Monday, August 27, 2007

Some things I didn't need to spend four months in simulation in the Arctic to learn:

1. Indoor flush toilets are amongst the peak achievements of civilization.
2. Butter is delicious, as are fresh vegetables and nicely-cooked meat.
3. A comfortable bed in a dark, quiet, private room is more conducive to a good night's sleep than half of a hard bunk in a tiny hab without any soundproofing in 24-hour sunlight.
4. A change of scenery and company is nice every once in a while.
5. A long hot shower is an extraordinarily pleasant thing.

Something I did learn:

With sufficient motivation, training and luck, a crew can do without all of the above and do just fine, thank you very much.

Not that that first shower wasn't pretty amazing. We were using 10L of water per person per day at the hab (including cooking, cleaning, and drinking water), and I must have poured a crew-week's worth of water over my head (30min shower at 10L/min = 300L, so not far off). Worth every drop.

In Resolute now and heading south tomorrow - home soon!

Monday, August 20, 2007


As of midnight (about 30 mins ago), we are done with sim. Done, I tell you. We immediately went outside, and toasted the sunset with some of James' fine Countdown Lager. Outside without a spacesuit for the first time in 100 days. The world is big and beautiful, and we have the island to ourselves. Breathtaking.

This would be better with ground lamb, but it really wasn't bad. Honest.

'meat'balls: Mix reconstituted taco TVP, dried spinach, dried onion, garlic salt, lard and herbes de provence with enough powdered egg to make it all stick together. Roll the mixture into balls, and fry until brown and firm on the outside. They end up tasting a lot like falafel.

yogurt sauce: Make yogurt. Mix about a cup of it with garlic salt, lots of dill, and olive oil. Spoon over the TVPballs.

salad: Harvest the last of the lettuce from the Aerogardens. Top with chopped artichoke hearts, and dress with olive oil, lemon juice and herbs.

rosemary potatoes: Get instant scalloped potatoes, and save the sauce packet for some other dish. Reconstitute the potatoes by nuking them in water. Drain on paper towels. Put in a baking pan, coat with olive oil and season with rosemary and garlic salt. Roast at 400F or so until yummy.

I'll post a picture tomorrow, but really, I swear, it really wasn't bad at all.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


The sun finally set yesterday, dipping briefly below the horizon for a few minutes, before dawning bright and new just after midnight. As nights go, it wasn't much to speak of, but we celebrated it anyway. It has been a long day. Our last sunrise was in late April, in Resolute. It was -30 degC, the world was white, and we were just setting off on our great adventure. Now it's a balmy 7 degrees, the landscape is Mars red, and we're nervously contemplating reintegration into society. Will we smell funny? Hopefully not, after copious showers in Res. Will we flinch at social contact? Mmm, maybe. Will we remember to behave ourselves? Will we want to? I'll admit that I spent precious air miles on an upgrade for my flight to LA, to reduce the odds of being stuck next to a crying baby or some other challenging neighbor. Still, I'm not too worried - a salad bar, a hot tub, and a glass of wine, and I'll be right as rain.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

And then there was one

Twice a day, we do the "sked", a radio check-in with the Polar Continental Shelf Project back in Resolute. They keep track of all the science teams in the field in this part of Nunavut, and send in the cavalry if anything goes wrong. When we first got here, it was just us and a team way out on the ice cap at the east end of Devon. For most of May and June, we got the personal attention of the Polar Shelf guy, at least for the time it took to say "read you five by five, weather's fine, no traffic". Then, in July, at the peak of the field season, the sked exploded from an intimate affair into a mass conference call, with more than fifteen camps calling in to schedule flights, discuss problems, and announce polar bear visits. OK, the camps were spread out over thousands of miles of the Arctic, but it still felt a bit crowded.

Now, we're back down to five, and one of those is finishing its pullout tomorrow. If we're not the last in the field, we'll be close (damn you, ice cap guys!). Although no snow has settled yet, there's a reasonable chance that they will have to put the skis back on the Twin Otters for our pullout flights. Winter is coming, the sked is getting quiet, and soon Devon will reclaim its title as the world's largest uninhabited island.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Would anyone else like to go to Nobu when I get back? And does anyone else see a grinning triceratops in the Nobu logo?

I remember being bemused by this at the Tokyo restaurant many years ago, so it's not perceptual dysfunction brought on by isolation. At least, not just that.
News from the North

I own a house! Thanks to Jen, who has been bullying lawyers, scheduling inspectors, and signing things for me all summer, I am now the proud owner of #34 Kauhale Beach Cove, five units and a few hundred feet from #29, where I lived a few months and many thousands of dollars ago. Small steps, people. Small steps.

In other news, we went with a fiery theme for the Phoenix launch, and had creme brulee. OK, it was an eggy custard with some burnt sugar on top, but isn't that what creme brulee really is, when it's not putting on airs? Here's an action shot. fyi, the blowtorch is normally used for sterilizing the permafrost drill.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Welcome back, Winter

Believe it or not, mid-July was actually pretty warm here, peaking at about 18 degrees Celsius outside, and downright muggy in the hab. It has also been sunny and dry for weeks. Then, a couple of days ago, we woke up to a heavy wall of fog and a chill in the air. This morning, the snow started. None of it stuck, but it definitely feels like we're through the summer and sliding back into winter. There are still a few patches of white here and there, and I'm rooting for them to make it to the first real fall of new snow.

In cuter news, we had an outreach event with the Iqaluit Science Summer Camp a couple of days ago. We gave a presentation online, then video-chatted with the kids using Skype. Then, they had a space suit fashion show (image from the Nunatsiaq News):

How adorable is that??