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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Scientists set for 'coolest' Jubilee party
Members of the British Antarctic Survey team with union jack flag and hats
Party preparations have been underway for months

An early summer downpour is the worst weather most Golden Jubilee street party organisers can expect on Monday - unless you're more used to temperatures as low as minus 40 Celsius.

That's the prospect facing scientists holding what has been billed as "the world's coolest Jubilee party" at the isolated Rothera research station in British Antarctica.

Special food and drink is being prepared for the 20-strong team to mark the event, plus sporting events and a beacon lighting ceremony.

Rothera base
Occupied since 1975
Located on south-eastern Adelaide Island within British Antarctic Territory
Staff number 20 in winter, 100 in summer
Has 900m runway with hangar and bulk fuel storage
Served by direct, 5hr air link to Falkland Islands
Main research is in biology, geoscience, glaciology and atmospheric sciences
It will all take place in mid-winter gloom amid the stark white landscape that is their home.

In a very British touch, the day's celebrations will be rounded off by a game of cricket on the sea-ice - weather permitting.

Official Jubilee organisers have made sure the party goes ahead in style by sending out supplies including bunting, flags and hats - plus a specially made gas-fired beacon.

The kit came on the last supply ship to arrive at the British Antarctic Survey base before winter set in at the end of March. The team of scientists are now physically cut off until their summer arrives in October.

For contact with the outside world they have telephones, VHF radio and access to e-mail three times a day, but there is no internet or television and only BBC World Service radio to listen to.

Mid-winter break

Events like the Jubilee party, says base commander Simon Garrod, "help keep everyone sane", and it is something those taking part will always remember.

"It's good to break up our time, it's something different to do and something else to think about," he told BBC News Online.

"It's quite close to our mid-winter week when we have our annual week off and have lots of similar things laid on. You've got to have these kinds of things to break the year up a bit."

Not that life at the base is dull, the commander insists.

Rothera from the air
Rothera is cut off for seven months of the year
"People imagine it's boring here with nothing to do, but half the time the problem is finding the time to fit everything in between all the work and play."

Popular hobbies include photography and making use of the joinery shop, while most of the team ski or play football, hockey or badminton.

Even during their days off - and during the Jubilee party - some of the team have to keep working, whether to cook or keep the generators going.

Although the food at Rothera is relatively good, the last of the fresh food ran out last week leaving the team with just tinned and frozen products for the next four months.

Beacon ceremony

But an outdoor "feast" is still planned for the Jubilee celebrations, with crown of lamb, roast beef, turkey, chicken and vegetables topped off by a small ration of champagne.

A gas-fired, environmentally friendly beacon will be ceremoniously lit as part of a worldwide network of more than 1,800 more conventional beacons.

The cricket game will follow, inside the base aircraft hangar if weather conditions are bad.

And to round off the day's events, says the base commander, "we'll probably just chill out in the bar".

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23 Apr 02 | UK
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