Pete, a repeat expeditioner, explores the joy of ‘jollies’ at Casey station. Plus, Chef Eddie gets his just desserts.

The jollies

I've been privileged to spend three winters in Antarctica, a continent that despite what I thought before I first came here is not just ice and cold. There are plenty of both but also much, much more. Penguins, icebergs, sunsets, lichens, rocks, and not to be forgotten, other people spending a privileged year here too.

This week I am going to fill the pages with photos of all the great sights, many of which are best observed while off station on a ‘jolly’ to one of the huts around the area. The second half of my tale will be about a person, many of which it takes to make a year, however there is one that has more of an impact on a year down south than most, but more on that later.

Jollies, as the term is known down here, are pretty much any trip off station, be it for work or pleasure, usually a combination of both. Jollies are serious business. If we couldn’t get off station for the year then quite frankly we’d all go stir crazy, no one would enjoy their time in Antarctica and consequently few people would ever return south. Jollies take some organising too. It’s not just a case of grabbing a jacket and heading off. Forms need to be filled in with your intended trip location and travel route, the hut booking board has to be filled in, vehicles sorted with all the correct rescue and survival gear packed, food, radios, GPS, spare batteries etc. and then there’s a weather window to wait for. It’s quite a task but once you do it all and leave station, it’s well worth it.

Jollies get you out into Antarctica, in all sorts of conditions, to see the magic sights this place has to offer. Things change so quickly too, in summer the water is water and in winter it’s ice meaning you can walk on it and even drive vehicles over it. The difference visually is amazing from a clear sunny summers day with the Vanderford Glacier as a backdrop to the deep blue ocean, then in winter with the ocean turned white — you really need to spend a year here to see all there is to see, and then you'll still miss things. As I write this the Adélie penguins are returning for their summer breeding season, the Weddell seals have started returning to pup as well, and very soon more people will return too, with several flights due here shortly.

As fun as these trips are, and as warm as the huts can be after the heater has been on for a few hours, there is always a serious side to the very existence of our field huts. If things do go wrong or the weather turns for the worse while people are out in the field then the huts are literally life savers with their heaters and stoves, stocks of food and somewhere to have a snooze for a few hours or hunker down for a few days until a blizzard passes.

Enough talking though, here’s some photos.


Food photos

As I alluded to earlier, a year in Antarctica takes many people to keep the station running and all the cogs of a small community going. One person, however, has a larger load on their shoulders than most, and that’s the chef.

Everyone on station takes a turn working in the kitchen as ‘slushy’. This means the chef has to work closely with everyone else, the chef’s also a sounding board for this same reason and also has the stomachs of 18 people to keep happy, for a whole year. All this with plenty of produce, but limited fresh produce as we obviously can’t get supplies in here more than once a year and our hydroponics can only grow so much in a small space.

This year we've had the luck of having Eddie, not only an exceptional chef who has tried and succeeded in keeping the food interesting, the variety constant and the quality very high, but a man who’s larger than life personality can not only be heard throughout most of the red shed living quarters daily, but has been a constant uplifting presence on station. From the daily morning greetings to each individual as they walk into the mess, to his passionate explanations of what dish he’s making and how to prepare it, to his life and travel stories which have enlightened us all this year. Eddie thrives on a challenge, loves a good recipe, which he always changes, and is never short of a word to say, or a bowl or two that needs washing — the life of a slushy, or as might be heard from our admired chef, ‘the butler will get it’.

For me personally having good food is a must, having lots of variety and choices too, this definitely makes the year south go quicker and much more pleasantly. Every lunchtime there’s a spread of dishes — always some soup — evenings rarely go by without at least two choices. Friday nights have been a treat with Eddie taking it upon himself to serve up food in the living area: pizza, fish and chips, burgers, parmas, the list goes on. Friday just gone was a three choice menu consisting of steak and chips with Diane/pepper sauce, fisherman’s basket or Asian noodles.

We then have Saturday nights. This is the one evening of the week where most people don’t have to work the next day. It’s the one chance ‘to mix it up’ and have a change, otherwise the days all meld into one and the weeks into months. Saturday nights we have our meal at seven instead of six, the dining table gets set with tablecloths, cutlery, candles and the like, and Eddie works his wonder with entree, main and dessert. This is a time to sit around, have a chat, enjoy a change from the usual weekday meal routine — some Saturdays people are still sitting around chatting into Sunday morning.

So thank you Eddie for your quiet disposition (said tongue-in-cheek for those that know Eddie), your stories, your personality and last but not least thank you for a year of great food.