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Dining in Antarctica with Quark Expeditions

6 min read

There are no restaurants in Antarctica, but dining aboard Quark Expeditions' ships is always a gastronomic adventure; even the foodies among us marvel at the fare available in such remote locations.

Photo credit: Quark passenger Darrick
Photo credit: Quark Expeditions passenger Darrick

Catering onboard varies, and is prepared by a professional chef and his team, with an emphasis on freshness, variety of meals, and creativity. Passengers are often with us for weeks at a time – we don't want you getting bored with the meal selection!

In years past, Antarctic explorers had little choice and even less variety in their meal options. Dining at the bottom of the world was not a delicacy, but a chore necessary for survival.

Let's have a look at just how much Antarctic dining has changed!

Expedition Nutrition and Diet: Then & Now

Today, dietary guidelines stipulate that the calories in the average American's diet consist of about 10 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 60 percent carbohydrates. Onboard quark Expeditions ships, we offer healthy food choices and gourmet meals.

In fact, our Ocean Endeavour will be the only health and wellness-focused ship in Antarctica this summer, complete with a juice bar and healthy dining options.

On a typical Quark expedition, passengers enjoy a three-course dinner each evening, with an appetizer, main course and dessert. A salad station is available to all diners, as well. Vegetarian, heart healthy, and gluten-free options are available.

Not so for Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew aboard the Endurance. In 1916, as their infamous Antarctic voyage neared its end, the Endurance crew's diet consisted almost entirely of protein and fat, according to the WGBH Educational Foundation.

They had not enough food available to fulfill their nutritional requirements and were unable to consume enough calories for a healthy diet. Variety was slim and at one tragic point in the expedition, the crew were forced to eat their dogs to survive. Shackleton wrote in his memoirs, "It was the worst job that we had had throughout the Expedition, and we felt their loss keenly."

Dining at Antarctic Research Stations

Luckily, research station residents near the South Pole today subsist on much more appealing cuisine than Shackleton and his men did. Residents of Rothera or Mcmurdo station, for example, enjoy three fresh meals a day, prepared by chefs employed at the stations.

McMurdo Research Station, Antarctica. Photo: Sgootzeit
McMurdo Research Station. Photo: Sgootzeit

Because there are no physical restaurants on Antarctica proper, chefs try to keep their menus interesting and serve rotating selection of popular food in a variety of cuisines. Salad bars with fresh vegetables, roasts, curries, dumplings, tacos, and even pizza are in regular rotation at the research stations on the seventh continent.

Cooking in Antarctica is not without limitations, however. The local population lives with limited contact with the outside world, especially during the long winter months.

All their food is brought to the station by ships carrying several months worth of supplies, which means if a chef runs out of an ingredient they must improvise until the next food delivery, which could be several months away.

Dinner On Board the Endurance vs a Quark Expeditions Ship

We have much to be thankful for in this day of portable refrigeration and modern cooking facilities, even in the depths of the Antarctic.

Shackleton's Cocoa Tin
Shackleton's Cocoa Tin

At the beginning of the Endurance expedition in 1914, the ship was loaded with dried, cured and canned food supplies including oatmeal, tinned meat, bacon, dried fruit and cocoa.

Later on in the expedition, as food stores wore lower, the men hunted and used more of the resources available to them in Antarctica. Seal steaks, penguin livers, and boiled seaweed were more typical dinner fare as the expedition continued.

On Quark expeditions, dinners begin with a choice of delicious hot soups or crisp, fresh salads. For example, guests might enjoy cream of celery soup pureed with sweet cream and fresh herbs, or a lighter homemade chicken consommé, with herbed chicken steeped in a sherry broth.

Guests enjoy crisp green salads with garden fresh vegetables, rich German potato salads, green pea salad with water chestnuts and more.

A variety of entrees are offered each evening, to accommodate different tastes and dietary requirements. A recent dinner menu, for example, offered:

  • Honey-Soy Glazed Salmon - Oven baked and served on a bed of braised garlic spinach with sweet peas Served with steamed white rice (heart healthy, with low or no salt and low fat).
  • Beef Bourguignon - A classic beef burgundy stew with bacon, onions, mushrooms and herbs, served with mashed potato.
  • Seafood Fettuccini - With shrimp, fish and mussels, garlic cream sauce and parmesan cheese.
  • Tofu and Potato Hash - Diced tofu and potatoes with sweet bell peppers, onion and tomato, seasoned with paprika (vegetarian).

Baked fish marinated in a sweet pineapple teriyaki sauce is a perennial lunchtime favorite. At teatime, passengers enjoy a sumptuous selection of fresh pastries and other treats, prepared each day by the pastry chef.

Salmon with dill over white and green asparagus with a herb/pesto reduction, garnished with potatoes.

A selection of wines is available to accompany each meal. Quark Expeditions also practices sustainability in our ingredient choices, to help protect the world's oceans.

Of course, after dinner, passengers in need of a hit for their sweet tooth can feast on freshly prepared desserts, including ship-made ice cream and sorbets.

Creme Brulee

Antarctic Dining Now: Exploring in Luxury

Dining in the Antarctic aboard a Quark Expeditions cruise ship is a far cry from the gastronomic experiences of the earlier explorers. Today, it's possible to set eyes on the same stunning vistas and wondrous land and seascapes as those who came one hundred years before – but without the food rations and survival eats.

When Jonathan Shackleton (cousin of Sir Ernest Shackleton) and Falcon Scott (grandson of Robert Falcon Scott) join us on expeditions today, such as the Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent expedition, they're walking in their ancestors footsteps but thankfully, not relegated to sitting at their table!

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