Posted by: sioglac | Nov 19, 2011

School and packing. Packing and school.

The first few in days in McMurdo are absolute craziness. Always on the move, always somewhere to go, always a school to attend. Of course I went to Happy Camper school, which lasted almost 36 hours. Then there was truck driving school (I just had to get my Antarctic driver’s license). And easily the most useful was snowmobile school since that will be our primary form of transport once we are in the deep-field. What does snowmobile school consist of? About an hour talk standing next to a snowmobile, learning the ins-and-outs as well as basic maintenance. Then we went out on the sea-ice and took some for a spin:

Ben and Atsu ogling the brand new snowmobile (mine had 64km on the odometer)

That’s me on my ride. With my sweet helmet. And big red. And hipster boots.

Other than schools, my time the past two days have been taken up with two related things: cargo shipping and food pull. We have 3 “herc” flights for our put-in and all our gear needs to be palletized and put through the shipping system 3 days before our put-in. We did the bulk of that Thursday and Friday (that’s Wednesday and Thursday stateside) and it’s a lot of manual labor mixed with paper work. Each box we make needs to be measured and weighed so we can pack each plane with an appropriate volume and weight. Because we won’t be landing on a runway, we have a very low ACL (can’t help myself with the three letter acronyms anymore– ACL is allowable cabin load), which might explain why we need three GIGANTIC planes to get us where we’re going.

Anyway, that was all pretty boring stuff. What wasn’t boring was our non-frozen food pull. Basically this is where we get all our food for the field. We have 336 person days (8 people for 42 days), which means we need a lot of food (typically it’s ~3 lbs of food per person per day). So we’re talkin a half ton of food. So how does food pull work? Of course I’ll show you in pictures:

We started with Peggy, the food room czar, explaining what’s in all the aisles and how to go about pulling food without ruining her system. Total and utter respect for Peggy. She’s awesome and has a supremely difficult job of feeding a small army.

So then we walk around taking the food decided upon during our two hour long food meeting two nights previous. Some things, however, are rationed. Like Sriracha sauce (we snagged two bottles), coffee (Peggy only wanted to give us 2 pounds (for 8 people for 6 weeks?!), but I got her to settle on finding us a 10lb bag from the Galley), and chocolate. I tweeted a bit about the chocolate situation. The full ration is 2 bars of chocolate per person per day. That’s 672 chocolate bars, or not quite 74 pounds of chocolate. Huw decided that was a bit aggressive, so we decided on 1.5 bars per person per day, or 504 chocolate bars. Here’s how the shelf started:

Here’s what I pulled from the shelves:

And here’s what I left:

That’s right. I took every single chocolate bar. Peggy said she had never seen that in all her years of running the food issue. Wanna know how many chocolate bars there were on the shelf? 503. ONE SHORT! I’ll assign that one to Huw. We also took the last bag of  field-bound beef jerky in the entirety of the US Antarctic Program as well as the last package of spaghetti. Sorry to anyone who comes after us.

All in all, this is what our pull looked like, from two different angles:

That’s a whole lot of food. That’s all I got. It’s hipster party night at Gallagher’s, so I’m off to that. Oh the weather turned a bit this afternoon. It got a bit colder, the wind picked up, and we had some snow. In other words, it turned into a winter wonderland here at McMurdo. I loved it. I just wanted to sit outside all day. Instead, I got to organize the GPS waypoints for the field season. I did get to hang out at the BFC (Bird Field Center) for a bit [I forgot to grab some stuff there so I just have to go back on Monday. Anyone that has been in the program knows how that goes…]. Which meant I could snap a picture of the wonderland here:

Tomorrow will be a slower day, so I’ll try to explain some science to you. Then on Monday, NPR regular Jill Mikucki (ahem, here and here) shows up in Mactown, which means “slow” will no longer exist in my vocabulary. Maybe I’ll make her guest blog about polar microbiology. Off to pretend to be a hipster!




  1. […] errand: tracking down our 10 pounds of coffee, compliments of Peggy. This is Huw guarding our stash with his […]

  2. Good to see you have Cadburys 🙂

  3. […] mush right now, so no more thoughts on the day (though you can read about the food pull last year here. Biggest difference is we only took 240 chocolate bars this year, instead of the 503 the first […]

  4. […] McMurdo this year because I think I’ve covered everything I’m doing in past posts. We pulled food, packed cargo, recreated some, and ate a lot. I guess I may be a bit jaded at this point, so you […]

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