Antarctica Food: A Guide to What You Can Eat

Antarctica is an attractive destination for researchers, scientists, ecologists, biologists, etc. – all of them attempting to unravel its mysteries and gain a deeper understanding of what the continent has to offer.

Thanks to the expedition of thousands of explorers, we know much more about the icy and otherwise thought inhabitable continent of Antarctica. But something you might be curious about is, what do people eat there? Surely, they don’t hunt down seals and eat it raw or roasted?

During such expeditions, the visitors to this extreme country typically reside in research stations with its own chef, lodgings, and everything necessary for sustenance.

There’s a base station that receives a shipment once a year – the entire supplies typically last about a year. During the onset of summer, some aircraft may deliver fresh fruits and vegetables, but these supplies are few and far spaced. 

Everything you do in Antarctica requires energy, meaning you have to increase your calorie intake sufficiently. Doing as little as going on a walk away from the base station involves usage of energy.

Pulling sled, carrying weight, man-hauling – you have to power up your body’s energy reserves! Even going a small distance away from the base station requires you to carry adequate supplies. So, having an ample supply of food is essential.

Photo by Terje Sollie from Pexels

Historically Speaking

All that we know of this mysterious and harsh but magnificent icy continent is accredited to the hundreds of explorers and researches who have traveled and attempted to cross the difficult terrains of Antarctica. The famous British explorer Ernest Shackleton tried to cross the continent with 28 crew members in their ship called Endurance.

They were eventually trapped and crushed to death in the icy Weddell Sea, with no humans in the next 100 miles – no way to be rescued. The crew members reportedly dreamt of food all the time they slept or lived. 

What’s on the Antarctica Food Menu?

Bannock

This is a traditional Antarctica food item, which is also common in Celtic regions. It’s a type of bread, circular in shape. It’s made up of flour, salt, butter, water, and baking soda. You’d typically have to cook it directly over a low flame or keep it wrapped in a cloth before cooking; it’s easy to make and is a great source of carbohydrates. 

Chocolate

Chocolate isn’t just a staple but a food that’s vital for survival in Antarctica. It’s high in calories and fat; it produces a lot of energy. It’s light to pack, and it can be carried in the harsh weather and low temperatures without freezing. You don’t need to thaw it before consumption. On top of that, it’s delicious! You can carry as much as 530 kilos of chocolate on your expedition, legally! 

Sea food

Since a large proportion of the population lives near the shores, people in Antarctica possess a great love for seafood. They consume plenty of lobsters and shrimps. They can usually fish an hour before dinner and keep it soaked in ice water before cooking. Wem is a sea fish found in salty waters- it’s unique to Antarctica and pretty popular among natives. 

Alcoholic Drinks

Alcoholic drinks are available and often consumed here. Beer is the most popular one. Red wine is also commonly served, but white wine is reserved for cooking. 

Sledding Biscuits

These are made from a minimum number of ingredients- mostly flour, salt, and water. Modern-day expeditions accumulating this use butter or some added source of fat to provide energy for longer durations. Baking soda, skimmed milk, or oats may be added to improve the nutritional value.

Duck

Duck meat is considered a very popular Antarctica food, especially due to its insulating properties. They usually consume bird meats and fowls in the day while pork is consumed at night. Chicken and turkey are also pretty popular in their cuisines. 

Hoosh

Hoosh is a thick soup composed of different ingredients, usually pemmican, melted snow, and sledding biscuit, all crushed and mixed together. The ingredients may vary, but it’s usually the same thing. This Antarctica food is a heavy meal that not only fuels your hunger but also powers you up and heats you up for a long day in the freezing cold.

The nature of its ingredients makes it bad-tasting, but it’s nutritious and key to survival, especially if you’re on ration. Dried herbs, a clove of garlic, etc. may sometimes make it flavorful but not exactly feasible. Additional items like spices, herbs are also hard to access and carry. 

Pemmican

This recipe is native to Antarctica for time immemorial. Basically, it’s the food eaten by the indigenous population. Pemmican is rich in protein and fat, two vital components of survival in the harsh conditions of the continent where calories are everything. It can roughly give you about 6500 calories when combined with a couple of sledding biscuits. 

To make pemmican, you have to purchase lean beef with little or no fat. The beef has to be cut into very thin slices- as thin as 3mm or one-eighth of an inch. The thin pieces of beef are then laid out on a tray or a plate. They are dried and dehydrated- they are dried from twelve to twenty-four hours. The fat is melted separately. The beef is crushed or ground into bits and fine pieces. Then it’s mixed with fats and set in molds. 

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits or vegetables aren’t typically grown in Antarctica, even though some efforts are currently being directed to produce some plants via hydroponic means and greenhouses on the stations. Some fresh vegetable is also supplied by planes in the summer months. Common produce of hydroponics includes lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs. 

Did You Know?

  • It’s completely illegal to shoot or harm the wildlife-penguins, skuas (a large scavenger bird like a seagull) even if you’re unfortunate enough to be chased by one; you can’t do anything to harm them – don’t even think about killing game for survival.
  • Waste is a big no in Antarctica. Every waste you discard or produce in Antarctica must be shipped back home, which involves huge transport costs. Discarding anything will land you in legal troubles and require you to pay hefty sums as fines or penalties. Therefore, any leftover ingredient you or your chef at the research station have will need to be reused unless you want it shipped back to your native country. 
  • You’re not allowed to bring soil to Antarctica, even accidentally, as the laws of the land consider it a serious offense. Soil samples may try to introduce microorganisms that may kick start a host of diseases or lead to danger for the plants being grown by hydroponic methods. 
  • The food at the base and on research stations are a stark contrast to the food on the field. You can have access to three meals per day at the station, whereas, while on an expedition or on the field, you may have to ration very carefully and need to expend more energy due to exposure to the cold. 

High energy and fat content is the priority. You may have to carry foods that don’t get frozen and can be carried easily while providing sufficient energy, like chocolate bars. Water is available in abundance, even if frozen. Take foods that aren’t bulky and are dehydrated. Anything you carry must be transported- so carry light. Don’t take food items that need to be thawed. 

Chef on an Antarctic Base Station: The Dream Job? 

Do you have basic culinary skills and have a great dream of being in the Antarctic? Well, the base stations and research centers often hire chefs and sous chefs on projects lasting several months to a year.

You have to pass basic medical examinations and health check-ups to qualify your culinary dreams. There’s an additional psychology evaluation to test if you’re mentally strong to survive in bleak and extreme conditions for a prolonged time. 

Remember, a chef is probably the most important person in a base station. Not only will you be planning the rations, but you’d also be responsible for carefully utilizing the ingredients to maximize energy value and minimize. 

Food is the ultimate bridge between life and death there. You’ll cook food – not just delicacies and food that are remembered for its brilliance, but basic food. Everything revolves around survival there. By cooking for the scientists, explorers, and researchers, you’ll be entrusted with the significant duty of how they feel, act, think, or behave!

Bottom Line

What meals you consume in Antarctica actually depends on the research station where you’re positioned, the chef on board, the ration, and the amount of ingredients available. Even then, you won’t be disappointed: years of research have domesticated Antarctica for you.

Almost everything is available, even though there are restraints on what you can carry while you’re away from the base station. You can visit it and enjoy wholesome Antarctica food three times a day without having to scavenge seals or raw animals!

Leave a Comment