Week 3: And then there were two

It is with regret that this week we said goodbye to John Hardin, who has left Pole to return to the real world after well over a year on Ice. As flights are still very limited, John flew to McMurdo on a Basler and will then catch a ski-equipped Hercules to Christchurch before flying back to the US. Due to COVID, returning winterovers are requested to fly First Available Air (FAA) back home, but it sounds like he’ll be able to get a couple of days in New Zealand first; he’ll probably also get to experience his first COVID test. This has been (and continues to be) a highly unusual season in Antarctica and we are indebted to John for completing our training here, imparting his wisdom on inumerable topics and for being a great friend.

Swapping cables & preparing a lecture

Otherwise IceCube has been very well-behaved, we haven’t been paged all week! On Monday we performed a cable swap on one of the scintillator panels in order to test some triggering; we swapped them back on Sunday. We also set up a prototype hose controller on our network which will sit in the B2 science lab logging temperature data. Most of our time was spent preparing a science lecture for Sunday - an introduction to IceCube and neutrino astronomy. Martin also gave a tour of the IceCube Lab (ICL) for some Polies who will be leaving soon. We did have one of our network switches reboot for no apparent reason. This did not cause any issues with the system as a whole, as we have redundancy in place - a second switch simply took over. You may be interested to know that this switch has an uptime of 7 years, 20 weeks - impressive!

SPoT-3 and Cohort 5 to arrive soon

In terms of station operations, SPoT-3 (South Pole Overland Traverse) is well on its way to us, bringing more supplies for the winter. Most of the remaining winterovers (Cohort 5) are completing their managed isolation period in Christchurch and by the time you read this will hopefully be on their way to McMurdo. Their plane will most likely take John out. On Sunday morning we had another Basler arrive for a (minor) medical evacuation. This was a very quick turnaround; the aircraft didn’t even stay to refuel.

We also said goodbye to our group of power plant technicians. They spent a lot of their free time playing pool here, so we held a tournament on their last night. There were almost 20 players and a great audience turnout from the station. Martin and Josh both reached the quarter finals.