Monday, February 12, 2007

Closing Softly

Been a few days since writing but there is not too much new to report. The routine is the same: wake up, work out, work 12-14 hours, curl up in bed with Battlestar Galactica, sleep (modulo fire alarms or other noise). Iterate.

Our work has finally started to come together, with the new DAQ collecting data from nine strings as I write this. IceCube deployed 13 more this season and we will gradually be adding these in as the DAQ improves and the strings freeze in. It takes several weeks for the strings to freeze fully, and six months or more for the strings to cool down to the ambient temperatures in the ice - around -55C, though it gets warmer the deeper you go due to geothermal heating of the ice closer to the bedrock.

The station has quieted down substantially, having shed almost a hundred people since we arrived. The sun is a little lower on the horizon, as well. A taste of what winter will be like, perhaps. I do appreciate the quiet. Being a light sleeper teaches you to be careful about your own noise in the sleeping quarters. There is an art, for example, to closing doors softly: turn and hold the knob, let the door pull itself closed, release the knob after the door is shut so the latch doesn't clank.

Speaking of soft closings, we three DAQers are participating in the "soft close" of the station. In general the station closes for winter on the 14th to the 17th, with almost everybody but the winterovers leaving on one or two flights on the last day. The closing date has been typically set by the Air Guard based on average weather conditions - they don't like to fly once it starts to get too cold, about -50 to -60F.

This year a few of us are staying later, after the bulk of the summer folks leave, as late as Feb. 22. The caveat here is that we have to check our bags in advance and live out of one carry-on bag after the 17th, and be ready to leave literally on a moment's notice. "Soft close is 100% weather dependent. If our temperatures begin to drop, you may be notified of your departure with EXTREMELY SHORT NOTICE. It has happened that we have received word that we will depart on a flight when it is already enroute to Pole. Be prepared to depart at any time (and don't stray too far from the all-call!)." In other words, no leisurely strolls through the Dome or around the cargo berms for pictures.

So, until they tell us to drop everything and head out to the plane, we're writing documentation, fixing bugs, training the winter crew, scrounging leftovers from the galley fridge (the midnight meal ended yesterday for the summer), writing our last postcards, playing a game of Settlers of Catan now and then. Not quite allowing ourselves to think about the cold beer and warm late summer breezes on the outdoor patio of the Dux De Lux in Christchurch.

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