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Wednesday, 26 December, 2001, 10:41 GMT
Antarctic soldiers eat Christmas rations
Penguins in the Antarctic
The team are studying bird and plant life in the region
British Army explorers celebrated Christmas eating freeze-dried rations on Antarctica's Forbidden Plateau.

The team decked out their tents with glittering decorations but spent the day hard at work.

The group is exploring the Forbidden Plateau and the Danco Coast in order to improve maps and carry out scientific survey work.

And Christmas Day entailed pushing further along the treacherous plateau, hauling sledges and backpacks full of rations.

We're spending Christmas Day sweating like hell pulling a sledge uphill

Sgt Steve Ayres

But they were guaranteed a white Christmas, with one mile deep of snow and ice surrounding them.

Christmas dinner consisted of a freeze-dried Army ration pack meal, with a choice of chicken balti or beef and mashed potato, and a hot Thermos of tea or coffee.

Dessert was a rehydrated custard pudding mix with minute chunks of apple.

The 16 members of the expedition, whose patron is the Prince of Wales, are spending three months on the Antarctica Peninsula after sailing there in a 72ft yacht, the John Laing.

'Awesome'

The boat sailed from the Falkland Islands at the end of November and landed the party on the peninsula on Saturday after delays caused by pack-ice.

Expedition member Major Dick Pattison, 39, from Basildon, Essex, spent Christmas Eve in his windswept tent listening to a familiar voice on the BBC World Service.

On board the John Laing
The team enjoyed a white Christmas
His brother George Pattison is the dean of King's College, Cambridge, where the choir broadcasted carols around the globe.

Another expedition member, Sgt Steve Ayres, 29, said: "We're spending Christmas Day sweating like hell pulling a sledge uphill, but it's certainly one to remember, if only to get a view like this.

"It doesn't matter what day Christmas is up here.

"When we get back to the yacht we'll have a bit more of a meal, I hope."

Sgt Ayres, from Darlington, Co Durham, also brought with him a miniature Christmas cake from his girlfriend Georgina, 24, a trainee nurse.

Celebrations postponed

The Prince of Wales is expected to send a personal Christmas message by e-mail and satellite phone, which will be relayed to the team by radio.

A small team remained on the John Laing yacht, the expedition's mobile base, for Christmas, including Capt Simon Horne, 29, the crew doctor.

Married Capt Horne, of Torquay, Devon, said: "I am having Christmas in the most awesome, serene place on the planet - a far cry from last-minute shopping in Torquay high street."

Christmas celebrations proper have been postponed until the climbing party returns to the John Laing in the New Year.

See also:

24 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Antarctica's big draw
18 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
UK to rebuild Antarctic lab
17 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Princess on Antarctic mission
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