Science all over the place

Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000

The weather has let up enough to get some science people and equipment in, and science is sprouting up all over. Last week there was an open house in the Dark Sector, where all the telescopes live. This area, with three main buildings, is way out across the skiway - it's a chilly 15-minute walk when one forgot one's wind-pants that day. Over at AST/RO, they're gathering information about the chemical components of stars and galaxies. In MAPO, DASI is the big star: just installed last year, and already collecting good data! DASI is using interferometry to look at leftover radiation from right after the Big Bang. AMANDA, on the other hand, is using the ice cap as a huge lens to look at neutrinos coming through the earth from the North Pole. I think my brain filled up at that point because I also got a brief explanation of the project which has a whole bunch of octagonal-pancake-shaped sensors spread out over a sector of the snow out there, and I couldn't tell you much about it to save my life. On the plus side, I got a snowmobile ride back to the dome.

A few days later I was out at ARO, the atmospheric sciences building upwind of the station, for slushies (whatever you want to drink, poured on the cleanest snow on the planet) and got a whole bunch more science stuffed in my head there. What I went home with was that the banks and banks of gleaming instrumentation with hoses and dewars and gas cylinders and readouts are going to provide a much more comprehensive picture of the chemistry of the climactic cycle near the snow surface, as represented by various trace gasses. Since Antarctic weather is a major part of the planetary weather cycle, we really want to know this. This same project in a previous year discovered a totally unpredicted reaction between sunlight and the snow surface, which they're hoping to describe in more detail this year. There are several other projects out there as well, but they'll have to wait for another week.

Sunday night the weekly science lecture was given by the folks who are looking for micrometeorites in the water well - no, really. In other places they have to go to great effort and expense to carve through snow and ice to collect the small particles (<2mm) that have made it to the earth's surface from outer space; at the South Pole, all they have to do is lower their high-tech vacuum cleaner down the well where we melt ice to get drinking water, and voila! Not only quantity but quality too. They've picked up specimens here that don't exist anywhere else, or were destroyed by normal environmental exposure long ago. I think they're happy scientists.

In other news, not too much other news. The Basler went through, that's a renovated DC-3 that will be working out of McMurdo for most of the summer. It's got less range than the ANG LC-130s so it had to come down through South America and hop across the continent. It's very stylish and also a workhorse. I chatted up the pilots when they came in for coffee and got to check out the inside. Anything else? I joined the Trauma Team (medical first responders) and was immediately designated Radio Girl (Doc's words, not mine). Our first practice accomplished the objective (time from the first call to victim in BioMed was 13 minutes) but highlighted the need for a bit more organization. We've got loads of talent though.

We're still behind on the flight schedule, by over 20 flights. People are starting to get twitchy and talk about our fuel reserves. We got 3 flights yesterday but nothing today, due to a downturn in McMurdo's weather. We did get in a load of freshies for Thanksgiving and tonight is potato-peeling night in the galley.

At least it's finally warmed up! We hit -15F today. Very nice. This is more like summer. McMurdo reported a torrid +21F earlier in the week. Ugh! Can't take the tropics.

Hope you're all well,


Back ~ Sarah home ~ Forward