How Deep Should Your Deep Freeze Be?

If you’re not going to eat it now (whatever "it" is), you toss it in the deep freeze, but just how deep should your deep freeze be? Not deep enough if you really want to go for broke and forget dates. Would 3,000 years be long enough? Or what about 8,000?

Yes it can be done according to Robinson’s recent Salzburg paper reported out by BBC Nature (1).  On a nice little spot in East Antarctica food stored is still being used on a regular basis. Robinson from the U of Wollongong has been studying the mosses at the edge of a lake, which seemed to be happily growing on a barren sand/gravel base.

Apparently the mosses only grow when it’s sunny down there and the top layer of ice melts, and then as the icy winters come rushing in everything is back in deep freeze. With the wind and the cold, even the mosses freeze, but not before they are dried out so ice crystals don’t disrupt their cellular structure. Next year, rather briefly for those of us living in more temperate climes, the sun returns to produce some water from the ice. Rehydration and growth returns, as if by magic.

But what magic? All of those of us from ex-farming stock, now reduced to window boxes and bonsai, know that plants crave nitrogen – not an abundant element in sand and gravel. Well Professor Robinson’s 16 years of cool work cracked it. Thousands of years ago a penguin colony was in residence and penguins live on fish and fish live on krill down the food chain to algae.

A penguin has to do what a penguin has to do, which after offering suitable nest pebbles to a friend and dining on fish, then proceeds to guano coat the scenery in a rather haphazard manner. So thousands of years of their decorative habits prior to 3,000 years ago has left a deep frozen supply of processed nitrogen, enriched with minerals of course, as manna for moss.


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