Antarctica

Week 6 November 28 2004 "Visitors"

Sorry this is late. Thought I could make it more interesting. Not this week....

At the South Pole you do not expect visitors to drop in. It does happen. In the summer there will be rich tourists who will get flown to the Pole, adventurers that ski to the Pole, and occasionally other national scientific expeditions.

This week a Chilean traverse arrived after driving from Patriot Hills. It is an interesting expedition. While most countries are not overly zealous with sovereign claims in Antarctica, Chile and Argentina are a little more serious. This traverse could be seen as an attempt to strengthen these claims as much as scientific endeavor.

Either way this trip is certainly an adventure as much as anything else for these men. They arrived mid last week with their small caravan of containers on skis. Surprisingly they only had one vehicle to pull the 20 tons that made up their traverse. It was pointed out often by them that they would have preferred another vehicle, but could not afford it. I think some of them were embarrassed about looking unprofessional. But the fact they had made it Pole in good condition despite their budgetary constraints indicated they made up for their lack of money with skill.

Unfortunately I did not get to see them arrive, and do a spin past the Pole. The next day I had the opportunity to meet some of the scientists and explain some of the details of IceCube, and the Pole in general. Many such tours were given around the station, and in return on Friday night a presentation was given explaining the goals of their traverse.

13 men arrived at Pole, of which 2 flew out from Pole. The crew was made up of 2 groups, a military support group, and the science group. The first half of the presentation was by the commander who explained the planning, and general logistical matters such as transport, and route. The science leader then explained that they were participating in an international project called ITASE (), which has a long term goal of understanding the link between Antarctica and world climate.

The planning for the trip was very thorough. The science leader explained in nice detail the way in which satellite imagery had been used to avoid crevassed areas, and that after they did come across a large crevasse, they found in the records from a much earlier expedition that this area had been found before. His point being that one should learn from those that go before you as well as relying on technology. A point often lost on the technology dependent USAP.

In the discussion it became obvious that the members were extremely experienced in cold climates and had worked all over the world. I was told the science leader had climbed Everest (I'm always very impressed by this), and the commander had done many trips to Antarctica. I was struck by how respectfully everyone addressed the commander, as commander. I had the opportunity to talk with him a couple of times and he struck me as an amazing man who earned this respect.

At the end of the week the Chileans are finishing off some repairs, go out to take ice core samples, and expect to leave in a few days. Everyone is enjoying their visit and they will be missed.

My work has increased considerably in the last week. One problem with this is that I have a lot of work emails that need attention first thing in the morning while the satellite is available. The South Pole get about 10 hours of satellite communications a day. At the moment it finished at about lunch time. I've been getting a lot of emails from everyone, which I enjoy receiving very much. But I can not access my kulgun.net account after lunch. I normally keep my personal and work emails separate, but while I'm here people should write to my South Pole address directly (darryn@amanda.spole.gov). I will get back to everyone soon!

Work at the beginning of the season has been slow because of problems getting approval to do work for which approval has never been needed in the past, and because of a scheduling problem which slipped past me (or was slipped past me) before I got here.

The main IceCube work site this season is the Drill Camp (or do I mean SES). This has progressed very well and this work is ahead of schedule. My plan was to install the Drill Camp computer network and communications while the camp was being assembled, with the help of my counterpart at Raytheon Polar Services. Once I got here I found this person was not due in until almost mid December. I had expected to have this work almost finished by then. The problem was that this work got tied to some other work on station that would not be done until late December (this work will be explained in future emails). However the people in the Drill Camp really needed networking before then. So Rick M (IceCube network engineer) and I have been putting together a make shift network with the help of station operations staff. We got this temporary network going by the end of the week, but only after doing a few political back-flips and using up favours.

Another big change this year has been the concern over the uncontrolled increases in power usage in the Dark Sector (where AMANDA and IceCube are located). One of our early season tasks required an Uninterpretable Power Supply (UPS) be installed in the Mapo building. I have had this type of work done routinely for years. However this year it was decided it needed reviewing by a number of people. This task should have been completed ages ago. There is no doubt I will be given the go ahead for this work. I am very conscious of station resources and consider all options to find the best. This is the best option and I hope the National Science Foundation realises this soon before it impacts my schedule too much.

So what has changed this year? I explained that the Pole is growing rapidly. It may be too rapidly. I feel more new experiments have been approved than the station is capable of supporting. This may be rich coming from an IceCube person, since IceCube probably uses as many resources as all the other science projects put together (if not including the New Station construction). But there is a big difference between IceCube and many of the new projects. IceCube has been in the planning for many years and our requirements fairly well understood. We have undergone the most stringent peer review process that a science project can undergo in the US. While it appears that the logistical support required of many of the new small projects only becomes apparent once the project is started at the South Pole.

Not sure what is happening with me for the next week or so. The schedule have things fairly quiet for me. I may try and catch up with Madison work. Or if a few things get brought forward I may get busy again. Will see. No point trying to predict too much here.

To be continued....

Chilean traverse caravans. The Pisten Bully engine is missing.

Me showing a DOM (Digital Optical Module) to some of the Chileans.

Nice shot of South Pole station and the AST/RO telescope.

An LC-130 taking off from Pole.

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