At the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, a remote Antarctic outpost centered over the one spot on Earth where every direction you point is north, food is a Really Big Deal.

The U.S. research station stands on large cylindrical stilts over roughly two miles of ice and snow — so high that water boils below 200 degrees Fahrenheit, threatening the texture of even the most basic mac & cheese. But the kitchen staff prides itself on the morale-building quality of their food, from pasta made perfectly al dente to fresh-baked cookies, altitude and isolation be damned — and the art is not lost on the 150-odd people who live on station for the peak austral summer season.

No wonder T.J. Fudge knew the right pick-up line for the galley-full of after-dinner minglers, more committed to their ice cream than the evening lecture he  was about to deliver: “I make a mean fudge.”

Fudge is in his mid-thirties, and aside from making a fudge so good the recipe is given only to those graced with the Fudge surname, he works as a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. (When I asked if I could call him Dr. Fudge, he said no — that’s his wife.)

Fudge is part of the South Pole Ice Core drilling project — or SPICE Core.

The project will eventually excavate the deepest ice core ever drilled at the South Pole, and give us more context for our climate history. Fudge and his colleague, Mindy Nicewonger, a PhD student in Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine, explained the project to me over beers in the galley on a slow afternoon, while waiting for better weather.

Their group is studying ultra trace gases (the technical term for gases that are really, really rare in the atmosphere) as they are preserved in the layers of ice at the South Pole.