Status Report

Keith Cowing’s Devon Island Journal – 17 July 2002 Greenhouse dedication, fishing, and mystery food

By SpaceRef Editor
July 17, 2002
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NASA HMP-2002/SpaceRef

Keith Cowing cutting Lexan

The last pieces of Lexan await installation

SpaceRef’s Marc Boucher (L) and Keith Cowing (R) hold the last piece of Lexan to be installed

Houston, we have a greenhouse

Ginger Howell holds an arctic char while Quimmiq looks on. Note Quimmiq’s tongue!

“Mystery Can” contents

Inside the greenhouse

Arctic carpenter extraordinaire A.C. Hitch without whom the greenhouse would not be standing

Lexan was the order of the day.

After cutting and installing the last of 9 separate pieces of Lexan on the aft end of the greenhouse, we turned our attention to the front. An aluminum door still needs to be installed.

True to form, the parts and instructions that came with the greenhouse from the manufacturer were not what they should have been. We had anticipated this based on our experience in California and had enough spare material on hand. A.C. Hitch, our expert arctic carpenter, was able to fashion all of the parts we needed. We soon had a door installed.

The Lexan installation on the front was a much simpler matter to install than the small pieces we had to make for the aft end. Two large sheets – one on either side of the door – needed a simple field cut and some touch up cuts. A small sheet atop the door and we were done. The weather was stunningly nice making the process very pleasant. This could have been a dismal task had it been cold and raining.

As we had already learned repeatedly, you need to be able to adapt to both expected – and unexpected contingencies in the arctic. So was the case with the final pieces of Lexan. We had planned ahead for this specific contingency – and had enough Lexan to make the custom panels – with some to spare for future patching.

At last, after all these months of work – both here and back in the U.S., and we had a functional greenhouse! A step inside transported one to another climate. Even with overcast skies this greenhouse pumped itself up with heat. On a sunny day, like today, it did so with amazing speed. At one point it reached 42.5C (107F) inside. Working in there was actually difficult due to the heat.

This was to be a cause for celebration. After dinner we would all gather in the greenhouse for a short dedication ceremony.

Quicktime panorama: View from atop Maynard Hill 22 July 2002. 270 degree pan. R-L: Haughton Crater, The Fortress, Base Camp, Tent City, windsock and webcam. [Download]

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Ginger Howell, our camp cook, and Joe Amarualik, our local guide and Deputy Base Camp Manager did some fishing today. They brought back several arctic char for dinner. Often known as the “northern cousin” of the salmon, I, a true salmon aficionado, looked forward to dinner. True to form, the dogs (especially Quimmiq) took particular interest in the fish. Alas, the dogs were destined to get no char. Everyone managed to get a small piece. It was a welcome departure from the standard fare – albeit very good food – that we had been eating.

Quicktime panorama: Center of Base Camp 19 July 2002. 360 degree pan. R-L: Office Tent, Mess Tent, webcam, Comm Tent, Argo ATV, Tool Tent, The Fortress, Airstrip, Greenhouse, Tent City [Download]

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After dinner everyone from Base Camp met in the greenhouse for a dedication. I led the brief ceremonies by reading from an email HMP Principal Investigator Pascal Lee had sent to Marc Boucher and I. I added that we all saw the purpose of this greenhouse as being to help develop technology required to one day support humans on the surface of Mars – an ideal all HMP participants aspire to.

With that we all toasted the occasion with some sake Marc had purchased in Japan – as well as some Scotch that suddenly appeared courtesy of a participant in last year’s field season.

We also participated in the opening of the “Mystery Can”. Over the years, a stockpile of food has accumulated at Base Camp – one which is left here when the season is completed. After several years, the labels have come off of some of the cans. As the contest progressed, everyone had a chance to shake and hold the large can so as to elicit some potential clues as to its contents.

Ginger then proceeded to open the can. However, this did little to resolve the mystery: it was full of a yellow fluid. Biologist Charles Cockell, from the British Antarctic Survey, bravely stuck his finger in, tasted the fluid, and, with just a moment’s hesitation, proclaimed it to be “Yams”.

We all decided to trust Charlie’s judgment and not try and confirm the identity of the contents.

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