Monday, June 25, 2007

Mid Winter's Day

The week's highlight dawned with breakfast in bed for most, but I was already up and about having drawn the short straw of launching the weather balloon. Weather work done, we settled into the lounge for champagne and a selection of four canapes.

Appetizers in the bar

The main meal, served in the dining room, was exquisite. Ant had spent the last three days putting it all together, although he modestly described the next six courses as "quite an easy menu, really".

How does this sound?
  • Honey roasted butternut squash with panfried porcini mushrooms;
  • Duo of trout & monkfish fillets with bearnaise emulsion and an asparagus , green bean & shallot salad;
  • Marinated barbecue noisettes of lamb, canon of beef on a bed of onion puree served with griddled vegetables, fondant potatoes and a raspberry balsamic port jus;

Good? I wont even start on the deserts!

The Main Meal. Note photographs of all teams since 1961 on the walls.

Sufficiently fed, we retired to the lounge to open presents and await the BBC World Service's Mid Winter Broadcast. Presents are the highlight of the Antarctic winter, a tradition starting with the early twentieth century expeditions of Scott et. al.

In Halley, names were drawn from a hat at our first meal together after the ship left, so we've had about three months to get to know the recipient's likes and make something to suit. A a great deal of effort went into the crafting of the gifts, with most reflecting the maker's or receiver's trade.

The presents are opened

I drew Andy, the generator mechanic's name from the hat. This posed a bit of a difficulty as it was going to be hard to use the metal-workshop without my doings being overseen. I somehow managed to slip in unnoticed to manufacture a cheese board and knife set, handy for when he moves to France on returning.

All the presents

The overall standard was incredibly high, with sculptures, puzzles, paintings and even a working steam engine among the collection. I was well pleased with my gift from Pete - a CD rack shaped like a wooden field box, which also contained two infuriatingly difficult puzzles!

The itinerary concluded with the final tradition of the BBC's Mid Winter Broadcast, a programme with messages to all the BAS Antarctic Bases from the BAS Director and, most importantly, loved ones back home.

These messages are broadcast from Britain using the High Frequency band and a transmitter of many kilowatts, probably the size of a small house. As the signal can reach right round the world it's a good chance to demonstrate our musical taste, as all messages are read over each base's choice of soundtrack. The BBC kindly described this year's choices as 'eclectic'. We chose upbeat 80's classic, Echo Beach, which K.E.P. trumped with The Muppet Song (de dah da dah...) and Bird Island with Y.M.C.A (why...?). Only Rothera let the side down, going for for something contemporary but boring by Muse.

It was great to hear familiar voices from home, words of thanks and encouragement from Cambridge and a special message by... I'm not saying. You'll have to click the link to find out.


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