Antarctica: December 2005


When I walked to the lab this morning, the stairs were gone.

MAPO, the building next door to DSL. The black box is the only bathroom (outhouse) serving both buildings.

The toilet inside the black box. Yep, that's a foam seat.

Post-it poetry covers the left wall.

The urinal in the black box. This picture is for you, mom.


The highlight of my day: I got to take a shower.

I unpacked the telescope optics today...

...and opened up the cryostat.

The cryostat looks pretty cool from the top.

The construction workers gave our staircase back today, but took away the penthouse.

Typical freezer doors on the outside of the buildings here.

Even the windows on the buildings are weird.


I keep thinking I'm running out of photos to take, but then I saw this today.

A particularly beautiful halo, with double rings. Too bad my camera couldn't capture the whole thing.

This may be the last photo of Yuki while he's alive. This brave soul is attending snow school tonight. He made the nose guard himself.

I believe this is the building that houses AST/RO. Apparently it's been taken over by pirates.

Later in the the jamesways...

Extreme disco party!

Ok, maybe not so extreme. Most of the time this guy was dancing by himself.

...and this guy doesn't seem to be a fan of such music.


This morning I went out to watch Fish launch a weather balloon. This one is carrying instruments to measure ozone levels as a function of altitude.

Preparing the payload (the white styrofoam box). Inside there's a pump, two bottles of chemicals that react with ozone, and a radio transmitter.

Stephanie calibrating the instrument with known ozone levels. The whole thing is powered by a wet cell battery, which also provides heat.

Fish unfurling the weather balloon. The balloon first needs to be heated in an oven so that it doesn't pop when it's inflated.

Attaching the balloon to the compressed helium source. Stephanie thinks it's obscene.

Starting to fill the balloon with helium...

...and even more helium. Kind of looks like a beached whale.

Fish says that you have to be careful not to hit the lights with the balloon.

The gas is turned off when the balloon starts to lift the weights off the table.

Finished inflating! Stephanie is preparing precision balloon ties (pieces of string).

The doors are opened and the payload is attached. The orange plastic is the parachute that carries the payload back to earth after the balloon pops at a height of 35 km.

Preparing for launch against the Antarctic sun.

A successful launch! There's still a residual halo around the sun from yesterday...


Today I visited QUaD, our sister experiment, and borrowed their instrument to measure the transmission of our zotefoam windows...

The kludged setup. This is precision cosmology, folks.

Ed, a QUaD grad student, who helped me find the precision shims for the chopper wheel.

Removing the window from the back. The white thing on top is a cooler filled with liquid nitrogen.


My first overcast day at the Pole...the sky and the snow blend together. A plane that flew in from McMurdo today circled around and attempted to land four times, but ended up boomeranging back.

The mothership is just beginning to emerge out of the fog, but the horizon is still invisible.

Closing the cryostat insert for the final time. Kiwon is making one last fix to the focal plane.

Closed and RF-taped, and ready to observe CMB photons.

The refractive optics bolted to the top of our focal plane. For those of you who read fine print, the bit that says "ape" at the bottom is actually the last part of "RF-tape!" (Our second slogan, in addition to "Light goes in, signal comes out!")

Meanwhile, in the other room, John and Yuki are installing the roof brush seal on the telescope. Yuki is using a riveting tool for the first time. :-)

Yuki and the tree house.

Next door to DSL, the foundations for the South Pole Telescope (SPT) are starting to take shape.

No, I did not verify the contents of this container.

A beautiful sky on my walk back to the mothership this evening.

A friendly flag along the plane skiway.

The upper edge of a huge (artificial) snow drift right outside the new station.


Our telescope got a hat today -- an accordion-like environmental enclosure to protect the portion of the instrument that sticks above the roof.

The view from indoors as the crane continues to lower the environmental enclosure.

Today we're closing the cryostat for (hopefully) the last time for a year!

Kiwon below the cryostat...

...and above the cryostat.

Preparing to raise the cryostat in order to install the optics and insert from below.

How did it get up there? There's about half an inch of space between the top of the cryostat and the ceiling.

Obligatory documentation of the old vacuum valve. The classy white paint is Sinful Colors white nail polish, courtesy of our postdoc.

Kiwon, Evan, Yuki, and John preparing to lower the cryostat onto the optics. We had to chop a few inches off the stool in order to get enough vertical clearance. :-)

Kiwon and Evan lowering the hoists the last few inches.

The cryostat closeup went remarkably smoothly except for one snag...


Kiwon and Yuki stealing a sled and a leak checker from MAPO.

Yet another hidden talent of Yuki: grad student by day, superhero by night.

Yuki in action on the roof of DSL!

A productive evening spent away from the lab, playing Settlers with Pete, Ed, Robert, and Ben.


The cargo folks usually have Hawaiian shirt Fridays, but they decided to wear BICEP shirts today instead. They stopped by to visit us this afternoon. :-)

Not the sort of people you want to mess with... Especially Amanda (upper left).

Our picture isn't nearly as cool as theirs.


Tonight was bingo night in the galley.

Some people buy lots of bingo boards. :-)

Dehlia won $153 in cash, and I won some sort of wildlife cruise in Christchurch.

Ben is upset that he didn't win anything...

...and is quickly driven to insanity.

Pete can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his tongue. The final product is the little lump at the bottom, next to Ben's nail polish.

Tyler also wants to demonstrate his skills, and he proceeds to dent his forehead with a beer can.

Jill, Tyler, Dan, Pete, Ed, Caesar, and Liz at our table. Pete's taking photos of goldfish swimming in maraschino cherry syrup.


The Ice Cube experiment had an open house today. This is one of their huge garden hoses.

Lots of cable reels like this one are scattered all over the snow in the drill camps.

The drilling station itself. The whole thing is mounted on skis and can be towed to different hole locations.

A giant carrot inside the drill tower.

No, it's not a toilet, it's a pilot hole for the strings of detectors. The cage-like object is a device for measuring the hole size.

One of the digital optical modules up close. Inside there's a photomultiplier tube and associated electronics, and the device looks downwards into the ice.

This nice man with a Darth Vader mask was kind enough to drive us back to DSL after the tour. Snowmobiles are awesome. :-)

Meanwhile, back in the lab...we've finished the first round of cooling, and Jamie is sucking the liquid nitrogen out of the cryostat.

Cryo heaven, baby! A family photo of the dozen dewars in the lab.

First liquid helium transfer! We're watching the dewar weight slowly drop.

The vent port of the cryostat gets so cold that it starts condensing and dripping liquid air.

...and next door, SPT continues to grow. On the bottom right, Steve demonstrates that you, too, can scrape ice off steel work when you get your PhD.


Trying to show off that I can lift the dewars too...thanks to Evan for the pic. (It's a bit of a cheat; the dewars here are aluminum and much lighter than the ones at Caltech.) In other news, the outside temperature got up to a whopping +5F. That's within a couple degrees of the record high here!


No pictures today kids, but one fun trivia fact for you: the airport code for the Pole is NPX. Why "N," you ask? Apparently when the airport codes were first introduced, the navy took all the three letter codes beginning with N (so NPX stands for Naval something or another). Not even Newark has a code that starts with N...


A model helicopter that I put together today.

Where does the path lead to?

Evan is testing out his bungee cord.

...well, actually it's a safety harness for working on the roof.

The Ice Challenger drove in a couple days ago, and the drivers have been camping out.


This pack of beer cost $1.

This is the reason why.


It snowed today...a rare event around here. Pretty, but I miss proper snowflakes and clumpy snow.

The groundshield got installed last night -- BICEP is starting to look like a real telescope. :-)

Snow was coming in through the hole in the ceiling, so we draped this tarp over the telescope mount. A nice blue glow...


Tonight was open mic night in the galley. This is one of the classy window shades that got put up.

Victoria, playing her recorder.

I think these guys are about to perform a song that Tom wrote.

That's Ella, a mechanical engineer. Tomorrow she's going to drill one of the holes for Ice Cube.

Randi, a flight attendant from Alaska. She wanted to come here so much that she offered to take any job available.

Me and Tom -- he wants to write songs when he grows up. Ella's playing with my camera.

Ella doesn't like photos...

...but Tom does.

Sometimes they play well together...

...and sometimes not so much.

(A note to fellow BICEPers: like our telescope, the optics in my camera seem to feature a lil' buddy.)


We raised the cryostat onto its high stand today in preparation for loading it into the mount tomorrow.

The view from above.

And a view of the electronics below.


An exciting day for we loaded the cryostat into the mount (the last high-risk procedure for this season). It's a real telescope now :-)

Kiwon removing the cryogen transfer lines from the top of the cryostat...

...and handing them to Yuki.

Meanwhile, Denis prepares the cryoloader.

After the cryoloader is assembled, the rest of the group sacrifices it to the temple of Kiwon.

The cryostat is positioned above the loader.

Both Yuki and the cryostat wonder what's up there.

Looking down the cryoloader...

...and looking back into the light.

We took a break to give a tour to these guys. The guy wearing black is James Clash; he works for Forbes magazine and writes adventure articles.

He's telling us about how they skied in from the 89th parallel and how he's going to write an article about it.

A brief visit to the roof after the indoor tour.

They say BICEP might get mentioned in their Forbes article. I'll take that over Science or Nature any day.

Back to work. The loader is raised using the (well-placed) chain hoists. Kind of looks like a torture device.

Jamie as hoist operator.

BICEP is starting to poke its head above the mount...

One last view from the roof before the hole gets sealed up for the rest of the year.

The light at the end of the tunnel.

As the cryostat gets raised on the loader, Kiwon and Denis make precision adjustments to the loader position.

Kiwon perched in the treehouse.

Denis raising the cryostat -- almost there!

Some trolls that live in the ceiling...

Finally finished and looking at the sky!

A new use for the chain hoists.


Lab cleaning day...Denis and his badass screwdriver organizing skills.

We disassembled the swing set in favor of Denis's hammock.

Kiwon got frosted up on the walk back to the station.

We stopped to visit this lonely Christmas tree.

The vegetation here is rather strange.

...and we couldn't resist visiting the pole again. It's shiny.


Happy summer solstice!

A bunch of us helped make pies tonight for Christmas dinner. Pete's ready to go.

So are Derek and Jodi.

This is Yuki's first time making pies.

Yuki, me, and Pete with our first pie crusts.

Yuki is embarrassed by his first attempt, and (cruelly) I'm making fun of him. :-)

Pete claims he's an experienced piemaker.

A small fraction of the final products (minus the filling). That's a lot of pies. Yuki made the center one with a penguin poking out of the middle.

Kiwon took a break from taking photos to give it a try.

Over at the other table, Derek is making double-crusted pies. I don't know what Pete's doing in the background.

Liz and the giant bowl of apple pie filling.

Kiwon made an Antarctica pie.

Inspired by last night's game of Loot, we made not one...

...but two pirate pies.

This pie had a bit of an accident.


Yuki is spying on people in the other building using the optical camera.


The snow has been glittering recently. Tom thinks that the snow looks like it's full of diamonds.

A Christmas present for BICEP, a calibration tower mast.

Tom likes the swing too.


The station celebrated Christmas tonight, even though it's the day before. Lots of people gathered in the hallway before dinner begins.

A handful of people decide to bust out the Christmas carols.

Most people are dressed up for the occasion, in one way or another. Like me, Jill is also a big fan of the blue boots.

Everyone sitting in the galley for the start of Christmas dinner.

Pete got rid of his beard and glasses, and now everyone thinks he looks naked.

The kitchen staff, who prepared the most excellent dinner.

Adam, in his classy uniform, as a wine server.

Cameron and Dainella sitting across from me at the table.

The tables at the opposite end of the room. The folks who just arrived from the traverse are sitting on the left.

James Brown, bingo leader and master of the beef wellington.

A view from the opposite end.

James decided to abandon the beef for awhile and come hang out with us.

Pete made this pie crust!

I think this wine server had a little too much to drink (note the cup around his neck). He was advertising that the chocolate pecan pie was an aphrodisiac.

Me and Pete, without the beard.

It's George! One of the kitchen staff members, and owner of a pretty awesome laptop.

After dinner, the senior group members engage in an intense ping-pong match.

And Yuki pulls out his phenomenal pool skills again, this time against Leonard.

Denis's turn at ping-pong.

After the ping-pong and the pool, several rounds of Loot. Kiwon is demonstrating proper pirate technique. Yar!

Pete's kilt, which everyone else thinks is a skirt.

Several of us wandered over to the galley afterwards and discovered this kicking post-dinner party.

Lots of people dancing to classic 80's music...

Me and Adam. He's a construction worker who visits DSL once in awhile to play on the swing set.

The guy in the elf hat has some pretty good dance moves.

So does Derek.

Sara's trying to do a back flip off this guy's shoulders. (She succeeded.)


Merry Christmas! The station started off the day with the annual race around the world. All transportation modes are allowed...

Runners, walkers, skiers, etc to the left, and monster trucks to the right.

Lots of snowmobiles are decorated with random stuff.

I don't think this guy actually ran.

I found Santa! :-) Y'all just thought he didn't exist because you've been looking in the wrong place...

More people and vehicles gathering around the ceremonial pole for the start of the race.

Denis is ready to go.

Runners gathered at the starting line.

Team BICEP at the front of the crowd.

And they're off! (Adam's not off to a particularly good start.)

Running, biking, skiing, driving past the pole.

Bill's catching up to the Caterpillar vehicle.

Just like yesterday, lots of people are dressed up for the occasion.

Three modes of transportation going at about the same pace.

Jamie, leading the BICEP runners, trying to go faster than the Santa sled.

Most people survived the two laps around the world in one piece.

Cameron running with a massive globe in hand.

The BICEP runners!

The plumbers went all out and made this float that they attached to a snowmobile.

The urinals, bathtub, and drinking fountain are on the backside.

Cameron and his globe.

Everyone got covered in fluffy frost.

After the awards ceremony in the galley, I saw this advertisement for another holiday event.

Here are the race results for your enjoyment. Later in the afternoon, Yuki, Denis, Jamie, and I went to visit the land traverse team who just arrived from McMurdo (after 1.5 months of traveling).

We found a giant snow hill on the way; there's a nice view from the top.

Some of the jamesways next door to the elevated station.

Denis tried to climb up the steepest side of the hill.

We also found a sled at the top. :-) Yuki and I are the guinea pigs...

We survived the ride, but it was a pretty scary one.

Jamie and Denis decide to try it too.

For our last trip down the hill, we went down without the sled and got covered in snow. Yuki went belly-first like a penguin.

Mary Lou, a D8 that the traverse team is leaving behind as a Christmas present to the station.

They drag everything behind them, including a power generator, living quarters, food storage, fuel, etc.

Russell showing Jamie and Denis around the living area. It's a cute place, but a bit tight for eight people.

The crevasse detector -- a radar unit is mounted off the end of the mast.

Denis pretending to drive the elephant man.

BICEPers squeezed into the back seats.

The accelerator lever, which lets you go between turtle and rabbit speeds.

I'm riding shotgun.

Yuki as a snow sculpture.


Back to normal lab life...I put this contraption together today.

This took way too much time.

On my way back from DSL, I ran across Mary Lou in action. This thing can move a lot of snow!


A friendly face in the stairwell of MAPO. (Mike and Sherry, this photo is for you guys.)


Denis hiding in the groundshield for shelter from the wind.

Someone sabotaging the calibration mast...

This is the coolest thing I've ever seen: a portable bandsaw.

After amputating part of the mast, we attached the thermal source on the end.


On my walk to DSL, I crossed the skiway just as this plane was about to take off.

Zipping past the elevated station and starting to take off...


Denis, envious of Yuki's superhero costume, decides to get his own.

Yuki as superhero apprentice to Denis.

All suited up in the fire gear.

The beginnings of a moat surrounding DSL.


New year's eve at the south pole! Tonight's party was in the vehicle maintenance's the opening band playing.

Parachutes and lights are draped over the entire room, and they even made a cage.

The first guy to enter the cage, a head banger.

A crowd of polies and the stage in the distance.

The dancing crowd.


I actually have no idea who these guys are, but they seemed to enjoy posing for my camera.

Kiwon trying some of the punch in the back room. Note the "infectious substance" sticker.

Who is this man???

Victoria, Nate, and John in action.

Lots of people wearing funny hats. (That's Pete's natural hair though.) :-)

Cameron's expecting! And Yuki's trying to avoid being blinded by the flash.

Chris and the sign that he made himself.

Cameron and the ladies.

Caesar likes his Speight's.

This was mildly disturbing.

The beard and wig migrated over to Bill.

Denis and Kiwon representing BICEP in the cage.

The cargo crew decides to follow suit...

...and so does Matt.

Derek, not to be outdone...

...decides to start removing clothing as well...

...and Jill decides to join him.

Everyone's exhausted after a late night of dancing.

Aaack, what are they doing?!

Happy new year from 90 degrees south! :-) Gelukkig nieuwjaar!

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