It was a first for the post office manager, Bridie Roycroft, in my West Cork village of Ballydehob.
It’s not every day someone comes in looking to post something to the South Pole. The North Pole is not an issue. After all, postal delivery services have been sending mail to Santa for centuries.
But the South Pole?
The Irish post computerised system does not appear to recognise the address.
Little did I know I would be presenting a conundrum to the village post office when making enquiries into how much it would cost to post a small parcel to the American Base in Antarctica.
You see a friend has gone to the South Pole for the next 12 months. Six of which will be spent in complete darkness. Naturally I thought it would be nice to send him a small parcel. I wanted to send him some light home Irish comforts like Barry’s Tea bags, packets of Knorr soup and Cadbury’s chocolate along with some family kid’s drawings. And I thought why not include a copy of my book ‘K-Girls.’
There is a short window to post before the November deadline to ensure the parcel arrives sometime in the next 12 months. It has to get to New Zealand first and then wait for a weather window to fly post & provisions over. I think they call it “Operation Deep Freeze”.
Our family friend, a Texan, Sayer Houseal, has journeyed to the South Pole having been selected to work as a carpenter as a participant in the United States Antarctic Program.
We first met Sayer as a volunteer on Helpx.net in 2010– a site that matches families to travelers seeking bed and board in exchange for some help around the homestead. (I like to think that If we can’t travel the world, let the world come to us. We get some help around the place while sharing our home/Irish culture with worldwide visitors. There is no exchange of money but lots in the line of culture, food and stories.)
Sayer stayed with us helping with garden and DIY projects over a number of weeks in that November and we have kept in touch ever since. Over the years, Sayer has done much including volunteering as part of Habitat for Humanity and has also volunteered in Canada, Hawaii and other parts of the world.
But I think this stint in Antartica will be the toughest assignment yet.
I was happy to remind Sayer of his Irish roots and our Nation’s connection to the South through Tom Crean (explorer). Sayer promises me that he is packing a copy of Shackleton’s memoir and so will get an insight into Crean’s part of the adventure. I am not sure ‘K-Girls’ will be quite this 27-year old’s genre, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to send my own book to the South Pole. After all, how often does an author get to do that?
Sayer has a blog of his travels to date, and will continue to update on his Bottom of the Pole adventure. It is a fascinating and fun read. Give it a go.
As for the cost of sending the parcel from Ballydehob? A few phone calls with An Post head office and it turns out it costs no more than posting it to the States. The sense being that any Antartic mail goes to the US first to link up with the military mail and then gets sent out through their internal system (via New Zealand) along with all other US provisions. So I decided to send two. To be sure, to be sure.
I was worried that my parcels might not arrive before Christmas 2016 never mind Christmas 2015, and by sending two, there was a better chance of him at least getting one of them (I only sent one copy of K-Girls) but judging by Sayer’s most recent blog, I think getting mail is not a problem for him.
It is not clear yet if he has got my mail (I can’t make them out among the masses) but I am hoping it will get there safe and sound.
As you can see he is a pretty popular guy.
You will have to take my word that this is a shot of Sayer at the South Pole
I am secretly hoping his next South Pole photo will be him posing with a copy of K-Girls!
How cool would that be?!