5 December, 1998

Saturday, December 5th, 1998

Hi everyone! I was busy today getting ready for the Cape Roberts Project open house, which is tomorrow at Crary Lab. We had meetings this morning about CRP, I spent hours on the computer answering mail and journaling, and I had several interviews around McMurdo today. Let me share those with you.

My first stop this afternoon was the galley, to speak with Jonathan Gurney, senior 1st cook. This is his third season working for ASA (Antarctic Support Associates) as a cook in McMurdo. Jonathan came down on the mainbody first flight (in early October) and his wife also works in McMurdo. He is one of 58 people working in the food service in Mactown.

Jonanthan's responsibilities include the quality of the food, service, presentation, and handling crisis management every day. He often subs for people who are sick, and he can jump into any position at any time! The food service has three shifts…AM, PM, and midnight rations (mid-rats). During meal hours the ten-hour shifts overlap, giving them more help at the crunch times. Another responsibility includes helping the other cooks plan the menu…which rotates every 6 weeks. Jonathan told me that if a dish doesn't sell, then they change it. Parcticular eating habits of the people in McMurdo change each season. I asked him what was popular this year and he said that the "big hits" are steak, pasta, desserts, lamb chops, and fish.

There are 4 food warehouses in McMurdo…a freezer, cold storage, warm storage, and the BFC (Berg Field Center). As far as ordering the food, there is a ship order that is placed once a year….and the supply ship brings these items late in the season. There are kilo-air items---not on the ship, but flown in on cargo plane. Last, but certainly not least, there are the freshies. These are the fresh fruits and veggies sent down here from Christchurch. The NSF (National Science Foundation) has the final word on whether or not the freshies are a priority. Some local freshies, from the Mactown greenhouse, are also used. Jonathan told me that next year they plan to grow more herbs there.

One of the biggest challenges is being able to improvise…using items that you would not normally use, and incorporate these into dishes. The other big challenge is making the food taste good. Remember, they are cooking for over a thousand people each day. Jonathan remarked that a big change this year was the move toward more "batch" cooking instead of institutional cooking…cooking more to order than preparing everything all at once and having it sit there for hours until a meal is over. I've heard a lot of people comment on how much better the food is this year. This is a HUGE job, feeding a whole town. Can you even imagine?

I pulled a piece off the local internet in McMurdo, that gave the statistics for this year's Thanksgiving feast. Are you ready for these numbers? Here they are for your amusement and amazement!

Turkey: 1,250 lbs. (both smoked and oven-roasted)

Roast beef: about 250 lbs.

Tempeh and vegetables: about 8 gallons

Cornbread dressing: 24 gallons

Bread dressing with giblets: 30 gallons

Steamed kumara (New Zealand sweet potato): 200 lbs.

Roasted root vegetables: 250 lbs.

Peas and carrots: 120 lbs.

Baked broccoli and cheese: 24 gallons

Mashed potatoes: 400 lbs.

Green bean casserole: 24 gallons

Turkey gravy: 35 gallons

Vegetarian gravy: 8 gallons

Spinach salad: 80 lbs. of fresh spinach

Cranberry sauce: 4 gallons

Deviled eggs: 1,800

Dinner rolls: 828

They also said that they lost count on the desserts and didn't keep track of the other cold foods, but here's a list anyway…

Waldorf salad, blue cheese spread, smoked salmon cheese spread, blue brie cheese, Fresh fruit salad, Raw veggies and dip…pumpkin pie, pecan pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, peach cream tartlets, strawberry napoleans, chocolate- raspberry Dobosh tortes.

They ended their message by saying "So, the next time you want to invite 1,200 of your closest friends to dinner, this is the quantity of food you will need to prepare. Thanks again to all the volunteers who made this day possible!" No kidding…40 to 60 extra pairs of hands in the kitchen on Thanksgiving really made a difference.

After leaving the galley, I walked to the housing office and got some statistics there. They have a chart that shows how many people are here in McMurdo, and how many are at each field camp…current as of today. Right now there are 1,126 people living in McMurdo, and an additional 186 at the South Pole. If you included all of the people living at field camps…the total is currently 1,439 people in Antarctica! (at least from the U.S. Stations)

I popped into the barber shop for a quick photo, too. I want to try to give you an idea of exactly what McMurdo is like!

Later on (after dinner) I went back to Crary Lab and worked in the computer lab til about 9:00 PM. I couldn't type ONE more thing, so I went over to dorm 209 for a party. The members of the Upstream "D" (Delta) group (who I went to Cape Royds with last week), are still stuck in McMurdo until the Herc aircraft can be moved and a new runway established. They had built a pinata, in the shape of a LC-130 Hercules…and they were going to bust it open tonight to "get rid of the evil spirits" that have prevented their team from getting into the field. The plane was made of paper mache, toilet paper rolls for engines, cardboard wings, and popsicle sticks for propellers. It was a riot! The best part was seeing each person try to break it open…which eventually did happen…and candy spilling all over!

The members of the Cape Roberts drill site (most of them) were back in town, too. Many of them arrived in town just this afternoon and are leaving tomorrow already. It was great to see them around McMurdo for a change! They certainly had a successful drilling season.

By the time I got back to the dorm tonight, it was 2:00 AM…another long day in McMurdo. Talk to you tomorrow!

Betty :)

Jonathan is standing by a whole row of ovens...these are used for baking.

Stacks of pots and pans and kitchenware in the galley.

Inside the galley...cooking for a family of 1,100 each day!

Preparing one of the salads for dinner this evening.

The housing office...

The McMurdo barber shop/beauty salon.

These posters advertise some of the activities going on in McMurdo.

The Herc pinata...made by the Upstream "D" (Delta) team of scientists.

Unfortunately, not all of the members of the Upstream Delta team were in this photo, but (from left to right) here are: Robin, Hans, Ginny, Hermann, Beth, Ben, an d Greg (standing in back).

Barclay Kamb, one of the leaders of the Upstream "D" team, is winding up, ready to try his luck at breaking the pinata. Barclay has been coming to Antarctica (he' s a glaciologist) for many years and is tops in his field! That bat is made of a bamboo pole with newspaper and electrical tape wrapped around it.

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