It’s been nearly three months since I left the South Pole. When I am asked about the trip I recite my final conclusion about the Pole, “If I could go back tomorrow, I would.” Going to the South Pole and being a part of the IceCube Neutrino telescope team was phenomenal. I only hope that my blogs and communications back to America captured the vibrant spirit of the station, the fond camaraderie of the South Pole team, and the pride that I felt in being involved with IceCube’s completion.
Katey on the top of the ICL
At this point I’m scarfing up anything that says, IceCube, Antarctic, Neutrino, or South Pole. I hung on to the edge of my seat during newscasts about drilling in Vostock, Antarctica, and quizzed a Physics friend from MIT about how his dark matter collector is similar to...
After one night in McMurdo it was time to leave. (It was actually November 9th when I left McMurdo.) I spent the evening walking around with some new friends in McMurdo and I was amazed by how much the scenery had changed in three weeks--almost all of the ice and snow in town had melted completely. I met some new people who had just arrived to stay a month in McMurdo and felt bad that they had missed the Antarctic experience. The temperature hovered around 32 F which felt like a sauna for me. I walked around in just a fleece jacket and tennis shoes instead of bunny boots convinced that it wasn't even cold there.
The Ross Ice Shelf is still frozen, but the airfield is about to move off of it.
McMurdo with it's melt on.
The Ob Tube is now off limits because the ice is melting too...
I returned to McMurdo Station from the South Pole and got my new room assignment, a shared 5 bed berth in the main station building. I arranged to meet up with my new friend Julie Katch whom I'd met on the way through the first time. Julie works in Antarctica every year (four years running) as a draftsman. I have heard of contract workers like dining assistants, general assistants, carpenters, "fuelies", and "wasties", but it never occurred to me that you'd need architects in residence down on the ice. I guess I figured that all of the technical design stuff would happen in building the stations and then those individuals would leave.
Well it turns out that all the drawings for all the buildings built by the NSF on Antartica are housed in McMurdo. They're all right there. And it...
The team in the lab gave me a nice tour of the IceCube Lab. This is the location of all the IceCube and IceTop computers, and where more than 5,000 DOMs have to link in. The room is heated by the servers and it even has to be cooled so it doesn't overheat--at the South Pole! In the whole project, including 86 cables, surface cables, and all the wiring in the ICL there are 11,648 miles of copper wire that all meets at the ICL. The ICL collects a terabyte of data everyday making it the largest data collection center in Antarctica. For more good pictures and info please see: http://www.expeditions.udel.edu/antarctica/blog-dec-2-2010.html
The information gathered here is processed and within half an hour can show muon events in IceCube and IceTop.
Well, it's been a great visit, but it's time to go. With tears in my eyes I bid farewell to the South Pole. It has been a wonderful, curious, exciting, and rewarding time. I have enjoyed everything from the constant daylight to the cold, cold ice tunnels. I adored the friends I've made at the pole, they are all special, unique, smart, and uplifting. I understand completely why they choose to return to the "harsh continent"--it's as much for the glory of surviving South Pole as it is for enjoying time with a second polar family and then again its about being part of science at the Pole.
IceCube's whole gang.
I am sorry to leave my IceTop team especially. To James, Tom, Chris and Bakhtiyar, thank you guys so much for your help, support, and laughter. I hope you get some Kazak/...
We are nearing completion on the installation of the IceTop tanks. Let's review the steps necessary to complete this year's IceTop goals:
Prepare tanks for fill. James Roth serviced and double-checked all the freeze control units, their pumps and their electronics. Tom Gaisser, Chris Elliott, Bakhtiyar Ruzybayev, and I prepped the doors for the freeze control units, then installed the units. We cleaned out the tanks and attached a contactor to the inside of the tank.
Installing the FCU
Cleaning a tank. We dumped snow in the tank to scrub with, a big chunk of icy snow works great as a scrubber, a little like a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
Prepare DOMs for fill. We mounted the DOMs on sturdy hardware so we could hang them above the tank safely.
Opening a new DOM box for mounting...
Well, even though I never got the solar oven package I sent to the South Pole, I still managed to have some fun with solar ovens at the coldest place on earth. My goal was to make partial s'mores: chocolate and graham cracker without the marshmallows.
The first oven I made and the second one I purchased commercially.
The solar oven I made.
The solar oven I purchased.
Here's what happened when I headed outside:
The last few days have presented the worst weather I've seen at the South Pole so far. It hasn't been too cold (-28 C) but it has been windy (25 knots!) with windchill in the -40s C. Brrr!!!
That's -29 Celsius.
Bakhtiyar explores wind drifts in the trench.
Chris Elliott braves the wind. He won't sacrifice clear communication for comfort.
James Roth makes a snow angel.
Snow drifts and overhangs accumulated in our trenches.
Overhangs can be unstable if disturbed.
Even from inside the ice was impressive.Snow crystals on the window of the lounge
In the winter do all the windows get covered eventually?
TOS 1 connected to the drill hose
The drillers have made their first hole in the ice for this season. They started on hole 80 Friday morning. On Saturday I headed out to check out the system. The tower operations site (TOS) is where the drilling and deployment happen. There are actually two TOSes so that when one is in use they can maneuver the second to the next drill site.
Actually, it's only 30 breakouts, one for every two DOMs.
I mentioned in a previous journal that I've been monitoring the oxygen in my blood with a pulse oximeter. It's a quick way to find out how my oxygen has changed over time.
Chart of my percent oxygen saturation levels over time.
I interviewed Dr. Mark Klinker here to find out more about what these numbers mean.