August 21, 2009
Not much un-interrupted sleep today, but it was worth it. About an hour after I went to sleep this morning, we once again got word that there was a polar bear. The Louis had stopped for some equipment adjustments, and the bear was on an ice floe right between the two ships. It was amazing, and I was able to get some better pictures and some good video. You really lose the sense of scale out here on the ice - the bear looks so small compared to the ice features and to the ship.
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are the largest land predators on earth, reaching as much as 1400 pounds. They are well-adapted to life in the Arctic, with thick fat layers, black skin for heat absorption, thick, translucent, yellowish fur (it only looks white), and powerful muscles and webbed feet for swimming long distances. They depend on the sea ice for their survival, and as the ice continues to melt, their long-term survival is in jeopardy.
Yesterday I explained how the ship gets its food and where it is stored. Today I want to explain the other part of the picture - how we get fed. There are 4 meals served per day on the Healy. Breakfast from 7-8 am, lunch from 11 am-12 pm, dinner from 5-6 pm, and "mid-rats" (midnight rations) from 11-11:30 pm for those people going on, coming off, or in the middle of their watch.
Different Coast Guard members are in charge of preparing all of the meals. Food Service (FS) specialists work in varying shifts from 5 am to 8 pm. They generally work for 2 days "on" and then have 2 days "off." Certain people are then assigned to be "night bakers," in which case they work their regular shifts and then stay on duty through mid-rats and do the next day's baking and other preparation until 2 am. It's a very long day.
At every meal there are a variety of hot entrée and side dish choices. There are also fresh-baked desserts, a salad bar, dry cereal, soup, peanut butter and jelly, fountain soft drinks, coffee and cappuccino, and even a smoothie machine - it's a good thing we have gyms on the ship because otherwise we'd all end up gaining a lot of weight. For breakfast, there are usually eggs made to order (omelets on weekends), oatmeal, and pancakes. Lunch and dinner vary by the day, and mid-rats are sometimes leftovers from lunch or dinner, but often there is something special prepared as well.
Once people get their food, there are 2 sitting areas. One of the tables doubles as an emergency operating table, should the need arise, but we're hoping not to have to see that happen. Crew members and Science Party mingle during the meals, and they have been a great way to meet new people.
The Food Service Specialists have to get as many as 130 people served for any meal before turning around and getting the next meal prepared. They really do an excellent job. The Coast Guard recognizes this as well. Because they are in such high demand and the position is difficult and high-profile, these people receive additional bonuses when they enlist or re-enlist. The Science Party is cooking for Saturday night's "Morale Night" dinner, so I'm sure we will appreciate the job they do even more.