Some say the best gifts are homemade, but imagine competing with a mechanical engineer who makes a Secret Santa surprise.
Staff celebrating a White Christmas at Scott Base Antarctica set themselves a seemingly daunting annual task – a DIY gift made on ice.
Paddy Power, who is spending his 13th season in the Deep South, said the staff went to great lengths to create the perfect gift.
“I’ve seen miniature Primus stoves that actually work, I’ve seen models of Snowcats and Hagglunds, from stained photo frames to homemade chess boards to chess pieces,” he said. he declares.
“You can see people on Christmas Eve rushing around with a certain level of stress trying to finish what they’re doing.”
Power said staff would take a break from their six-day work week to enjoy a traditional festive Christmas Eve feast, prepared by the heads of the research station.
“They cook up a huge feast with all the traditional turkeys and hams, and lots of great pastries and sweet stuff,” he said.
Power will enter the kitchen on Christmas Day to give chefs a break, when he plans to honor his British heritage by making a great curry.
For a second season, a lower-than-normal number of people travel to Antarctica, under a strict and managed isolation plan to try to keep the continent free from Covid-19.
About 200 New Zealanders are expected to spend the 2021-22 season at Ross Island research station, including scientists and maintenance crews.
Power, who heads field operations, said there is always a strong camaraderie at Base Scott.
“You miss the buzz from the science groups that are coming in because they are excited about what they are going to do and achieve on the ground,” he said.
“Nonetheless, there is a great atmosphere around the station and everyone is still doing their best to support the science we can. With 24 hours of sunshine there is plenty of time to tidy everything up.”
Before staff fly south, they must complete a 14-day secluded stay at a private lodge in Methven, which will cost New Zealand’s Antarctica dearly.
International researchers stay in MIQ hotels.
People must be vaccinated, have four negative Covid-19 tests before they leave, and one when they arrive.
Work was scaled back last season to support long-term science monitoring programs, essential maintenance, priority engineering projects, and Base Scott redevelopment tasks.
Antarctic New Zealand chief executive Sarah Williamson said very few scientists visited the base last year.
“Losing a year of research for some scientists is really difficult,” she said.
“This year we’ve been able to find ways for them to head south and do their jobs, and for some of them we’ve been able to pull data from a distance. This season is a lot more like a normal season. “
Dozens of Covid-19 cases were reported at a Chilean Antarctic base last December, but no other country on the continent has publicly reported more.
The aging Ross Island research station will be replaced with three interconnected buildings and its modernized wind farm, as part of a $ 344 million redevelopment.
The new base will be built in the port of Timaru and shipped to Antarctica in eight modules, where it will replace the old station at Pram Point.
The project is designed as a “secure, fit for purpose and environmentally sustainable scientific research base that will support New Zealand’s presence in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica for the next 50 years.” .
The design transforms the resort from backpacker-style accommodation to an upscale lodge with stunning views, accommodating 100 people.
The government will foot the entire bill, including $ 306 million to replace the existing base and redevelop the wind farm, and an additional $ 38 million for operating costs.
A report from Antarctica in New Zealand found that some people had to sleep in modified shipping containers due to overcrowding during the summer months.
The report also highlighted the fire risks due to aging electrical systems, buildings that do not meet safety standards and a failing and outdated water system.
Construction is expected to start in 2022 and the entire project is expected to be completed in 2027.