Saturday, July 28, 2007

Vampire class

Here at the South Pole, we have only two medical providers on station, a doc and me the PA. If we had multiple casualties or a critical patient who required 24 hour monitoring, the medical needs could easily overwhelm two people. Or if one of us fell ill, that would leave only one other person to try to manage a patient who could be quite sick or otherwise require a lot of time and care.

Earlier this winter I wrote a post about our trauma team where members of our crew go through training to learn how to be first responders to medical emergencies. We will also rely on some members to help us out with more advanced patient care if push comes to shove.
Last week, as part of some advanced training, I held a little class in venipuncture, or doing blood draws. Jordan, Brien, Robert, Sven and Nick participated as both the drawers and donors.
After going over some basic supplies and technique, I just turned them loose on each others veins. Robert is quite good and has been doing this for the previous three winters so he helped me with the instruction and demonstrated his technique on Sven.
Viola! Of course with those Viking veins (or Wiking weins), it's hard to miss.
Neal was our celebrity vein volunteer and stopped by to let the guys practice on him. It took a couple of sticks but Nick nailed it and sucked up several tubes of his blood. Neal was a great sport and I think the worst part for him was not eating for 10 hours since I was going to run a fasting cholesterol panel on him with the blood.
Everyone took their turn and despite some nervous laughter, the guys all did well and successfully completed their vampire training.

I didn't get a picture of Brien doing his stick, but he had the toughest one of all. Another guy in our crew made the mistake of wandering into Medical to see what was going on so we threw him onto the gurney and told him he was donating his arm. He had deep veins and it would have been a hard stick for me or any experienced phlebotomist but Brien just confidently nailed the vein like a pro.

As a reward, they all got lollypops and proudly showed off their bandaged arms. If I'm the one to fall sick down here, I will gladly and gratefully let any of these guys draw my blood.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Growing our own freshies

Although at this time of year, five months since we've seen our last plane, most of the food we eat has been frozen at some point in time, we do have a little garden of paradise here.

The production room, a sealed environment where most of the growing is done.

This is our greenhouse, or Food Growth Chamber (no comment on what I prefer to call it). It was designed by my alma mater, University of Arizona, which has an agriculture department that is active in research into hydroponics and controlled environment settings. The greenhouse was constructed in Tucson, then taken apart, flown down here in summer 2003 and reassembled. After a lot of trouble-shooting, which is still going on, it was up and running and is proving to be a very productive little room.

The front room which has been turned in to a nice lounge area.

Everything starts out from seeds and as they grow from seedlings to plants to havestable food, they get transferred into different growing trays.
Seeds are germinated in a spun glass wool medium, then transferred to the growing trays. Photos by Terry Eddington.

A nutrient solution is pumped throughout the trays feeding the root systems underneath. Light is provided by high intensity 1000 watt bulbs that are cooled by individual water jackets. A timer allows the light cycle to be set to simulate a regular day/night cycle. Temperature, humidity and CO2 content are also controlled and monitored.

Several varieties of lettuce grow quite well in the greenhouse.

Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, Asian greens, herbs...all good salad makings.

And the greenhouse, built in the Arizona desert, has proven to be quite an efficient farm for our frozen ice world.

Terry (in the middle) is the greenhouse technician, the principle person in charge of running it this winter. She has the help of volunteers like Jack and Tim who are helping to harvest greens for the Mid-Winter dinner's salad.

Photos by Steffen Richter

Terry has experimented with different veggies and has met success with several varieties like this cabbage that could win a blue ribbon at a county fair.

It doesn't take much to get us excited down here though.

The cabbage posing for me and Sven in the Galley.

As an Arizona Wildcat, I'm proud that my university has helped to put salad and flowers (edible, of course) on our table and a few veggies that crunch in our meals. Now if only we could raise our own salmon...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Not such a harsh continent

Nearly everyone's favorite saying about Antarctica is "It's a harsh continent". It probably started out as the most obvious statement to make about this frozen wasteland but now it's become the most popular reply to someone who whines about anything. So the store ran out of Coca Cola last week and you have to drink Pepsi? It's a harsh continent, now shut up.

We may have run out of Milk Duds and Butterfingers and now it looks like we may need to cut back on our orange juice consumption to make the supply last until the end of winter but we are by no means close to roughing it down here.

Here is our Galley all decked out for our Mid-Winter gala celebration last Friday.
Photos by Robert Schwarz

We brought out the table cloths, linen napkins and extra cups and decorated the tables with candles and confetti. People even showered and dressed up, certainly not an everyday occurance and I'm talking about the showering.
Our fine chefs Francie, Michael and Neil prepared a fabulous feast worthy of a 5 star restaurant in any metropolitan city in the world. It's amazing what they can do with frozen food at the bottom of the world.
We started out with a salad of Curly Cress and Mixed Asian Greens with a Sesame Hazelnut Vinaigrette topped with a Panko Crusted Goat Cheese Crouton. The veggies were grown in our greenhouse (aka Food Growth Chamber, the PC official name) and picked earlier that day.
Next was a delicious bowl of Crab Infused Borscht served with Lime Basil Cream.
In case you didn't want to have to choose between a meat, poultry or seafood entre, we were served all three. The Trio of Pleasures included Curry-basted Lobster with Wilted Greens, Mango Chutney and Brown Curry Butter, Asian Marinated Duck Medallions with Ginger Edaname Puree and Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin with a Wild Mushroom Port Reduction and topped off with a Cranberry Wild Rice Salad.
Photo by Sven Lidstrom
The dessert was a Chocolate Souffle that towered above the plate with a pastry garnish, melted in your mouth and was the perfect finale to an exquisite culinary experience.

After the feast, we got most of the ladies together once again for another group photo. It's not often when we're all cleaned up at the same time and wearing something other than Carhartts or polypropylene.
And with that celebration, we kicked off the second half of winter and now head into what can be some of the more difficult months ahead. Really I can't say that this is a harsh continent at all when we are dining like this and having this much fun but if one more person complains about having to use toilet paper to blow their nose because we ran out facial tissues, you can guess what my response would be to them.