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Half a million calories and another day delay

Published: at 06:47 PM

Our team has been delayed from flying to Raven Camp on the ice sheet and starting the science by a day due to weather. We are stuck in Kangerlussuaq, hoping to leave first thing tomorrow morning. When we land, it might be as cold as -35F according to Von’s weather forecast.

This afternoon, Matt, Michael and I had a nice jaunt to the town museum and walked by an unmarked dystopian site full of burnt out metal. After poking around the industrial cubes of chemicals, stacked scorched shipping containers and a big burnt cylinder with stairs leading inside, we deduced the airport or airforce uses this site to train on firefighting.

Cat and Matt are counting the jars of food on the floor in the warehouse

Cat and Matt count calories on the floor of the warehouse to create an inventory for the field campaign.

We mostly spent the day twiddling thumbs in the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support (KISS) building that is effectively our dormitory. The building is an old World War II concrete barracks, gussied up with a coat of red paint on the outside. There are two twin beds to a room, shared bathrooms, and a large shared kitchen. Science teams from various countries, seemingly all in the global North, come here to get situated before traveling onto the ice sheet. It is a jovial vibe in KISS, despite the hotness of the showers leaving something to be desired. Today, we saw a team share a meal of 15 ramen packs, a large and unverifiable quantity of spam, and one can of peas for lunch.

Aside from cooking tempeh melts together, we have been biding time on our various devices. For Matt, this was listening to a Nuggets game with his screen blackened, like it was 1940 and the only way to consume sports is a bunny-eared radio. Michael wrote a blog post. Andrew and Von coded. Then Von wrote a blog post. Myself- I had two tasks. First, I got paranoid about my laptop dying on the ice and backed up my data. Embarrassingly, I was most concerned with preserving the library of music I have collected for DJing. Then, with no other concrete work obligations, I naturally calculated the total number of calories we are bringing to the ice sheet.

For those readers who don’t know, I am not a permanent member of the ICECAPs science team. Rather I am an ethereal being passing through these gifted scientists’ lives for but a brief time. Put another way, I have a 3 month short-term work contract to support this one project.

—enter sincere digression—

It has been a true pleasure working on MELT for several reasons. First and foremost, the team of people I am working with are lovely. We are all quite different, as any five adults are, but we share a sense of humor and an inclination to laugh very hard and long. While in Kanger, we spent everyday together from about 8am to 11pm working, with breaks for cooking and eating, and one day a group hike. For me though, it hasn’t felt terribly like work, even though endless hours lifting heavy objects in a warehouse is not a recreational activity by anyone’s definition. The good humor, kindness, sincere conversation, and quick wit has made these exhausting days fun. Secondly, I am using bits of my engineering background on this project and bits of my wilderness first responder. The outdoor jobs and technical career have always been bifurcated in my life; it is surprisingly fulfilling to be in a setting that weaves them together.

—exit sincere digression—

One of my tasks for the project has been to plan all the food. My work began in Boulder when I was asked to plan 4000 calories/person/day. Hours on a spreadsheet later and some stress about wanting to please and impress my new coworkers, we have 502503.8 of vegetarian calories palletized and ready to freeze on the ice sheet. If we are out there for 18 days, this actually works out to 5580 calories/person/day. If we get stuck for any reason and are out for 23 days (the number I planned for), we have 4370 calories/person/day. When I took an inventory of what we actually ended up bringing with us, which deviated slightly from the shopping spreadsheet, we ended up with about 160 unique ingredients and items.

We have kimchi; we have fancy orange cheese Michael says is expensive because insects poop in it; we have canisters of pillsbury dough boy cinnamon rolls; we have kale and bok choy; we have a large variety of dried fruits, vegetables, and beans; we have pre-made-by-us breakfast burritos; we have puffed veggie chips that are really just fried potato but they are four times as expensive because Matt feels they are less toxic while knowing they are not; we have lay’s potato chips because I like them regardless of their toxicity; we have 10 lb of powdered hummus; we have powdered nut butters; we have actual nut butters; we have butter, sesame oil, canola oil, olive oil, and powdered coconut milk. We have so much more. Below is an index of our planned meals. Keep in mind though, a large portion of our calories are coming from the snacks too.

5Breakfast Burritos
22X Veggie Omelette, Biscuit, Potato
1Cinnamon Rolls, Treat
# MealsLUNCH
1Navy Bean Soup
1Italian Soup
1Great Northern
4Cheese, Hummus, and Crackers
4tempeh torta wraps
4tempeh red bean kimchi squash wraps
2Fun Cous Cous
3Fun Farro
2Coconut Curry w Black Rice
3French Lentils + Pita
3Kim Chi Udon
3Brownie Scramble
3Chana Masala
2Shepard’s Mush
3mac and cheese w squash, extra cheese

When all this is said and done, I plan to carry down this neurotic path and calculate the calories remaining and average calories eaten/person/day. My hypothesis is that we have a significant amount of food to leave for the August demobilization team in the warehouse. However, with Andrew’s 24 year old metabolism and unbridled enthusiasm for digging holes in the ice sheet, I could be proven wrong. Stay tuned!