Tuesday, November 22, 2016

South Pole 2016: SPT-3G deployment

After at two year hiatus, it looks like I've found myself back in Antartica!  This year I will be spending two full months at the South Pole.  We are here to install the third-generation camera on the South Pole Telescope (SPT).  This camera is creatively called "SPT-3G."  I know, it sounds like a cell-phone network.  But the name is uniquely searchable on the internet, a very important criteria!  This year, I will be blogging about my time here in Antarctica deploying SPT-3G.  I'll write a dedicated post about the instrument and the science we plan to do with the data later.  Stay posted.

Let's get things going with a few pictures from the trip from sunny California to the snowy (but still sunny) south pole.  The trip starts with a flight to Christchurch, New Zealand.  Christchurch had a bad earthquake back in 2011 (see my blog posts from that time), and has recovered remarkably.  Down town Christchurch is now vibrant and full of people, shops, flowers, and kiwi charm.  Sadly, another earthquake shook New Zealand while I was on the airplane over the Pacific.  Unlike 2011, however, the earthquake was away from city centers so the quake did not cause nearly as much damage.  We ended up staying in Christchurch for only 20 hours, before flying on to Antarctica.


On the next stage of the trip, we flew from Christchurch to Ross Island on the coast of Antarctica.  This flight is on a C-17, run by the New York national guard.  Below is the inside of the plane.  Our luggage is strapped in on the left, and passengers are on the right.  Note the guy in the hammock - good thinking!

[Inside of the C-17]

[Here's the C-17, having just landed on the Ross Ice Shelf.]

Everything in Antarctica is big, heavy, and robust.  This notably includes clothing and vehicles.  Here are a couple shots of the vehicle we took between the McMurdo station and the Pegasus airfield.

[Transportation from Pegasus to McMurdo.  Erebus in the background.]

[Inside the transportation]

[stickers inside the transportation]

We spent a few days in McMurdo waiting for good weather to fly to pole.  Since it was early season, I was able to go down the "Observation Tube." This is a ~20 foot metal tube with a glass observation chamber at the bottom that has been installed in the ice.  You climb down, then are able to see into the Antarctic Ocean, under the ice. It was amazingly beautiful!  We were able to hear the sounds of seals.

[Adam drops into the Obs Tube]

[Antarctic Ocean, under the ice]

[Matt re-emerges all smiles!]

The third and final stage of the trip is a flight from McMurdo to the South Pole on a LC-130.  This flight went very smoothly, but I unfortunately missed seeing most of the trans-Antarctic mountains.  Here is one picture I did get.

[Trans-Antarctic Mountains]

It's great to be back at Pole!  I'm very excited for SPT-3G, and happy to be here as part of a great team.  Looking forward to the next two months!

[At the South Pole!]

Monday, March 3, 2014

Antarctica 2014

Here are some photos from my 2014 season at the South Pole in Antarctica. Enjoy!

First, a few highlights:


Someone brought a unicycle this year, so I rode it around.  Awesome!

Skiing "towards the coast," into the nothingness

Penguins!  (Near McMurdo, on the coast)

And now for the feature presentation...

Traveling into Pole

We were delayed in Christchurch, NZ, for one day by weather on the way is.  So we went for a hike.

Ben by a very large, old tree in Akaroa
Views down into the bay.  It was very windy.

Pegasus "airport" on the Ross Ice-shelf near McMurdo.  Mt Erebus and our shuttle bus.

Work at Pole

obligatory glory-shot.

Um, Kyle?  Kyle?  KYLE!? You can't look through a feed-horn, you plug in a coax cable there...

Partners in crime Ben and Tom

The SPT.  Ain't she a beauty?

The SPT dish, from up-close.

We travelled a few kilometers from station to inspect the polarization-calibration source.  Me in the middle of nowhere, like really NOWHERE.

What do you do in the middle of the Antarctic desert?  Eat snow.  Why not?

Looking under the skirt of the snout in preparation for the Black Hole Imager (BHI).

It was warm up there in the sun!  So I took a nap.

Dan (top) and Chris in the receiver cabin of the SPT.

Real scientists wear lab coats.

We rode the telescope boom as we lowered the dish into a flat position so we could push in the "panel gap tabs."

Self-portrait, chilling on the dish.

Ben, hard at work while...

... I take a nap.  zzzzzzz...

Martin Lewis, a fixture at the pole for something like 15+ years, heads for the plane and his retirement.  Thank for everything Martin!

Yup, the station still runs on fossil-fuels.  Research project, anyone?

Colin and the far-field-mirror mounting bar for KECK.

We helped the KECK folks put up this mirror so they can measure their far-field beams.

Martin!  Lueker, keeping it real.


Tom, keeping us all safe.

Chalk! at the pole.

Carp Party!

Shuffle-board, made of ice!
Horse-shoes in -20F
Keepin' warm


The Carp Shop (Carpenters), the start to the frisbee-golf (folf) course.

Mr. Station Manager tee'ing off on the first hole.

Tee'ing off of a spool of hose.

One of the holes.  Get it through the yellow ring.  I think he missed.

In it goes!  Official folf basket.

Driving, through the abandoned tunnel

Ice Bowling

Skiing with nowhere to go

Our turn-around point

Climbing Castle Rock near McMurdo with Mike the Plumber, and Tom.

Tom sticks the crux traverse in sketchy conditions
Tom, topping out of the difficulties.

Penguins!  A group of ~15 emperors had gathered near the ice-road from Pegasus airfield to McMurdo.

Commute to work

The 2013 south-pole marker.

I don't know if I will be back to pole; this is the last year I will go as a grad student.  It's been a great 5 years!  Now time to focus on graduating!