Antarctica Travel Map

Year In, Year Out

Hours later we see the lights of Patriot Hills and a more welcome sight it is hard to imagine. We are practically blown in. Steve and Fran drive in, very uneasy riders. We’ve made it, thanks to more than a little bit of luck and determination to get through the eye of the storm. The camp has endured the same horrendous weather conditions we have, but at least everyone there was inside.

There are huge snow drifts covering everything and piled high around the tents and access areas. The pathways have been totally obliterated. We need to dismount to get through the last section. We quickly unload and dump our bags into our tents. It takes quite an effort just to push the snow from the flaps and scramble an entry.

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Then it’s a race into the cook tent where we hurriedly pour down several very welcome cups of steaming coffee which slowly work through to warm the extremities. Fran seems totally unfazed and is immediately in the kitchen section to help Ros continue preparing the evening meal. There are streamers around and everything seems unusually festive. Being so far removed from my normal daily life, here in a world where it is always daylight and dusk never occurs, I have lost track of time and date. It is actually New Year’s Eve. We are going to have a special New Year meal and party. Wow! I will be celebrating the New Year in Antarctica. This will truly be a time to remember. I think back a few hours, how it could have ended so differently. I could have spent it huddled inside a frozen tent or even worse crouching next to an upturned ski-doo. This is definitely going to be a night I won’t forget.

There are still some hours before dinner is ready and the celebrations have been arranged later than usual to occur nearer the bewitching hour of midnight, Antarctic time. First I decide to trudge through the deep snow back to my tent to change. I think the occasion also calls for a shave and indeed an overall wash. Most of the others think I am going a little too far, as they don’t think there’s a need to change or clean up especially. One announces formally, ‘There’s no need to panic, the Queen’s not coming after all.’ What does he mean?

I return to find everyone else has already congregated inside the cook tent. There are coloured balloons, flags of all nations, streamers and anything else colourful draped across the sides of the tent. Immediately I walk in and have taken off my outer garments, I am grabbed and forced to join in the toasts to the numerous countries we represent. I don’t need much forcing. When we finish those off we start on those not represented.

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