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Adele Elia and Bob Wharton were at a meeting of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research, an international scientific organization formed to coordinate Antarctic research after the 1956 International Geophysical Year and the 1959 signing of the Antarctic Treaty. Over the years SCAR had become one of the main de facto governments of Antarctica, along with the US National Science Foundation and the British and other national Antarctic research programs, especially Argentina’s and Chile’s. The SCAR meeting was in Geneva this year, so it had been a morning’s train ride for Adele and Bob, who during their work in the ministry had become friends.
Now they sat looking out at the lake from a bar on the second story of the meeting’s hotel. Out the window beside their table they could see the famous fountain launch its spire of water into the air. To the south a stupendous set of thunderheads, as solid as the marble tabletops in their bar, lofted high over the Mont Blanc massif. They were enjoying this view and their drinks when they were approached by an American glaciologist they knew named Pete Griffen. Griffen was pulling by the arm another man they didn’t know, whom Pete introduced as Slawek, another glaciologist. Adele and Slawek had read some of each other’s papers, and even attended some of the same meetings of the AGU, but until now had never met.
A waiter appeared with a tray of drinks that Griffen had ordered: four snifters of Drambuie, and a carafe of water with water glasses. “Ah, Drambers,” Adele said with a little Gallic smile. This liqueur was what Kiwis always drank in the Dry Valleys, they informed Bob as they took their first sips. When Bob made a face as he tasted it, Griffen explained that long ago a ship filled with cases of the weird sweet stuff had been stranded in Lyttelton when its shipping company went bankrupt, and the cases had been warehoused there and over the years sent south for cheap, year after year. So they drank a toast to the Dry Valleys and settled into their chairs.Kim Stanley Robinson ‘Drambers’.