...and his girl left behind. Justin Chambers is going to Antarctica as a chef, and leaving behind all that is normal, for a whole year. Together, but apart, we will document our experiences (well, he'll give me the info verbally and I will turn that in to a blog post!!) as we live in two quite different worlds for those 12 months.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A day of many nations

"Friday the 3rd of December turned out to be one of the biggest days so far for me. I was asked to accompany a small delegation (as DSL) from Davis to visit the Indian station being built down the road, then fly on to the Chinese station for a catch up. Well I did a stint in the kitchen 5:30-11:30am took a brief shower, grabbed my camera and a few warm clothes and headed off to the heli hut. Having never been in a helicopter before I was quite excited.  I was also excited by the prospect of meeting other people who call Antarctica their home. The flight from Davis took around 40mins. I was still very tired from the field training the day before and managed to squeeze out around 1000 yawns before touching down on a Russian supply ship......... so there you have it, just because you yawn doesn’t mean your neurons aren’t running around as fast as they can. 
Glacier ice formations

The chopper flight was awe inspiring, flying over all sorts of rock and ice formations and colours not easily replicated on a paint palate. I finally saw the enormity of my surroundings..................absolutely astounding.  Large ice fields as far as the eye can see were dwarfed only by the magnificent Amery Ice shelf in the distance as we made our way closer to the Indians.


Landing on the Russian Ship
We landed on the back of the Ivan Papanin supply ship, disembarked the chopper, met up with the Indian station leader and made our way to the front of the ship and into a small meeting room. Once in the meeting room we were asked to sit around some tables facing outwards from the walls. There were chairs placed around the rest of the room facing us. It defiantly felt and looked like a political briefing or maybe the meeting of two prize fighters before a match, then the big cameras came out and I was almost ready to say “no comment”....................LOL.

We chatted amongst ourselves for about half an hour....................as the awkward pauses presented themselves more frequently it was decided to get off the ship and have a look around the Indian station (construction site). The station is set to be operational by the end of next summer. Wow, there is a lot of work to do. The Engineer of the project explained to us his vision and time lines for the base. It all seemed very impressive and looking at the sketch of the finished product, very pleasing on the eye (unlike a lot of buildings around the Antarctic).

From on the ice next to the ship we said our goodbyes and took off in the helis headed for Zhongshan only ten minutes away.
As we landed a couple of the Chinese expeditioners came to greet us and show us to their meeting room. The station leader came in and introduced himself to all of us .................we then sat down at a table ready to go through the motions all over again. A mass of people then entered the dining room across the hall from us. It was a Russian delegation from Prospect station (which is only one kilometre away from the Chinese). 

New Chinese Living Quarters
Well from then on the mood was lifted and everybody became a little more social. A couple of the Chinese team gave us a tour of their station. There are a lot of new buildings being finished to modern standards......their new LQ (living quarters) is fantastic and very large .....I believe it is able to accommodate up to 150 people. It has a bank of offices up stairs, an extremely large kitchen with dining, wash up and storage all separate and a basket ball court just metres from all this. The kitchen the chef is using at the moment is about the size of my bedroom here...................not very big at all ...............poor bastard. When you watch the movies set in small villages or tight little back ally dwellings in china.............the camera always seems to pan around and into a tight little kitchen with one or maybe two people surrounded by woks, oil, food and 20 years of grime..............well this is the movie set for all those shots.

Chef, Justin and Chinese DSL
Anyway after our tour of the station which took in the power house, Met building, the new atmospheric building and various other facilities we went back into the dining room ready for a late lunch.........early dinner (5:30pm). The food was laid out in chafing dishes inside the kitchen pass, and a table was filled with drinks in nice neat rows, Chinese red and white wine, Chinese rice wine, rice liquor (which smells and tastes like bile), sprite, coke, orange juice and of course, vodka. Speeches were made, gifts were handed out and food was consumed. We ate fresh omelette spring rolls, battered prawns with chilli sauce, a toasted sesame salad of rice noodles and bean shoots (the bean shoots are grown from seed in various jars around the kitchen and then cut when needed, these looked like pea shoots), roast duck, grilled corn and rice, pork dumpling and finally a non descript sweet savoury sort of mini pasty thingy. All very nice, I was starving so I went up for thirds...............just as well cause when I was on my way back to the table a couple of Russians pulled me to the side and asked me if I wanted a vodka...........................well?  Hey you can’t say no for more than just diplomatic reasons, and so down the hatch it went. Two more glasses later I was feeling very good about my situation. The Russians drink orange juice slowly after they down a vodka in one hit. It’s not the vodka orange I’m used to but when in Rome.   

Saying Goodbye
By then end of our visit I had managed to down more vodka in two hours than I had in two years, also I had managed to drink a fermented rice paddy, half a bottle of rough red and two cups of coke (I needed something for the toasts and it’s all I could see), made friends with the DSL, Chef and a Chinese guy who was having his birthday on this very special day, danced in  a circle with arms on shoulders shouting oye, oye, oye in a Cossack kind of chant while some guy screamed into the karaoke machine, and taken away a lot of very surreal memories.
By the time we flew out I was ready for bed. 
From the chopper

Home Sweet Home

The flight home was even better than the flight there.  I didn’t yawn and managed to get in a couple of happy snaps. Hope you enjoy them."

2 comments:

  1. Great blog!!!
    If you like, come back and visit mine: http://albumdeestampillas.blogspot.com

    Thanks,
    Pablo from Argentina

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  2. Hey Justin!
    What a fabulous experience visiting the other bases! & awesome photos accompanying your fabulous synopsis .. already a book in the making (which you MUST write! for future Antartic expeditioners).
    Meanwhile, back in downtown Noosaville .. Pimms No.1(invented by an ancestor of mine!)was most enjoyable with the girls! Thanks Jo!
    Keep well, Justin. Look forward to hearing more of your fantastic life down there!
    Love, Janette c

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