Whaley Bridge boy Alex Kumar is celebrating the Jubilee thousands of miles away in a science research station in Antarctica. On Tuesday, 5 June – the extra bank holiday – he will be having Fortnum and Mason tea and home made scones, But he has to consume them if working outside, because these treats will freeze in less than a minute in the minus 70 celsius temperature.
He wishes he could be celebrating with Whaley Bridge at the 5 June mega tea party at Taxal and Fernilee primary school. Alex went to Whaley Bridge primary school, then Stockport grammar school, before taking up medical studies at university. He is the medical officer for a team of French and Italian scientists, on a year long mission at the European Space Agency’s Concordia Station.
Alex, 29, well remembers his mother’s retirement party (she was a professor at Manchester Metropolitan university) held at Whaley Bridge cricket club, scene of the 4 June Jubilee cricket and the lighting of the beacon.
This is Alex Kumar’s message from Antarctica:
We will be celebrating the Diamond Jubilee tea party on Tuesday 5 June in our own way. Concordia station is one of the world’s most isolated research stations, in the world’s most extreme environment. We are located at 3800 metres altitude in the world’s largest desert (solid ice and snow.) The team, made up of 13 Europeans, is completely isolated from February to November. Here we are currently living through nearly four months of darkness, where temperatures are hovering around -70 degrees Celsius. Antarctica’s winter is the worst the world has on offer.
Saturday night (brought a celebration of its own – with two birthdays here and the start of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The team enjoyed a six course dinner, prepared by one of Antarctica’s best chefs, Italian Giorgio Deidda.
I was given some Fortnum and Mason tea before I departed to Antarctica and alongside a can of Heinz baked beans and aottle of Johnnie Walker whisky, I have been saving the tea for a special occasion. With birthdays, midwinter and more celebrations, being British I have found there is always a time for tea and to warm up, especially when you live in the world’s coldest environment.
Every time I go outside to accompany scientists in their work, I take with me a flask of hot tea. Its marvellous to stop work to enjoy a cup of tea!
In terms of the Diamond Jubilee celebration, I know we are not the only remote population celebrating this landmark occasion. Speaking on behalf of Concordia station’s current multi-national crew, including French, Italian, British-Indian and Russian crew members, I would like to reach out and extend our warmest regards from the coldest location, not only to Her Majesty but also to all the British Overseas Territories worldwide, British Antarctic Survey’s overwintering teams on this continent and tea drinking communities.
I wish I was back in my home town for this party but I can’t be. I hope they too will be celebrating in the same style.. but also hope that they will have more time to enjoy their tea than we will – drinking it outdoors in -70 degrees Celsius, the tea will freeze in less than a minute once served. I will also be making some scones from a traditional recipe, although we will have to eat them quickly, otherwise they too will be frozen and set like stone.
Happy Jubilee. Whaley Bridge!
Read more about Alex Kumar’s amazing Antarctic story on a two page report from The Review. Click HERE