Steak and onions Vostok style, 1962

The traverse party stand in front of the vehicle and flags at Vostok
The traverse party at Vostok. L-R back: Evans, Walker, Thomson, L-R front: Foster, Collins, Battye. (Photo: R. Thomson)

An Australian expedition set out from Wilkes in 1962 to reach the evacuated Russian base of Vostok, the coldest place on earth. The trip remains one of Australia's most historic traverses, an epic journey of 3,000 kilometres!

When the Australians finally arrived at the Russian base, they discovered it had been evacuated in a hurry twelve months before.

Neville Collins, the diesel mechanic on the journey, recounted to Tim Bowden how they prepared and ate their first meal.

So, we arrived, turned on the generator and all the lights went on. We went into the kitchen and there was an electric range they cooked with … and the table there was laid out for three people They'd made a pot of tea in a beautiful china teapot, but the tea had frozen in the pot and busted it So, it looked like a hasty departure.
There was a pan full of steak and onions on the stove. So, it looked like the Russians were just sitting down to a feed, in came the aircraft to pick up the last three blokes, they said, 'Well, we're bailing out', slammed the door, shut down the engine and off they went. So, we took over from there.

With mouths watering at the thought of a decent meal after weeks of living on traverse rations of tinned food and pemmican, the hungry expeditioners wasted no time in taking up where the Russians had left off. They switched on the generators, started up the stove and finished cooking the snap frozen steaks! One of their number even found a cook's hat and an abandoned Russian chef's uniform, donned the garments and presided over the stove!

The meal was generally hailed as one of the best!

Interview with Neville Collins and Tim Bowden 14 July 1994, ANARE Jubilee History.

This page was last modified on 6 June 2002.