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2 December, 2002

It’s the food that keeps us going.  

Date: 12/2/02   

Latitude: 80 degrees South

Longitude: 120 degrees East

Time of weather observation: 10:47am

Temperature: -17°C / 1°F

Wind speed: 20 knots

Wind Chill: -30°C/-21°F

Wind direction : Northerly

Meters of ice collected: 30 m

Other data from this site: (110 km deep radar 175 km shallow radar  both done today!)   

Notes on daily life by Betsy Youngman:

We continue to work on many small, but important projects here at Byrd camp.

This morning the wind has come up again and the snow is blowing around, making working conditions more difficult for those who are outside.  Susan, Dan, Paul, Eric and Mark are working to collect an ice core with the new two-inch drill.  They have been working on this project for the past three days.  The first day they assembled the drill and drilled a short test core sample.  Yesterday they reached twenty meters depth but had some difficulties with the drill cable, so stopped drilling at lunchtime and spent the afternoon repairing the drill.  This morning the drilling team headed back out to their site about two kilometers away from here and began drilling again. Last night, Markus and I struggled with a tethered balloon launch in the high winds, but gave up after the winds smashed the balloon into the ground twice.

It is 11 am and I am in the warm and cozy Jamesway hut where Andrea is again cooking up a wonderful lunch for all fifteen of us to enjoy.  There is an aroma of fresh bacon and mushroom quiche coming from the oven. Andrea is an amazing cook, we have had nonstop great meals. She puts together meals that are colorful, healthy and tasty.  The menus vary from meal to meal and day to day. Breakfasts include cereals, hot and cold, fresh cooked eggs and bagels, pancakes and syrup. Lunches, always a welcome break from a cold morning working in the wind and snow, have varied from soup and sandwiches to quiche, stew and leftovers. Dinners, each more spectacular than the last, have included entries such as fresh Antarctic cod, salmon, halibut, turkey, potatoes, carrots, pastas and salads. In between meals there are endless snacks of cookies, energy bars and chocolate bars.  Cold winds, hard physical labor and long days create the need for these nutritious, hearty meals.  The meals help to nurture both our bodies and our souls.  Food is an important part of keeping our spirits up in these field camp conditions.  People linger at meals to recant stories of their day’s work, to laugh over jokes and tall tales, and to discuss scientific ideas and theories.  When we are in the field all fifteen of us eat in the kitchen module, a fifteen by twenty foot space.  It is an intimate dining experience with barely enough space for all of us to sit and thaw out.

Having a cook along on a field camp is a luxury we are very lucky to have.  Planning, organizing and packing food for fifteen people for twelve weeks is no simple problem. Andrea began her work on this project in August, three months before we arrived in the field! I asked her to tell me how one goes about solving this enormous problem. She replied casually, “Oh, it is nothing, I just make it up as I go along.”  Disbelieving, I pressed her for details. Here is how she does it. First, she received a list of the food choices available in McMurdo’s warehouses. She likened this to a giant grocery store. After some calculations of the quantities needed to fill the stomachs of fifteen people for twelve weeks, she checked off items on the list of what she thought would appeal to this team of diverse people. These items; from dried fruit to frozen fish were pulled from the warehouse shelves by people in Mcmurdo so that when Andrea arrived on October 20th she could begin the daunting task of packing this volume of food into eleven, eighteen cubic foot boxes.  That is about two hundred cubic feet of food!

Once the food arrived in the field, Andrea unpacked it from these shipping boxes and sorted it into the storage spaces on the train. We have no refrigerators here, just outside frozen or indoors in our tiny kitchen.  This makes it quite a balancing act to have the food thawed and ready to use for each meal.  In order to achieve having the right food thawed on schedule, Andrea plans meals two to three days in advance.  She then “goes shopping” to the cardboard boxes that serve as storage containers and brings the food into the kitchen to thaw.  The spaces nearest the floor remain close to refrigeration temperature, so she places the frozen food in the corner of the lowest cabinet in the kitchen, allowing it to thaw without spoiling. 

Andrea’s days are as long and hard as all of ours.  She starts her days at 6:30 am, heating water for coffee. She has a small, two burner stove to cook on. The entire kitchen is similar to a simple RV kitchen. The sink is a jug of water over a five gallon bucket we call the slop bucket. Water is melted snow.  Each meal takes approximately two hours to prepare. Two hours cooking times three meals, then the cleaning, water melting, shopping and planning.  Andrea retires for the night after the dinner dishes are done between 9 and 10 pm. She works 7 days a week.  Once we are done here Andrea will return to Mcmurdo where she will work at the Berg Field Center, helping other teams prepare for their trips into the field. 

And finally, why does Andrea do her cooking for a bunch of scientists in primitive conditions for months at a time? When asked this question she replied, “It’s like having my own big family I get to cook for. And I have a lot of freedom I wouldn’t have if I cooked in some fancy restaurant, say in Chicago or something.”  We’re sure glad to have Andrea, no matter how bleak the weather or arduous the work, we can count on a great meal in Andrea’s kitchen.

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