So, yea, it’s been a long time. So let’s start off with the reason for my silence—the job. I was doing it the whole time I was here but it got exponentially busy after my supervisor from
arrived after Christmas. But I get ahead of myself. I still have never actually shared in detail what I’ve been doing here! Arizona
I came down for the summer season to be the South Pole Food Growth Chamber Technician. Say that ten times fast! Really, I and most everyone else on station call it the greenhouse, but since it’s a closed-system space with no light coming from outside, it’s more of a chamber than greenhouse, but that sounds too sterile. Anyway, I also called myself a farmer/caretaker rather than a technician, for the same reason. It wasn’t just about tweaking computer readings and writing down numbers, though that did happen. But it was also about cleaning house, starting seeds, pruning, and keeping things going to set up the winter operator with a stable foundation to take the station successfully through the winter with lots of good veggies.
So, what does this place look like, you might ask? Well, here are some photos from full jungle like I found it when I arrived, to empty after I and some wonderful volunteers pulled out all the growth and gave the whole thing a sterilizing once-over with bleach solution (to start fresh, and kill off fungal spores that can become a problem), to freshly planted with seedlings, to full harvest growth—at least the greens. I planted all sorts of things, from herbs to lettuce and other greens to tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers. Oh, and strawberries! And flowers… all edible of course. According to the Antarctic Treaty, no plants can be introduced to the continent except edible things. And boy are there some pretty edible flowers!
|The chamber when I arrived-- jungle-like. November 8.|
|Volunteers that showed up to help me for a "Death and Destruction" party-- taking out all the plants so I can give the chamber a deep clean...|
|plants gone, final cleaning of water and roots out of the middle bins in process... much more cleaning to come... scrubbing the floor,wiping down all surfaces with bleach solution...|
|empty and clean chamber! December 6.|
|Jan 5, all the sprouts planted on 18 and 24 December are ready to go in the system... so why not have a party?!|
|Jan 10, all the little sweeties are in their holes, roots sucking up the nutrients, ready to go gangbusters!|
|Feb 7, ready for harvest! I cut a few things about 10 days earlier (radishes, Bekana, Pac Choi), but this was the first major harvest of the crops I started in December. Exciting!!|
|Some of the Pac Choi leaves were so big, we were able to use them to help cool down one of our volunteers after she worked so hard!|
|going into the subfloor to look for leaks below the chamber-- the chamber module isn't water tight, surprisingly, and we seal the seams in the floor with silicone, but they're not always perfect...|
|this is the mind-mapping organization that Lane my supervisor laid out when he arrived to keep track of what we needed to do... are you suprised you haven't heard from me in a couple of months?|
|calibrating the pH and EC sensors...|