Chef cooks up a real Antarctic adventure

Richard Priestland with part of the Halley research station
Richard Priestland with part of the Halley research station

A chef from the Daventry area is in the Antarctic as part of the team moving a British research base.

Richard Priestland, originally from Kilsby, works as a chef at the Halley VI Research Station, on the Brunt Ice Shelf along the coastline of Antarctica.

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is in the process of moving the base due to cracks appearing in the ice which threaten to leave the base floating on a giant iceberg.

Richard said: “My past jobs have included working in five-star hotels in London and Newbury to working in ski chalets in the French Alps and also time working in Manchester and the Cotswolds.”

Now rather than cooking with fresh ingredients in the green British countryside, he is dealing with tinned and frozen foods in a kitchen where the nearest food delivery is 40km away, and if you break a mixer it requires a replacement to be brought in from another continent.

Richard said: “Fresh ingredients are a real luxury, we had one delivery by boat around Christmas and the stocks are dwindling now. Only the potatoes and eggs have made it until now still fresh. Everything else is frozen or dried or tinned.

“It’s a real challenge using the different set of ingredients to what I’m used to in the UK.

“I’m required to cook ridiculous amounts of food here – a huge cooked breakfast, massive hot lunch with cake in the afternoon and a large dinner.

“Everyone leaves the base at the end of the season putting on so much weight.”

The Halley base, and its ancillary buildings such as the Drewery accommodation block, is designed to be relocated. The BAS is making the move now, during the Antarctic summer.

Richard said: “The weather is OK but very changeable, it hovers around -10C to -5C except when there’s a storm and it can plummet to -25C with five metres of visibility.

“Sometimes they have to put a ban on travel outside when it’s blowing a storm.

“The majority of the staff are based in a building on skis called the Drewery which is just a housing unit which they can drag. Other people are staying in modified containers and I’m staying in a tent at the moment which is freezing.

“The main base people see on TV and the internet only has enough space for the winter team to stay in.”