Trunnion Toss and Group Photo

SPIDER group photo For mysterious reasons (possibly related to the cancellation of the arm wrestling tournament), Bill and Jon wondered how far they could throw a spare trunnion (a heavy chunk of steel). This led to a contest, and to an impromptu group photo shoot once everyone was gathered outside. For a little extra fun, I turned multiple similar group photos into animations of the team “dancing”. (Below the gallery.) […]

More Shiny, etc.

Sean takes a look Catching up of some of the action since my last post. Shinification of the SPIDER sun shields occupied me for a few more days. Once that was finished, we had a little fun with the space ship/party room before standing it upright. We have spend much of the past couple weeks busily testing SPIDER in preparation for eventually flying. Some of this involved attaching calibration devices to test the telescopes/detectors. With space in the highbay, we have also been able to scan the gondola, to test various observing modes. […]


Over a hill Today an emperor penguin showed up at LDB! It was first sighted near Willy Field by day shifters on their way home. But for night shift it came right out to to the balloon base. I don’t want to judge day shift to harshly, but I think I smell better than they do. I said it. (I also have backlog of photos from the past week since posting last. This warranted jumping the queue.) […]


The professors and lots of wine A week ago today was the big (American) Thanksgiving feast in McMurdo (on Saturday, like most celebrations, since many people have Sunday off). There was a delicious meal, lots of wine, and Freezing Man—a weird but fun dance party. These things conspired to distract me from photography. This is all I’ve got. […]

Liquid Helium and Shiny Things

Cynthia handles the stinger From November 26th to December 1st. With Theo mounted on the gondola, more critical operations can proceed. The cryo team can start filling liquid helium to get things extra cold. And the space formerly occupied by Theo is used to assemble the sun shields. These need to be covered in aluminized mylar, which makes them shiny and pretty (plus opaque, cooler in the sun, and radio interference blocking). Several people are engaged in arts and crafts for several days to complete the covering. […]

The Lift

Ed has SPIDER on a leash SPIDER uses a crane for lots of things, but one lift is more involved than the others: moving the cryostat (Theo) into the gondola frame. We did this last week, giving us a much more complete-looking experiment. […]

Lots of Progress

John constructs a scale to weigh helium dewars during fills Over the past week, SPIDER has made a lot of progress! Our cryostat (Theo) and the gondola are together at last, Theo has been filled with liquid helium, and we have cold detectors (almost -273 Celsius). And things seem to be working well. Which is a little unsettling… […]

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. […]