Zane Hacker: Antarctic Sundays

There are more than 7,200 kilometres between the Whitsunday Islands and Antarctica, and the gulf that extends between these two areas seem to keep them as worlds apart. But really, the Whitsundays and Antarctica have a great deal more in common than we realise. 

These are the Wintral points of Humpback Whale migration to untouched, remote, isolated, pristine waters, covered in whiteness with a varied and unique biodiversity. And there’s also Zane Hacker.

Chef Zane Hacker cut his culinary teeth in the Whitsunday Islands. From ships, yachts and restaurants in the White Isles of Northern Queensland, he combined his love for handling a boat with cooking to emerge as a rather unique navigating Sailor Chef – and we’re definitely not talking Sailor Moon here either. A love for isolation and nature – thanks to a childhood as the son of a beekeeper – no doubt fanned the fire to explore that enigmatic South Pole. He assumed the helm as a vessel operator of Aurora Australis; transferring fuel to onshore storage tanks from an inflated rubber Zodiac Boat, while also safeguarding the tanks from Antarctica’s varied biodiversity and icebergs – umm… we know what happened to the Titanic.

And to Zane’s list of credits as boat handler, navigator, explorer, chef, sailor and small watercraft operator, such isolation also required adding “training as a theatre nurse” to this lengthy list of marine corps medal collection. While plenty of fancy manipulation in small vessels is no mean feat – amongst an arsenal rivalling that of Ferdinand Magellan – 14 months of living at Mawson Station (some 630 odd kilometres from Antarctica’s shoreline) after six years experience with the Antarctic would suggest there’s quite a bit of time on one’s hands to look within and with-out. A bit.

And so unite a love for exploration, food, and photography from the most remote part of the earth, and an elemental visual and articulate narrative into adventure, travel and cookery comes in the form of Antarctic Sundays – certainly the ultimate literary Sunday session from the most southerly parts of this earth. With a proclivity for storytelling – no doubt inherited from a bewitching parentage – Antarctic Sundays is also a book of photography featuring fascinating life forms and scenery with gourmet food and exploits from an incredibly beautiful location. Condensed into emails, pictures, recipes and experiences, there’s a story here that’s utterly unique. As this Sailor Chef plans his regional tour to discuss his book, MyCityLife sits down with Sunshine Coast stalwart Zane Hacker, digging into his unique learning experiences and what he managed to take away from his recently released book, Antarctic Sundays.

With its sub-tropical climate, Australia has defined the term “Sunday Sessions”. Yet this clearly and significantly differs to an “Antarctic Sunday Session”. How did the name for Antarctic Sundays come about?
Being my only day off, emailing and writing in my journal on Sundays are where it all began. As for the place – it really chose itself.

Antarctic Sundays is an exclusive reproduction of spiritual and navigational exploration, photography, cooking and Antarctic animals – from penguins through to seabirds, whales and seals. What were you trying to achieve?
My ambition is to be a prolific non-fiction food and travel writer. With a mix of scenic photos, menus and recipes, I wanted to create a taste of what life is like living and working in Antarctica.  But before inspiration, there was a reason. While excelling in parts of my life, I wanted to improve [those skills] in a way that engaged me – so I used food as a gateway.

Observing the Antarctic wildlife so closely, what have you learnt about animals and the most Southerly pole of the world?
With a seal or a penguin – the fact that they are wild makes them beautiful. Dogs were a huge part of pioneering the Antarctic – dogs took us to The Pole in the beginning. But in 1993, concern with the canine parvovirus and how it could affect the seal colonies – being closely related – meant dogs were removed from all bases. This was the end of their time in the Antarctic.

What did it take for you to get Antarctic Sundays out?
Don’t ignore experience for something new. I feel like it’s taken a village to get this off the ground: the young and the old. If you want something to last in history, give it to someone who has a bit of history. Like a lot of “firsts”, the naivety of what lies ahead brings confidence to what is actually a very challenging – yet rewarding – task. It can be a very vulnerable place, and you have to be honest to yourself. Publishing a book is all about sharing – be comfortable with that. Until you start something you don’t know what you’re really capable of. 

Antarctic Sundays by Zane Hacker is out now. 


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