Monday, October 1, 2012

The rarest of all Antarctic birds

Another Saturday, another Housemouse.

Because Palmer Station is too small to have any dedicated janitorial or cleaning staff, every Saturday the station shuts down early and everyone picks a chore out of the hat in a ritual we call "Housemouse".  This was my assignment for this most recent Housemouse, to clean the top floor of the Bio-Lab building, where about half the dorm rooms are.  It all looks pretty standard, until you get to the last item; "Restock Cornish Game Hen Room...".  Restock the what room?

All of the dorm rooms on the third floor of the Bio-Lab building have hand-paintings of various Antarctic birds on the doors.  I'm currently in room 206, the Macaroni Penguin room.

All of the rooms, including the bathrooms get this treatment.  This one is a little bit of an inside joke, as the Sheathbill is usually referred to as the "Sh*t Chicken" because of their tendency to congregate near the station's sewer outflow pipe.

But the oddest room of the bunch has an even odder story behind it.

Quite a number of years ago over the winter, when the station got it's yearly resupply of frozen food, amoung the usual assortment of frozen meats, vegetables, pastries and cooking supplies was included an obscean number of cornish game hens.  As in, more than we would normally consume in ten years.  The cause of this is lost to time, but speculation is that whomever was ordering them assumed they were bought each, when in reality they were sold by the case.  Whatever the reason, we ended up with about a thousand pounds of little frozen birds, and nowhere near enough room for them in the freezers.

So a plot was devised.  The third-floor janitor's closet in the Bio-Lab building had a vent to the outside, and was to be used as an impromptu freezer.  It was emptied of it's cleaning supplies, linens and vacuum cleaners, and stuffed full of frozen cornish game hens. The hatch to the outside was then opened, exposing the room to the winter air.

It remained like this for a short time only, while the large freezers were re-arranged and storage space for all of these things was found.  So while that room served it's function for only a few days before reverting back to a boring old janitor's closet, it has forever been importalized in station culture as:

The Cornish Game Hen room.