Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pole Bound

After tonight's "bag drag" (weigh-in for our flight) we are scheduled on tomorrow's 10AM flight to South Pole. Many of my fellow passengers are winter-overs returning from their week long furlough in McMurdo, which they are required to take (presumably so Raytheon can poke at them a bit more, and so they get a taste of something slightly less surreal before the curtain of winter draws shut for eight months).

I did not, in fact, go to Castle Rock today, as we three DAQers had work to do and I wasn't feeling energetic enough for a 5hr or so walk. Instead I took off for part of the afternoon and hiked up Hut Point Ridge Trail for an hour or two. Some of the terrain is a bit lunar-looking, as you can see from the above picture or the third photo set, which I have just uploaded. I did, however, see some skuas and seals, small ponds, strange buildings as you can see from the photos.

Also, this view of McMurdo seen from the hills above gives an idea of how the town is laid out:

For those who may be interested, here are the luxury accommodations in my portion of our McMurdo dorm room (I have three roommates here; won't have any at Pole). Let me assure you I'm more tidy in the real world.

Tonight we had an interesting science lecture in the galley about meteorite hunting near the South Pole. Crews go out to remote spots (yes, there are places here far more remote than the Pole) and ride snowmobiles side by side for hours on end searching for meteorites atop glaciers which have been exposed by wind. They find hundreds or more per year. Great care is taken not to contaminate the meteorites when they are collected. Some of them have lain on the frigid ice for thousands of years and have never been exposed to liquids of any kind. Some are pieces of Mars or the moon which have shattered off into space due to various impacts and fallen to Earth. Some contain some of the same complex amino acids needed for life.

It will be nice to get to Pole tomorrow (though you never know what will happen with weather or the planes) - I have been traveling for seven days now. Get off the plane, let the cold air bite deep into my lungs, get lunch and a briefing, move into my room, do some laundry, start getting used to the altitude and get to work. Get into a routine, connect with old friends, help the effort along. It looks like we may miss the last IceCube string deployment of the season by a few hours - ok by me, as I have done a lot of deployments, though my travelling companions have not. This has been a very good season drilling-wise, with twelve strings successfully deployed and one more on the way. We need to get to Pole and do our job so that data can actually be collected from the now greatly expanded instrument this Austral winter.

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