Written by Mike Stewart
One of the most unique aspects of the Age of Exploration is how well the men
journaled their experiences. You can easily recreate the list of gear they
brought, things they wished they’d have brought, and WHO they blamed for not
Often times, an expedition had so many members writing that beautiful accounts of their daily way of life could be reconstructed, after-the-fact, in the form of novels. Classical examples being “Endurance”, “Mawson’s Will”, “90 degrees South”, or Nordenskjold’s miraculous fiasco of the “Swedish Antarctic Expedition”.
Those of you who have read these pieces are well aware of how much food is mentioned! In how many instances did the men have to resort to boiling the leather of their boots for protein! These, of course, were at the most dire ends of emergency situations, not a normal preference for the polar palette.
One of the most entertaining topics are the men’s elaborate descriptions of the four or five course meals and holiday style desserts they would have when they returned home! Yorkshire pudding, roasts, salmon, custard, bratwurst, lager, cigars, and scotch whiskey.
Food is the center of morale. Not only for strength and survival but also for spirit and community. It is critical at sea, critical when out camping, and of the utmost importance when out in a desert as we are up here. I was on a ship ten years ago that had gone through the entire hoop jumping hoo-hah of clearing customs, departing port with marine pilot escort, paying all the associated fees, THEN discovering that the coffee had been overlooked in the resupply. we turned around at sea and came back in. and paid most of the fees double to do it! No coffee, no worky.
But how much do you pack per man? How heavy can the food stores be? What works and what doesn’t in the harsh conditions of an ice sheet?
Again, looking at these old journals, talking to old timers, and gleaning
tricks off of the people who live (not just visit and traverse) in the latitudes where you’ll be going is the way to go. A favorite fact about
Nansen’s first FRAM Expedition is that the crew actually gained weight, not lost it! Below are a series of photos that show our Fall, Winter, early Spring preparations. A dear friend once used the phrase “life force” to describe the value of wild, natural, food. If you’ve ever drank milk, warm, from the cow, cooked salmon on the shore right after catching it, or eaten a tomato off the vine in the field, you know exactly what he meant. It’s full of raw power and our bodies respond differently to it. We took great care, and in some cases invested serious time and energy(!) into gathering not just anything to eat, but food full of sun, strength, and spirit.