AntArctic Stories is a podcast that takes you behind the scenes into the rich world of people who live, work, and undertake daring expeditions in the polar regions.
The podcast is produced by a merry band of career polar guides who primarily work in the expedition cruise industry, and is hosted by Heather Thorkelson. AntArctic Stories is our way of bringing the incredible lives of the people we meet and work with into your homes and headsets, no matter where you are in the world.
Jerome Viard - Bon appétit: Tales from the French Pastry Chef that Helped Feed South Georgia's Rat Team
Jerome Viard grew up in France and moved to the UK 13 years ago where he has enjoyed a successful career as a chef, having been head pastry chef at some of the best hotels in Cambridge.
In 2015, he was invited to embark on the adventure of a lifetime as a chef and field assistant for the South Georgia Heritage Trust’s habitat restoration field team during the rat eradication project. The team included 20 people from New Zealand, Australia, the UK and France.
It was quite an adjustment cooking in such a remote environment, with long hours and minimal fresh food deliveries. Nonetheless, Jerome was blown away by the wildlife and cultural heritage of South Georgia, and appreciated the strong community that was built on base.
In this episode, Jerome details the ups and downs of working on such a time-sensitive, high-stakes project in one of the most remote islands in the world.
2:23 The journey from making desserts in a 4-star hotel to feeding a team of 20 on one of the most remote islands in the world
3:11 The job responsibilities of a “rat team” chef as well as helping bait as a field assistant
4:54 What was it like to cook in such a remote environment?
8:22 Making the most of versatile ingredients like powdered milk
10:07 What is Jerome most proud of cooking during his time in South Georgia? Beware those with weak stomachs!
13:20 Why was the rat eradication project necessary and what were the required logistics?
22:11 Keeping busy on base when the project was halted due to bad weather
24:20 The privilege of experiencing South Georgia’s hostile yet stunningly beautiful landscapes, including following in the footsteps of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton
27:55 Jerome returns to South Georgia to support the work of the Heritage Trust
31:44 The difference between working as a chef 7-days-a-week for the rat eradication team and being a Museum Assistant with time off to explore the “travel zone”
33:32 A breathtaking memory - Jerome’s first impressions from the day he arrived in South Georgia in 2015
35:09 A jaw-dropping experience in Gold Harbour in the southeast coast of South Georgia
40:15 Jerome’s advice to those considering a trip to South Georgia
Dr Lesley Cadzow - The Unusual Adventures of a Ship-based Expedition Doctor
Expedition Doctor Lesley Cadzow was born in Scotland and spent her formative years pouring over medical books, with a keen interest in tropical diseases. She trained as a general practitioner before following an opportunity to New Zealand where she found herself working as a pediatric registrar flying premature babies around the North Island.
She then settled in Australia and began her work with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, providing treatment to indigenous communities all over the country.
Through a connection from her time at Glasgow University, she was introduced to expedition cruising and became an onboard doctor with Aurora Expeditions, a tour operator based in Sydney. This opportunity has taken her to the Arctic and Antarctic, and everywhere in between including Papua New Guinea and the Kamchatka Peninsula.
In this episode, Lesley shares with us her fascinating journey from general practice work in Scotland to warming up an unconscious hypothermic scuba diver in Antarctica, with plenty of weird and wonderful tales along the way.
4:20 Early childhood interest in becoming a doctor pouring through medical books as a young girl
5:24 Flying premature babies as a pediatric registrar in New Zealand
6:58 Working with the Royal Flying Doctors Service bringing care to Australia’s most remote communities
10:23 Lesley’s introduction to expedition cruising with a trip to the remote islands off the coast of Scotland
13:07 Crossing the infamous Drake Passage on her first trip to the Antarctic Peninsula
15:09 A “beautiful and spooky” orca encounter while Zodiac cruising through the Lemaire Channel
20:53 Lesley recounts treating a hypothermic scuba diver during an Antarctic expedition
27:15 Practicing medicine in Antarctica is getting “back to basics”
28:25 The difficulty of stitching someone back up during rough seas
32:00 Acupuncture treatment in the Drake Passage and searching for contraception in the Orkney Islands of Scotland
38:23 What happens when the doctor is the one who gets sick?
43:40 A new sense of appreciation gained from guests who come on board with disabilities
47:38 Lesley’s special memory of being “land sick” amongst the penguins
49:31 Future plans including an upcoming expedition by camel to the “red center” of Australia
Five Reasons to Avoid Crowdsourcing your Trip To Antarctica (and what to do instead) with Heather Thorkelson
With an overwhelming amount of information about travelling to Antarctica on the internet, it seems like an easy way to narrow down your options is to ask other people on the internet (in FB groups or Lonely Planet travel forums, etc) what they recommend based on their experience when travelling there.
Today on the podcast we run through five reasons to avoid crowdsourcing your trip to Antarctica and what to do instead.
Theo Crutchley-Mack - Being an Artist in Residence on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia
Theo Crutchley-Mack is a contemporary British artist whose work appears globally in private and public collections. He strives to record the obscure landscape, often abandoned and remote, spending many hours outside drawing in sketchbooks that later become a reference for larger studies. His studio paintings start out as deeply textured wooden bases that form the foundation for a sculptural approach to painting.
In 2018 he was invited to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia as part of their unofficial Artist in Residency program where he painted and documented the ruined whaling stations to help fundraise for the South Georgia Heritage Trust which works to restore the damaged habitats of wildlife on the island.
Described as his most ambitious project yet, the artistic documentation of South Georgia's abandoned whaling stations has resulted in numerous ongoing initiatives which include talks, exhibitions, and even a book.
On today's episode, he walks us through his experience discovering, getting to, and being transformed by this jewel of an island.
HIGHLIGHTS 3:15 How Theo first came to learn about the Artist in Residence program in South Georgia
4:00 Theo describes the lengthy process by which he heard about South Georgia's abandoned whaling stations and then proceeded to try to get funding to get to the Falkland Islands and hopefully, eventually make his way even further south
6:45 What happened when all of Theo's art materials ended up on the wrong military plane and went to Cyprus instead of South Georgia with him
8:45 Theo describes the process by which he was able to logistically get to and obtain government permission to access certain abandoned whaling stations in order to culturally document them
13:20 Theo describes his process for capturing the essence of these remote places and then turning them into works of art
15:30 The most unexpected element of Theo's time on South Georgia
17:05 Why Theo was worried about taking on this project in South Georgia
19:30 What has happened with the work that was produced as a result of Theo's time on the island
22:35 A bit about the book that Theo has put together on the South Georgia project
Alexia Spencer - Growing Greens 650 miles from the North Pole
Alexia Spencer is Chief Operating Officer running day-to-day operations of Polar Permaculture, founded by visionary chef Benjamin Vidmar. They are based in Longyearbyen, Svalbard and their mission is to improve accessibility to fresh and nutritious food through sustainable and resilient systems.
Polar Permaculture currently produces and distributes microgreens, culinary herbs and ornamental flowers to local restaurants and grocers, and their new hydroponic equipment will allow them to grow more leafy greens like kale and arugula.
In this episode, Alexia discusses the company’s vision for reducing waste, as well as current challenges they face such as complicated logistics in receiving shipments to their remote location and pre-existing government regulations, which are in the process of being adjusted to better support their mission.
This spring, Polar Permaculture hopes to expand their portfolio and offer locals the chance to grow their own strawberries and cucumbers at home. Long term, they are focused on “scaling with intention” as they develop exciting new projects.
To learn more about Polar Permaculture, visit https://www.polarpermaculture.com/
2:20 Alexia’s interest in food security in extreme environments led her to Svalbard
4:02 What Polar Permaculture currently grows and is hoping to grow in the near future
5:35 The infrastructure required for their production systems to meet their potential
7:10 Where do they get their seeds, where is the produce grown and what grows best?
8:50 Local partners in Longyearbyen which support Polar Permaculture’s operation
10:15 How they manage any surplus of produce
11:22 The reintroduction of a “circular economy”
13:00 The composting pilot project aimed at minimizing waste
17:10 Current challenges to the growth of Polar Permaculture
19:25 What has the local reception been to the idea of growing produce in Longyearbyen?
21:30 What new produce will be grown with the new hydroponic system?
24:25 Their future vision for raising awareness and providing tools for building resilient food systems
Howard Whelan - Part 2 - Tales from three decades of polar expeditioning
We are joined once again by expeditioner Howard Whelan for Part 2 of his life story from the polar regions. In this episode, we continue Howard’s winding polar journey, including his involvement in the award-winning film Happy Feet, using laser scanners from a “bubble helicopter” to map grounded icebergs and sea ice.
We also discuss the challenges of organizing single-day climbs on the Antarctic Peninsula, and Howard remembers climbing a new route on Mount Demaria which sits across the Penola Strait from Vernadsky Station.
Howard also reflects on changes in the tourism industry. Notably, the increase in the number of vessels and the coordination provided by IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators), and how experiences can vary greatly depending on the flexibility and timing of the operation. Finally, we take a moment to appreciate that sometimes the truest of connections to Antarctica can be experienced in the simplest of moments.
1:30 Being on the leading edge of tourism-based mountaineering excursions on the Peninsula
3:42 Observations of changes in the glacial landscape of South Georgia
7:45 Howard becomes involved in the production of the award-winning film, Happy Feet
12:25 Months spent collecting data to create the animated world of Happy Feet
15:30 Howard’s mentorship by successful businessmen and adventurer Dick Smith
17:37 Reflections on the tourism industry then and now
22:00 The challenge for today’s expedition leaders
25:04 A lesson learned about celebrating true connection with Antarctica
South Georgia pastry chef
I have wanted to visit Antarctica since a teenager. Finally retired, I was able to visit this magnificent, indescribable place in 2022. My husband I traveled with Atlas Ocean Voyages. Once back home in California, I could not stop thinking and dreaming of the thrilling experience of being in Antarctica. We have booked trip for this year, and it will include South Georgia!
I could so identify with the pastry chef who longed so to return after his year with the rat eradication project. He is a wonderful story teller. Yes, I too long to return. We must protect this unique and important part of the planet.