My mom sent me an email today saying that she figured we must be busy since neither my collaborators nor I have updated our blogs recently. Indeed, she was correct! We have been working overtime to make up for the schedule delays now that our cargo is here, and a ton of progress has been made in a few short days. Our last night off was Halloween, and a few of us managed to put together costumes. Mine consisted of long underwear, belts, and a pair of leggings tied around my head.
Three of the SPIDER crew dressed up for Halloween: me as a ninja, Steve as a fancy SPIDER, and Bill as Commondante Marcos (if you knew who Bill was dressed as, he bought you a beer. Bill didn’t have to buy many people beers.)
The next day, Saturday, we received the first half of our cargo. With ten people, unpacking wasn’t too bad, and we were done and waiting on the second half of our stuff by early afternoon. We found ways to pass the time.
Mount Erebus in partial cloud cover and CARGO. We were so excited when new sea containers arrived.
While waiting for more cargo, we broke in our custom made SPIDER cornhole boards.
Lorenzo and Steve went undefeated on the day.
Unfortunately, the rest of our stuff didn’t show up until the next day, but with that long of a wait, we were all bursting with energy ready to get to work. In the three days we’ve had since getting unpacked, we’ve opened up the cryostat and each of the six telescopes, carefully inspected each, and reassembled and closed them up to the point where we will put them in the cryostat tomorrow. This is a lot of careful work, and while we are well practiced at it by this point, we have still had some long days at the high bay. Here’s a tour of where we’ve been spending our time:
The mezzanine, where each of us has some desk space.
Science is powered by coffee.
Insert land. Pictured here are the lower halves of the six telescopes. The optics trusses have been removed so that we can inspect the focal planes beneath.
One of SPIDER’s 6 focal planes. We treat these like our babies as they were painstakingly custom built and tested to be the most instantaneously sensitive cameras that will have looked at the CMB to date.
Looking from insert land into the larger high bay. You can see the bottom of the cryostat into which six telescopes are inserted.
Looking from the high bay doors toward the rest of the high bay and mezzanine. Certain individuals hung flags to proclaim their allegiances.
Apart from finally getting to prepare our experiment for flight, which is exciting enough in itself, I am still awed every day to be in Antarctica. Every day I step outside for a break or to go home, there’s some new cool lighting, some new cool clouds, or my favorite new phenomenon here: Fata Morgana. It’s like a mirage you’re used to seeing when driving on a highway. There is a temperature gradient between the hot road and cooler air above it, and that caused light to refract in such a way that you see the sky on the road. Here, it’s the opposite. You have cold ice, and warm air above it, and when the conditions are right, that causes features to look extended. Jamil has a fantastic photo of it here. I see this everywhere, to different degrees at different times. It makes you constantly question whether what you’re seeing is real or in illusion. Antarctica is such a strange place.
A nice part of working late is getting to see the sun in all different parts of the sky. The clouds here keep the views dynamic and new each time you step outside.
The moon over Mt. Erebus.
A poor picture of a Fata Morgana. You can see what looks like kind of a cliff against Black Island. The illusion is really trippy and ubiquitous here.
In addition to the landscape, Antarctica also poses some unique… problems? Minor inconveniences? Things happen on a daily basis that you just wouldn’t expect to happen anywhere else. To close, here are a couple expamples from the past couple of days:
#AntarcticaProblems: You’re on a shuttle home at 10:30 at night, and happen upon a very unfortunate tractor driver who almost slid off a cliff. We walked around him to a shuttle on the other side while he sat in the cabin with his foot on the break and smiled about his unfortunate situation and waited for the helper crew to arrive.
#AntarcticaProblems: The generators for LDB had to be taken down for upgrades for an hour, so we powered a disco ball off a UPS and hung out in the dark.
Looking forward to the surprises that we’ll meet in the coming weeks. Let’s all cross our fingers that they are not cryogenic in nature…