Antarctica: Freezing barbecues and ambient tunes

Armchair traveller
3 min readDec 19, 2020


Swapping my armchair for a bench, yesterday.

Admittedly there are still a few small stretches of unclaimed land, but to visit most countries (in the flesh like most travellers instead of in your pyjamas like me), you would need a passport.

BUT NOT Antarctica.

As no country owns this frozen wasteland, all you need to get is permission… I know this, because having spent a week reading books and watching programmes about the frozen world, I have found myself Googling how to visit Antarctica and have added this unclaimed continent to my ice-bucket list!

But why would I do that?

I actually have an Antarctica passport! Ask me how…

Well it certainly isn’t the food. Given that this virtual trip around the world is virtually vegan, penguin eggs and seal blubber is out, meaning that everything I would eat would need to be shipped in. So what do people ship in? The internet has the answer — there is a website that outlines the recipes used by both the earliest explorers and subsequent visitors. This means my extremely patient family got to spend Saturday morning giving these recipes a go…

The first one we tried, we very nearly enjoyed — Ernest Shackleton’s Bannocks Recipe. He famously completed the Worst Journey in the World, but the worst recipe in the world (so far) goes to sledging biscuits which you apparently eat with marmite. Even these would be preferable to eating the sledge dogs themselves which is what Roald Amundsen (the first man to the South Pole) did in order to get himself the edge over Scott of the Antarctic.

Bannocks are the bomb, y’all

Sadly, on our Antarctic Saturday the skies were filled with rain, not snow, so we postponed our planned winter barbecue, and ate vegan burgers from freshly made rolls.

But despite the appalling food, this has been my favourite Armchair Adventure so far… partly because of Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel Antarctica. At 500 pages, it should have been hard to get through in a week, but despite moments of incredulousness (what a great word, I think I will use it again) it was so well researched that I whipped through it like the wind whips through the McMurdo Dry Valleys. I was taken not only by the references to the earliest explorers, but also by the incredulous insights into life at McMurdo station today. I was also taken by Robinson’s gentle political harangues, so I’ll be reading more of his books once I’m 50 and the Armchair travelling becomes real travelling once more.

Whilst luxuriating in his prose I listened to my newly created, mostly ambient Antarctica playlist.

Which just leaves the film. I had wanted to watch the old classic Scott of the Antarctic but instead we devoted our evenings to Life in the Freezer an old series by Sir David Attenborough. It was slow going, but I now know everything there is to know about penguins and have decided not to be reincarnated as an elephant seal!

Next week we are back to the Caribbean — to Antigua!



Armchair traveller

Zero carbon lockdown travel through books, drinks, food, films, music and the magic of living in multicultural #Birmingham.