What does it take to feed expeditioners for a year? A lot of storage! Mawson also explains the importance of sea ice measuring.

Food in Antarctica

A potato crisis was narrowly averted last week at Mawson station when it was discovered that some of the boxes of potatoes in our potato container had started to sprout quite quickly. We suspect it was caused by a light being left on, as well as the age of the stock. As everyone on station enjoys  our very talented chef Kim’s hand-cut chips, something had to be done.

Due to the limited room within the potato container, which in reality is an insulated 20 foot shipping container, two people at a time would de-sprout the affected spuds. It involved opening the remaining 37 boxes, each weighting 20 kilograms, then removing the sprouts from the potatoes, as well as removing any that were no longer suitable to eat. 

After telling some friends at home about this they asked, “How do you store all your food?”

Within the red shed there are three walk-in cool rooms. The first one is for the day to day running of the kitchen; the second is for fruit juices, onions, pumpkins and apples; the last cool room is for butter, margarine, eggs and cheeses. There are two large freezers as well, all of these are restocked once a week with supplies from the green store.

At the green store there are two walk-in freezers with one for ice cream, pastry products and frozen vegetables, the other freezer is for meat. Then there are the tinned and dried products which is set up very much like your supermarket back home. At the end of the rows of food is a locked section called ‘Fort Knox’ which contains everyone’s alcohol, the stations chips and, most importantly, the chocolate. 

Leaving the green store there is the container that nobody ever wants to open: this is the emergency food store. It is stocked with dehydrated lamb, beef and vegetables as well as biscuits and tinned food. If this container has to be used it means a fire has destroyed the green store, and the spirit of the station.

Close to the red shed is an older looking building with provides quite a lot for the station: this is the hydroponics building. At the moment there are cherry tomatoes, snow peas and fresh herbs on the go. It is something that I would have taken for granted back in Australia, but to have fresh parsley on your Sunday breakfast makes the work that has to be done for hydro worthwhile.

The other remaining food storage containers are the carrot and onion container and the flour container. These are insulated 20 foot shipping containers with very limited heating but they somehow survive the brutal Antarctic winters. 

So apart from a few things, our food storage is very much what you would see in your pantry at home, except ours has to last us all year.

Robbie Baker

Science support: sea ice drilling

Each week since the sea ice has been safe to travel on, we have been drilling to support a science program looking at the dynamics of this ice. The support at Mawson is coordinated by our chef, Kim.

The work involves going to four predetermined sites and taking a series of three measurements. Firstly, the depth of any snow on top of the ice is measured. A hole is then drilled through the ice into the sea below. A measurement is then taken of the distance between the top of the ice and the level of the sea water. Finally the depth of the sea ice is measured. These measurements are then sent back to the project on a weekly basis.

The last part of this project will be taking an ice core to be returned to Australia for the project to see how the sea ice has developed.

This is one of several science projects which are supported by the Mawson team.