To help mark the passage of time, there are many celebrations throughout the Antarctic year. The most important of these is the Midwinter Dinner, celebrated for the first time during Scott's 1901–1904 British Antarctic Expedition. Whereas early explorers such as Mawson dined on much simpler fare, today's expeditioners enjoy sumptuous feasts.
In an environment where people live and work closely together, and where a change in facilities and scenery is necessarily very limited, food plays a vital role in providing some variety on a daily basis. Food at the stations is prepared by a qualified chef, traditionally one of the most important people on station and each station has a standard commercially equipped kitchen with gas cooking facilities.
The AAD is committed to providing a healthy and balanced diet for all expeditioners. Expeditioners with special dietary requirements (e.g. vegetarian, vegan, gluten intolerant etc) are also catered for and, when necessary, special foods are brought down to the station as part of the re-supply. The stations are stocked with about 700 different varieties of foods each year.
The food quantities are based on a how much food each person consumes on average in one year: approximately 780 kilos of food as well as about 380 litres of liquids such as juices, soft drink, oils and sauces. This is called the person entitlement. To determine the amount of food to resupply, we need to know how many expeditioners will be on station every day between resupplies, and use the correct person entitlement to estimate the total quantities.
Eggs and fresh vegetables are available for the first few months after resupply and limited hydroponics produce is also grown on each station. If eggs are stored at optimum temperatures, about +4°C, they should keep for about 8 months. The shells are oiled to prevent the air getting to them, which increases the ageing process, and they are turned weekly to stop the yolk coming in contact with the membrane/shell. If they remain in the one position for too long, the yolks break when you crack them open. We also send frozen egg pulp to the stations.
Once the fresh food is used up, expeditioners live mostly on frozen and canned food, supplemented to a small degree with hydroponically grown salad vegetables. Food that is kept for a long time must be stored carefully, with the older stocks being used first. Each continental station has emergency food-containers which can be used if the main Green Store which houses the station supplies burns down.
Soft drinks (post-mix), sweets, chocolates and nuts are also supplied. To discourage pilfering of favourite supplies, some chefs have been known to hide delicacies, such as lobster for special occasions, in Brussels sprouts packets in the freezer!
All expeditioners take their turn to help in the kitchen, working the slushy roster.