The WAIS Take Out

The WAISyde Story of 2012 has come to a close and today the last 12 people at the camp will fly back home to McMurdo Station. This season has been revered as one of the most successful and that is due to people who put it together, ran it and dug that giant borehole. We are what made WAIS what it was.

I’ve always felt that food is what ignites morale, and boy, did it ever. The WAIS cooking crew… Russ’el, Rosemary and I made miracles with only a few freshies and an ever evolving kitchen. For example, in the beginning, there was an old propane oven in our kitchen. After a few weeks the flames would go out every five minutes and Russ’el or I would be on our knees for 30 seconds trying to reignite the pilot. It was so cold near the floor of the kitchen that the turbulent air flow would blow out the pilot. The oven broke us down emotionally. Russ’eI spent many hours trying to reignite it and he, lying on the dirty kitchen floor with a lighter, almost seemed to meditate with the propane fumes. Rosemary stared at it in dismay and confusion for there would be no more Rosemary’s cookies. I wound up kicking it every morning in hope that kicking it would bring it back to life. All my hopes of baking fresh breads, pizzas, muffins, cheesecakes, brownies and cookies vanished. Can you cook a cheesecake in a water bath on a stove? I was gonna if I had too. Then the main generators came online and we were given power to the standing convection oven. What a blessing that was. For the rest of the season we had our oven needs.

The old oven, a blizzard inside my tent, a 3-month long growing snow drift that swallowed my tent and almost my digging patience, a lost turkey for Thanksgiving, scientists and NSF representatives stuck for many days due to weather delay (“Be on your best behavior” – Dean), 4 CON 1 storms in a month, each storm beginning at 10 PM on Saturday when everyone just wants to kick back, TNT detonated 24 hours a day for several days straight in the name of sonic science, snow that turned everything into soaked upon impact, a missing Bob doing laundry, someone’s neck gaiter, Trailer Park Boys 101, America’s deepest ice borehole, the PB that could, the James that would, how to hang a boxing bag in an old tent and hit it without bringing the place down, never-ending dance parties, corn, snowboarding the berms, kite surfing the owaisis, 120,000 year old ice cubes in 12-year old scotch, a bird… really?, WAIS not, want not, Mother Tucker, Drama Drama, Hollywood, Flow, Lancewa, Mega Blondie, Delish, just to name a few, outhouses of discovery dug by discoverers and the walls written on with words of what’s been discovered, brown ice. Yes, that may be volcanic ash in that core or possibly… cheeseburgers.

With that said… let me finish the last post of the WAISyde story.

WAIS is a temporary living and working space that is constructed each October and taken down each February. The only permanent structure is the Arch, where the borehole is located. That building is getting buried so deep that in a couple years it will have to be decommissioned. Everything else has to be boxed or boarded up and stacked on top the winter berms. The winter berms are manmade snow hills and by being on top the hills… the boxes and modules aren’t subject to being buried by winter snow. Barrels are also used to get the goods off the surface of the snow.

Last Saturday’s snow storm brought in a wet and fluffy species of snow that made it hard to doze it. James tried to tackle the freezer cave door and simply sunk in. The D4 is heavy and the snow was light, not a good combo.

On Monday, Dean said that we have to be out by Friday and that means get to work! In two days the majority of central camp was stripped down, put in boxes and dragged to the winter berms.

She needed help tying her boot.

Down, down, down! Tear it down!

The galley was the second to last building to be moved to the berms. On Monday, the main power generators were shut off and we were put on this 50K gen on skis.

People were hungrier than ever.

Come Tuesday it was time to make a mess of the kitchen. We had to take everything labeled ‘food stuff’ in the galley tent and find a place to put it inside the kitchen module. Then the galley tent was taken down and the wall boarded up. Three cooks in a small box, not a good idea. Rosemary was shipped out Monday, I on Wednesday and Russ’el is the last to leave today, if the weather allows.

After cooking breakfast, smoko and lunch on Wednesday I ran to my beloved abode to take it down. This is what it was before…

and this is what it was after James got to it.


All my personal belongings and sleep kit thrown on a sled. I’m officially homeless, again.

I put my bags outside of KBA to be palletized and forked onto the plane when it arrives.

Around 4 PM there were only three structures left on the main line… the galley mod, wash mod and KBA tent.

The propane tanks and backdoor freezer were then stripped from the galley module.

I opened the backdoor and ran into this. Oh, maybe I should try the front door. Oh wait, that’s boarded up. I’ll just pee in my pee bottle.

Mark’s forker chained to the front of the kitchen.

Destination – the winter berms. Where all the other boxes and modules are relocated.

Here we come!

There we six of us in the kitchen during the pull to the berms, each holding onto something to prevent any major fallings. I held the precious radio, while watching the Simpsons. Russ’el used a sheet tray to hold the plates. Dean was manning the sink area. G… I’m not sure of… at first he had the oven and then lost focus to eating a cookie. August handed out the juice boxes. Lisa and Kat maintained the chocolate area. It felt like an earthquake.

Once we landed to the berm it was time for dinner. Russ and I quickly got to re-reorganizing the place and cooking. G of course was the first in line.

Yes James, we see your seefood.

Ah, one big happy family.

I melted the remaining 120,000-year old ice cores and if lucky, will bring the holy water back to my sisters.

One last cheesecake.

It’s been nice cookin for yal, but a drifter gots to do what a drifter does and that means I’m gonna hit the road north headin to another no man’s land. Peace.

One final shot from the kitchen… Dean sippin on a juice box and eating a loppy pizza slice. For some odd reason, when it comes to catering to station and camp managers, simple is always the best.

Berm heaven.

My ticket out of the WAISland.