An Antarctic food cache

In the old days Antarctica wasn’t mapped and measured by satellites like it is now. In the past it was all about exploration. Scientists were dropped at bases by ship, and then left for at least a year - sometimes two. Very occasionally more.

When winter comes the sea ice freezes up and the area of sea ice is vast. But after the winter, spring brings long days of light, and that meant travel by dog sled was possible over the ice!

To make the sled journeys more efficient food caches were left along the coast the previous summer perhaps by the same ship that left them. Then the scientists could journey easily over the frozen sea ice to the food cache, and then work inland in their area of operations.

Which brings me to these pictures. This is a food cache left by a ship (I think) in 1962 for a science team setting out from Hope Bay.

A pile of wooden sledge boxes that contain all human needs: chocolate, biscuits, marmite, meat and soup. What more could you want?

Because the Antarctic Peninsula is warming so rapidly temperatures are now often above freezing in this location in the summer, and melt and rain have clearly caused some damage to this cache. I took the pictures in 2002 so I have no idea if it is still there.

If you want to find out how to cook with these varied ingredients you can consult the Fit for a Fid1 recipe book which contains wonders such as savoury seal brains on toast (page 37 key ingredient 1 prepared seal brain), and Spanish paella with shag2.

The research the early scientists did based around food caches like this is extraordinary. At Hope Bay the records show that dog sled teams covered 69,000 miles. With two dogs Mac and Bryn born at Hope Bay in 1958 covering 14,440 miles. These two astonishing numbers come care of the best book to read about this subject: "Of Dogs and Men" by Kevin Walton and Rick Atkinson.

The title is a play on “Of Ice and Men” by Sir Vivian Fuchs which is the early history of the British Antarctic Survey. It is worth looking at the remarkable amount of science and discovery they achieved during these times too.

Where is this cache?

It’s in Antarctic Sound shown below. I may track down the exact location from my notebooks. I took these pics in 2002 so I have no idea if it is still there,

Antarctic Place Names www siteIn Antarctic Sound.

Antarctic Sound Antarctica

 

NOTES

1. FIDS stands for Falkland Island Dependency Survey. In the old days as detailed in Fuchs book, people labelled their kit FIDS, so it became a slang for scientists who worked for them. In the late 1960s when the FIDS became the British Antarctic Survey the slang stuck and it is still occasionally used.

2. Gerald Cutland also published his recipes in the journal Polar Record.

3. I found a wonderful paper about this sort of eating by Jeff Rubin

Rubin, Jeff. "Train Oil and Snotters: Eating Antarctic Wild Foods." Gastronomica 3.1 (2003): 37-57.

which can be downloaded as a PDF.

Leave a Reply