Yesterday we took our next big step toward a functioning experiment- we transferred liquid nitrogen into the main tank of the cryostat. It’s always exciting to get to the cryogens step. Exciting meant only in the sense of happy anticipation, and not at all in the sense of being terrified something will go wrong in an unrecoverable manner, of course. I’ve never been one to worry. In all seriousness, though, 28 hours in and things are looking good.
While the nitrogen fill was happening, I recorded what I thought was an amusing series of photos. The task at hand was to fill a bucket with water. The bucket is used as a heat sink to warm up the exhaust pipe from the cryostat. This keeps the check valve at the very end from freezing. Since drinking water is a limited resource in Antarctica, we wanted to use non-precious water. Bill suggested snow. Ed and I filled the bucket, brought it inside, and got impatient. It needed to melt faster. Below is the sequence leading to the fulfillment of that goal.
Several of us woke up very early this morning to leave on a 4 am tour of the pressure ridges near Scott Base. Pressure ridges form from the sea ice flowing up against the point where Scott base is located. This makes waves in the ice that crack on the crests to make jagged ice structures and on the troughs to create pools filled from the ocean below. The ridges are the most stunning part of Antarctica I have seen to date- well worth the lost sleep.
It was a snowy, windy day, so the photos don’t begin to capture it. In real life, the blue ice stood out sharply against the grey hills toward McMurdo and the white ice everywhere else. I felt like I was on a different planet, or in some artist’s imagination, or in a Dr. Seuss book. Totally unreal, and an experience I will never forget.