Sunday, May 30, 2010

Boating II... AND Live Webcam!!!

As I have said before, Zodiac boats are the main method of transportation around here. Lots of science happens on the outlying islands around Palmer and we get there by boat. In order to drive the boats, which we can all do, we have to take two classes run by Ryan Wallace our current Boating Coordinator. The first class is nothing more than an hour long session reviewing the safety of being on the water. The second class is actually on the water.

This is Ryan above, telling us about the GPS units we have on station. We use a combination of the GPS's and a lamented map to figure out where we are. I have only been out three or four times so I don't know some of the islands yet, but I suppose if you do this everyday as some do, it would be pretty easy to remember.

This is Malcolm Arnold driving the boat. He is the doctor for the winter. We all take turns driving and learning how to steer and deal with the outboard motor. Depending on how windy it is, it could be very difficult to handle this thing.

Every landing site on every island is clearly marked. Before these are marked people go out and determine the best place to land the boats so as to not damage anything on the island and not interrupt wildlife. These two painted red dots are where we land.

As you can see from this picture, some of the landings can be rather rocky and difficult to land on. I'm glad we didn't try to get out on this island.

In this picture, Ryan is teaching us about tying the boat up. It is a good idea to leave some slack in the line so that the boat is not sitting on the rocks if the tide goes out. There is also an anchor involved.

Every landing site also has a little metal anchor bolted into a rock. You can kind of see it in the close up picture. We have to tie the boat off when we land so that it doesn't blow away. Obviously. Here Ryan is tying a fancy knot. One that I cannot do and cannot pronounce.

As we cast off the island, Ryan pulls up the stern anchor.

These pictures are pretty cool. The last part of the class involved rescuing a man overboard. It is a very frightening thought, to be overboard in the frozen Antarctic waters. But a quick bump or a sharp turn can easily do it. So Jack, bless his heart, volunteered to get in the water. I actually think he was the only one that could because the immersion suit we grabbed was a size small. Thank goodness I'm a fat guy!

It's actually almost too small for Jack to fit into. But he squeezes in.

I really like these two pictures. Just hanging out in Hero Inlet in an immersion suit in Antarctica. Great. Who else gets to do this shit!? It's awesome!! My buddy Capt'n Dave Bardun says that the immersion suit is actually rather comfortable. Yes, we did rescue Jack. I don't have any photos of it cause there were only three of us in the class and I had to do my fair share of pulling Jack out of the water. Ryan had him play unconscious so we would get the feel of a worst-case-scenario scenario. Pulling an unconscious victim out of the water. It's not fun! Even the smaller people are heavy when wet!

And just for fun, here's some candid shots of me that Jack took. The suit I have on is mandatory for water travel. We call them float coats. They are not immersion suits meaning if we fell in the water they would not keep us alive very long. The suit that Jack has on above is an immersion suit. These suits are designed to keep you afloat and alive for an extended period of time if you were to fall in the water or if your boat was to sink. The float coat I have on is insulated so it works great in the environment we are in. It's not a life support system.

So this is a cool thing. We have webcam now! That means the world can look in and see Palmer Station. The link is below. There is a 15 second refresh but you are looking at Palmer live! Check it out! It's pretty cool.

Stay tuned next week (or earlier)for another food blog!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Week Off...

Hi. Obviously I dropped the ball last week on the blog. Busy, busy. So here is a link to a science blog. Ruth McDowell is one of the divers here and she wrote this on the kitchen staff. Perhaps you will find in interesting....

More from me this weekend...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ceviche & Stuffed Salmon....

Yay! My first Food Blog. The idea for this entire blog was to have it be about Palmer, my experience here as well as the food I am cooking. I don't have any pictures of my food so I'm starting to compile some for portfolio purposes. Just in case I can use them for interviews someday.

So today we have a step by step process on how to make Ceviche and how to stuff a Salmon. We still have fresh ingredients from when the last boat arrived. We also get some weird Chilean stuff. Like the side of Salmon you'll see in the second half of this post.

Ceviche is a seafood dish that originated in South America. Peru and Ecuador more specifically. And if you didn't already know, acidity cooks fish. I didn't know this for a while but it is a great tool. So the shrimp, scallops, whatever you put in lime or lemon juice will actually be cooked without the use of heat. Fascinating.

You take raw shrimp...


and fresh cilantro...

and mix it all together.

I like to add fresh cherry tomatoes, avocado, and fresh limes.

With all the ingredients mixed together, sprinkle kosher salt and cracked black pepper over it...

pour in copious amounts of lemon juice, lime juice and white wine...

and let it sit covered overnight.

Then the next day, uncover it and serve it with a kick ass Cinco de Mayo feast! We made a bunch of nachos, enchiladas, the fixins for a taco bar. And Captn Dave Bardun made his famous fresh tortilla chips. Fun all around.

Also keep in mind that this is just my recipe. There are millions of different ways to make ceviche using a million different kinds of sea treats. I love using scallops as well. They taste like candy. But white fish works best. I'm sure you can use salmon or tuna if you want but I would prefer to make a gravlax for bagels or smoke it.

Speaking of Salmon, Crawfish Stuffed Salmon is next on our list. In terms of food, we get some stuff from the states. We also have a Chilean resupply for the perishable items, freshies, cheeses, etc. The last time they brought some salmon and I was really excited to use fresh fish rather than frozen. But when I saw it I was confused. Because it was a gutted fish, not fillets like I'm used to. I mean this thing still had the little flippers on it man. Weird. But good! Diane suggested either cutting into salmon steaks or stuffing it. It was not big enough to cut into steaks so I stuffed it instead.

First I made the crawfish stuffing. It's a mixture of crawfish, yellow and green onions, egg, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, various seasonings, and lime juice...

put the mixture between the two fillets...

season the entire thing with olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, parsley, chunks of lemon...

wrap the whole sheet pan making sure not to let any air out. The wrapping of the fish keeps the moisture in so it steams and cooks in its own juices.

About 2.5 hours later, you have a stuffed salmon!

Hope you enjoyed this! Next week, Boating II! Or Birding. I haven't decided yet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Adventures of Ellsworth...

For those of you who don't know, I have a son. Now that my parents and grandmother have had heartattacks, I don't really have a son. But I am the surrogate father to a little green being. His name is Ellsworth.

Ellsworth belongs to my dear friend Amy whom I worked with at Pole and who is now wintering at McMurdo. I promised her a blog to prove that Ellsworth is ok. He has been in my care for over a year now. During our winter at the South Pole Erin and I, shown here with Ellsworth, promised Aim-eye that we would take good care of him.

Over the South Pole winter, Erin and I had joint custody of Ellsworth and traded parental duties every six weeks. I ended up bringing him home with me in hopes to reunite him with his real mother. Unfortunately it didn't happen this time. Perhaps soon.

Ellsworth always puts in a busy day down here at Palmer Station. First he helps me bake dessert. Here he is carefully watching over the Pate au Choix; the pastry we use to make eclairs and cream puffs.

He checks out the pastry before it is baked, makes sure I am filling the eclair correctly, then tries to be sneaky and take the first bite. I scold him for trying to ruin his appetite.

After he finishes supervising my eclair making, he goes outside to see if he can help Dave drive the SkyTrek or help with line handling when the boat comes in.

Unfortunately he is too young and very small for his age. He is also not properly trained and cannot operate such equipment without proper instruction. So rather than help, he was happy watching the boat come in. This is the last boat we will see for a while. It will be here for a month fishing but then it will depart on June 4th and will not return until September. So Ellsworth is happy to enjoy the view.

Next, Ellsworth returns to the kitchen to see if there is anything else he can help with. Because it is Saturday night and we have hors d'oeuvres with steak dinner, Ellsworth wants to help Diane with preparing the roasted tomato, goat cheese and garlic hors d'oeuvres. But Diane works super fast and doesn't need Ellsworth's help.
So not knowing what to do he wanders out into the galley where Robin is making a cocktail to have with her dinner.
Ellsworth attempts to join her inbibing in a tasty beverage, but Robin knows better. Ellsworth is only about two years old. He is the youngest person on station and he should not be drinking adult beverages. Robin scolds him which he doesn't like very much.

After his scolding, Ellsworth went outside to pout on the back porch. But his mood instantly brightened when he saw he had company. Because Palmer Station is located right on the water, sometimes we get fur seal visitors. They have been hanging out a lot lately so Ellsworth was very happy to get his picture taken with two of them.
He really wanted to get closer and play with them but because the Antarctic treaty is very specific about how humans are to deal with wildlife, he understood that he could go no further. Ellsworth knew that if a human being or a sponge horse is altering the behavior of an animal in it's own enviroment then he is too close and must observe from a distance. So Ellsworth was very happy for the invention of the digital zoom!

Well, Ellsworth has had a long day of work and recreational activities. At the end of a day like this he likes to kick back and relax with his surrogate father. Ellsworth agrees that it is a nice thing to put your feet up, play some acoustic tunes and unwind after a great day on Palmer Station. I hope Amy and Erin can now rest assured that their son is in good hands. He misses them but I think he's having fun on his little peninsula excursion.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Recreational Boating...

So this is obviously exactly how it sounds. If there are boats available, we have time off, and we have been properly trained, one of the activities we can do it Rec Boating. We can just drive around and see cool shit. I have been on one of these trips already and have seen more wildlife/backyard Antarctica than I have in all my other seasons combined. I understand that this is a priviledge and an honor and hopefully you can see why.

Our driver for the day, John takes us on a grand tour of Arthur Harbor and beyond. Arthur Harbor is the bay where the station is located and Hero Inlet is right off the shore from us. It is just that. A little inlet. However, that weird current thing you see in the first picture, the thing that looks like a wake or a wave in the middle of the water? That's the upside down hull of a sunken ship. In 1989, right around the time the Exxon Valdez ran aground, the Bahia Paraiso an Argentine resupply vessel hit land and sunk less than two miles from station. I don't know much about it. Apparently you can see much more of it when the tide is out. But this is a cool link with a great photo of it.

As the winter goes on, I'll do my best to head back out there and get some better pictures.

We continued on to Torgersen Island, the nearest island to the station. Here we saw an amazing site.

Tons of Adelie penguins just hanging out on the backside of Torgersen island. And they were all around us 'porposing.' I assume called that because they jump in and out of the water like porpoises. We also got to check out some elephant seals squaring off. They were probably fighting over women or land. I mean, what else to mammels fight over eh?

These next three photos are pretty cool. There are about seven huge icebergs floating around Arthur Harbor. Not state sized like that chunk that broke off of the ice shelf several years ago, but big enough to make our resupply ship wary of coming into the harbor. The rule of thumb for dealing with icebergs is that we have to stay three times their height away from them. Simply put, if an iceberg is 10 feet tall, we have to manuevuer the boat around it 30 feet away.

The berg you see in the photo is not that big at all so we are at a minimum safe distance. The other two photos are two of the more interesting ones. All the ice you see floating around in these pics is called brash ice. I don't know what it means but it comes from the caving of the glacier. We'll be sitting in the galley or walking between buildings and we'll here what sounds exactly like thunder. But it's not. It's the ice from the glacier moving. It's hundreds of thousands if not millions of years old and we are listening to it move. Breathtaking. But little bits of it will fall off and float around in the harbor. The white snow drift looking things in the water is freshly fallen snow on pieces of fallen glacier. So awesome.

And the first pic you see up there, the one that looks like a bunch of jellyfish or grease in the water, is called just that: Grease Ice. The water is cold and still enough to where it begins to freeze. If left alone and undisrupted long enough, this is the first stage of a frozen ocean. But wind or higher temps or boats moving the water will break it up.

These last three pics are my Palmer money shots thus far. Awesome. Thank goodness for cheap Fuji cameras with incredible digital zoom!! This is the first leopard seal I have seen. I love the picture of him chillin on the berg with the glacier and Mt. William in the background. Awesome. And the orangish pic was taken with my little point and shoot camera pointing through my ECW goggles. It turned out to be a good filter. That's a good representation of an larger berg that we have to move around. They can be dangerous and move or cave at any time so we have to be as safe as we can.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for pics from Boating II, the band room, Crosstown Pizza, and the last boat leaving for the winter! Some crazy things happen when the boats leave...