Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Decorating for the winter

Who wants to look at blank walls and beige window shades all winter? For the second year in a row, Brien organized the Galley Window Gallery, a contest to get some color and life into the galley through artwork, informational displays and sheer creativity.

We started Sunday morning out with a coffee house with Claire and Laura as the baristas
making lattes and cappucinos to order.

Francie and I baked muffins, coffee cake, scones and biscotti to go with the java and we even had a knock-off logo of a well-known corporate coffee giant, created by Jodi our designer in 2005. She and her husband Kirk keep up their website Life at the Bottom and chronicle their lives post-ice.

The artists installed their works in the windows the night before and covered them up with bedsheets and then at noon, Brien, the master of ceremonies, unveiled the windows one by one.

Brien uncovering an homage to four wheelers by Bruce the mechanic.

Pointing out some features of a South Pole history display by Andy and Terry.

It was like being at an art gallery, except for the tables and chairs. People gathered around the windows to read the information and admire the creativity.

Prison cell window by Noah.

This was my own entry, a map of the world with continents made out of scraps of fleece and mounted onto a remnant of pool table felt. I collected photos from people around station of places where they've traveled and made a sort of travel planner window to give folks ideas of where to go when we get out of here in November.

Remember the frozen Tui beer a few posts ago? Brien saved all of the bottle caps from the beer that we had to dump out and recreated the logo for Tui beer, which is a Tui bird.

This one was the crowd's favorite - Kari and Katie drew stick figures of everyone on station and gave each one a certain characteristic that is recognizable.

And we also brought in the flags that fly at the ceremonial pole for the winter so that they don't get shredded by the wind. They are now hanging up around the galley too so there's vibrant color and interesting displays everywhere you look. Sure beats those boring institutional window shades.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Eggs for everyone

Just one more post about food.

Robert, Brien, Emrys and Laura oiling away.

This is one of the fun winter traditions, the egg oiling party. We get a shipment of fresh eggs towards the end of summer and if we take care of them, they’ll last for the entire winter. One of the ways to make them last longer is to coat the shells with vegetable oil which will cut down on air and/or bacteria getting absorbed in through the shell.

Someone's idea of a joke to stick me next to two of the tallest people on station, Terry and Neal.

For some reason, we didn’t have as many fresh eggs delivered this year and currently have about 14 cases or about 2500 eggs. So folks may be having scrambled egg product towards the end of winter instead of their 2 eggs over easy from the griddle but they should be in good shape for a few months.

My hands and nose along with the eggs. Michael was the photographer for all of these photos.

So we don clothes that we won’t mind getting oily, gloves are optional, and start carefully dipping the eggs in oil, smearing it all around before putting the egg back in the tray, flipped over the other way. It’s fun, it’s messy and there was a big vat of sangria with fresh fruit to keep us happy.

There were a few casualties which is to be expected, but at least no one got any eggs broken over their heads, which has happened in past winters.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's all about the science

On April Fool’s Day, we were invited to join the Dark Side.

Robert's invitation with the battle of the Dark Lords (him and Derek). Photo by Robert Schwarz.

There was an open house out at the Dark Sector and the scientists were all on hand to give tours of their facilities and explain the science that they’re doing.
Brien walking to DSL where BICEP and SPT live.

One of the projects is Ice Cube, a telescope currently being constructed to study neutrinos using detectors buried 1400 to 2400 meters down into the ice. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles from deep space that bombard the Earth and pass through without doing much of anything. IceCube is currently drilling holes into the ice then deploying a string of digital optical modules, or DOMs, thousands of meters down and they will detect the muons that are created when neutrinos interact with atoms in the ice. For more info click here.

Ice Cuber Claire showing an older optical module used in AMANDA, an earlier neutrino project that is still running, as UT Dan looks on. The DOMs of Ice Cube are larger and more sophisticated.

MAPO (Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory) is home to QUaD, an acronym of an acronym for QUEST at DASI. This is Robert's project and it's a telescope that observes the sky looking for cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang. By looking at the polarization of the CMB radiation, they are making a map of the very early universe as it first started to cool and emit radiation.
Laura, our facilities engineer, about to climb up into the QUaD telescope for a look.

Another project looking at CMB is BICEP, or Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, looking at a different frequency from QUaD. Steffen runs this project over the winter and last year, Denis was at the helm.

The BICEP telescope.

The newest project at South Pole is the South Pole Telescope, a 10 meter telescope again looking at CMB for very small galaxy clusters far away. The telescope scans large areas of the sky and when it gets going, moves quite fast and shakes the whole building.

Zak, left and Steve, second from right are explaining how SPT works, as Steff and Brien listen.

Looking up into the receiver cabin of SPT, which is usually closed and lifted up across from the 10 meter dish.

There was an extra attraction at the Dark Sector Open House - liquid nitrogen ice cream! The cryogens tech, Nick, showed us how to make it.

Step 1: Pour Frosty Boy ice cream mix into bowl.

Nick adds the Frosty Boy as Brien gets ready to mix.

Step 2 (optional): add Kahlua

Step 3: add liquid nitrogen, which has a temp of about -340F, cold enough to turn Frosty Boy into ice cream. I also use it to burn off warts in the clinic.

Kris adding the LN2.

Step 4: mix well and take care not to freeze your fingers to the bowl

Step 5: eat it up!

As interesting as the science is, this was definitely the highlight of the tour for me.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Main Event

What kind of excitement goes on around here on a Saturday night?


It’s baffling how popular the game is down here on the ice, but Bingo night always draws a huge crowd. No where else would I be playing Bingo but at the South Pole. OK, that’s not exactly true – my first time playing was when my sister Dana came to visit me when I was working on the Navajo reservation in Chinle, AZ and like here, Bingo was the only thing to do on a Saturday night. But that’s another amusing story for later.

We just about needed translators with Sven and Paul calling the numbers in thick Swedish and Kiwi accents.
Sven and Paul getting ready to call numbers. Note the sunset in the windows behind them.

It could have been a great opportunity to learn some numbers in Swedish if we hadn’t been teasing Sven so much with countless jokes about the Swedish chef on the Muppet show (bork bork bork).

Some great prizes were given away, mostly gift certificates to restaurants in Christchurch. Of course the winners will have to wait another 8 months before they can use them.
Kris with his winning card. He used Cracklin' Oat Bran cereal for the number markers. Others preferred Goldfish crackers.

Kari was the jackpot winner of the last game blackout with $156 in cash and she won’t have to wait until Christchurch to use it.

And in a news update, Michael is finding out that fame has its price as overzealous fans all want a piece of him.
That's Neil, his boss, and Jordan the network admin showing him some fan adoration.