Congratulations Rocket

Congratulations Rocket

Mawson celebrated last Friday as our very own Rodney ‘Rocket’ Charles was awarded an Australian Antarctic Division Director’s Award for his outstanding achievements and commitment to the Australian Antarctic program over many years.

Director Dr Tony Fleming addressed a packed theatrette at headquarters in Kingston, Tasmania with video links to all Antarctic and subantarctic stations where he said the following:

“Rocket has consistently displayed over numerous seasons, outstanding quality in his work on a daily basis. He has become a benchmark for Chefs working in Antarctica. To be considered “almost as good as Rocket” is high praise indeed.

He displays the highest degree of technical excellence accompanied by a deep level of understanding of the needs of his “clients”.

In his role as Chef, Rocket must meet multiple deadlines daily. He manages these pressures with a calm professionalism and softly spoken authority which belies the intensity of the station kitchen.”

With no streamers on station The Mawsonites celebrated by throwing the next best thing: toilet paper. It was a very proud moment for Rocket and we all believe he is a deserved recipient. Well done Rocket!

Rocket has been with the AAD for many years and all that know him speak very highly of him as a chef, expeditioner and a friend. So perhaps we share a little about this man with the rest of you. He is a ‘wee snippet of a bio’ about Rocket.

What did you do before this?

Prior to my Antarctic adventure which started in 2002, I was one of the luckiest chefs in Tasmania and was able to work in some of the most remote wilderness resorts and restaurants in the state including Cradle Mountain Lodge, Franklin Manor in Strahan, Freycinet Lodge, and Edge of the Bay in Coles Bay .

Why Antarctica?

The seed was planted while I was working at Cradle Mountain Lodge, working as a chef in a remote area with only six staff and six Parks and Wildlife rangers. We all attended a medical mountain craft course, (search and rescue) and it was an instructor who had had an adventure in the Antarctica and he showed us his slide show. I thought I could do that. It took another twenty years for me to fill out the application. I think with all the wildness areas that I worked in during that time, in Tasmania and the outdoor adventure activities I participated in, why not the Antarctic?

Previous Antarctic experience?

It all started in 2002 in Hobart, Antarctic Division, Kingston, Tasmania, starting out as a summer chef, where we flew to Cape Town, South Africa and then on to Casey station. I was hooked from that time on. I have been south six times now, five winters and that first summer. I have worked at Casey, Davis and now Mawson, with only Macquarie Island left to do.

How will you spend your spare time?

After I settle in to my workplace, I would like to explore Mawson station and the outlying areas and what it has to offer. I also enjoy being a part of the social life with the wintering crew here on station. My interests are music — I play guitar and vocals — art and photography. There is never a dull moment here on station.

What do you miss?

Family and friends, fresh fruit and vegetables, the sound and the smell of the rain, long walks on the beach near Coles Bay and pottering around the garden, loving life as we all do.

Best thing about being here?

The adventure in Antarctica and the people you meet (expeditioners). As a return ‘offender’ to Antarctica, each winter or year are never the same and everyone has something different to offer. I enjoy getting to explore the area and seeing the sites, sharing these moments with the crew. That’s what it’s all about.

Midwinters at Mawson

As night was slowly falling over city, town and bush, from a shed up red alley came the crew of Mawson station. Their laughter, loud and raucous, could be heard around the rocks, and something else was happening around the corner of the docks? Perhaps a poem for another occasion. Such a good night was had at midwinter dinner by our crew that we cancelled a course and forwent some of the evening’s festivities and poems as we were enjoying our surroundings, the food, friendship and festivities so much we ran out of time.

But not before we started out with pre-dinner cocktails and canapés served in our very own ‘Katabatic cocktail lounge’ by our very own sophisticated cocktail waiters (well one of them was, the other one was an ‘electrician’ in a former life). Both the waiters had gone to considerable trouble to source all the necessary trimmings including stuffed olives for the martinis, glacé cherries with umbrellas, and went so far as to be dressed for the occasion resplendent in bow ties and stylish hats, wielding the latest fashion in highly polished shakers filled with freshly chipped, locally sourced pure glacial ice as expected in all the world’s finest venues. A truly stylish establishment and start to a great evening.

They say the food is not everything, — I will get to that — the company is what really makes an evening like this. Sharing it with a group of people who have all worked hard and made contributions to the success of the evening made it rewarding for everyone.

Come with me first on a journey to a place of regal, international pageantry with an ambience of style. A silver set table laid with hand knotted, freshly starched fleur de-lis damask table linen, tied with blue ribbon matching the central blue theme of the table, complete with individually hand painted watercolour menus of local scenes by our local artist and award winning chef, Rodney “Rocket” Charles. The table was set with great direction and deportment from Lydia with the able help of many including Jose. It was surrounded by national flags of the world including the ANARE flag, all hung by Jens and his team of flag bearers.

The food, to quote someone in passing: “It was the sort of food you would happily pay $50.00 a serve for in any high class restaurant”. When you have an award winning chef at the helm, what more could you ask for? Dinner included Tasmanian rock lobster, scallops (some of it was washed down with Dom Pérignon champagne) and it just got better from there.

We were entertained and privileged to receive replies to invitations and warm wishes for midwinter, from not only the Prime minister Mr Abbott but also the Minister for the Environment, Mr Hunt, and our very own Director, Mr Tony Fleming to name a few VIPs and dignitaries.

Included was a reply from an expeditioner’s wife and, his dog! There were video addresses by HRH Queen Elizabeth and the Pope but I suspect these may have been wind ups?

The real star of the evening was introduced in a hand written apology from one of the original founding Mawson station expedition members from 1954, Mr John Russell, whose “mind is willing but body frail” — at 94 his mind is still very sharp. There was a ten minute video clip of him recalling some of his experiences as well.

We ended the evening carried away only to find ourselves transported to a room in some smoky night club somewhere far away, fully lit by a professional lighting crew headed by tech guru ‘Gazzimo'. I believe it’s one of his stage names.

Entertainment was provided by none other than the infamous extravaganza of no, not the Travelling Wilburys, not Pink Floyd or just any other ordinary, mundane, international act but Tired (or was that Tight). No, that’s right, ‘TIDE CRACK’ led by, well, hard to say if it was the drummer who was also lead singer Garry, The Doc on lead guitar, ‘Rockin’ Rocket or Curly on vocals and acoustic, or even the seedy looking bass player Chris who leapt animated from the corner on occasions. Someone was leading them but we are not sure who. What a bunch of rock stars if ever there were. We can’t wait for what is in store later in the year.

To end in the words of one of the songs performed, “Wish you were here”.