A - factor
- The Antarctic factor, unexpected extra difficulties
presented by Antarctica. Aus
- Cargo and personal items dropped from an airplane,
a huge morale booster for winterovers. Am
Ready - a call to a dog team to get it ready to haul.
Antarctic 10- A person
of the opposite sex who might be considered a "5"
- McMurdo base - US, dragging your bag - luggage
- to weigh in for for a flight out. Due to weather conditions
a bagdrag is not always followed by a flight and in any case
will rarely take place at a convenient time for the dragger
of the bag. Am
Banana Belt - The South Orkney Islands
and South Georgia where there have been British bases for many
years. As these bases are in the maritime Antarctic and not
very far South by comparison to some others, they are referred
to by inhabitants of other stations as being in the "Banana
Belt" - still very chilly, icy and windy though. Br
Beaker - A scientist, if said scientist
is unwanted or unpopular, the term jafa, may be
used - Just Another F..... Academic; Am, Aus, Br, NZ
- Insomnia caused by changes in the length of daylight.
- An implement with a wooden handle like a long broom
about 5-6 feet long and with a metal chisel-shaped blade about
2 inches wide at the end of it - blunt by usual chisel standards.
Used as a snow and ice probe to test sea-ice - more than three
thwacks to get through and it's safe to walk on, less than
three and it's time to walk back where you came from - very
carefully. Also used as a crevasse probe. Br
- Burnt-out-left-over an expeditioner who has been in
the Antarctic for too long. Aus.
- A flight to Antarctica that turns back before it gets
there, usually due to poor weather conditions at the landing
Boot - to
be 'boot' is to have a monk-on, fed up, down in the
dumps, being in a bad, usually introspective mood, "I'm
feeling a bit boot today". Br
Brew-up - Make
Bronzy - Sun burned.
Boots - Boots for extremely cold weather, large, white
and plain, but effective, the name comes from a layer of rabbit
fur that's supposed to be part of the insulation (actually
wool felt). Am
Dogs who chew rope ‚ centre and
side traces. Br.
to chew through rope ‚ centre and side
- (pronounced Cheech), slang for Christchurch,
New Zealand, a stopping off and kitting up point for US Antarctic
programme personnel en route for Antarctica. Am
Landing - A phonetic pun, based on the unusual aircraft
angle when landing in stiff Antarctic cross winds: one-wing-low.
Ching - (adj)
Chinged (vb) a Dear John letter from the girlfriend. Br
- a special club for those who have been chinged. Br
- Support personnel whose duties force them to remain
at McMurdo Station. Am
Onnie - condensed milk. Br.
Mice - Scientists and their assistants who get to travel
to camps around Antarctica. Am
- Blowing snow at ground level that snakes along being
very atmospheric. Snow blows around in Antarctica far more than
it falls from the sky, the low temperatures means that it stays
powdery and loose and ever present winds move it back and forwards
the - Common name for colds / flu contracted by new arrivals
to the US McMurdo base. Most common with a large entry of new
people bringing a large influx of fresh germs. Any germ-related
illnesses in Antarctica are rare in the winter as the base personnel
have either had the illnesses by then or are immune to them.
The longest continuous period of my life free of colds and flu
was when I was in Antarctica. Am.
- A letter from a girlfriend left behind informing the
recipient he is now (at his choice) not only thousands of miles
and many months away (at least) but also now surplus to emotional requirements.
Degomble - Being outside in Antarctica
in wind-driven snow makes a lot of the snow stick to your clothes
and in nooks and crannies around back-pack etc. De-gombling
is the process of removing this loosely attached snow before
going indoors into a hut, base-building or tent where it would
melt and make life more unpleasant.
Originated (I think - clarification would
be appreciated if you can help) with dogs in the days when they were used
to pull sledges, in certain conditions, snow could form
into balls (gombles) that hung from the dogs fur, making
them heavy and uncomfortable. Br.
Dingle - Good weather, on a dingle
day it's time to get your boots on and go out to play -
or excellent visibility. Br.
Doglet - a pup.
An aluminium Geodesic dome, 50 meters (165 ft)
in diameter at the base and approximately 17 meters high (55
ft) at the top at the American Scott-Amundsen base at the South
Pole. Looks a bit like an ice-age EPCOT. The South Pole base
was established in the 1950's and was seen as a great status
symbol location for a base. That being the cold war, the Russians
then followed it up by establishing their status symbol base
at the pole of inaccessibility - the point on Antarctica the
furthest from any ocean - the Vostok base. The dome is now
no longer having been dismantled and removed during the
2009-2010 season. Am
Dome Slugs -
Those who lived and worked in the central Dome at
the south polar station. Am
Donga - Sleeping area.
- A piece of hard rubber pipe used to provide ventilation
from the top of a pyramid tent, the name coming from the
rather rude way in which it drooped, though this being part
of the design as it was less likely to get blocked with snow
this way. Br.
Doo - Short for skidoo,
small robust and very effective small-scale transport over snow
and ice, like a motor-bike on skis. Can be used to transport
driver and one other sitting down or much bigger loads towed
along behind on a sledge. Br.
ECW - Extreme
Cold Weather. A label
applied to protective clothing issued to American base members,
includes parkas, bunny boots, bear claws (large mittens), balaclavas
Ekkies / Ekties
- Ektachrome transparencies, 35mm slide film produced by Kodak,
that could be developed on base so you could see your pictures
quickly rather than waiting for months to send them back home
to be developed and then sent back again to the Antarctic.
- Lousy Echtachrome transparencies.
- Exhausted, finished, dead beat, done
for, knackered. Br.
- Report, written account.
FIDS - "Falklands
Islands Dependencies Survey" was the original name
for the "British Antarctic Survey" (BAS). Members
of FIDS referred to themselves as Fids and the name stuck.
It is usually taken as meaning someone who has travelled to
Antarctica and worked on a FIDS or BAS ship or base. Some purists
maintain that it should only apply to those who have wintered
on such a base. Br.
Fidlet - A FID in his
or her first year, sometimes considered as someone in their
first summer south preceding the first winter after which they
will be a Fid proper. Br.
Fidgob - Any job that
is "gobbed" together using materials available at
the time by a Fid. Not usually a very elegant solution due the
improper materials and / or tools and / or inexpertise of the
Fid concerned. Antarctica does, has always and probably always
will, run on the equivalent of Fidgob solutions to broken or
missing apparatus and machinery. Br.
Field, The - Anywhere
not on a base. Scientists in particular like to talk about being "out
in the field" - it makes them sound more rugged and heroic.
First Call - The first visit of
the season to a base by a ship. An eagerly awaited event by
winterers as it brings mail, fresh food, new people, cargo,
shopping they've ordered and almost a new way of life as
the summer now starts. Br
- The pronunciation of F.N.G.. A derogatory term
of uncertain origin for the F... New Guy (or Girl). Originally
used in Vietnam to describe a solider on their first tour of
duty. Am, Aus, Br, NZ
Five hundred club
- Those who have been in Antarctica for more than 500
successive days. Aus
- asleep. Br.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables brought in by air or ship.
Food is a perennial topic of conversation at all Antarctic bases,
most of the year the food has been preserved in some way. The
arrival of fresh produce is an event of great importance especially
at the end of the winter when exotic delights like boiled potatoes
and carrots taste like you'd never believe that they could.
Gash - A Naval
term that has two meanings, firstly it means rubbish / garbage
anything to be disposed of and secondly it describes a task
or event. Many bases have a gash-rota whereby each member in
turn is gashman for the day. This means that they help in the
kitchen with menial tasks, wash-up, deal with the gash - rubbish/garbage
and generally carry out various base house-keeping duties (similar
to Aus. "slushy"). Br.
Gomble - An accretion
of snow on hair. This is usually facial hair or the hair on
a dog in the days when they were used to pull sledges. In certain
conditions, snow could form into balls (gombles) that hung from
the hair or dogs fur, making them heavy and uncomfortable. (see
Gonk - sleep
Greenout - The emotion
felt on seeing and smelling green things (plants) again after
an extended period on the ice.
Grips - Photographs, "getting
the grips in" is an Antarctic occupation that can be taken
to extremes. Particular incidents and occurrences can only be
legitimately claimed to have happened once the grips had been
got in. Br.
This has now progressed to videoing everything,
I have been recently pleasantly surprised to come across
this, part of a great and noble tradition.
Grumble Bucket - Coffee/tea
- A sledger's encouraging call to
his team as they haul. Br.
- The name given to particularly powerful and dangerous
storms that affect the US McMurdo base coming from the South,
through "Herbie Alley", winds can be in excess of
100 knots. Am
- A naval term, derisively used to describe showers of longer
than the allotted two minutes (fresh water in liquid form
is relatively rare in Antarctica) Am.
- a very strong wing, stronger than a blow. Br.
Stashes of nutty (mainly chocolate bars) to keep it from the
- a dish similar to scradge, a sledger‚'s wholesome meal,
with many ingredients. Originally a stew made of pemmican
or meat bar and eaten with sledging biscuits. Br.
Hordes - The
less than welcome newbies who arrive in the summer months,
consisting of both Fidlets (winterers to be in their first
summer) and SJMs (Summer Jolly Merchants). Br.
House Mice -
Personnel on periodic janitorial duty. Am
- A common nickname for Antarctica. Being in Antarctica is referred
to as being "On The Ice". Am.
Jennies Roost -
A hut at Stonnington, previously
occupied by Jennie Darlington, one of the first two women to
overwinter in Antarctica along with Edith Ronne in winter 1947.
Jolly - A pleasure
trip, can be used derisively "jolly merchant" for
someone who always manages to get to go on the interesting trips
(despite the title I never came across one who would sell places
on jollies). Summer only personnel may sometimes be referred
to by winterers as "on a summer jolly" Br.
Klatch - Personal
Last Call - The
last visit of the season to a base by a ship. The departure
of last call takes with it people who have been in Antarctica
for up to 30 months and heralds the start of winter with no
physical contact with the outside world for up to 11 months
depending on where the base is. Br
Lurker - That unknown something
found at the bottom of an un-washed grumble bucket (coffee/tea
Lurky - Something a bit dodgy,
I always imagined it as being something that was lurking about
and probably up to no good - "That's a lurky looking
bergy-bit offshore by the mooring". Br
A sledging trip where the sledge is pulled by men rather than
vehicles. Br, Aus.
- A nickname for the US base at McMurdo. Others are McMudhole
and Dirt Town because of the gritty volcanic soil there that
is exposed in the summer. Am
Mank, manky -
Overcast weather, particularly common in the Maritime Antarctic
- One of the three seasons of the American Antarctic
year. At McMurdo for instance, it lasts from approx. 1st of
October until the last flight at Station Close, around late
February or early March. Seasonality in Antarctica is timed
by events as much as the calendar and seasons are not reckoned
to be over or begun until events such as the first or last ship
or flight of a particular season has happened. Am.
- A contraction of "medical evacuation" - a
special flight out for someone before their tour is over as
a result of illness or injury. Am, Aus, Br, NZ
Monk-on - A term
for being in a bad, usually introspective mood, "He's
got a monk-on". Br
Mukluks - Inuit
style cold weather boots. Soft outer, pale cream in colour with
a very thick sole and a wool felt liner, very effective as long
as you don't try to do any climbing or walking over uneven
surfaces in them. Am, Aus, Br
Munch - Dried
meat granules a common part of the winter diet in the absence
of fresh meat, also used by field parties as water can be added
by melting snow or ice. Br.
Mutt - American
sheathbill, a small Antarctic bird the size of a
rounder pigeon with disgusting table manners and thought by
some to have been overlooked by evolution. Evidence of the first
point is that in the days when waste matter was flushed into
the sea, some thought that Mutts could hear the sound of the
flush and take position at the kaka-pipe (it wasn't really
called the kaka-pipe). Some claim to have seen them wearing
a pink paper necklace originating from the same place. Evidence of the second is that in winter
some would come into land on a slatted jetty and only put down
one leg to save heat loss, the result is that the one leg would
go between the gaps in the slats, much laughter all round.
Nutty (probably original)
- The dog food which
we carried and used in the field came in compressed blocks of
meat and fat weighing about 1lb per block (I think) and in boxes
weighing 70 lbs each which would last one team (9 dogs) for
5 days. It's trade name was Nutrican (made by Bob Martins)
which was abbreviated to Nutty by the dog drivers. (Thanks to
Drummy Small for this -
Nutty (alt) -
The general term for any type of chocolate or sweets / candy,
whether it contains nuts or not. A personal note here, when
I first arrived in Antarctica I was most unimpressed with the
unhealthiness of the food that people took out with them when
leaving base for a day trip - one to three bars of chocolate
and nothing else. Being of sterner stuff I promptly made myself
some healthy sandwiches (tuna and mayonnaise if I remember rightly) - I was
observed with interest but without comment by other (wiser) people around. Come lunch break, while others tucked
into their hard but edible "nutty" I sat and sucked
on a frozen sandwich. Br
Old Antarctic Explorer. Someone
who's been around in Antarctica for a while, several summers,
or at least a Winter, the more the better of course. Wintering
at the south polar station confers OAE status. Am
- tinned potatoes
Oggin / Ogg -
The sea. Br.
- Passengers. Am
Pit / pitroom
- Bed / bedroom. Br.
Poppy - Alcoholic
beverage that is chilled with natural Antarctic ice. Hundreds
of thousands of years of pressure captured bubbles of environmental
gas that, when warmed with Glenfiddich (or other
inebriant of choice), pop in your face. Due to the extremely
low humidity of the region, hangovers induced from poppys were
particularly onerous and it wasn't uncommon for someone
to say, "Had too many poppys last night." Trust me,
it had nothing to do with genealogy or flowers. Am
Point of Safe Return. Applied to
aircraft flying to Antarctica, the furthest the plane can go
and still return to its origin. Some aircraft that fly to the
American McMurdo base can fly all the way and then back to the
take off point in Christchurch New Zealand without landing.
In this case the PSR is actually McMurdo itself and on occasion
due to extreme weather conditions, planes have flown all the
way there and then gone back again without landing. Am.
Pushtin - A
smaller version of the U-drum for use while camping when a
hooley blowing outside made the thought of venturing outside
less attractive than using the tin in a confined space.
the World - A popular race around the south pole marker
on Dec. 25th. Am
Sawdust - dehydrated
Scradge - Food, Br.
Scrubout - A weekly
occurrence on some bases where at a regular time (after dinner
on a Friday is popular) everyone sets to to clean the base up
being allotted a different place to clean by weekly rota.
Seal chop - fids
chopping up dead seals for doggy feed. Br.
Seal feed - two
men, one team, feeding all dogs with pieces of seal. Br.
- old greasy clothes worn during seal feed.
Skua - to appropriate
goods by means that are not quite stealing, but also not quite
not-stealing. Named after Antarctic Skuas that hang out near
the Galley in McMurdo. - Am - (thanks to "Icegirl"
for posting this)
Slack - Something badly
done, often applied to gash - "slack gash" is a withering
admonishment and difficult to live down. Br
Slot - crevasse. Where
a glacier goes over a bump in the underlying bedrock, it cracks
from the top (widest point) pretty much all the way to the bottom,
this is a crevasse.
- Something that happens if you fall into a crevasse,
an almost ubiquitous hazard in Antarctica as the wind-blown
snow often covers up these tapering cracks in the ice with a
snow bridge that can easily be 50ft+ (over 16m) wide. The weakest
part of the snow bridge is going to be the middle of course.
Falling into a crevasse without a rope to stop you has to be
one of the most unpleasant ways to go. There's a deep enough
fall for you to pick up a fair speed before you get wedged into
the narrowing space at the bottom (known as "corking in").
Assuming you don't crack your head on the way down and are
still alive, you will become aware of being held by your pelvis
or ribcage that may well have been broken in the process. You
now have to get out while firmly wedged and in some considerable
pain. If not roped up you will be dependent on whoever is on
the surface, so hope they've a long enough rope. To make
matters worse it will probably be pitch black or at least very
dim and if it's summer there's a possibility that the
bottom of the crevasse may even contain very cold meltwater.
I worried a lot about falling in crevasses. Am, Aus, Br,
Vehicles can also be slotted.
Slushy- A sort
of kitchen helper/hand for the day performed by base members
on a "slushy rota" (similar to Br. "gash
rota" and gashman). Aus
Smoko - Coffee
or tea break, a Naval term. Smoko is a bit more of an event
than just stopping work for a break, the whole base pretty much
would go to the dining room and drink / chat / eat and smoke
too in the days when it was almost compulsory. Br.
Snotsicle - An
icicle of frozen mucus hanging from the nose of the owner,
once they start to form, they cause the nose to run so speeding
up the growth. Aus.
South - Antarctica.
Usually referred to in the form "going south", "been
south", "went south" etc. Br
- a wire cable, anchored at each end, wot dogs are fastened
- to put dogs on a span after a journey. Br
- dogs have been spanned, put on a span - after a journey.
Splode - anything that you
can't remember the name for: pass the splode will you? -
There's a skua sitting on the splode! - Anyone seen my splode?
Springer - A summer worker who arrives
before the main hordes. Br
To belong, you need to go through
300 degrees Fahrenheit, this is achieved by rolling naked outside
in a chilly Antarctic temperature and then going inside to hit
the sauna. Am
Thrutch - difficulty,
usually applied to progress through deep or poor snow conditions. "the
last bit was a real thrutch". Br
- half of fids on base who
daily cut snow blocks for water. Br
- used to punish disobedient or fighting dogs.
- The Transantarctic mountain range that stretches across
the middle of the continent, from the Weddell Sea to the Ross
Turdcicle / Turdicle
- The result of toilet facilities in very cold conditions.
Br - esp Halley base.
- A 55 gallon drum used for the collection of urine in
places that lack plumbing. U-Barrels are painted bright yellow.
Used as the basis of a toilet of various degrees of primitiveness.
Most countries remove all their waste from Antarctica these
days so as not to degrade the environment. As 55 gallon barrels
are used to bring in all kinds of fuels, they are an ideal way
of taking all the waste out again and find use for all manner
of purposes as well as for the traditional one of cutting them
in half and making a barbecue. Am.
"Up Dogs, Huit"
- A sledgers call to his team to Haul. After, ‚"Are You
Ready Dogs"ť. Br
Us - See THEM
‚ the other half. Br
Guesser - A meteorologist. Am
/ windies - Name for the ventile windproof jacket and over
trousers issued to members of the British Antarctic Survey.
Apparently old fashioned and low tech, but remarkably practical
and much loved by generations of Fids. Shock-horror! I discover
after a visit to BAS Cambridge in 2010 that they are now no
longer issued as they are too expensive. Br.
Any one who stays on an Antarctic base for the whole of the
- should we travel? Br.
A Complete Guide to Antarctic English (Hardcover)