Days 10-11 Food Provisions

Antarctic provisioning, then and now…..

Fortune would be in a hard mood indeed if it allowed such a combination of knowledge, experience, ability and enthusiasm to achieve nothing.
– Robert Falcon Scott
The time has (hopefully) arrived for us to venture into the field.  For the last two days, however, our focus has been provisions – specifically, the food we will eat.  Generally speaking, food takes on a special significance in extreme and remote environments.  Astronauts who travel to the International Space Station routinely report on the importance of a varied, and appealing menu of available foods to improve morale and well-being, not to mention nutritional value.  Our first day of food preparation included a review of available foods and drinks with our tent-mates.  Although we can certainly choose different foods, it’s obviously more convenient if our palates are compatible.  Luckily, my tent-mate, Hosie, and I had very similar tastes (i.e., ‚”meat and potatoes”), so our food selection process went quickly.  The next step in the process included the collection of our dry goods, which included items such as oatmeal, pasta, rice, dehydrated dinners (remember to take out the desiccant!), coffee/tea, canned goods, cookies, crackers, granola and candy bars.  Admittedly, I think I will eat better in the field than I do back home.  The second day of food collection included the frozen foods.  Ironically, the frozen foods here at McMurdo are stored in freezer containers, as the temperatures sometime rise above freezing, jeopardizing tremendous amounts of food, and associated costs.  The frozen foods were as varied as the dry goods and included items such as steak, shrimp, scallops, chicken, fish, tater-tots, butter and bacon – Hosie and I agreed 100% on these particular food items, especially the bacon!  All of the food – both dry goods and frozen foods – had to be inventoried, crated, weighed and measured, and placed in the “cargo stream”, so that it is placed on the planes that will take us out into the field.  Although the process was a little slow and cumbersome, the McMurdo staff that support food provisioning and cargo processing were absolutely fantastic, and deserve recognition for the incredibly important role that they serve in Antarctic research efforts.  Thanks to everybody at the the Berg Field Center (BFC) and SciCo!!!
Speaking of provisions, once the food was on it’s way through the cargo stream, we had an opportunity to receive a private tour of Discovery Hut, thanks to one of the many, many fascinating people we have met here.  James is an electrician with one of the other research teams here at McMurdo and has been certified/approved to give tours of the hut (thanks James !!).  Discovery Hut has been designated as a “Historic Site or Monument” per the Antarctic Treaty of 1959.  It was built by Robert F. Scott’s crew during the Discovery Expedition of 1901-1903.  It was used primarily as a provisions storage facility, as it’s design and construction was determined to be inadequate for the frigid arctic environment.  Instead, the crew found living/sleeping on their ship to be more acceptable.  The hut was later used for provisioning during the British Antarctic Expedition (also known as the Nimrod Expedition) of 1907-1909, led by Ernest Shackleton, and during the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913.  Shackleton once again utilized the hut for provisioning during his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1917, during which Shackleton’s ship “The Endurance” was lost, setting the stage for one of Antarctic exploration’s great feats of endurance and survival.  Shackleton’s expedition was considered to be the last major expedition of the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration”, although from all the incredible ongoing research I’ve seen in my time here at McMurdo, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), I’d suggest that one could argue the next age of Antarctic exploration is in it’s infancy.
Written by Mr. John McBrine