Pressure Ridges

Back through the ice tunnel The sea ice outside Scott Base forms large pressure ridges as it’s forced against the land. McMurdo residents are only allowed there on guided tours. Luckily for us, Anne from LDB is qualified to give these tours. She was kind enough to take us out, at 4am a couple days ago. It was very cold, which makes for poor photography (and intermittently frozen lenses). The weather was Condition 3 ("good"), otherwise we wouldn’t be allowed out. Still, it’s nice when Antarctica occasionally demonstrates its extreme environment, rather than being a sunny (if slightly cold) summer paradise. [...]

Seal (!) and Walking Home

Ivan suddenly cares about the seal Some outdoor excitement from last week. Thursdays are "American Night" at New Zealand’s Scott Base, just down the road from McMurdo. This is when McMurdo residents are welcome to visit the station’s store and bar. Lorenzo decided that he would like to walk back from LDB, and what better excuse than a beer break in the middle of the trip. And last weekend, a young Weddell seal showed up at LDB. This is a little surprising, as we’re pretty far from the closest possible hole in the ice. But this one was pretty active, so hopefully made it back safely. [...]

Highbay Miscellany

Pivot controller next (Backlog from November 10-17) Last week didn’t have time for posting, but I continued to take photos of interesting activity in the highbay. Here’s some of what was going on. [...]

Closing Theo

Ziggy rocking his overalls (Backlog from November 7-8) With all the telescope inserts installed, the bottom of Theo (our vacuum vessel/cryostat) is ready to close. On the top side, the half-wave plates need to be installed in their rotation mechanisms above the inserts. Then closing proceeds there as well. To keep Theo cold, progressively colder nested layers of vapour-cooled shield are used. These get cooled by the vapour from boiling liquid helium (the vapour is still very cold), and are separated by vacuum and shiny multi-layer insulation. Installing the shield close-outs and insulation takes a lot of long and somewhat tedious labour. Plus lots of tape. The job was finished by a small team on the following day, while the rest of us took a Sunday off. [...]

Fun with Inserts

Another insert (Backlog from 5-6 November) With the detector focal planes completed, the telescope inserts are ready to be reassembled. This happens in parallel on all six, with the lenses being reinstalled, some cables reconnected, the whole thing wrapped and sealed. The following morning, they are ready for insertion. We discovered a failure on another type of insert: an aluminum piece glued inside the gondola’s carbon fibre tubes. One was discovered partially pulled out. We pulled it the rest of the way out, and started scrambling to make a replacement. [...]

Initial Works

Jon and the open bottom Backlog from November 3-4. With our cargo finally unpacked, and a large team all in place, we’re ready to work. We break up into several teams and work our asses off. (Continued ass-off working is my excuse for slowness in posting.) Several teams operate in parallel: preparing the vacuum vessel/cryostat (aka Theo), preparing SPIDER’s six telescope inserts, and building the gondola frame. [...]


So many boxes After waiting most of a week, we finally started getting our cargo on the first and second of November. We unpacked and started getting ready for the upcoming onslaught of work. (This onslaught is my excuse for slowness in posting.) With a big eager team and help from the strong CSBF riggers, this went quite quickly. [...]

Observation Hill

Up to the peak, in line On the final afternoon before our cargo finally showed up, Anne, Bill, Lorenzo, Nat, and I climbed Observation Hill. Located just outside McMurdo, Ob Hill provides a great view of the surrounding area (thus the name). [...]

Castle Rock

Inside the Apple With the cryostat (aka Theo) delivered, Team Princeton was eager to head out to the Long Duration Balloon facility (LDB) to take a look. But since we still didn’t have the rest of our cargo, there wasn’t a lot else to do. Lorenzo, Jamil, Johanna, and I took the opportunity to hike the Castle Rock loop, which is a long recreational hike out of McMurdo (It’s about 16 kilometres long and took us a little over 4 hours to complete.) This was a new experience for me, having previously only hiked Castle Rock late in the season, once we’re waiting to fly. [...]

Hut Point

Sasha Dance While half of the Spider team is now in Antarctica, almost none of our cargo is. This means we can’t do much useful work, and to pass the time we’ve been exploring. Out first trip was to Hut Point, named after the Discovery Hut constructed by Robert Falcon Scott in the early 20th century. (Somehow, I didn’t take a photograph of the hut itself.) The views were great, but the wind caused us to return to town without undertaking further exploration. [...]