ETV anchorman on life at sea on Antarctica-bound Admiral Bellingshausen

Aktuaalne kaamera anchor Priit Kuusk in the Admiral Bellingshausen's gallery.
Aktuaalne kaamera anchor Priit Kuusk in the Admiral Bellingshausen's gallery. Source: ERR

ERR's Priit Kuusk has returned from a four-month trip which saw him exchange his news anchor for an anchor in a very literal sense, as crew member and cook on board the Admiral Bellingshausen, an Estonian vessel bound for Antarctica.

Kuusk said that while he battled seasickness in the early stages of the voyage, cooking three meals a day for the crew was not difficult, though logistics and cleaning were more of a challenge.

Speaking to current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera Monday evening, Kuusk said that he took on the challenge via a professional contract. 

"I was hired for four months to be the chef responsible for the crew's food three times a day, six days a week," he said, adding that sleeping was fine, with the motion of the vessel providing a rocking action, though inside the galley, particularly in heavy seas, was much tougher.

Kuusk nonetheless developed various tricks for beating sea-sickness, without actually having to go on deck to focus on the horizon, saying that if he did that, he would not be able to have gone back down to the galley.

Within a few days, he had found his sea legs, Kuusk said, adding that the reverse – a type of "land sickness" after returning ashore – did not materialize.

Kuusk said that his experience cooking for 100-150 people at a wedding, even just for one day, followed similar principles to what he carried out at sea.

"Planning, calculating, preparing, thinking and all that. The most difficult thing is logistics and cleaning," he continued.

Naturally fish was on the menu a lot, including tuna, in fact at the center of virtually every meal.

"We also caught a golden mackerel, to which I even dedicated a poem. Then we caught a bonito – which looks like a small little fish here [in Estonia], which was especially delicious and a favorite of the crew.

Finally, we also started to catch smaller herring-like fish, which I salted a lot in various marinades," he said.

Kuusk said that his personal best timing from catch to plate was 15 minutes.

"As I say, nature is the best cook. It's our job just not to spoil it," he said, adding he has not eaten fish since leaving the boat, though still has a craving for it.

Kuusk recorded his thoughts and feelings in a book, due to publish soon, over the entire four-month voyage.

"It's not exactly a recipe book, though there are recipes too. It's more of a log book. I submitted the manuscript to the publishers today, so we're looking at a late February/early March publishing date for 'Laevakokk Wend' ('ship's cook Wend', Wend being Kuusk's nickname-ed.)," he added.

Kuusk concluded by saying that while sailing is not quite in his blood, he still enjoy the adventure, the process and the mind and spirit that accompany being at sea. 

"The very fact that you have to be awake and ready. It keeps you on your toes."

The Admiral Bellingshausen's voyage will be the subject of a TV documentary. She is nearing the Antarctic continent at the time of writing, and has already entered its waters. You can keep updated on the voyage's social media page here.

The vessel is a 24-meter, Dutch-built ketch, and the voyage marks the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica, or at least its ice shelf, by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, at the time a captain in the Imperial Russian Navy, and a Baltic German native of Saaremaa.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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