The Last Egg

Five more months until freshies...

brr June 9, 2023

On June 6, 2023, at 7:13am, we fried our last whole egg on station (over medium, salt and pepper):


And that’s it until November! Another milestone, another reminder of the unique circumstances of South Pole Winter.

As I talked about in Frost, we have a huge amount of cold storage, and a smaller but still significant amount of DNF (Do Not Freeze) storage. The majority of our food is ordered years in advance, shipped here in bulk, and deep-frozen until needed.

A five-gallon bucket of bulk pancake mix.

Fun fact – when we bring up a tub of ice cream from storage, it takes multiple days to carefully warm it to "normal" freezer temperature, so it can be served. If you’ve ever tried to serve ice cream that has been stored on dry ice or in a misconfigured freezer, you’ll understand the struggle.

Ice cream, stored outside, current ambient temperature -70°F.

Ice cream, ready to serve, in the galley, after carefully letting it warm by over 70°F to regular serving temperature.

Fresh food (fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, dairy) does wonders for morale, but unfortunately it has a limited shelf life. Over the past few months, we’ve celebrated a number of "lasts", as our supply continues to dwindle. We order enough "freshies" to ensure we can use it all before it goes bad. We won’t have a resupply plane until November, and unfortunately there just aren’t a lot of "fresh" foods that will survive the interim 8 months.

The most impactful for me was the end of fresh milk – powdered milk makes for disappointing lattes, but I’m doing my best:

A tolerable latte, with powdered milk and coffee beans roasted 3 years ago.

Our galley staff does an amazing job creating delicious meals under challenging circumstances. Even in the dead of winter, great food is a consistent highlight of this place. That being said – the difference between early-winter and mid-winter meals clearly reflects the difference in availability of fresh ingredients.

Here’s dinner from February 23. Take note of the fresh ingredients! (Yes I’m eating at my desk, don’t judge, we all do it from time to time).

Ethiopian dinner, with fresh lettuce, onions, and lemons!

Compare that with dinner from April 25. Delicious, world-class, created by experts in their field… out of ingredients that may have been sitting in cold storage for literally years.

Indian dinner! Hearty, satisfying, and not a fresh ingredient in sight.

During the winter, the limited "freshies" we do have are sourced exclusively from the South Pole Greenhouse:

The greenhouse is a volunteer affair, and it yields enough for herbs and the occasional salad! It’s also the only place on station with humidity! Since the rest of the station has near-zero humidity, it’s a treat to spend time in here.

The greenhouse lobby, my favorite place to relax. Great for reading or making phone calls home.

Food sustains us, and it’s fascinating to temporarily live in a place that reminds us every day how much we take for granted back home.

We do very well for ourselves, given the circumstances, but the stark reality is: we won’t see fresh eggs for another five full months. Another facet of this weird, weird adventure at the bottom of the world.

Until next time!

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© brr