South Pole Day of Science!

For those of you who don’t know me (you can gain a little perspective at www.uncommonfruit.com) I’m Jase Grimm and I’m a production cook at the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station. The whole galley crew had this past weekend off to make up for working through Thanksgiving while the rest of the station got all whacked out on tryptophan and slep off their food comas. The managers from all different departments got together and made breakfast, lunch and dinnner (which makes me feel better about my job cause it took 6 of them to do what I do solo) while the galley staff got to gallavant about the station. But I was determined to make the most of my day, so I devoted it to Science.

 

 

First off was testing fuel for sediment, water and FSii (fuel stabilizer ice inhibitor) with B-Rent, Marissa and Hans (all of which have been the subjects of my Interview With a Polie series.) We test every batch of fuel that we siphon out of the C130s that make almost daily trips to Pole in order to resupply our cache for the winter. Sediment and water can damage a plane’s engine and cause some pretty serious accidents so it’s important that the fuel is clean and contains enough of the FSii to prevent the fuel from freezing en route.

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Then Marissa, one of our two Research Associates, ran me through the ins and outs of her job, which she likened to being the station’s doctor. If everything is going well, her job is pretty boring, but if one of the experiments breaks (or in the doctor’s case if someone gets injured/ill) her job gets very tough very fast. Her daily tasks involve checking on the status of 9 different experiments measuring everything from changes in the ionosphere to a device through which we listened to every single lightning strike in the Southern Hemisphere. We also made snowcones.

 

After lunch I organized a galley field trip out to the Dark Sector, which isn’t as ominous but is as cool as it sounds. Rachel, who is an engineer on the Bicep 3 telescope, offered to give us a ride out there on her snowmobile, which may or may not have been the highlight of my day of science. It also made me realize how boring my job in the galley is… necessary, but boring. Then I thought about how I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the crazy cool science going on down here, and that they couldn’t be doing said crazy cool science without full bellies, so in the end I decided my job was basically the most important on station.

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ur first stop on our trip was the Dark Sector Lab, which houses two telescopes. The plywood snow cone thingy on top is where Rachel and her team are constructing Bicep 3 (for which I think Tricep would have been a much better name, just saying) which is a super crazy advanced telescope that looks back at light leftover from the big bang.

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The above beauty of a telescope is named The South Pole Telescope, which is a bit of a misnomer cause there are a few of them down here, but they just happened to claim that name first. It too is looking at light from the big bang, which more formally is called the cosmic microwave background. If you want to learn more about the specifics of the science that they’re doing with these telescopes, I’d suggest check out their websites (http://pole.uchicago.edu/ and http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/CMB/keckarray/ ), because I’m more acquainted with egg cookery than the ins and outs of millimeter wavelength detecting arrays.

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My final stop on my day of science (before a long and chilly walk back to the station) is MAPO, or the Martin A Pomerantz Observatory, which is currently the oldest building at the South Pole. It currently housed the predecessor to the Icecube experiment, named AMANDA, and now sits on top of the neutrino detectors buried deep in the ice, but that is another blog post. Grant the grantee (South Pole speak for the scientists whose work we are down here supporting) showed us around the lab and let us climb inside the Keck telescope and check out it’s 5 microwave detectors, which are funnily enough named after the Spice Girls.

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We headed back to the station to don our Moustaches for the speakeasy party I was hosting later that night in Summer Camp, but we had a newfound appreciation for just why we came down the the South Pole. Up until this point I really only saw people in the galley at meal times, which led me to the conclusion that all they did was eat and take breaks to eat some more. But now I realized that there really is some amazing science going on down here, and even if Idon’t understand it all, I’m super stoked to be here supporting it.

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