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Antarctic newspaper editor serves cold truth

Rejcek 1mb
Peter Rejcek

When most people at the mall are wearing jumpers and long trousers on a cool autumn day, Peter Rejcek is in shorts.

The reason being the The Antarctic Sun editor has just spent more than four months on the world’s coldest continent.

Antarctica’s only newspaper dates to 1960, when US Navy members published the McMurdo Sometimez because “sometimez” they would have a newspaper and “sometimez” they would not.

Rejcek has been to Antarctica 10 times for a cumulative “ice time” of more than two years.

Returning to Christchurch can be a culture shock, he says.

“You have to remember to pay for things when you leave a restaurant,” Rejcek says, explaining that in Antarctica room and board are provided. There is also the issue of crossing streets.

“You don’t have to think to look right when you cross the street [in Antarctica].”

He was one of about 2500 US Antarctic Programme (USAP) personnel and contractors who passed through Christchurch on their way to Antarctica this past summer.

Rejcek, who was based at McMurdo Station from October until February 17, says he did not see a sunset the entire time he was there.

As part of his work in Antarctica this summer, Rejcek travelled to the South Pole, where he previously spent a year from 2003-2004 as a carpenter helper.

He also visited the Allan Hills, where he was able to meet palaeontologists studying plant fossils.

The project was one of more than 100 the USAP conducted during the summer.

Although he misses some of the people in Antarctica and events like Icestock – a music festival at McMurdo featuring bands made up of on-base personnel – Rejcek says he is grateful for a few things Christchurch has that Antarctica does not, like the “giant, beautiful trees” in Hagley Park.

With so many Antarctic personnel passing through Christchurch, he says it is not uncommon to meet fellow “ice people” when out and about.

USAP has used Christchurch as a “gateway” to Antarctica since the 1950s and the partnership resulted in about 21,000 total nights spent by USAP contractors and personnel at Canterbury hotels this summer.

Rejcek says fully booked hotels due to events including the Cricket World Cup and Te Matatini meant that some people were forced to lodge in Methven instead of close to the USAP’s facilities near Christchurch Airport. Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says Antarctic links are very important, injecting more than $100 million into the local economy.

_Ben Mack for The Press