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UAB in Antarctica

Gash\’ gash, -aa(e)as,aish\n, -es [origin unknown] slang: Extra food (as a second helping or leftovers): often: the garbage remaining after a meal.


I have written previously about our two hard working cooks at Palmer Station and the efforts made by all to assist them in their round-the-clock duties.  One such activity is gash.  Gash at Palmer Station is the routine clean-up of the kitchen, dining, and food storage areas that occurs after dinner every night.

All members of station (scientists and staff alike) are expected to sign up for gash duty once a week.  Four or five people get together after dinner, put on some music, and clean the entire area.  This includes labeling all leftovers and putting them in the fridge, cleaning all the pots, pans, dishes, and silverware, sweeping and mopping the floors, sanitizing all the cookery, taking out all the trash, wiping down all table and counter surfaces, restocking perishable supplies, and putting everything away.

Most might dread such horrible duty, or think about it as a punishment.  Here at Palmer though, whether by necessity or chance, gash has become an anticipated event.  Often, several people will form “gash teams,” that will procure particular nights of the week and run their own gash on their own terms.

Certain gash teams are so familiar with each other that they have morphed into a culinary version of a NASCAR pit crew.  Each with their understood jobs racing away to finish, as a team, in the shortest amount of time possible.  Carefully adjusting the slightest turn or order of events to knock valuable seconds off their times.

I remember my first day on station I was introduced to gash…”Hi, welcome to Antarctica, you are on gash tonight.”  I got situated with one of these ‘experienced’ gash teams and stood bewildered as they ran around me cleaning everything in sight with such machine like precision all I could do was try not to get in the way.

Others gash teams, prefer a laid back cleaning mode.  They will socialize, joke, and laugh their way through the work all but ignoring the fact they are actually doing chores.  Although this may take more time, they certainly do not seem to mind the jovial experience.

Every gash team first must select their own music.  This in-itself, is a tell-tale sign as to the particularities of each gash team.  Some choose music based on their own preferences.  U2, Buffet, the Beetles, Stones, etc… are all popular gash music choices.  Some gash teams have a theme.  When I first arrived, the spokes in that gash cog all methodically raced around to classical music.  To those who just read that and groaned, I will say there is something uplifting and inspiring to sanitizing utensils to Beethoven.

Other teams use the music for a different purpose.  Gash classically starts at 1830 (6:30PM), often though there are a few stragglers left in the dining room enjoying a last glass of wine or failing to notice the time.  To the gashers, who are waiting to start their weekly ritual, this can be a grievous offense.  Well, nothing reminds people of the time more subtly or politely than the jarring sounds of Rage Against the Machine or the shrieks of Black Sabbath!

Now that I have been at Palmer for some time, I have found my own niche on a gash team.  We have our regular times (Wednesday nights) and our regular style.  Although I will decline to go into details about our particular methods and rituals (if you know me you can probably guess), I will say that Wed. night has become quite popular and we have a waiting list to join our gash team!

Well, as I finalize this entry it dawns on me that tonight’s clean up crew is getting set.  Maybe some pictures are in order.  Ladies and gentlemen, start your vacuums.  On your mark, get set, GASH!!!