26-12-2017


The herc flight out was just passengers, so it was nice and roomy. we could get up and wander around, stretch the legs, and there were some tremendous vistas to be had too. here is a view of some mountains in what i assume is victoria land, where the trans-antarctics start/end. might be wrong though. in any case, it was a beautiful sight to say goodbye to the magnificent continent of Antarctica, which i truly hope i get to one day set foot on again.

-s



26-12-2017


this is a good time to give some recognition of our leader on this mission, Christian Miki. above is a picture of he and i, just after boarding the otter after completion of our mission, fully stoked on a job done. Christian's plan to retrieve the DAQ box worked perfectly, and his schedule had enough room in it to account for the somewhat significant delays endured by the program this year, so that we got the work done and were able to get out on time. His leadership was stellar-tough when need be, willing to listen to ideas, and infinitely patient. And at the end of the trip, he ensured his team had higher priority to get off the ice than himself. I'd work for him again any day.

-s



26-12-2017


here is a fun photo. out at the A4 site, odds are if you walk prettymuch anywhere, you're the first human being to ever set foot on that spot. so we took turns walking a little ways out. behind, as in front, is only the straight line of the horizon.

-s



26-12-2017


on the first morning back in McMurdo, did another hike of Ob Hill, Eribus was showing off for us again.

-s



26-12-2017


now back to civilization and reliable internet, i'll post a few of the oft-promised photos.

above is a panorama taken just before the otter arrived to pick us up the final time. in the foreground you can see the remains of the pit that ANITA rested in, and further on the last of the instrument staged for removal, and our trusty expedition tent, which we took down moments after this was taken. as you can see, there is nothing in any direction, all the way to the horizon.

-s



23-12-2017

departing NZ. as it happens, i managed to catch the McMurdo crud on the way out, spent the last day and a half recovering. someday i'll need to spend some quality time with this beautiful country.

en route back home. it's been a blast.

-s



21-12-2017

arrived in lovely NZ. a bite to eat then some sleep. will elaborate on our journey tomorrow (it was good).

-s



21-12-2017

Departing Antarctica. we have a transport at 0945 local coming up soon, and with a bit of luck, we'll be on our herc to NZ. it's a 9 hr flight heading north.

what a trip. a bit under the weather here (the crud finally got me) but i'm in good spirits. ready to go home but grateful that i got to see this amazing place again.

next post will be from lovely NZ.

-s



18-12-2017

well we've been busier than i expected, getting cargo ready etc. but now we are officially finished i think. our cargo is all back in McM and sorted and placed into shipping containers. so, we're done, it seems. time to head home.

we're nominally on the flight out on the 21st, but we'll see if the weather plays nice...

-s



15-12-2017

Back in McMurdo! had a nice flight and arrived around midnight. The internet is better here so i'll attempt some uploads of south pole goodies when i get some free time, probably this afternoon/evening.

sad to leave pole but happy to back in McMurdo!

-s



14-12-2017

got a flight! we depart at 2100 local, so we'll be in McM by midnight. It's a wrench to leave here, it's such an amazing place. but our work is done, it's time to go. my next post will be from McMurdo station.

-s



13-12-2017

canceled again! i feel guilty using station resources now that our work is done, but i must admit, i'm totally cool being stuck here for a couple days...

-s



12-12-2017

oops, nope. we get one more day of south pole time (weather). re-manifested for tomorrow. i think it's time to catch up on some long overdue work...

-s



11-12-2017

The final antennas were gathered today. our work here is done. manifested for a flight to McM tomorrow. time to say so-long to this magnificent station that i've been so lucky to call home for the last 2 weeks.

-s



10-12-2017


the final view of the site as i boarded the twin otter. the crater is where ANITA used to be, and the 3 antennas are all that's left (too bulky to fit on that flight, they'll be gathered in short order).

-s



10-12-2017


working on the payload day before yesterday. (c. miki photo)

-s



8-12-2017

done.

the entire ANITA payload is back at south pole station (except for 3 antennas which didn't fit and will be picked up by the pilots in the coming days). every nut and bolt is accounted for and the site is clean. amazing day. exhausted. will post photos tomorrow.

-s



7-12-2017


fingers crossed we're going back into the field tomorrow. the wx was bad today, but I was glad for the rest. another 12 hour day at the site tomorrow with KBA flight support shuttling kit once or twice during the day will finish off the payload.

ideally this time i'll have a chance to take some more photos, i'd like to make a panorama of the site. will try to do that first thing if i have the time. for now, here's a photo of the ANITA4 recovery team at the ceremonial south pole that we took a couple days back.

-s



6-12-2017


yesterday was a success. we managed to retrieve the main ANITA instrument (DAQ) box, which was in a very difficult position, as you can see from the photo. in the red square is a box that weighs 800lbs, inside of which resides all of the ANITA electronics. as you can see, it's roughly 15ft off the ground in the way it came down. Christian's plan was to attached a line to the apex of the obvious ring above the DAQ, set a 'dead man' anchor (just a heavy piece of metal or wood buried in the snow perpendicular to the line that needs anchoring) and pull it over with a come-along. it took several hours but we managed it, removing antennas as we went. finally, we were able to remove the DAQ from the payload and lower it onto a low-friction sled, to bring it to the Twin Otter. getting it inside was another matter-we had to get creative, and our marvelous pilots were indispensable in their assistance.

overall it was one of the mort exhausting and exciting days i've had. the otter dropped us off out there and then came back 2 more times to ferry gear. looking around in any direction, all you could see was a clear line on the horizon, where ice met sky. it was breathtaking. and we completed our task, which was to secure the instrument.

a couple more flight days ahead, hopefully, to get the rest of the instrument. but on this expedition, the DAQ is the biscuits, all the rest is just gravy.

-s



6-12-2017


polheim.

-s



6-12-2017



-s



4-12-2017

finally the day we've been waiting for-looks like we are flying tomorrow out to the A4 site. we're on schedule to depart around 0900 local, which will put us to the site by 1000, and then it's a full day's work to get the payload as disassembled as possible. the KBA pilots did a fly by for us today and took some pictures-the payload has some heavy drifting in some places, but overall it doesn't look too covered. so we will hopefully be able to make quick work of getting the crucial parts off in the first part of the day.

i will take photos of the process and will post some tomorrow night.

-s



3-12-2017


this place is as close as i will ever come to living on a space station. i'll talk more about this amazing base in future posts but here's a photo of the station from this afternoon. i'd just been given a tour of the south pole traverse 1, which just made it from McMurdo to the South pole, after 25 days hauling over 100,000 gallons of fuel to stock up the south pole base. it was amazing to hear the traverse crew talk about their process of making it to pole not only safe and healthy, but hauling an immense amount of fuel and cargo. they'll stay long enough to unload their cargo and do some maintenance on their enormous vehicles, and then head back to McM.

-s



2-12-2017

well it's a scrub for today. The pilots want to get the other group out into the field first because they are more resource heavy, so it's a couple days off for us. gonna get in some chainsaw practice (needed to cut ice blocks etc in the field) and some more tours of the place. will post photos if i take any good ones.

-s



30-11-2017


the last two days have been really amazing. we made it to station a little after midnight early wed morning (NZ time), had our in-brief, ate some food, and crashed. our accommodations are cozy, clean, and very comfortable. each person on station has a private room with a small bed, some drawers, a desk and an internet connection. some rooms have windows, some don't, and there are advantages to both. seeing outside is nice, but having total darkness is good for sleep. i have a window, but have been able to get good sleep since arriving.

the altitude is interesting. the physical altitude is 9300ft above sea level, but the 'physiological altitude', meaning what the barometer actually reads due to the changing atmospheric conditions averages at 10600ft. so it's easy to get winded the first couple of days, and i've been grateful for our leisurely schedule. we are waiting for two things: our cargo (tools, ropes, pulleys, survival gear etc.) and the plane to take us to the site, a Ken Borek Air twin otter. ideally our cargo will arrive on the herc flight late tonight, and, if the twin otter arrives too, we *may* get a reconnaissance flight out to the ANITA site tomorrow. we'll be able to assess the ice/snow loading situation on the payload, and make plans for subsequent flights. once our cargo has been processed and sorted, which will probably take the day tomorrow, we will have our equipment to make a full disassembly of the ANITA payload over the course of next week. but of course delays are expected.

so since we've had nothing to do, we've had plenty of time to rest, hydrate, and acclimatize. i was given a tour of the IceCube neutrino observatory headquarters by one of the physicists working on a new data acquisition system this year, which was really amazing. IceCube is one of the crown jewels of neutrino physics, and has detected the highest energy neutrinos to date in its cubic kilometer array. it was amazing to see the data processing center and get a sneak peek into upgrades to come.

we are sharing our flight days with another experiment and so will likely have the odd off day from time to time over the next week. hopefully i can get out to the south pole telescope site and see what they are up to as well, they are doing some upgrades this year, and their primary science mission is really fascinating. with observations of the cosmic microwave background, they can deduce the neutrino mass hierarchy, imagine that!

i'll try to put up some photos. the internet here is provided by several different satellites, and they provide reliable (and shockingly fast) internet for about 8 or so hours a day, currently from around 8pm-4am local. above is a photo of yours truly at the geographic south pole. what an immense experience it is to stand here!

-s



29-11-2017

Made it to the south pole, it's absolutely spectacular. great flight, very tired, it's been a long travel day, but i'll try to post some photos tomorrow.

-s



28-11-2017

it's a boomerang! about an hour into the flight one of the engines sprung a leak so they shut it down and we turned back around to McM. they don't have the facilities at pole to do repairs, so they turn around for things like this.

however, they haven't fully canceled us as it may be a simple repair. they have a possible transport time for us at 1815 tonight, in about 3 hours. i'm cautiously, very cautiously, optimistic.

-s



28-11-2017

scheduled to depart at 1100. wx looks clear. next post will be from pole, ideally!

-s



27-11-2017

scheduled for a flight tonight, but word on the street is we're not going till tomorrow. which is a bummer, because the weather tonight looks good. we'll see.

-s



26-11-2017

i should add for reference in the picture below that the mining town looking thing in the middle is McMurdo, the big mountain is the Mt. Eribus volcano, the cross on the right was put up for Scott and his dudes who died coming back from the pole and the green buildings (if you have good eyes) comprise the kiwi base. out on the ice shelf you can see various ice roads.

-s



26-11-2017


bag-drag complete. took a nice walk up 'ob hill' yesterday during perfect weather, took the above pano. forgive the bad stitching.

flight is slated for tomorrow evening/night. here's hoping for good wx.

-s



25-11-2017

Today is the thanksgiving feast down here so just about everyone on station has the day of. it's a nice atmosphere, everyone is relaxed and enjoying the very nice weather. although those who have been stuck at McM trying to get to pole (one group has been delayed over ten days i think, with their luggage already checked in, living out of a backpack) probably wish planes were flying in this good wx.

the anita recovery crew is manifested for a flight monday night, we bag-drag at 1900 on sunday. so here's hoping for good weather.

-s



24-11-2017

Did some training this morning for antarctic field safety. apparently, if your group is not explicitly planning on spending the night in the deep field, you don't get to do the 'happy camper' in-field training, where you build a snow shelter and sleep in it overnight. we had it on our pre-deployment brief, but they decided we didn't need it. alas. but we did take a course this morning about general field safety.

blowing snow here, going back and forth between condition-3 (normal weather) and condition-2 (not so normal weather). this afternoon will be spent in chainsaw training, gear packing, and then relaxing. we have the full weekend off, since there are no flights for the thanksgiving holiday (which they take tomorrow, saturday here) and sunday. so it's time to get in some hikes!

-s



22-11-2017


and finally, a shot of the plane from yesterday's flight. very nice! i'll post some nature pics once i get them uploaded.

-s



22-11-2017


oops, apparently i had already uploaded a different photo with the same name, so now that shows up. that's actually a photo i took last year. oops. i'll try to remedy that at some point (not so simple with slow internet). here's 3 of our number, Christian, me, and sasha on hut point.

-s



22-11-2017


some morning orientation stuff, and then a nice walk out to hut point and a tour of discovery hut (Scott's original structure in the area). i've been in there once before but jumped on the chance to get in and see it again. the smell is amazing, it's still filled with carcasses and whale blubber left frozen for a century, and there are artifacts from the original occupancy. It's been well preserved by the New Zealand historical society.

it's the thanksgiving holiday coming up which shuts things down for a couple days. flights are backed up to the pole, so who knows when we'll make it out there. ideally it will be on the weekend, but nothing is for sure.

the internet situation at McMurdo is spottier than last year (no wi-fi in the dorms) so i don't want to hog the ethernet cable too long. but, i did say i'd post photos, so here's a simple interior of Scott's hut. i took some photos of a mother seal and her cub (E let me borrow her telephoto lens this year) so once i get that transferred and shrunk, i'll post it too.

-s



21-11-2017

Made it to McM. we got a flight on a RNZAF 757, which was tremendously comfortable, with windows, no less! landed on a very well-groomed ice runway and had a nice ride back to McM. dinner, drinks, catch ups with old friends, and now bed. we have some early training at 0730. i'll try to post some photos from our trip and landing tomorrow, i'll have time in the afternoon. it's so great to be back. now it's time to sleep.

-s



21-11-2017

looks like we're gonna fly after all! all checked in and waiting at the antarctic passenger terminal...

next post will (ideally) be from McMurdo.

-s



21-11-2017

On a 3 hr delay in CHC. same thing happened yesterday and we were then delayed 24 hours...let's hope the same doesn't happen today.

-s



20-11-2017

Flight south delayed until tomorrow.

-s



18-11-2017

Made it to lovely Christchurch, NZ without issue. Lots of people here waiting to get to the Ice, the weather has caused some pretty serious delays in personel and cargo transport. But hey, that's polar ops.

The recovery team is nearly assembled here in CHC. With some luck, we'll make our monday ice flight.

-s



17-11-2017

In houston. i still have about 4 hrs till my flight to NZ. overnight flight, which is nice. apparently flights from CHC to McM have been backed up for days. could be looking at a couple days impromptu NZ vacation coming up...

-s



13-11-2017


heading back south. ANITA-4 has spent the long polar night roughly 100km from the south pole, and now that the sun is up, it's time to go get it. With assistance from Ken Borek Air, 3 of my colleagues and myself will make the trek out there to dismantle the payload and transport as much as we can back to Amundsen-Scott base, to be brought back north.

no science for me this time, just a good adventure. I'll post here about the challenges of sticking to a schedule in the polar regions (difficult) and the process of dismantling a high-altitude balloon payload after it has returned to earth and spent the last year in < -50c conditions. I've been told that internet is, obviously, limited at pole but i will try to post as many photos as possible here.

of course tangentially i will discuss some of the science going on around me. I've been part of developing a high-voltage pulser this year to do some tests of ice properties at the south pole. this time instead of launching on a balloon, it is to be lowered down an ice core. The ARA and ARIANNA experiments will use this pulser to measure various RF/ice properties of interest to high-energy astroparticle physics. I won't be doing the experiment myself, but i'll talk a bit about it, and if luck has it, i'll be able to see it in action.

i deploy on 16 nov, and if all goes well, should back before year's end. i am overwhelmed by my good fortune-returning to Antarctica was something i wasn't sure i'd ever get to do again, and this time, it's the south pole. imagine that! once more to the most spectacular place i've ever seen. stay tuned for dispatches from the ice...

(image credit C. Miki)

-s



26-12-2016


home. what an incredible journey. i will make a follow up post to the trip in a few days, but for now it's time to unpack and debrief. HiCal-2b finally died, with it's trip ending just about the same time as mine did. as you can see from the above flight path, it nearly made it back to McM before the batts died and we lost tracking. who knows where it will come down?

-s



22-12-2016

made it to NZ. gonna feast and then crash, long travel starting tomorrow.

-s



22-12-2016

did bag-drag last night, transport to the flight is in 1 hr. with any luck, i'm going home. happy to go, and sad to leave. just right.

-s



20-12-2016


the view never gets old. looks like i'm scheduled to depart McM on 22 december. This time of year, lots of folks are trying to redeploy stateside, and i'm pretty low priority, so it's fairly likely that i'll get bumped/delayed. but that's ok. i miss my beloved, but i'm still very much enjoying life in this most unique of places.

-s



20-12-2016

well like clockwork, one of our payloads died early. the other is going strong, however!

-s



18-12-2016

most of the time, typos on important documents can cause big problems. sometimes, they are quite fortunate. we have a little power budget worksheet that was put together by the NASA engineer Jill, who wrote the firmware and modified the boards for our little payload. i added some modifications so that we could see how long our batteries would last under varying loads with varying duty cycles, and we've used it to plan how long we can run for. pre-flight, i calculated that hical would run for 5 days. as it happens, i had a typo in my additions to this file and instead of 5 days, it looks like we'll run for close to 12 days.

at this point, ANITA has captured at least 5000 HiCal triggers so far, and we're about halfway through our batteries (if we can trust these calculations...), which puts us at about halfway to my pre-flight goal of 10k. we'll see.

-s



14-12-2016

NASA has a dedicated page for out payloads:

https://www.csbf.nasa.gov/antarctica/hicals.htm

again, if the link is broken just copy-paste.

the data look pretty good, preliminarily. we can see pulses from HiCal in the ANITA data, both direct and reflected off of the ice. this is the primary science objective for us, so we're thrilled to be getting some statistics at different places on the continent. we have a few days of battery life left, so we're hoping to make the most of it.

-s



13-12-2016


HiCal-2, payload 2, is up in the air as well. the weather was perfect for it.

both instruments are up and running, we're getting data back, and our pulses are being seen, both direct and reflected, in the ANITA instrument. all is not 100% sunny, and we have some kinks to iron out with 1 payload that likes to cause a fuss, but for the most part things are performing nominally.



-s



12-12-2016


it was cloudy during launch, so the contrast is horrible in this photo. but you can see the balloon, and the payload is just above the hands of the man in the center, who had just released it.

we'll get another launch tomorrow morning, and hopefully it is sunny!

-s



12-12-2016

HiCal-2, payload 1, launch success! will post photos soon.

-s



11-12-2016


Eribus was making quite a show for us yesterday. here it is, smoking, behind a panoramic view of the LDB facility. featuring prominently in center are the luxurious (not kidding) black boxes, (read: outhouses) but don't be fooled-the tall buildings in the background house the ANITA-scale payloads.

oh, and did i mention that the majority of buildings are on massive skis? this is so they can move the station to a different part of the Ice Shelf each season, and store them on large snow berms during the long winter.

-s



11-12-2016


an interesting few days. we have had 2 launch possibilities and 2 scrubs, but not for the typical weather-related reasons. ANITA was making good fast progress back to LDB after it's journey around the continent, but it has decided to slow down and make some loops such as the one above. that image shows ANITA's recent flight path. these deviations from the flight path can be 10 hours long or more, and effectively halt progress back in our direction.

it's fine for ANITA and for the science, in fact it's best to fly as long as possible so these delays are good. but it does mean also that ANITA remains our of range for HiCal, so we can't launch. we have a potential launch opportunity tomorrow, but ANITA may not make it to us in time.

again, these delays are totally fine-up to a point. ideally ANITA will pick up speed so that we can launch on tuesday-wednesday, as these are really our final days before the launch crew starts to head home. but i think we'll be good for tuesday, in any case.

-s



9-12-2016


STO launched today, it was a beauty. here is a photo of it rising up from LDB, as pictured from the top of Ob hill by McM. see if you can spot the balloon!

i think this means that Hi-Cal is a nearly certain go, at least as certain as things can be in this game. the folks at LDB are keen to get it up in the air and get home. this is already a record-breaking season for them, earliest launches, and 3 successful payloads in one season-HiCal2a and 2b will make it 5, and they want to make it happen. we have a good weather window coming up on sunday, and another early this week. if ANITA stays on its predicted course, we should be good for a close fly-by.

very exciting! will post again tomorrow re: path prediction and weather, once we meet with the powers that be here at LDB.

-s



7-12-2016

looks like STO is gonna get their first launch opportunity tomorrow, and ANITA is still on it's way around the continent. this is good news for us, as we might get to get HiCal up in the air as soon as next week...

-s



5-12-2016

the third big payload, the stratospheric terahertz observatory, STO, passed hang test today. with any luck, they'll be getting a launch near the end of the week. for some reason i didn't take any photos while it was outside. i'll need to be better about things like that now that i've gotten used to life here-can't take the sights for granted!

ANITA is making good progress in its journey in the circumpolar wind. it's been less than 3 days, and it's nearly on the other side of the continent.

https://www.csbf.nasa.gov/antarctica/payloads.htm

if it continues as BACCUS did, we may just get the chance to get HiCal up in the air!

-s



4-12-2016

aaaand...it's a scrub. balloon was mostly inflated when a hole was spotted, and they had to cut down. at this point, ANITA will be too far away to be seen if we attempt another launch. and the winds have, i'm afraid, come up.

so our only hope now is to wait until ANITA swings back around in 7-10 days. it's a very slim chance that we'll have a launch opportunity, as weather, ANITA's orbit, and many other factors need to converge, but we'll shoot for it all the same.

-s



3-12-2016

scrubbed. the weather did not allow for the launch of HiCal. we have a very small, very short opportunity to launch tomorrow morning, but we fear that by that time, ANITA will be too far away to receive our signal, due to the curvature of the earth. we have an early transport tomorrow at 0600 McM time, for a shot at launch. failing that, we may have a small opportunity to launch when ANITA swings back around the continent. the HiCal saga continues...

-s



3-12-2016


ANITA swung back around, caught it in the telescope. It's now headed out west, and seems to be caught in the correct current around the continent.

the launch this morning was truly a thing of beauty. the launch team here is amazing, everything went without the slightest hitch, and ANITA floated away, serene as could be.

HiCal is slated to launch in the next few hours, ideally. will update.

-s



3-12-2016



-s



3-12-2016




-s



3-12-2016

ANITA-4 launch success!

-s



2-12-2016

ANITA is outside, waiting for the weather to calm down. looks like our launch time is approximately 0600 CDT, but such things are infinitely amendable.

-s



2-12-2016

scrubbed again. next launch window is tonight here, 0200-0600 CDT. gonna get some rest and try again.

-s



1-12-2016

Just got the weather report, looks pretty favorable for a launch tomorrow. will update around 1000 CDT tomorrow if possible, or maybe a bit later depending on transport to LDB etc. oh yeah!

-s



1-12-2016

Scrubbed! will try again tomorrow.

-s



30-11-2016

ANITA is scheduled for launch at 0700 tomorrow local time, that's 1200 CDT. HiCal will launch approximately 10 hours after that, but this is very fluid, and depends upon many factors. I will update around 1100 CDT tomorrow about whether ANITA is go or not, and then again around 1800 CDT about the status of HiCal, if ANITA has gone.

very excited. off to bed, long day tomorrow.

-s



30-11-2016


I have been so busy the last bit here, getting things ready for launch that i have neglected to post photos of some really amazing things i've gotten to see. i'll post more soon, but here is one from a tour i went on of the "pressure ridges". they are these large ridges formed by the ice of the Ross Ice Shelf and the sea ice pressing up against the land of Ross Island. they look like water waves crashing, frozen instantly and held in suspended animation.

also i've noticed that some of the pictures are posting upside down and sideways for some reason. if they look stupid, just click on them to see the correct orientation. will contact my IT department to resolve this issue promptly.

-s



29-11-2016


last post for today. HiCal-2a, ready for launch! hopefully by week's end...

-s



29-11-2016


also sasha and i rented some skis and he's taught me how to use the european-style skate skis. i've downhill skied for longer than i can remember, but these skis don't have edges! very different technique. but great fun.

-s



29-11-2016


Some folks in ANITA brought a telescope, and we observed BACCUS near float, with the balloon nearly fully expanded.

-s



29-11-2016


well unfortunately we were caught on the road when LDB went into launch lockdown, so i couldn't post the link. but here is BACCUS just after launch! notice the scale-the tall buildings below are ~50ft tall.

-s



28-11-2016


Well, BACCUS was scrubbed for today. the wind was very calm but it wouldn't pick a constant direction, so they had to call it off. they will shoot again for 7am AQ time tomorrow, which is noon CDT.

ANITA-4 is next to launch after BACCUS, which could be as early as Thursday. HiCal-2a is ready to go, all we have left is a flight readiness review at the same time as ANITA, which is where NASA certifies that our little payload is ready for launch. then all we do is hurry up and wait for the most perfect of Antarctic weather.

it's tremendously exciting. I've been working on Hi-Cal for a few months now, and together with Sasha and the Instrumentation Design Lab at KU, and the fine folks at NASA's Columbia Scientific balloon facility, i think we've put together a pretty cool little payload. It rests entirely upon the terrific work by Jess and Mark Stockham, my elders in the KU astroparticle group, who did the research into how to build a low weight, high-voltage sparker on zero budget with limited time. i've had the good fortune of being able to enter the project at the 'fine tuning' stage, where we have managed to take the framework of HiCal-1, and add a few refinements. today i made the last adjustments to the antenna/high-voltage discharge system and closed the pressure vessel that houses them for the final time. i am happy to report that the transmitted pulse looks nominal, and is the highest amplitude and most broadband that it has been since my work began on it months ago.

i apologize to my non-scientist readers, but i've posted a plot. on the left is an example HiCal pulse, and on the right is it's frequency spectrum, shown in dB above the background. the antenna into which the trace was taken is a broadband antenna, good from 200-1200 MHz. the ideal pulse would be hot and flat through the band of interest, and we're pretty close here.

i will be happy when i see two things: 1, of course, the launch. 2, the first captured HiCal pulses in the ANITA instrument. at that point i will rest easy, and happily let the little payload chug away.

-s



28-11-2016

LDB facility is in 'launch mode', meaning that they are getting ready to launch the first payload, BACCUS, which measures cosmic rays with various energies, using various techniques. here is a link to a live page with information about the launch and possibly a live webcam if the connection is good enough: https://www.csbf.nasa.gov/antarctica/ice.htm and if the link doesn't work, just copy and paste it into your browser (sorry).

ANITA and HiCal won't launch until later in the week.

i'll post again if we get the word that they are gonna launch.

-s



26-11-2016

ANITA passed hang test today!

-s



25-11-2016


very busy last couple of days. The second HiCal payload passed its test, and after a few minor adjustments, we're all set to go.

More importantly, ANITA continues to make progress. yesterday the instrument was taken outside to do some testing of the GPS systems and communications. today it was taken outside with the antennas connected, receiving environmental RF signals for the first time. with these tests passed, tomorrow it's time for the hang test, where all systems are tested together at once, while hanging from the actual launch vehicle.

in short, i think we'll be launching soon...very excited.

here's ANITA sitting outside (sasha for scale).

Oh yeah, and happy thanksgiving!

-s



23-11-2016


today we passed our first 'hang' test. i say that because we more just set it on a box outside and let the transmitter hang down. LDB was a madhouse today, with the tractors and forklifts buzzing around getting the other payloads prepared tor their own hang tests, so it was easier for us to just set up somewhere out of the way.

anyway, here it is. the white box is the brains and batteries, the white hockey puck thing on top of that is a sun-sensor, and the long cylinder below is the antenna and pulser. all systems performed nominally, and tomorrow we'll do the same test for the second payload.

-s



21-11-2016


went out to LDB today in condition 2 (bad-ish weather, condition 3 is normal, condition 1 is bad news) to button things up, then returned straight away for fear of going con 1. must admit, it was a bit exciting.

-s



20-11-2016

took the day off today. slightly waylaid with the "mcmurdo crud" that tends to get just about everyone at some point during their stay here. good day for it though. Hi-Cal is just waiting for good weather, to do our hang test, which we have scheduled for tuesday. today is for laundry, rest, and sanity. and it is lovely.



-s



19-11-2016


now that's more what i imagined.

-s



18-11-2016


here's our ride, 'the kress'. it takes like 40-50 of us the 8 or so miles from McM to LDB over the rocky terrain of Ross Island, and the ice of the Ross Ice Shelf. humans for scale (the tires are considerably taller than i am).

-s



18-11-2016


Sasha has arrived. hi-cal is, essentially, finished. did i explain hi-cal yet? basically they are tiny 12 lb payloads that have an antenna and a high-voltage discharge device. each hangs from a balloon sending out a short, high-voltage radio pulse every few seconds. these balloons trail the ANITA balloon by several hundred kilometers, caught in the same wind. we plan to launch one just after ANITA and a second when ANITA swings back around over McMurdo after one revolution. i'll post photos of it when we do our outside test. i have spent the last week working on fine tuning the pulse, so that it is broadband and consistent between the two hi-cals, and Sasha just arrived with the final piece, a sun sensor and pulse detector that we use to timestamp the outgoing pulses.

we'll be testing outside tomorrow if the weather is OK, but we may have some weather coming in.

-s



16-11-2016


Eribus has a volcano to the east called mt. terror, that is a dormant volcano. unlike Eribus, it doesn't smoke. but today there was this little cloud sitting on the top of it, that mimicked the smoke rising from eribus, making them look like twins. pretty nice.

-s



15-11-2016


There is a thing here that is really quite remarkable. During the summer, before the sea ice melts, they stick a twenty or so foot tube down into the ice that has a glass viewing area at the bottom. when you get down there to the bottom, you look out, and you're below the ice sheet. you're looking up at the sunlight filtered down through the ice, and it's a completely foreign world. countless tiny invertebrates swim around. and if you're very lucky, like i was during my time in the "ob" tube, you see a wedell seal! it came in from under the tube and swam up in to within 4 meters of the tube, to take air at a nearby hole. i called up the tube to tell my friends to look at the hole (which was in a fishing hut right adjacent to the tube) and i think that scared it off, so it swam back out to sea. i snapped a photo as it swam away, and i admit it looks mostly like a tiny fish, so you'll just have to believe me. or not. up to you.

-s



15-11-2016


spent some time hanging out up in ANITA sheathing some gps cables.

-s



14-11-2016


Today's office.

-s



14-11-2016

Thoughts today are with my new friends in Christchurch.

-s



13-11-2016


This is the ANITA payload in its full glory. An array of 48 antennas, it will hang from a balloon that, when fully inflated at float altitude, is large enough to envelop Allen field house. As you can see, the antennas are pointed very slightly down. That's because ANITA floats high above the ice sheet listening for characteristic radio emissions from particles called neutrinos interacting with the ice. At a high altitude, the instrument can listen to a volume of hundreds of cubic kilometres of ice at once, which is essential, because the interactions we're interested in are exceedingly rare.

Neutrinos are weakly interacting neutral particles that are very difficult to detect because they very rarely interact with the everyday matter of stuff. They are of interest to physicists for this very reason- they can travel at nearly the speed of light from far reaches of the universe without hitting anything on the way. If we detect one on earth then, we can point back to its origin, and that gives us a glimpse into the universe as it was when the neutrino began its journey.

They are also interesting for many other reasons. ANITA seeks to detect the very highest energy neutrinos, which only come along very intermittently, hence the necessity to cover a huge volume of the continent. We use Antarctica because ice is transparent to radio, it's uniform, and a very special vorticial wind sets up that allows ANITA to circle the pole for, ideally, weeks on end.

-s



12-11-2016


here's a closer shot of that hut. pretty cool.

-s



12-11-2016


OK, i finally have access on my laptop! i can make more extensive posts here now, and upload images with impunity. let's start with an image of McMurdo. Or, if you like, as close to a utopia as i'm sure i'll ever see. that statement may make more sense as this blog develops.

i took this photo out on hut point, which is a small rock outcrop on the southwest edge of town. in the foreground, the large hut, is a restoration of the original hut that robert falcon scott and his company built at the start of his ill-fated polar excursion. inside this hut are their original stores-and outside is a seal carcass that has survived in the cold environment for over a century. we are not allowed to go in, for conservation purposes. but i understand that it looks nearly exactly as it did during scott's time, which is down to the cold and dry weather.

in the center, the 4 large brown buildings are the dormitories. they are very nice. we have a roommate, and shared bathroom facilities. my roommate is a "daysleeper" meaning he works at night. he does laser detection of upper atmospheric particles, and observes during the night, since the flux of particles that he studies is higher at that time. it works great for both of us-it's like having the room to yourself!

further to the right is observation "ob" hill, from which the view is phenomenal. i haven't done the short hike yet, but it beckons, maybe i'll try it tomorrow.

as you can see, the station is huge and very well-developed. there is a hospital, a galley, several gyms, bars, a coffeehouse, a massive scientific laboratory facility, and all of the essential utility services. the station provides so many comforts, it is easy to forget you are on such a harsh, inhospitable continent. the NSF and the united states antarctic program (USAP) have all of my respect and gratitude for this well-built and well-run station.



-s



12-11-2016

Bah technical difficulties. Will try to sort it out later. Today is the first day we haven't had sunshine. The sky is low but it is decently warm. Going to get outside and do some transmission tests, hope the weather holds.

-s



11-11-2016


It worked! Here is a photo of the LDB facility, where we work. In the foreground you see the high payload bays, where the large instruments are built. We work in the one farthest to the left. The long orange building at the end is the galley, where I'm on my way to for lunch.

-s



11-11-2016


Ok I'm gonna see if i can upload images. Standby for more. If this works, it should be self with mt. Eribus...

-s



10-11-2016

The Antarctic treaty, and the continued adherence to it, remains one of humanity's great accomplishments. according to its guidelines, this land cannot be claimed, no militaries can operate outside of a support role, and the entirety of the land and sea is dedicated to scientific research. it is as close to a utopia as i've ever seen, albeit one supported by governments and agencies far outside the the icy bounds of its shores. i'm still using a shared computer so my time is rather up, but tomorrow i'll say more about ANITA, and what life is like at Mac-town and the LDB (long duration ballooning) facility where we spend the working day.

-s



9-11-2016

First day of work was great. the office is an incredible facility, located several miles remote from McM on the Ross Ice Shelf. it's a modular facility with the large payload bays, a galley, electronic and mechanical shops, and more. i still don't have internet access on my machine (it's in review at the IT shop, felt like turning over a limb...) so i can't post photos, but it was a spectacular clear, warm day, and seeing the facility for the first time was truly magnificent.

The ANITA payload, which i've yet to elucidate in the breadth that it warrants, forgive me, is nearly completley assembled. the advanced crew here worked hard to get things all put together. the electronics are being finished up, and once they are done, the instrument box can be placed on the payload, and testing can begin in earnest. our PI is confident of being ahead of schedule for what is called a "hang-test" where they bring the payload outside, hang it from a crane, and turn the systems on . it's the final flight-ready verification.

Hi-cal is basically ready to go, just doing some testing and fine-tuning. this morning we fresh faces have general base training, so we're taking the morning off. will *hopefully* have my laptop screened and able to access the internet by this afternoon, i have myriad photos of our journey down to the ice, and the faclity in its full summer glory.

-s



7-11-2016

Made it to McMurdo station, AQ. we had a great flight in a c-17, and the weather is spectacular-clear and warm. i won't have internet access with my own devices for a few days (they screen all electronics) but when i do i will post photos.

this place is breathtaking. i can't remember when i've been so happy. i'll elaborate on station life and Antarctica in general when i have my own computer access-need to rush on this shared machine. time to take rest-work starts at 0730 tomorrow.

-s



7-11-2016


Here we go.

-s



6-11-2016

I your humble narrator have made it to New Zealand. The blood is already rushing to my head. I spent a couple hours at orientation and extreme cold weather (ecw) gear issue, and am now relaxing luxuriously in the hotel. Looks like I'll make my ice flight after all! The USAP and their contractors are so far truly lovely to work with. Every eventuality planned for and covered. Gonna meet up with some colleagues for grub then turn in early. Shuttle for the ice flight leaves at 0545 tomorrow. Can't wait!

-s



4-11-2016

Made it to SFO. AKL next. I will not have a Guy Fawkes day this year. Straight from the 4th to the 6th.


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3-11-2016

something something, best laid plans, something something...

flight from MCI was canceled due a mechanical problem, so i'm rescheduled for tomorrow. my 'ice flight' is on the 7th, so if i make tomorrow's itinerary, i should still be OK for that. i certainly don't mind another night in Kansas with my beloved.

MCI-SFO-AKL-CHC, and hopes for good mechanics.

-s



3-11-2016

Departing MCI, slight mechanical delay. Should still be good for my layover in Dallas.

-s



2-11-2016


Tomorrow i depart for McMurdo station, on Ross island, Antarctica, taking part in the united states antarctic program's expedition this year. I'll be a part of the ANITA-4 experiment, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctic_Impulse_Transient_Antenna), a balloon-borne radio search for Ultra-High Energy Neutrinos. ANITA floats in the stratosphere above the continent, caught in a vorticial wind that keeps it circling the pole for weeks on end. as it floats, it listens, with a massive array of antennas, for characteristic radio signals from the ice. ultra-high energy neutrinos, curious particles of extremely high energies, interact with ice molecules after an immense journey from their as-yet-unknown interstellar origins. when they do, short radio bursts erupt from the ice surface, and can be detected by the hovering ANITA payload. our interest lies in the detection of these particles. neutrinos have eluded scientific explication for decades, and if we can capture their signal in numbers, we can begin to understand them. my small piece of this grand experiment is to launch a small trailing balloon behind ANITA that sends out a periodic calibration pulse, in order to characterize both the ANITA instrument, and the continental ice surface.

I'm extremely honored to be a part of this expedition, and can't wait to get to work. from what i hear, it's a six or so day work week, at NASA's Long Duration Ballooning facility, in the shadow of the spectacular Mt. Erebus. i'll post here about the process of being a small cog in a big machine, with the ultimate goal being excellent science.

-s



15-10-2016


This is a test of the emergency broadcast system.

-ssss