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What we eat

A food box

Do you need any special equipment to cook your food?

When we camp we use the same type of stove that Captain Scott would have used 100 years ago. It is a small paraffin stove, into which you can put a few hundred millilitres of paraffin. You have to light the stove with methylated spirits. Once alight, the primus stove heats the tent and your food. You don't need a fridge. All our food is tinned or dehydrated. You just add melted snow - water. Outside the tent it is cold enough for you to make ice cream! Gas stoves would literally freeze in the Antarctic, so we use paraffin. The paraffin is carried in large "jerry cans".

Sometimes we try and make toast and construct a primitive oven to make bread. Making pancakes is also popular on days when you cannot leave your tent.

What is the food like at the South Pole?

On Antarctic stations food is very important. There are large freezers of food and plenty of ingredients to make bread and all the dishes you like. What is missing is fresh food. No salads through the winter, no fresh eggs, all that is consumed has to be frozen, tinned or freeze dried. If you are camping in a tent for months on end as many scientists do each summer you have a much more basic food, that is all tinned or dehydrated. Your field rations give around 3700 calories a day, with the main energy input from butter, "ships" biscuits, chocolate and meat granules. This food is quite monotonous although you add spices to most of the food to get some variety. On the Antarctic stations cooks are employed to cook all the meals, except on Sunday when they have the day off, and everybody else takes a turn.

What would happen if you peel a banana outside in the South Pole?

It depends how cold the banana is! I have never tried, but I assure you that a Mars Bar at below -20°C is so hard to get your teeth into that you fear you will break your teeth to get a bite.

What kind of food do you eat?

The food we had on camp was dried camping food. The food is in large boxes called 'man food' boxes and each box has enough food for two people for 10 days. The main problem with this is that there is not much variety in each box so we usually end up eating the same thing every day. This is not so great so we usually take a few other things as well - treats and stuff - to keep us going.

What do you have to eat?

Enough to keep you alive and more besides. Roughly 3700 kcalories of food each day. Twice as much as you would need at home. All this to keep out the cold and replace energy lost in being active. The food is based on carbohydrates (biscuits and butter), together with dehydrated meat, jam and dried vegetables. A soup a day and quite a large bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate.

How does all your food and equipment arrive in Antarctica?

The food and equipment is sent down by ship. Usually the two BAS ships leave the UK in September and travel down to the Falkland Islands. We would then fly down to the Falkland Islands later in the year to join the ship or fly on to Antarctica. This can be a problem as you have to pack several months before leaving so you have to be very organised.