Paul's Notes from Antarctica
The galley provides four meals a day. The usual
three, plus a midnight snack.
- On Sunday, breakfast and lunch are combined
into a brunch. Sunday brunch is our favorite meal at the galley. I
have been working hard and have developed a large appetite. One
brunch I ate: a plate filling waffle with strawberries and whipped
cream, a ham, cheese, and green Chile omelet,and two slabs of ham.
I followed it all up with brunch desert of two apple turnovers.
Then washed it down with three glasses of pineapple
- Noel followed dinner one night with a bowl of
fruit loops for desert: He smiled as he said "They have fruit
loops on tap here." He was right, a huge tank of fruit loops can
be used to fill your bowl any time you want. Who could ask for
Fruit Loops on Tap!
- For Sunday Brunch this sign appeared at the
waffle stand in the galley.
Due to the fact that it is a harsh continent we are out of
strawberries, management regrets any inconvenience.
- After eating the do-it-yourself lunch tacos
our friend John commented,"it's amazing what they do with prison
grade beef here."
- Mary reports that she went to "A party with no
name, in hut 10" where biologist Art DeVries cooked Antarctic Cod.
Mary says that the fish reminded her of Chilean sea bass and was
the best meal she has had in Antarctica. At another party she had
Antarctic Cod Sashimi and proclaimed it excellent.
I am a light scattering physicist so I am tuned in
to the local light displays.
- Outside the window of our office in Crary lab
we look across McMurdo sound to Mount Discovery. One calm morning
it looked like someone had lifted up the entire mountain and that
the bottom had stretched upward like taffy. There seemed to be a
new set of cliffs ringing the bottom of the mountain. It was a
Fata Morgana, an inferior mirage, light from the mountain bent as
it passed through different temperature layers of air above the
ice. Fata Morgana is named after Morgan le Fay, sister to King
Arthur who was supposed to be able to change her
- At Lower Erebus hut the plume of Erebus passed
between me and the sun. The sun was immediately surrounded by
three reddish rings of corona about 12 degrees in total diameter.
The appearance of the corona tells me that the cloud is made of
supercooled water droplets not ice crystals. It was fun to see the
sun as the bulls eye in a three ring target.
- The smoke plumes from Erebus were bluish in
color. As they moved over us their shadows on the snow were yellow
and yellowish-brown. The blue light was scattered away allowing
the yellow light to strike the snow.
- I descended into one of the ice towers made by
fumaroles on Mt. Erebus. Light filtering down through the ice was
blue. As we moved deeper under the ice the blue deepened in color.
At the very deepest levels the light became a stunning
The Smells of Antarctica
Before I left the Exploratorium Melissa asked me
to take note of the smells I encountered in Antarctica. Here is what
- We entered the Crary science lab on the way to
our office passing through the Antarctic fish biology area. It
smelled like my local fish market to me. Except these fish are not
- The MEC shop smelled of old airplane hangar,
with its special blend of hydrocarbons from gasoline and oil
blended with the smell of hot metals.
- On our way out onto the ice for "Happy Camper
School" we dropped in to the galley to pick up our lunches. Just
then, they removed the hot chocolate chip cookies from the oven,
Ah! the smell of hot butter, chocolate, and sugar.
- On the rim of Erebus we entered the volcanic
plume and smelled the classic smell of burning sulfur. The acidic
gasses tickled my throat and lungs while the -20 C air froze the
mucous inside my nose.
- In one briefing about personal hygiene in the
Dry Valleys we learned about propane powered toilets used to dry
out human waste. The video noted that one of these propane toilets
was named " The rocket toilet," after a legendary
- We travel as passengers in boxes lifted high
above the snow and ice by huge tires or tracks. A ladder is
lowered down the back of the vehicle to allow us to exit. The
first person to descend the ladder during Sea Ice school jumped
off the bottom of the ladder and shouted "That's one small step
for a man."
- Karen Joyce describes the local large camp
robbing birds, the Skuas, as looking like "seagulls who have had
an industrial accident."
- On the television weather channel they list
"Astronomical data: Next Sunset: February 20, 2002."
- The weather proudly proclaims: "Tonight's
weather: Sunny" When it's sunny at night you know you're not in
- A paper sign beneath a metal plaque proclaims
this safety warning:
So what would yu do if you saw this sign?