Alex writes: A unique feature of living at Concordia Station is that it is the only truly multi-national station in Antarctica. Concordia is built, owned and run by the French Polar Institute and Italian Antarctic Programme. This year our Russian meteorologist, Dr Igor Petenko and myself are representing the British, Indian and Russian heritage.
Together, and only together can we survive at the uttermost end of the world.
We hold high appreciation for each other’s cultures. This weekend, we celebrated two birthdays whereby Giorgio, our chef, prepared a meal which incorporated colours and flavours from France, UK and India.
As the only British national on the base I was delighted that our team celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, alongside our birthdays, by means of the six course meal on Saturday night. I came up with an idea to mark the passing of the Jubilee, on Tuesday 5th June.
I made scones for the occasion and hosted an outdoor British tea party. We enjoyed traditional British Tea which I brought from home and had saved for a such a special occasion.
It was the coldest, most remote, isolated and extreme tea party on the planet.
In the United Kingdom in the Summer a tea party is a very pleasant and relaxing event, such as on a grass lawn in Oxford.
But down here we are in the complete darkness, where the temperature falls below -70 degrees Celsius. In such cold, the tea cup actually sticks to your lips. The tea was cold within a minute.
My first batch of scones that I have ever made were a success – nearly all were eaten and they held it together and remained soft for long enough to eat.
It was interesting to see how we managed to fit the food through our cumbersome face masks. Some took of the face masks off but ran the risk of frostbite.
It was more like an endurance or survival event.
I remember the mad hatter’s tea party from Alice in Wonderland and cannot help thinking of our own ‘rabbit hole’ descent down the Antarctic winter into the long and cold months of complete darkness. I hope that we will remain sane throughout the rest of the expedition. The night is still young though, anything can happen. This Is Antarctica, after all.
Happy Diamond Jubilee To One and All from the Concordia Team – especially to the other Antarctic overwintering bases and similarly remote British Overseas Territories.