Week 51: Christmas!

Again, we have been very busy at South Pole with the IceCube detector. The detector worked fairly smoothly. Only the Processing & Filtering system gave us a hard time, and we had to fix a problem with the batteries with one of the UPS. It seems we need to get new batteries next summer if the failure rate remains like this. On Saturday, we had a server problem and a power distribution unit became unresponsive, so Josh and I went out to the ICL for a reset of the respective harddrive and the power unit, which resolved all of the issues. A major task of the week was to roll-out updated code and to install new python packages, among other things, tasks we performed from Tuesday, December 15, to Thursday.

Busy week, social-wise: gingerhouse baking & Sunday science lecture

Station-wise the week was busy as well. On Monday we had a Covid Red drill, where we practiced contact tracing procedures. On Thursday, December 17, Josh and I were trained to do safety rounds at the power plant to help out the power plant people during the Christmas holidays. Over the weekend, the entire IceCube team participated in gingerbread house building. We designed and built an ICL gingerbread house. We encountered some problems with the baking of the cable towers, but we were able to work around these issues by using a lot of icing. We ended up with a fairly decent result, I think. But judge for yourself! On Saturday, December 19, we set up the big gym with couches and watched the rather long and unphysical movie “Tenet”, a 2020 science fiction action-thriller by Christopher Nolan.

The science department started a new series of Sunday’s science lectures. There are four big science experiments located at the South pole: The Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO), a long-term research program conducted by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the South Pole telescope, a Radio telescope aiming at detecting thousands of galaxy cluster to investigate the equation of state of dark energy, the BICEP telescope to measure the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background, and, of course, IceCube. On the coming Sundays, each group will hold a lecture on the scientific objectives of their experiment. The first talk was given by the NOAA folks on December 20.

Christmas dinner: beef, lobster, greenhouse veggie and no less than 14 desserts

And then, already Christmas was upon us with another extravagant dining menu, dressing up the station, a sledding event (with a safety-approved hill), a Secret Santa exchange, and the ‘Race around the World’. At the open mic night on Christmas Eve, the IceCube team participated narrating a story about Krampus. The Christmas Dinner was, of course, excellent - beef filet and lobster, with freshies from the greenhouse, followed by no less than 14 desserts. We will be very sad when Jen, our baker, leaves for Winter. Another great Christmas tradition here is HF Carols, where various US Stations sing carols to each other over the radio - this year WAIS Field and McMurdo joined us. Also, on Christmas day, there was a ‘Die hard’ and ‘Lethal weapon’ double bill.

The week was dotted with some minor issues for the IceCube team, most of which we could resolve easily. But in the morning of December 26 (New Zealand time), we received a page that there was an unexpected number of DOMs in the dmice hub, a separate system focused on dark matter (DM) detection. Since we could not solve the problem, the DM-ice team is going to investigate this further. The inspection meant that we missed the ‘Race around the world’ that day which is a run circumventing the south pole marker in a huge 1,9 km round, but we had to walk a good chunk of the course getting out to ICL anyway. At least, we caught the ‘party barge’ back (a sled pulled by the Pisten Bully)! And we were on time for the Secret Santa Exchange this evening.

South Pole Christmas tradition: Around the world in less than 2 km