IceCube and the Askaryan Radio Array Journals

Iceberg
On December 29th we boarded a LC-130 at the South Pole that would take us back to McMurdo Station. I didn't realize how much I had become attached to this place and the people there until I made the final round of goodbyes in the galley during lunchtime just before I left. Nothing could have prepared me for how hard it would be to leave this inspiring continent. With a heavy heart I embraced each of my team members at the "Welcome to the South Pole" sign. It felt like just hours before I had stepped off the plane and taken my first shallow breaths at the South Pole. Now, almost four weeks later, I was doing the process in reverse. Thomas Meures and I stepped onto the plane as the only passengers onboard the flight. We buckled our seat belts and stretched out in the spacious cargo nets...
Skua Shack
In one of the most remote places in the world, it can be hard to imagine spending the holidays without loved ones around. But when you're surrounded by some of the most hard working and giving people who also find themselves isolated at the holidays, you find yourself surrounded with a new family. This was my first white Christmas (ever!) and I got to start off the weekend with a sled ride down a mountain beside the station. I can't remember the last time I rode a sled and it was such a great way to bond with fellow Polies as we laughed and slid down the hill with child-like excitement. The next day was Christmas Eve and we started off the day with a game of disc golf after some breakfast. Station manager Bill Coughton joined us for a few holes and we had a lot of laughs trying to sink...
Sonde instrument
Today I helped meteorologist, Katie Koster, launch a weather balloon. Katie is a molecular biologist by training, but now finds herself staying for the winter to launch weather balloons from the South Pole Station. Every day at 10:00 A.M. and 10:00 P.M. a balloon is launched from the South Pole Station and is synchronized with other weather stations across the continent to map out weather. The balloon lifts up a sensor that measures temperature, pressure, and humidity. The GPS unit attached to the balloon allows it to calculate the wind speed and direction. This information is useful to pilots and other types of transportation around the continent. Sonde instrument for the weather balloon. The latex balloon weighs 350 grams and is inflated with helium. This gas is much less dense...
South Pole Gravity Sign
50 feet below the South Pole station begins a series of tunnels leading to Rod wells that house fresh drinking water. A 'Rod well' is created by hot water drilling into the ice until water is reached. As more hot water is added, the ice continues to melt, creating a bowl that contains freshly melted ice, or drinking water. This water is pumped back to the station through a series of pipes in the underground tunnel. As the Rod well gets too large and depletes the drinking water, it gets converted into a sewage dump and a new Rod well is drilled. The water and sewage pipes that run through the tunnels below the station. Sayer Houseal, a carpenter who has spent several seasons at Pole, is spending his summer down in the tunnels below the station. His job involves widening the narrow...
LC-130 Taking off in McMurdo
Anyone staying at the South Pole station arrives on a LC-130 Hercules with skids. This allows the planes to land on the ice runway with skis covering their wheels. The runway is about two miles in length and is maintained regularly by Fleet Ops who groom the runway, and the survey team who checks for crevasses. The LC-130 Hercules in McMurdo Station heading for the South Pole. The South Pole Fire Department assists with all Hercules flight landings. They muster on the runway in a track-wheeled van and prepare to support with any flight emergencies. During the summer months when planes are flying to the South Pole, there are around a dozen firefighters on station. They also assist with Comms and help coordinate landing of all flights. During the winter when planes do not fly, a Fire...
So how do you get to the bottom of the world? In today's modern age of travel and communication, we are accustomed to flying to another continent in a few hours, or connecting to the other side of the world by video in a matter of seconds. But things are different at the South Pole. For one thing, I left my house in San Diego on Sunday November 26th and did not arrive at the South Pole until Friday December 1st. And I am one of the lucky few who had no delayed or cancelled flights! People say that it's not the destination but the journey to get there. In this case, I think both are spectacular. The journey itself to arrive at the South Pole is a memory I will never forget, but being here and experiencing the culture at the South Pole is equally unforgettable. As the holiday season is...
Pisten bully pano
One of the best things about the South Pole is that everyone is willing to help out anywhere. From volunteering to wash dishes to stocking shelves in the store, people are more than willing to step in to help when needed. U.S. Antarctic Program Surveyor, Ray Eshelman had hurt his back during a long day at work and his partner, Christian San Martin, had no one to go out and survey with. So I stepped in to help. Christian and I hopped into the PistenBully, a small vehicle with tractor-like wheels, and loaded up the back with survey tools. Christian maneuvered the PistenBully out of the busy work space behind the station and we headed across the tarmac to the dark sector. Christian let the PistenBully open up to full speed at a whopping 30 mph. It was still a pretty bumpy ride over the...
Sun Dog
Today I saw my first sun dog in the sky! This is a phenomenon that is caused by the light refracted by ice crystals in the sky. It usually looks like a circle is wrapped around the sun and can give the appearance of more than one sun in the sky. Sun dog at the ARA drill team prep site. This morning was the first hazy day we've had so it was really remarkable seeing the ice crystals form in the sky. It almost had the appearance of snowing, but really it was just small crystals sparkling in the air. I also got to see a weather balloon launch today. This can be an especially difficult task when then wind is blowing hard because the instruments being carried by the balloon need to be in an upright direction. It takes about two weeks to pack up the instruments used in the weather balloon...
"Carrot"
I exited the station at Destination Zulu and was immediately blasted by a gust of cold air. I pulled my hood over my beanie and carefully navigated down the flight of stairs to the hard packed snow. It was a short walk over to the drilling station, but the cold air and high altitude made the trek feel much farther than it actually was. I paused to catch my breath then made my way over to James Roth, one of the engineers on the ARA drill team. Terry Benson stands on a ladder at the front end of the drill train. He quickly gave me a tour of the drill train and showed me around the complex workings of the 75 foot long monstrosity. The drill was used during an ARA deployment in 2012-13 but lack of funding caused the project to be put on hold. The drill was used again in a contract...