Happy Endless Day from WAIS 2012

Photo by August Allen DEC 2011


The 2011 Solstice Feast

Right before the summer solstice holiday weekend WAIS was hit, yet again, but another big blizzard that actually took down a tent or two.

Saturday morning, the day of the feast, the clouds began to part. WAISees stretched their muscles and minds for it was going to be a long, hard day of sunshine and shoveling topped with late night festivities.

Whether by machine or hand it is our duty to level the dunes around camp. It seems like half the job here is science; the other half is shoveling.

Reconstruction of the outdoor pee pyramid.

For lunch Chef Russ got behind the grill to burn up some burgers.

Considering that I had all my holiday feast prep finished I went ahead and began prepping for Sunday's brunch and Monday's breakfast. The rest of the camp may get the weekend off, but cooks never do. We work tirelessly and endlessly to pretty much make holidays what they are... a time to sit down together as a family and have a feast.

Cooks are the gluten in your bread, the cream in your coffee, the plate the fuels modern day civilization and it's research projects.

Skipping ahead a couple days... this is what I had planned for Monday's bfast.

Expanding waisbands? Don't blame me... I just cook the stuff... don't mean you have to eat it. But, it sure does taste good ;-)

Kho dee (Thai) = good island.

Most of the WAIS staff worked until 3 PM on Christmas Eve. After work, they put the newly groomed ski hill to use. South Pole has a giant ski hill in spring from all the summer camp dozing... Scott Base has their own private skill hill... we should do the Extreme Antarctic X Games sometime eh? Kite boarding, skiing, mountain climbing, snowmobile races, trick ski high jumps... it's all here waiting to be organized.

The g-unit galley.

A gingerbread representation of ^ I didn't make the houses, but I made the dough.

Once showerd and chilled a few goodfellas came to the kitchen to help out. "Cody, if I have to cut another carrot... " - Papa X-RAY.

"Oh, I love making sugar cookies!" - Dean.

"SUGAR!!!" - The dish girl.

Speaking of sugar, here's a candy platter Cait and I put together. Mint fudge, nutty peanut butter fudge balls, cashew brittle and Caitlin added her chocolatey peanut butter balls and apricots dipped in chocolate.

Time to get the show rolling. Oven on, flames high, knives flyin... let's do this!

Rendering the duck before finishing it in the oven and glazing it.

A mashed potato, beet and mushroom medley.

Russ'el's beef wellington.

Peach's langosta.

The apps. Baked brie, crostinis, pate platter, caramelized onion and goat cheese tarts, fruit cups, calamari with garlic aioli and a big bowl of grapes.

Salads and bread.

The meat line. Beef wellington, maple glazed duck and lobster. Aside to the mashed tators we also had roasted root veggies, braised cabbage, cranberry stuffing, a raspberry duck sauce, cranberry sauce and turkey gravy.

Pre-dinner toast.

"Yum." - Psycho

One of the newly arrived core handlers brought in 120,000 year old ice cores from a nearby glacier that were later constructed into drinking glasses.

Can't tell if it's the pink lemonade or mammoth sweat I'm tasting. Did I just drink ancient history?

This guy.

We played the white elephant gift ceremony. Everyone picks a number, start with 1 and move up, when your # comes up you can choose to steal an already opened present or open a wrapped one. Best to be a later number. I got a bottle of red wine by randomly picking a wrapped package. I don't like red wine, but I will cook with it. Should have stole the little stuffed penguin for my sister that someone had already opened.

Next day, Sunday, I put brunch out then went to tent city to do some serious digging. Looks like the weather is going to be sunny and 85 F (more like 35 F, but feels like 85 F) over the next week. Before another storm hits, I need to re-examine and re-engineer the architecture of my tent wall system. See, the deal is this, I built a giant wall but it is about 6-feet away from my tent. This leaves a 6-foot wide by 8-feet high/deep cavity that fills with snow and since it can't blow anywhere once trapped inside the wall it fills vertically putting more tension on the less supported parts of my tent. The experiment I'm working on now is to create a snow terrace, made up of 3 or more trenches and hopefully that will allow for the snow to fill in before it reaches the core. Somewhat like the inverse of a rice terrace that distributes rain down. I want to distribute snow up and out before it reaches my tent and the big tent wall around it. If only I built an igloo from day 1...

Shoveling the staircase to the watchtower.

One of the 3 outside terraced trenches completed.

At the watchtower awaiting another CON 1. Bring it on.


Preparation for a White Christmas

The summer solstice was yesterday and that marks the halfway point of Antarctica's summer science operations. Early this week we completed all the scheduled logging projects in the 3300 m borehole. That was part 1. The second phase of ice research at WAIS is to dig deeper. Soon scientists will know exactly how much ice lies between the bottom of the borehole and the top of the underground surface. Pinging the rock bottom below the ice is not so easy because the bedrock has been eroded to a fine size. This makes it's hard for a sonar (aka fancy fish finder) to differentiate between fine rock and fine ice. The sand and ice at the ~3500 m bottom are roughly the same shape and size. I think that if there is any life down there it would be microscopic if living, otherwise frozen and fossilized.

Ontop the ice human life is peachy. The food is good, scientists successful, knarley weather and machines are breaking. When the generator goes out, whether by mechanical error or because dynamite is being blown for the purpose sonic ice science, I resort to nothing but propane fire and melted ice because there is no electricity. This rarely happens, but when it does I enjoy every minute of the quiet early mornin cookin session. Make do with what ya got.

Here's PB (Piston Bully) getting it's internals examined.

Inside the MECH shop where...

the mechanics fix anything.

I see every person at camp at least twice every day in the galley. By observing and listening during meal times I get the big picture of what's going on at camp. There is no privacy in the galley. If a researcher wants to discuss how the anti-freeze liquid convection currents within the borehole is causing error with ice temp. logging by depth then he/she will do so and those eating with ears open nearby will be enligthened. Likewise, when the three cooks start talking about their most embarassing times in high school during lunch, all are free to listen. Who needs TV when you have you?

While taking a leak outside in 10 knots and clouding skies I noticed some peculiar uniformly stacked white boxes with bright tags on them. They are ice core boxes. Soon to be filled and shipped by freezer plane and truck to Denver. Next to arrive at WAIS from McMurdo (and probably Denver) are the core handlers.

The ARCH drill was installed today and tomorrow the drillers should get their first ice core for the 2011-2012 season. There won't be much drilling this time around. The drillers are looking to get a couple hundred meters deeper.

On the weather channel, Kat says a big storm is coming. YES! This year has been so stormy that one of the weather gals is nicknamed 'Storm'.

The blue outlines around the green blobs indicate stormy times.

Wind picks up. Heaters roaring to keep our machines and bodies warm and in action.

At 2 AM I began work. The windows are frosting, handsoap frozen, and the galley tent is starting to shake with snow blowing in through all cracks. Folks usually don't stream in until 6 AM, so I have hours to myself to watch the storm rise and the weather board reads that it should be getting bad around 5 AM.

I throw down; my breakfast/baking table is set and I have a large list of XMAS goods to produce in 5 days.

The day before, Sunday brunch at 7 AM was this...

and on Monday I planned a steaming hot wake-up-in-yo-tent-snowed-in blizzard breakfast.

Pizza quiche.

Russ made it in after a bit of shoveling and started flippin pizzas.

Fish was fryin.

Steaming beets getting sliced. Lunch is always a party.

While he was doin his thang I was tweakin with the bread mixer getting gingerbread together for gingerbread 'house' making. Where did this gingerbread house building custom come from? Hansel and Gretel? I was going to say that it's odd to create a house and then eat it, but then again kids eat gummy worms and gummy cars and gummy monsters and bubble gum measuring tapes, so nevermind. I don't think many people eat their gingerbread houses, but an odd tradition especially since derived from the German Grimm Brothers fairy tales.

The kitchen asked the camp what they would like for the holiday dinner. Don the Science Don asked for pumpkin pie. No problem man, my favourite.

I lost track of the progession of time of when these were baked, but it all, including the pics above, went down on Monday and Tuesday. Toasted hazelnut and apple crisp pie.

Upside down cranberry cake. Since we're near the south pole, might as well as call it downside up cranberry cake.


A typical Christmas morning dried fruit and nut bread. Kuglof or something like that. Needs to be iced and sugared.

Homemade hambuger buns for today's (Thursday) hamburgers.

Smore cake. Completely made this one up,

because I found cases and cases of chocolate :)

The bakery central.

Like anywhere else on Earth we need fresh water, especially for the kitchen. All day and night, night and day, people stroll to the back of the kitchen to shovel a bucket of snow and dump it into the melter. Today I helped dump in 22 buckets. On Tuesday the blizzard was peaking and the kitchen turned into a steam room with all the melting going on. Not a bad thing really.

When I saw drifts forming near the dining tables I thought about my little yellow tent and the giant snow wall around it. Is it surving?


Hand lines were hung outside to help us navigate between the tents and outhouses.

Doorways were swallowed and required routine shoveling.

Looking towards the galley at 40 knots with hard hitting, wet snow.

The COMMS shack.

Our micro weather station.

In the movie Forrest Gump there's a moment when Hank is in Vietnam jungle and talks about how the rain comes from every which way in all different forms. Well, during the last three days I've seen quarter-sized giant wet flakes from BYRD that soaks you in seconds, microscopic burning ice from the west that freezes the skin easily, light fluffy snow lifting from the ground and snow that falls from the sky like frozen bullets straight to the face. There's only one thing to do, retreat back to the kitchen.