mr Curtain said.
“People always ask us if they can come around and set themselves up with a chair and a nice cool drink in the refrigerated shipping container where we keep the ice. Unfortunately that is a health and safety issue.
“But we have thought of buying a few and moving into them, especially at this time of year,” Mr Curtain said.
While the job may sound like a dream come true when the humidity is hitting an all time high and it hasn’t rained in weeks, no matter which line of work you are in there is always a down side.
Mr Curtain that when the doors to the ice storage shipping container are closed, temperatures can get down to negative 15 degrees.
“If I was just wearing a shirt, I would maybe last 30 minutes in there,” Mr Curtain said.
“We often have to take breaks as well or else our hands and our joints freeze up.
“A couple of freezers which we deliver to go to minus 25 degrees. Three minutes in there and we are running out to cool our hands in the sun.”
“It is also pretty difficult going from one extreme to another, all day, every day,” Mr Curtain said.
While Mr Curtain said he would choose to live in a hot location like Katherine over somewhere cold, it was the idea of working with ice which lured him into buying the business.
“I like the heat, but this place would be difficult to live in without the release of an instant body cool down.
“It is good to have a healthy mix,” he said.
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