Friday Funday? Not so much. Yesterday I helped with two projects: the IceCube Cable Shove and The Surface Junction Boxes. First, the cables. The goal was to get five surface cables, these are the ones connect the hole to the IceCube Lab (ICL), from a trench in the ice up a big culvert tower and over a bridge into the ICL's top floor. Each hole has a cable, so that's 80 cables that have to be shoved up the tower and we're down to the last seven. this mission was to finish five of those.
Those cables are so heavy, so stiff, and so cold. They are difficult to move, even with three or four people. It gets easier to move them when you have five or so people, but even easier with a snow mobile to drag them around.
Our team of about 20 was split up around the ICL: five of us were on the ice outside (that's where I was), two people were in the bottom of the vertical culvert, two were on top of the culvert, several people were inside the lab, and there were even more people at the bottom of the far vertical tower pulling on ropes too.
First we had to untangle the five cables on the surface and get them lined up to be inserted.
So each cable has a harness on the end called the zipper tube. The tube is pulled from the top and from the far side of the building while the cable is pushed from the bottom. The command, "pull black rope, push bottom" is still ringing in my ears. We all had radios to communicate and really worked together, patiently, to get it done.
After each one went up, a loop was made at the bottom of the vertical culvert with the excess cable. This is because the whole ICL will be raised over time as the snow drift piles up around it. The ICL, like the South Pole Station, is built on big jacks that will be raised over 25 feet total in the next 25 years. The cables needed to be looped to allow for the change in height.
We worked so hard!
It was only three hours of pushing, but we got it done. Afterward we had a nice hot lunch and then hit the ice again for an afternoon of mitten-off small work in the IceTop trenches connecting the other end of those cables to the IceTop surface junction
This work is pretty easy, but it's cold out there and I learned about managing my temperature in my gear. My knees got really cold, even though we had foam to kneel on, but maybe the cold kept them from getting inflamed--today they feel fine. Surprisingly, my hands were just fine even with mittens off and wearing thin glove liners only. Equally surprising was how cold my toes got! I think kneeling on the ice meant my toes were just a thin rubber membrane from the ice. The tops of the boots are just not insulated well. After all, the boots are meant to be worn right-side-up, not in contact with the ice on the tops of the toes. I guess we needed bigger pieces of foam.
So that was a hard day's work. Five big cables shoved three stories vertically, and four surface cables connected to surface junction boxes. Phew!