This week Pegman takes us to Antarctica.
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KNOCKING OFF THE COLD
(GENRE: HISTORICAL FICTION)
By Neel Anil Panicker
General Leal’s eyes never left the sumptuous spread laid out on the oblong metallic dinner table.
Shoving all niceties aside he attacked the food with a ferociousness that would put even a ravenous lion to shame.
In no time he and his two score odd men had gulped every single morsel of food.
“Hope you liked the sardines, General,” gushed Edward Philips in a convivial tone as he tried hard to conceal his amusement at the gastronomic antics on display.
As if in answer, gobbled in no time were tinned bacons, semi-cooked fresh vegetables, and an assortment of tongues__ox, sheep and pork__all watered down with hurried swigs of whisky.
Waving his arms around, Leal replied, “Look at my boys, Philips. Aren’t they all mighty happy? This is the first time in over two months that we’ve had a decent meal.”
Philips nodded understandably.
It was he, who had earlier in the day, after confirming that the new ‘intruders’ were not Russians but from ‘friendly’ Argentina invited the General over for dinner.
And it was he, a radio operator stationed at USAmunsen- Scott South Pole Station for the past one year who knew more than anybody else the perils of living in sub-snow Antartica.
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Operación 90 (Operation NINETY) was the first Argentine ground expedition to the South Pole, conducted in 1965, by ten soldiers of the Argentine Army under then-Colonel Jorge Edgard Leal. It was performed to attempt to cement Argentina‘s claims to a portion of Antarctica, as well as for scientific reasons and to perfect polar exploration techniques. The operation was named for the target 90 degree South latitude point (the geographic South Pole).
Leal’s team departed on six snowcat vehicles from General Belgrano Army Base on October 26, 1965. The main group was preceded by a scouting four-men patrol on a sled drawn by 18 dogs. While the scouts remained at 83° 2″ S, Leal and his men reached the geographic South Pole on December 10. They then returned to Base Belgrano, which they reached on December 31. Overall, the mission lasted 66 days.
The operation was performed in secret so as not to upset the superpowers of the time, the United States and Soviet Union. The main purpose of the expedition was to exercise the claimed rights of Argentina to the continuation of its landmass which (along with almost the entire Western Hemisphere including the US and Canada) had been proclaimed as a Spanish entitlement by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 through the Treaty of Tordesillas.
General Leal and his men, shortly after arriving to the South Pole, were met by a radar operator from the USAmundsen–Scott South Pole Station, who asked them who they were and what they were doing there. The group, after Leal explained that they were not Soviets, was invited to take a meal at the American sub-snow base—the first decent food, said Leal, that the group had had in some weeks.