Travel Log: December 17th, 2000

Dateline: Sunday December 17, 2000
McMurdo Station

Randy writes:

Lots of air here and much warmer.

Our flight was delayed yesterday due to mechanical problems, and was later than usual due to training. So instead of the normal noon departure, we were originally scheduled for 2 PM and then 5 PM. I was too tired to do much but wait. The flight was great and an empty plane except for the crew and the 7 PAX, as we passengers are referred to. Four of the PAX were CARA people, myself, Patricia, Jeff Peterson, and Bob Spotz. We are all manifested for the flight to Christchurch on Monday but since there are a lot of people on the list, we will not have priorities assigned until later today. We didn't get to our rooms until after 9 PM with all the moving around and the shuttle ride from Willy Field.

Taking a shower was nice, as is a room with space for more than just one's bed. Last night at midrats (i.e. late night dinner for second shift people) I ran into a crew of people from the University of Chicago working on the TopHat experiment. I will try to visit them today out at Willy Field where they are set up.

Showers, 24/7 Internet, warm enough to walk around in just polar fleece, sure seems like the lap of luxury.

The weather forecast for McMurdo:
Partly Sunny
Visibility: Unrestricted
Wind: Northwest at 5 knots
High: +03°C/+37°F
Lowest Wind Chill: +01°C/+33°F


Dateline: 5 PM

Sultry heavy air.

I wandered around a bit today... rode down to Willy Field this morning to visit Stephan Meyer's group. They are working on the TopHat telescope that will fly on top of a long duration balloon. The way the circumpolar wind works, they will release the balloon around Christmas and it will make a big circle around Antarctica in around 20 days and then if everything works out right, the telescope will be cut away from the balloon and parachute back down to earth near where it started. By the way the balloon, when fully inflated, is so big that you could put your favorite football field inside of it, spin it any which way and it would not hit the balloon walls. The telescope itself is looking at the primal light from the start of the Universe, the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The DASI and Viper telescopes are also looking at the CMB and it has only been very recently that instruments can be built that are sensitive enough to detect the very small differences in the CMB that will tell us about the start, history and future of the Universe.

After brunch and the Ross Island Art Show, a seasonal craft show, Patricia and I walked over to Scott's hut which happened to be open. It was used by a number of early polar expeditions and is filled with old biscuit boxes, petrified seals and sheep, and smoky smells. Out on the ice shelf we can see seals (brown blobs) and Adele penguins (little black lines). It is much warmer here than Pole but one still has to bring warm clothing as the weather can change at the drop of a hat. Unlike the Pole where the weather is almost constant (this near-constant polar height is one of the main reasons it is a good place for astronomy), McMurdo is on the coast and so the weather is quite variable. Actually McMurdo is on Ross Island in the Ross Sea and only connected to the continent by the Ross Ice Shelf (I think I have all my facts straight here).

We will see if we fly out tomorrow, as travel here is never definite. We have "Bag Drag" at 8 PM tonight, where they weigh us and our bags for the flight tomorrow. They need to know how much everything that will be on the plane weighs. Many strange transitions: 20 below to 32 above to 70 above soon and then to the snow of Chicago!


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