Antarctica: August 2012


Two micro ancho chiles that puffed up like alien bullfrogs when roasted with a heat gun.

Another random August diversion, and a new and useful skill...origami Yodas.

Tiny hippo welcomes you to Angry August.


This weekend's cookie adventure: a pile of turtles.

Didn't think to make a ninja turtle until too late, but here's nerd turtle, tic-tac-turtle, and girl turtle.

And this guy ditched the rest for a nice tropical island so he can lounge on the beach with his starfish friend.

Another lovely Sunday dinner, this time featuring Thai chicken with buckets of peanut sauce. Whee!


We're about a week away from the end of astronomical twilight and the beginning of nautical twilight, and the glow of the sun is already easily visible on the horizon.

But it's still dark enough to see the Milky Way, Magellanic clouds, and the wispy auroras that filled the sky tonight. (And dark enough to continue stumbling over drifts.)

A very faint backdrop of aurora colors in the sky. It still makes the walk to the lab worth it.

SPT and the hints of sunlight creeping over the horizon. It's very strange to see light contrast where there was once uniform darkness.


It's time for another BICEP2 cryo run, and DSL's red light is turned on. When approaching the light from the station, it reminds me of the eerie glow that leads Sleeping Beauty to the poisoned spindle.

Everything in sight is bathed in red.

With the light on, it's possible to see the thick crust of snow that's accumulated on the railing.

The cryo delivery is here. Steffen hoists up the dewar and pulls it into the lab while Kathleen drives the snowmobile in a loop to prevent it from freezing up and dying.

Within minutes, the delivery is done, the light's off, and the snowmobile zips back off into the distance.

Because it's August, it's time to break out another bag of special chiles.

The first cascabel guinea pigs are in the vise...

...and ready to be heat gun roasted.

The full roasted pile. Once again, the lab smelled amazing.

These dudes contain a ridiculous amount of seeds.

Back in the station and in the kitchen to devein and deseed the peppers.

Crushed cascabel bits and powder.

Meanwhile, tomatoes and onions are roasting away in the oven.

The final product, made by pulverizing the crap out of the tomatoes, onions, chile bits, and a few chipotles.

And a bonus side project from this evening: a megabowl of dulce de leche!


Dale kindly donated a couple extra pounds of ground beef to my kitchen playtime addiction, so I finally had an excuse to attempt making dumplings.

We even have dried mushrooms to go into the dumpling filling!

The mushrooms are chopped and ready to go. I realized that this is the first time I've used chopsticks in over half a year.

I've only made wrappers from scratch once before, and it's a total pain. After a lot of practice and a few amoeba-shaped wrappers, I was finally able to make some that looked sort of round.

The last wrapper to go into the tub...

No chives or scallions to be found in the walk-in fridge today, but we do have an abundance of celery. All dumplings need something green.

The meat filling is finished, and it's time to start the assembly process.

Half done...and being extra paranoid with the cling wrap so that the dumpling skins don't dry to a crisp in this environment.

All done!

A few of the cooked dumplings. Unfortunately, the stove takes an eternity to return the water to boiling, so the skins ended up broken and mushy. But I'll still happily eat them.

Much later in the's time for the station's county fair and chili cook-off. Here are the three chili entries. I'm glad I arrived before the contents of tray #2 completely vanished.

Empty plates and full stomachs. Some of the secret ingredients included cocoa powder, coffee, and beer. We also suspected crack, but the chili chef would neither confirm nor deny.

Meanwhile, Jase is setting up one of the tables for a pie eating contest.

The contestants are being seated and outfitted with anti-pie armor.

Jim is meditating on his pie eating strategy...

...before being enbibbed by Jase.

Sheri and Ethan are quietly avoiding the splatter zone.

Sven takes a more in-your-face approach as a spectator.

And they're off!

Om nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom.

The crowd is very excitedly taking pictures.

And JP is offering his "encouragement."

Heather's all "wtf is Jason doing?"

The crowd continues to cheer on the contestants.

The contest finally comes to an end...with a tie...

Jared might be a bit disappointed that he wasn't one of the winners.

Jase decides to weigh the pie remnants in order to determine the winner. Amazingly enough, both weights were identical.

The crowd is still buzzing as the two finalists prepare for one last 30-second pie eating showdown.


I've been tasked with making mango chutney for Indian Sampler Sunday. A giant pot of mango, apple, and onion is ready to go.

The next ingredients include a pile of raisins, sugar, vinegar, and a generous wad from the ginger paste bucket.

Meanwhile, Nick is working on some vegetarian curry...and attempting to infuse the evaporated milk with shredded coconut in a coffee filter. Alas, there is no coconut milk to be found on station.

Tracy is wondering if Nick is making paper towel soup.

The makeshift coconut tea bag.

A few of the absolutely gorgeous greenhouse peppers that are going into our dishes.

After spicifying and what seemed like an eternity of boiling, the mango chutney is finally done. It's another data point confirming the law of nature that everything tastes better with cardamom.

Nick's other side project for the evening (err, morning): tofu dumplings using the extra wrappers from yesterday.

Late in the afternoon, it's time to prepare for Indian extravaganza. Steffen and I are combining the forces of our instant Indian food packets ("white man cooking," as Sue says).

Dale is on dessert duty for today, and he's very happy that at the last minute, he got his hands on a container of whipped topping in order to put the finishing touches on his cake.

This is a truly epic cake. The bottom layer is German chocolate cake with toffee bits, smoothered in dulce de leche. It's about to be covered with a layer of whipped topping mixed with more dulce de leche, and then sprinkled with yet another helping of toffee.

My first project for the evening is naan, and the dough balls are ready and rising.

Chicken is our Sunday staple, but we also pulled some lamb today.

Steffen and the first instant packet...which looks and smells like baby poop. (It actually turned out great in the end, but the initial state was less than desirable.)

It's not long before the entire stove surface is covered with pots and pans...that are trying their best to sizzle, but it's an uphill battle.

After an excruciatingly long wait, the big iron pan finally heats up and the naan begins to cook properly. Here are three breads in varying states of puffage.

Time for noms! Our first course is tom yum soup. Although it doesn't exactly fit with the Indian theme, it did come from an instamatic container. (A jar, which is one level more advanced than a packet, IMHO.)

After snarfing down the soup, time for the main course(s). I'm very excited that my first naan attempt turned out ok, despite a few gimpy breads in the first batch.

We have an obscene amount of food. And I think we hogged a significant fraction of the bowls.

Surprisingly, we made a decent dent in the food, but there are plenty of leftovers.

Steffen prepared this amazing heap of food for Sue, which might have used all the available rammekins.

So many cute containers of noms. And this photo doesn't even show the broccoli and soup, which were both added later. We were wishing for a tiered tray.

Finally, after some digestion and switching to the stretchy pants, it's time for Dale's incredible cake.

The dulce de leche is actually oozing out from between the layers. My stomach definitely needed some quiet alone time after being stuffed to capacity with cake.


Kris and I decided to go on a late night outing to the GOES dome. I haven't been out here in over six years. The spaceship entrance never ceases to entertain.

Inside, the dish towers above us.

There's a teeny hatch at the top of the dome.

Looking at the back of the dish from the radome entrance.

I spent a long time staring at the front of the dish, completely mesmerized.

It looks like a robotic critter is scaling the dish.

A zoom of the transceiver and dish center.

The ribbed support structure on the back side of the dish is just as fascinating as the front side.

Looking back at the shack, which houses a bunch of electronics for the antenna.

Our next stop is the RF building, which I also haven't entered since my first season. The ham radio equipment lives out here.

We happened to cross paths with one and only Sven, who was also out on a photo mission.

He was outside for an impressive amount of time. A very froggy camera lens...


Slow loris and his army of tiny umbrellas would like to wish you...

...a very happy nautical twilight! (I may have been a bit overzealous with the "show sun" commands.)


Trying to enjoy the last few auroras in the sky before the returning sun makes them vanish.

The arrival of nautical twilight has also brought the first hints of reddish light on the horizon where the sun is approaching.

SPT, DSL, and the beginning of daybreak.

The moon is also up right now, so darkness is essentially over for us.


The moon and the glow of the sun.

MAPO and Building 61 in the moonlight.

Enjoying the last traces of auroras while I can...


This weekend's kitchen experiment: cream puffer fish!

A zoom of the proto-puffers before going into the oven.

Unfortunately, this was the outcome.

Thankfully, I had the good sense to have a backup plan.

Expert cook to the rescue for experiment attempt #2! The starting blobs are already looking much happier.

We were actually able to pipe tiny little spines onto the puffs this time. Much more time consuming than toothpick combing, but it also looks way more badass.

We did the fins and tails separately so that they wouldn't burn. The pointy bits on the ends are for jabbing into the puffs.

The fully baked trays of puffs, fins, and tails. Despite our high and dry environment, use of square eggs, etc, the end products turned out remarkably well!

The puffs are starting to look very fish-like after the first stage of the assembly process!

We experimented with a variety of fin and tail shapes, and I think all of them looked fairly convincing in the end.

A close up of two happy puffers, ready to be filled with pastry cream and painted with eyeballs.

The final cream puffer fish platter!

One guy is trying to escape from the crowd...

A small school of puffers, reserved for Jase and Mel. :-)

One of Jase's brilliant ideas was using a ribbed piping tip for the fins.

Another one is about to make a run (swim) for it...


It's the last Friday of the month, and it's time for another greenhouse farmer's market! There's quite a spread of tasty treats today.

A new and extremely popular item was these stuffed cheesy ancho poppers.

The radishes have been doing very well, and there was an entire bowl of salad featuring them.

Another extremely popular item: salsa made with fresh tomatoes and cilantro! This bowl disappeared very quickly.

Multiple varieties of ginger beer to be sampled, including lavender, honey, cloves, and hibiscus.

Lots of hungry customers are inhaling the fresh goods.

Some of the ginger beer tends to be a bit explosive, so Joselyn is carefully opening them under the protection of a towel.

The star of the evening: our first CARROTS of the season!

My carrot. :-) It's small and looks pale, but it was very crunchy and tasty.

Carlos is also documenting the carrots.

Here they are again, moved into a fresh beaker of water so the orange color is more apparent.

Joselyn used up the last of her old polaroid film, and here's the final collection of ghostly Polie images. (Pole-aroids, haha!)

After the greenhouse party, I went on an emergency mission to the ice tunnels... Here's the view just outside the first floor entrance into the beer can.

My red shadow projected onto the corrugated beer can wall.

Looking down into the beer can depths.

The corridor at the bottom of the beer can.

If you keep going, you end up in the arches...

...but if you take a right turn and duck under the pipe, you end up in wonderland.

Looking back toward the steps and Sven, my accomplice on tonight's mission.

The ice tunnels lie behind this wooden entry.

After a long, straight walk behind the wooden door, the first tunnel turn happens at the gravity station.

The tunnels are a balmy -55F all year round.

Sven and the thermometer.

Looking down the tunnel, illuminated with a long row of bare lights.

And the purpose of tonight's mission? The last remaining cream puffer fish wanted to join their sturgeon friend in the icy depths.

Piscine pals, preserved in perpetuity.

Breadgehog is still here, still pining after his lady.

Frosty me, after the brief tunnel expedition. I look about as bug-eyed as the puffers.

Meanwhile, outside, the sky continues to get brighter.

The low cloud cover tonight created a dramatic wedge of light on the horizon.

In the opposite direction, the setting (blue) moon is just barely visible to the left of ICL, obscured by a thick layer of clouds.

The dark sector and the streak of red on the horizon.

Sunlight reflected in the windows. Three weeks to go before the sun reappears!

Click here for September photos and adventures...

Main index | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | April 2012 | May 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | November 2012