Dear AtkaXpress fans,
Since 31 July 2020, we – the 41st overwintering team – have been on duty for the AWI and the Laeisz Shipping Group. Last time I started telling you about all the things I get to do here at the Neumayer Station III. There’s still plenty left to say, but first I’ll talk about my work.
My job involves much more than just baking our bread every day, preparing food, and thinking about what to cook the next day: I ask my colleagues if they have any special requests, or what they’d like to eat this week. I regularly make cakes, stews and roast dinners, and once a month, always on a Sunday, we have cheese fondue; everyone looks forward to that. There will be a real celebration when we have fresh vegetables once again. I also have to make a start on the preparations for the summer. For each dish I make, I also have to do the ‘mis en place’, in other words precooking, vacuum packing and freezing it in individual portions. Because when the summer guests arrive, there will be far more work to do. Then I have to serve breakfast for the team between 7 and 8, a mid-morning snack at 10, lunch between noon and 1, afternoon tea at 2 and the evening meal at 6. In the winter I also prepare food boxes for the various traverses that will take place in the summer.
Whenever possible, we try to eat together at midday. Of course, it’s not compulsory: everyone has their own daily routine and not everyone can come to lunch on time. But I’m there, and anyone who arrives late still gets something to eat. We always eat together in the evenings. It’s important that we all see each other every day to chat about our work as well as personal matters. During meals we discuss various issues that need to be dealt with. Several projects have to run permanently, and some colleagues need assistance with them. We all offer to provide the necessary help. That’s one of the unique things here in the Antarctic – but more about that later.
I also clear out the storerooms and freezers, make an inventory of all the food and drink, reorganise the stores and work on a new inventory control system so that we can keep close tabs on supplies. This means that I can later pass on my inventory to my successor, and that I always know exactly what does and doesn’t need to be restocked.
We celebrate birthdays and holidays, too. It’s good to have the opportunity to dress up now and then, and to have a special meal. The most important holiday in the Antarctic is Midwinter, on 21 June, which also happens to be Georg von Neumayer’s birthday. It’s celebrated all across the continent and every station sends greetings and pictures from their overwintering. It’s really wonderful.
Salt: we have successfully harvested and dried our first Antarctic salt using natural processes. It’s great and we’re all excited about it!
Naturally, we appreciate this unique opportunity to live and work here, and to be so close to mother nature in all her simplicity and beauty. We allow ourselves a bit of free time, too: we pay a visit to our neighbours – a huge colony of emperor penguins – and observe, full of enthusiasm, these magnificent creatures.
What does it mean to help colleagues with their various duties? For me it means having the opportunity to discover new things and to learn things that I would otherwise never have tried. With Linda, we measure the snow density; with Peter, we take a caterpillar truck to re-mark the various routes to the numerous outposts with flags; and with Paul, we take core samples from the sea ice or we install buoys on the ice to monitor even more parameters or measure the sea-ice mass balance.
To sum up: having the opportunity to be here and to work here, expanding my knowledge, the collegiality, living and working closely together, are the best things that I’ve experienced in my career. I’ve learnt to once again value the small pleasures in life, and to appreciate that we live in abundance. If we all thought like this, our time on Earth would be even better and our planet would likely be in much better shape.*