This week’s news comes from the comms team and features stories on hydroponics, beer brewing on station and an epic jolly to Watts hut.

Hydroponics re-engineered

A necessity of life in Antarctica is hydroponics — where we grow fresh vegetables, greens and herbs. Everything we grow is raised from seed so it takes a while to reap the rewards. It’s especially essential this year as we didn’t receive any fresh vegetables on the V3 resupply in late January when the summer crew were collected and we were left to fend for ourselves for the long, long winter.

Over the last month we have upgraded our lettuce production setup, taking advantage of a tiered approach to maximise the use of our limited space. A huge thanks goes to Jeff, Keith, Bob and Mark for their work over the recent weekends. Mark has also taken it upon himself to see if he can successfully grow a pumpkin within the limited confines of the hydroponics building.

Most of the station is involved in tending the garden. On a daily basis we take readings of the water for pH and nutrient levels and tend to the seedlings. Mysteriously though, sometimes a few cherry tomatoes or sweet peas don’t make it to the kitchen.

Direct from the ‘Vestfold Brewery '

Here in the Vestfolds we have a tradition of brewing the best beer on the continent. Each year we try to improve on the quality of our beer through the experience of new expeditioners and the wisdom of previous brew masters. But mostly, brew nights are a great time to catch up with others and reflect on the dramas of the day. There is always something to be done whether it’s stocking the fridge, bottling, or making up a new brew for the midwinter beer competition.

Traditionally we brew apple cider, ginger beer, lager, draught and stout — so naturally combinations of these have been tried and appreciated. The black & tan (stout + lager) and ginger apple were definitely favourites over summer and we are currently working on a Davis LSD (lager + stout + draught), which is showing early signs of being one of our best yet!

The brew competition is also shaping up to be a real challenge for our expeditioners this year. Keith has bottled his chilli lager; Rich has combined the wonders of Mars bars, espresso and stout; Bob has crafted an oatmeal and coffee stout.

Stay tuned for updates direct from the ‘Vestfold Brewery'.

The hard slog to Watts

Following on from his heroic tales of adventure from last week, Nick and I decided to brave the elements and make another push to Watts hut. We initially planned to follow the path taken by the group two weeks previous, who had an epic journey trudging through (at times) knee-deep snow. Instead, we made some slight detours and took in some of the sights, such as Scale Lake and Jackson Hill.

Contrary to Nick’s claim last week (that he always brings the good weather), we experienced a mostly grey day on Saturday (with some bizarre flat-light at times). Luckily though, the winds stayed low and our average temperature of minus 15°C only felt like minus 25°C when crossing through a couple of the valleys, or standing atop Jackson Hill. We pushed through and made the 12km walk in 5.5 hours, but I was beaten by the time we got to the hut. We fired up the heaters and popped the pasta on to boil. Who says you can’t have dinner at 4:30pm? Choosing our nightcaps (Glenmorangie scotch for me, Pernod for Nick), we undertook some marathon games of 500 to pass the evening away. Nick was far my superior and handed me a 5–0 walloping!

After a mediocre sleep, we were up and off from the hut by 9am on Sunday. We were treated to a few hours of broken clouds, which gave us the chance for a few specky sunrise photos. Pressing hard and fast (as Nick “The Gazelle” does so well) we made our way along the coast of Ellis Fjord, through the Snake Lake valley, then bee-lined it from Moraine Bay back to station covering just over 15 kms in 5.5 hours.

Worn out and barely keeping pace, I followed Nick along Dingle Road back into station. We dumped our packs, flipped our fire tags and headed straight to the Green Store for a relaxing debrief in the spa!

Does life get any better than this?

Rich Y.