Episode 51: Living in Antarctica
Updated: Sep 7
Our guest for this episode of ExtraVirgin Food and Travel podcast takes the prize for being in the most remote, most unique place in the world to take our call. It’s one of the few places in the world that’s free of Covid-19 and, depending on the weather, it takes between seven and 10 days to reach by ship.
Research scientist Alison Dean spoke to us from Casey, an Australian Antarctic Division station that’s almost 4000 kilometres south of Perth, Western Australia. Alison is the station leader at Casey, which is home to a meteorological centre and many other important research projects.
New Zealand-born, Alison trained as a geologist and has a passion for the continent. She has worked in Antarctica over the last 20 years and is on her 10th Antarctic winter. She says one of the things she loves about her job is the diverse people from all around the world who she gets to live and work with.
We hear what it’s like to spend winter in such a harsh environment, what they eat and what they do for fun in the long cold months; outdoor movies on a screen made of snow, anyone? As station leader, it is Alison’s job to build a sense of community among the 90 or so expeditioners who arrived in summer. The majority leave again before winter but there are 26 of them who stayed on for the winter this year.
We also hear about the fascinating research being done, including weather, climate and sea level monitoring, and how it aids understanding of our mysterious planet.
“You can’t really do anything in isolation on this planet,” Alison says. “You drop a plastic bottle in the gutter somewhere in the world and we begin to find plastics in fish in Antarctica. And that’s just one example. You can’t think of this world as separate - you have to think of it as one entity.”
Alison has mixed feelings about the growth in Antarctic tourism which has been booming since the 1980s. She explains why she believes that even though tourism to the icy continent needs to be tightly controlled, everyone should visit Antarctica once. Click here to listen.
In the week that we recorded this episode with Alison, Qantas announced that from November, travellers will be able to take sightseeing flights over Antarctica. Departing from Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne, the flights won't touch down on overseas soil, qualifying them as domestic flights. Billed as the world's most unique scenic flight, they'll cost between AUD$1199 per person for economy and up to $7999 for business class.