4 December, 1998
Friday, December 4, 1998
Hi! I was VERY tired today after our Dry Valleys field trip last night. I wish I could have slept in longer, but I needed to get over to Crary Lab by 10:00 AM to work with Jenny (in the computer lab) on the CU-SeeMe hook-up between my class at Husmann and me in McMurdo. I wish I could say that it worked….we had a connection of sorts, where I could type messages and they could immediately reply, but we couldn't get the video to work both ways. We couldn't even get it to work ONE way! Thanks to Jenny (on this end), Stephanie Shipp (at Rice University) and Bill Schmidt (from District #47). Maybe we'll get it to work yet! At any rate, I'm set for my conference call to my classroom next week.
After lunch I had to walk up to the post office, so I took a little detour to the greenhouse. I've been wanting to stop in for some time now….and boy, am I glad I finally did! What a cool (or should I say "hot") place! I met Loren Luyendyk, from Santa Barbara, California, who is the main person at the greenhouse this season. He gets help from volunteers in McMurdo, too, and one of them named Liz was working when I arrived. Besides the greenhouse, Loren does work in the galley. His father, Bruce, first came to Antarctica in 1989, and is a geophysicist. Loren gave me the scoop on the greenhouse.
It's a year-round facility…run with artificial light. They do have a section in front that uses natural light during the summer months, and it gets closed up during the winter when there's no light. Loren was talking about re- designing the greenhouse, and says that that's a work in progress (WIP if you're looking for yet another acronym). There isn't a ton of room in the greenhouse, but they've made good use of their space. There's a lot more grown there than I would have imagined…lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, eggplant, basil, swiss chard, cabbage, garlic, parsley, dill, spinach, peppermint, scallions, strawberries, and even sunflowers! Gosh, it was GREAT to see green plants and some COLOR! I haven't seen a real green plant in over 5 weeks now….holy smokes! It was also so hot and humid in there, I barely could stand it. I'm so used to the cold down here that being hot was horrible!
The greenhouse has been in McMurdo since the late 1980's. All plants are started from seeds and they use a lot of recycled materials to grow the plants. PVC pipe is used to make a holder for each tiny plant. They use a cylinder (called a plug) and they put a mesh fabric inside to hold the plant and vermiculite (heated inorganic popped rocks used instead of dirt). These plugs are placed in holders that reach down to a trough underneath. The trough is on an angle and water is circulated up and down these troughs to give the plants water. Nutrients are mixed with the water. The water is pumped up and gravity brings it back down again. This method of growing plants is called the NFT-nutrient film technique.
Loren arrived here the first week of October and I'd say he has things well underway at the greenhouse. He'll be here for five months total. Thanks to Loren for a great interview and the chance to see some GREEN!!
Later today I was invited to a reception at a place called Hut 10. This little gathering was to meet two of the board members of the National Science Foundation. This is actually a Presidential appointment and confirmed by the Senate. It was a chance to meet with other scientists and share stories, and to get some great appetizers!!! We had smoked salmon, asparagus spears, tender roast beef, mini quiches, and much, much more! It was a nice switch for dinner!
Afterward, I went back to the lab to work on some journals and answering e- mail. At around 9:30 PM I took a break and went to Gallaghers with some Cape Roberts people to relax. Franco and I played some foosball against Tim and Cricket and we smoked them. I think that was because of Franco-he's really a foosball nut and quite good. Still, it was fun to play! I was pretty tired from last night, so I ended up back at the dorm a little early tonight…11:30 PM. Talk with you tomorrow!
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