Antarctica

Week 6 Long Weekend - My first Thanks Giving

21st November - 28th November

We had a visitor this week. This is something I'm not used to - people arriving that "aren't with the program". While I was at Casey only one tourist ship visited. And it was only the second time tourists had visited Casey. However, this week at the pole we had a single engined Cessna arrive with someone who couldn't leave fast enough. I get the impression that visitors not with the USAP are quite common here during the summer, and that there are many people on their way now.

This weeks visitor was French lady Laurence de la Ferriere. She was different to most people who do long distance treks in Antarctica in that she started from the Pole, and is walking to the French base Dumont d'Urville, via Dome C. Most walk to the Pole not from it.

Her arrival had been anticipated for almost two weeks, but had been delayed by cold weather (the cold cold kind). I am quite in awe of this breed of human that decides it would be fun and challenging to travel long distances, often pulling a sled with everything they need, in Antarctica. So I was looking forward to meeting one of these people. But I was to miss my chance. She arrived in the morning, but I was working in Mapo. I was expecting there to be an All Call to say she was preparing to leave, and I was going to go wish her luck. However the All Call announced she was leaving NOW. So I walked over just in time to see her start pulling her sled - stop - start - slowly, painfully (painful for me to watch as it looked such amazingly hard work!), move away from the dome.

Later that day I went up to Sky Lab expecting to see her out on the horizon, only to see her camped a few hundred meters away. Over the next two days she slowly trudged towards the horizon, before finally disappearing. While it seemed that at that rate she would never travel the 3000km to Dumont d'Urville, she had just flown to 11000 feet and it is understandable that she started slowly to have time to acclimate. She has walked to the Pole from Patriot Hills, and I'm sure she will make it this time also.

The company that supports adventurers in Antarctica is called Adventure Network International (ANI). They have a base called Patriot Hills which they work out of during the summer. The pilot that brought Laurence de la Ferriere to the pole has been stuck here due to a damaged propeller on his little Cessna plane. Because the NSF is against private expeditions, ANI has to be prepared to be self sufficient while at pole, planned stay or not. So out in the dark sector they have a cache of supplies, and may have to stay in tents while here. In recent times NSF have been slightly less heavy about the whole thing and people are able to have a meal and shower - two minutes of course. Most of the people here are very interested in the adventures being undertaken and do not reflect the NSF attitude. The stranded pilot is a great bloke and will be missed by many people.

Adventure Network International

ANI are also providing support for a trek by Aussie Peter Treseder and Brit Tim Jarvis. They are attempting to travel from one side of the continent to the other, without any help such as food drops or even wind assistance. In typical Treseder style they are raising money for the Liver Transplant Unit at The New Childrenís Hospital, Westmead. Also, "Peter and Tim hope the expedition will be an inspiration for all Australians to meet the challenges of the new millennium".

The Last Great Journey

Thursday was Thanks Giving in the US. At South Pole Thanks Giving was held on Saturday to minimise interference with work schedules. During the week, work nights were held in the kitchen to help with preparation. Tuesday night was pie making, and Thursday was potato peeling (and other stuff). The kitchen staff did a lot of extra preparation during the week. I was not feeling very well this week so did not help with the food preparation.

Because there are so many people here at present - many more than can fit in the galley at one time - Thanks Giving dinner was held in three sittings. A roster was put on the fridge and we had to make a reservation. There is a strategy to which sitting one should choose. Most of the old hands went for the last sitting, as there is no major pressure to finish your meal in a set time. The third sitting filled up very quickly, and 4 for 4:30 seemed far too early to eat. So I made a reservation for the second sitting, 5 for 5:30.

With the strict limit on the amount of luggage that we can bring in, semi-formal wear is more common among the winterers. But there were some really sharp summer crew members also. I was fairly conservative with black pants, green silk shirt, and green vest.

At 5pm I presented myself at the upper galley for hors d'oeuvres. There was some nice dips and fresh crusty bread, prawns, and a baked brie that was heavenly. Treats like nice cheese are fairly rare here. We wouldn't want ASA to cut into their profits.

After eating far too much baked brie, diner was announced by the MC - a bloke wearing tails, top hat, and well worn jeans. We filed down stairs and are very tightly packed into the galley. If the station were any bigger there would have to be four sittings. The MC takes us through what is installed for us. We are to get our meal buffet style. Wine will be served to us by fancily dressed wine waiters. And finally tea/coffee, and desert will also be served to us. We are to enjoy our meal.

Being a vegetarian I was a bit apprehensive about what I was going to get to eat. But as usual I was being overly anxious and the chefs had looked after me well. Of course there was roast turkey and stuffing. There was a vego stuffing, I'm not sure what it made from (I'm not going to ask), which tasted great. A big variety of roast vegetables - potato, pumpkin, onions, and mash and vegies. And to lubricate the meal there was a vego gravy.

I made sure that I didn't eat too much as I was looking forward to desert. Of course being an Aussie and having been swamped by US culture my whole life I have heard lots about pumpkin pie, but never eaten it. Well pumpkin pie is okay, but I think I'll have the apple pie next time. Maybe you just have to be American.

After dinner I went and got changed into every day clothes for my shift in the kitchen - washing dishes for the third sitting. This was the most impressive part of the whole dinner, the way the whole station participated in making it such a success. Of course the kitchen staff have by far the hardest task. But there was no shortage of people washing dishes, serving wine and food, and helping the chefs with food preparation. This sense of community is one of the very nice aspects of working in Antarctica.

To be continued .......

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