16 October, 2003
We could not fly again today. So I walked about town and visited the greenhouse.
With the US being part of the International Antarctic Treaty, living things are carefully controlled here. No dirt is allowed because it can support microorganisms. So this greenhouse is completely outfitted with hydroponics. There are troughs laying on floors and shelves that trickle nutrient rich water past the roots of the plants. All the plants are potted in vermiculite and placed in water buckets. It is amazing what can be grown this way.
My guide was Rob from Montana, who has gone through six seasons here at McMurdo. He is the sole caretaker for the place during the summer. Presently he is planting for the return of the winter season. So he is starting his tomatoes and peppers now. Soon they will grow to touch the ceiling, and there will be little space to walk around. Most food comes from the planes during the summer flights. But during the winter the gardens here do supplement the galley food. I was very surprised once when we had fresh green salad from the gardens, enough for everyone at winfly. Sometimes I go fishing through the pasta salad for the few green things that garnish it.
In the greenhouse are many herbs, and in one pot is a lime tree grown from a seed from a dinner in '98. The leaves provide seasoning, it cannot pollinate down here. The roof of the greenhouse has the glass covered. The temperature fluctuations are too great, and the plants need darkness to respire, so the original atrium glass is sealed off. There are hammocks to rest in for those weary of the white and cold.
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