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UAB in Antarctica
03.20.18 Cookies
The rumors about the food at Palmer Station reach across oceans and continents.

“Please select loose fitting clothing for Antarctica, as weight gain is common,” my pre-Antarctic deployment paperwork warned. “I hear the food is good,” my father said. And, even a stranger in Chile initiated a conversation by stating, “Your chefs at Palmer are amazing!”

One month into our time in Antarctica, I can confirm that the rumors are true. The food at Palmer Station is fantastic! Three times a day, the 34 people on station (the population dwindles as winter approaches) gather in the galley for meals (pictured below). For many of us, 7:30 am, 12 pm, and 5:30 pm are the best parts of the day. There are several reasons for this. Part of it is physiological. It’s been calculated that the average person performing outdoor labor needs at least 5,000 calories per day1. Watching bubbles in the cold is difficult! But it’s more than just physiology. Mealtime is a chance to come in from the cold, catch up with everyone, and enjoy the Palmer community. And, of course, it’s a chance to enjoy amazing food!

03.20.18 KC

I asked the staff and scientists here what their favorite food is at Palmer Station. Desserts like Kahlua Baileys’ chocolate cupcakes and lemon bars (being served in the photo below) were at the top of everyone’s list. Likewise, visiting cruise ship guests commonly refer to Palmer Station brownies as “the best brownies on the continent.” But, everyone also raved about the Thai food and saag paneer (an Indian dish with spinach and cheese). Let me introduce you to the two chefs responsible for the fantastic food served at Palmer Station.

03.20.18 Mark
Mark Mican (pictured below on the left) is Palmer Station’s Food Service Supervisor. This is his sixth season working at U.S. stations in the Antarctic. In addition to cooking for us, he manages the food inventory and provides financial reports to the Antarctic Support Contractor and the National Science Foundation. KC Loosemore (on the right) is Palmer Station’s Sous Chef. He has spent four seasons in Antarctica, as well as three in the Arctic. Both Mark and KC arrived at Palmer last October and will spend 5–7 months here.

03.20.18 KCMark

As this is the first season for Mark and KC at Palmer Station, I asked them about the differences between Palmer Station and the two other U.S. Antarctic Stations (McMurdo and Amundsen–Scott South Pole). Both said that Palmer Station is very unique. As Palmer Station is located on the coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula, at a relatively low latitude (64ºS), it’s an unusually scenic environment with diverse wildlife. The station’s small size also makes for a communal atmosphere. Here, both staff and scientists interact daily with each other, which is harder to do at larger stations.

I was also surprised by what I learned about the eating habits of Palmer Station. Apparently, we all eat significantly more in the several weeks after a ship arrives and before a ship departs than we do in the middle of a research season! Mark and KC theorized that we may need more of the psychological comfort that food provides during stressful periods (e.g. settling in and finishing up research). For example, in the first several weeks of the summer session, the residents of Palmer Station consumed 20 lbs. of cookie dough per week (disclaimer: this was before I arrived, or the number would be higher)!

But what keeps Mark and KC coming back to Antarctica, season after season? It’s more than the desire to visit a scenic continent, it’s their calling. As Mark stated, by cooking here they are using their skills to support cutting-edge scientific research and discovery. And, their dedication to that calling shows. We asked the Palmer Station community members to write down what they appreciated the most about Mark and KC. Yes, we love the food they make! But, most of the comments were about their great attitudes and the support they provide. Palmer Station is a place where everyone uses their skills to assist each other, for the greater good. Thank you Mark and KC for supporting science at Palmer Station!

03.20.18 Appreciation

1 https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/01/07/259418586/think-youre-cold-and-hungry-try-eating-in-antarctica