Feeding Time on the Palmer

Far up in the bow of the Palmer, past the cold rooms, beyond the dry labs, and five stories below the bridge, two people are at work in a gleaming steel room. They mix compounds in metal bowls, sprinkle in precisely measured powders, and then arrange their mixtures on trays to put into calibrated heating devices.

Forty-five minutes later, the scientists and crew file in to check on the results: fresh breadsticks. This is the galley, one of my favorite rooms on the ship. Just two staff, a cook and a galley hand, make meals for the ship’s 70 inhabitants. They turn out three entrees per meal (one of them vegetarian), plus vegetables, rice, a couple of soups, a salad bar, and two or three desserts.

Keeping up that kind of variety is a challenge when the nearest grocery store is 2,000 miles north of us. Each time the ship stops in McMurdo it takes on more food, but even McMurdo gets only limited amounts of fresh food brought in on C-17 aircraft. The avocados and kiwi fruit that I looked forward to at the beginning of the voyage are now just a pale green memory, and cabbage has replaced lettuce in the salad bar. Read on through the slideshow to see how the cooks keep the hungry crew satisfied:

As good a job as the galley does, it can’t cater to everyone’s favorites. I brought a dark, shade-grown coffee for when I sit down to write. Dr. Chris Measures, an Englishman who now works at the University of Hawaii, starts each day with marmalade on toast. Dr. Mariko Hatta brought a rice cooker on board. It’s a versatile device—she knows how to make a cake in one.

Graduate student Xiao Liu drinks chrysanthemum tea she brought from China. Electronics technician George Aukon carries ‘kvas,’ a fizzy root-beer-like drink from Russia. The marine technicians stock up on cheeses and salami before they board, as well as a New Zealand cookie called a Tim Tam. Apparently, if you bite off both ends you can drink your milk through it.

For most of us, the galley’s cookies are our comfort food. Watch this reenactment to see some of the different styles of cookie-grabbing. In order, these are George Aukon, Bruce Huber, Eli Hunter, Dr. Phoebe Lam, Elizabeth Halliday, Max Grand, me, and Chris Linder.


Download the Quicktime version (6.8 MB)

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Profile photo of Hugh Powell

About Hugh Powell

Hugh is a staff writer at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is on special assignment with the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. He has previously written for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

7 Responses to “Feeding Time on the Palmer”

  1. If the galley serves up breakfast, lunch, dinner, midrats and cookies, when do the cooks sleep?

  2. Zachary from Holy Family School February 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Tim Tam’s? Are they straw-shaped; hollow?

    • Profile photo of Hugh Powell

      Hi again, Tim Tams are a kind of New Zealand cookie. They’re a little like oblong Oreos, but chocolate covered with chocolate center. I think the marine techs have a special technique for using them like straws.

  3. Zachary from Holy Family School February 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Because of midrats do you become “nocturnal?”

    • Profile photo of Hugh Powell

      Hi Zachary, I have definitely become nocturnal. Or at least as nocturnal as you can be in 24-hour daylight. I get up around noon and go to bed sometime between 5 and 9 a.m. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘because’ of midrats, but I’m very glad that they have midrats or I would only get one meal a day!

  4. So funny to hear the term ‘midrats’ again; we had midrats in the Marines and it was my favorite meal when pulling 24 hour shifts at Crash Fire Rescue. Another great article–I love learning about the inner workings of the ship! And the cookie time lapse was brilliant :)