Friday, February 2, 2007

First Week

Latest photo set

Haven't had time to write much, due to work becoming all-consuming. We have gotten a lot done since arriving but we have a long way to go. For the first few days I was working in the Dark Sector daily, poking around in big racks of equipment inside the IceCube Laboratory (ICL), or "counting house" (a venerable physics term for the hut where your data piles up). A shuttle leaves from the station every 20 minutes for the Dark Sector, until 4:30PM. After that time, you walk the half-mile distance (there is an IceCube van and some snowmobiles but I haven't used them for commuting yet). After two days I got things fixed enough that I was able to work remotely from the station, and haven't needed to go out since then. (You might ask, what's the point of going to the Pole if you can work remotely? The answer is complicated but boils down to needing 24/7 high speed network connectivity, face time with colleagues, and getting a sense of what's going on with the detector that is simply impossible up North - plus, of course, actually building and fixing the instrument, much of which we missed by coming down so late in the season).

The drawback of not having to go out to the counting house, however, is that if you are bunked inside the new station, you can easily go days without going outside. You have to force yourself to go out, or volunteer for or get picked for various cleanup or other chores.

Yesterday DAQer Keith left Pole, and we saw him out to the plane (see new photo set) - my first time outside in 24 hrs. There are often several flights a day during the week, mostly for cargo, but there is something special about the passenger (PAX) flights. Folks you know leave or arrive, or both, or you do; there is a certain community feel, a party atmosphere tinged with bittersweet and laced with frosty beards and eyebrows, while they wait to load cargo before they let the pax on board (keeping the pax well away from the propellers to keep any giddy beakers [scientists] from turning into pink spray on the snow). I have an affectionate feeling for the planes. The Hercs are special in that they are the only way home. Unless you decide to walk... some people do. Those people are even more crazy than we are.

Also stepped outside briefly early this morning without my gear on to take pictures of the following halo and sun dogs (perennial phenomena here at Pole, and very beautiful - see photo above).

To stay sane I have been going to the gym, and have really enjoyed the new facilities (last few years they have cannibalized various rooms in the old station for this purpose until the new gym was completed at the end of last summer). However, the combination of working out, changing to night shift to match the satellite, sleeping poorly (there is a lot of noise on station), and basically working all the rest of the time has left me feeling exhausted and with a chronic enough headache that I saw the doctor a short while ago (all indications are that I'm fine, so don't worry). So I'm going to be taking it a bit easier, and in fact just watched Fargo in the video lounge, and am going to take a nap. A hot bath would be nice, too, but that will have to wait until New Zealand, or home.

It looks as though they may try to keep a few of us past the nominal station close on Feb. 14. So that hot bath may have to wait a few more days.

Some annotations for the photos:

Lower hallway of the new station

0300h - lights on in the greenhouse... the humidity and smell of tomato plants are AMAZING.

Mustering for the flight North

More photos

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