November at the South Pole

Saturday, 1 November 2003
While Jeff went off for Skidoo training, I stayed behind to restart SuperNova. Shortly afterwards, I heard the all_call that the morning's plane had arrived. Steffen and Robert bundled up and went out to the apron to see off some fellow winter-overs. With the new plane, there was new cargo. The call went out for volunteers to unload freshies at the back of the new station, and to unload beer under the dome. I was already in the back of Science, making the beer only a few steps away.

Today was colder than some recent days, -53°F (-47°C), and I was dressed for a day in the office, not a walk out to MAPO - sneakers over issue socks, jeans over thermals, and no fleece under the parka, just a tee-shirt. Between waiting for the cargo folks to position the load, and standing in one spot in a human chain, I didn't last long. I came back into Science to thaw out my fingers and toes, then went upstairs to my room to put on my FDX boots and another layer.

By this time, the five tri-walls were down to three. There was a chain of at least 20 people trying to get the beer inside before it froze. I think we only lost a few loose cans and a bottle or two from handling. We were all happy to help replenish the stocks.

My afternoon was mostly filled with building a Windows 98 box for one of the teams out at MAPO. The hitch was finding/making a boot disk when there are no remaning USAP Windows 98 machines. As I did this, there was another parade of recent arrivals looking for where to have their laptops scanned and approved. We do have a sign up that directs people next door for that, but it appears to be too plain or too small.

I kept my time at dinner short - tonight was the first official night for the store to be open. Of course there was a line. We filled the tiny three-room store and looped around the merchandise to fit ourselves in. I think I waited somewhere around 20-30 minutes. Fortunately, things shouldn't be so crowded once people have had a chance to pick up a few essentials.

From the store, I went straight home to shower and get ready for the Halloween party. I watched the end of "Dune" as I sat around my room drying off. When I went back to the bathroom to brush my teeth, etc., I stumbled across a strange tableux - Kyros was getting his head shaved by Sarah. He's going as Charlie Brown and wants to look the part. The two of them talked Billy into a shave as well, but I resisted their offers. My own costume was nothing elaborate; I threw on a brightly-colored silk shirt over black street clothes, then donned a punk rocker wig I brought down with me from Christchurch.

I walked out of the dome, down one of the arches, and out to Summer Camp with Sarah, Paddy, Kyros, Nicolas, and Billy. It's probably a 1/4 mile from the end of the garage arch. The walk was bright and windy. We got to the Summer Camp non-smoking lounge and had to walk around to the far side to the main entrance, past a stack of furniture and the foosball table. They had cleared out half of the jamesway for a dance floor. The bar was still in place by the door, as was one of the couches. Randi and Angela were sitting on it, photographing the parade of people and their costumes as they entered.

Some of the costumes were just amazing. Kyros, of course, shaved his head to go as Charlie Brown. Robert was there in his cow suit (complete with plastic udders). Sean found a stuffed doberman and walked around with it taped to his leg all night. Susie wore a harem-type outfit, with cardboard boxes over the bikini, covered in USAP cargo stickers ("Do Not Freeze", "Explosive", "Cargo Genie" and more). Not everyone had a costume, but lots of people really tried.

The jamesway never really got too crowded to move around. Most of the time, the dance floor was half-full or less. The tunes that really packed them in were all disco. Scarily enough, I think the most popular song, based on dancer density, was "Stayin' Alive".

After about 22:30, the crowd started thinning out. I walked back to the dome with Kyros, and went up to the old bar above the old galley. With all the flights in the past week, there were more 2004 winter-overs than 2003 winter-overs up there for a change. I sat and talked with Byron for an hour; Pete was there, too, but drinking soda water because he has a power plant watch at 02:00. It was good to see two tables of new winter-overs. It shows that if we start hanging together this early, we should have a tight crew.

Long before midnight, I headed back to my room to read and get some sleep before Sunday Brunch.

Sunday, 2 November 2003
Sunday Brunch is a big event on the weekly Pole calendar. I spent the majority of it sitting with Nick, Patty, Tyler and Bride. The conversations were interesting all around. I found out Bride is from Cleveland (two hours from Columbus) and went to Ohio State (two minutes from my house).

After nibbling and chatting well past noon, I returned to my room to take advantage of the remander of the satellite window. I caught up with e-mail and what not, then caught up on my sleep.

I woke up in time to grab a quick bite of dinner (all the tofu stuffed mushrooms were gone; I had to settle for the beef), then to run back to the dome to watch Robert's lecture on the haloes and aurorae of 2003. He has some amazing photos he took with his Cannon AE-1 and a 15mm lens. I wish I could find an affordable lens that wide for my Pentax P3. He has loaned me his heated camera box, but it doesn't solve the problem of how to wind the film (he has an auto-winder). I have several months to figure out a solution (the sun doesn't set until late March, but there'll be some interesting shots of the station to take in the weeks before true sunset).

After departing the entirely-packed library, I ran up the beercan and back to the new galley for the first of our Sunday Science Lectures. Jeff Peterson spoke on a new project of his - "PAST", the PrimevAl Structure Telescope, which uses inexpensive TV antennas (3000 to 10,000 of them) and off-the-shelf cable TV amplifiers to detect heavily red-shifted hydrogen emissions from the era of star formation when the universe was only 200 million years old.

Because of all the interference from TV and FM radio stations in inhabited area, the two most promising sites are rural China and the South Pole. Strangely enough, Pole is less remote than area of China near Nepal, at least in terms of materials, electricity, and such. In terms of transportation, though, China is much "closer". The critical thing, though, is how much interference there is from human activity. That remains to be proven, but the expectation is that Pole is a perfect site (and would require one third the amount of antennas due to the fact that see the same part of the sky for 24 hours a day.)

After the lecture, I hung around in the galley for an hour and a half, talking with Martin, Nick, Shanna, Dar, Jeff Peterson, and a few others. Topics included travel in China, the "Hollow Earth" conspiracy, and National Anthems (U.S., Australia, Britain, etc.)

While we sat and talked, the weather turned for the worse. The temps have warmed to -36°F (-38°C), but the wind is up as high as 21 knots and the visibility has gone sour. At various times over the evening, I could see MAPO fading in and out of sight (1 km away). The ARO building never completely disappeared, but it's only about 400m away. The LC-130s aren't supposed to attempt a landing if the vis is under 1 mile. Nobody at the table was expecting any flights tomorrow.

Monday, 3 November 2003
Before I could even stumble out of bed to breakfast, there was an all call that the morning's flight had been cancelled (presumably due to weather on our end) and that today's PAX flight was now the 17:00 flight. It's warmer today than it was yesterday, -25°F (-32°C), but visibility is still poor.

I breakfasted with Nick, Jules, Doc Will and Chris Martin. Doc Will was supposed to be heading North this morning, but was accepting of the fickleness of the weather here. He figured that this was a standard three-day patch of bad weather, and he's probably right.

At work, the morning was devoted to the SPASE project. Robert, Jeff and I went over some of the details in the back of Science, visiting web pages on and off the station for information and statistics. After reviewing the data-side of SPASE, we walked out to the SPASE shack, near MAPO to go over the hardware. Before entering the shack, Robert handed Jeff a hand-held temperature sensor box (like a volt meter). We all stood in the wind between MAPO and SPASE as Jeff read off temps from a set of buried thermal probes and I recorded. Operating a pencil is harder than you think in these conditions. Inside, Jeff and I started and stopped runs, turned the high-voltage to the PMTs on and off, and generally just ran the equipment through the range of things we might have to do in the middle of winter.

When we were done for the morning, Robert called someone over at MAPO, to arrange for a skidoo ride back to the station. Jeff and I walked back for lunch. The selection today was a little out of the ordinary: chicken in coconut milk (labelled "Chicken Pad Thai"), rice-noodle salad with a ginger dressing, and for dessert, coconut rice with crushed pineapple topping. Tasty, even if it was made mild enough for everyone to eat. I sat down with Nick, Jules and the rest of the AST/RO crowd. Before I could take a bite or even say a word of greeting, Nick handed me the hot sauce and said "trust me, you'll want this". To be fair to the cooks, I did try the chicken as served. It did need a touch of spice (but that's always been an issue down here - there are lots of people who don't even want any black pepper in their food, let alone something hot).

We stayed close to home after lunch. Jeff and I went down to the back of Science and processed the latest round of run log entries. He reviewed the histograms that the detector software generates, while I tweaked my Perl script that digests run log e-mails. It doesn't do everything (there's not enough data in the e-mails to fill in all of the boxes on the run log sheets), but it now extracts everything it can, and summarizes all of the interesting things present (skipped files, noisy OMs, etc.) It's a nice thing to have next to all of the charts and graphs when filling out the run logs.

Shortly before we knocked off for dinner, there was an all call that the remaining scheduled flights had been cancelled. As seems to happen here, if the morning flights are delayed more than a few hours, or rescheduled for the afternoon, they don't tend to happen at all. The temps are still up, -28°F (-34°C), but the visibility is still down.

Over at the galley, it was Mexican Night (tamale casserole, beans, rice, etc.) I sat with Sarah, Drew Logan (who is redeploying very soon now), and Chris Martin (who should be redeploying sometime later this month). It's been a good hand-over from last year's winter-overs to our crew, and we are going to miss plenty of them; but, they've done their time, and now it's our turn to do ours. We'll be in the same boat next year (in many cases, handing-over to the very same people). It's kinda wierd to be thinking about leaving a few days after getting here, but we are still in the process of "taking possession" of the station and making it ours. Once we get into the thick of summer and all of the 2003 winter-overs have left, we won't have to distinguish between "last year's" winter-overs and "this year's" winter-overs. We'll just be the winter-overs (until next October when the cycle begins again).

From the galley, I went down to the dome and to the library to swap out some "Dune" books, and to play some pool. Jason had the table when I arrived. I rotated in and won a couple of games, lost several others. Of the two I won, one was because my opponent scratched on the eight-ball, but the other was because I managed to sink the eight-ball myself without scratching, a rare accomplishment for me. I haven't played pool since the last time I was on the Ice, but it is coming back to me slowly. I'm doing OK at straight-in shots, but I'm still fumbling at bank shots.

The last thing I did before calling it a night was to stop by the back of Science and whip up a Perl script to format and convert temperatures for my web page - I give it a temp (ending in 'C' or 'F') and it prints out the temp in both Fahrenheit and Celcius, and prints it out again with the right HTML tokens for the degree symbol, ready to cut and paste into a web page (since I write all of my HTML with vi, emacs or CRiSP). In the past, I used a calculator and manually formatted the HTML. After finding several typos with the degree symbol here and there, I decided to automate the process. Writing the script was easy. Making it elegant took more time than writing it in the first place, but it's worth it. What I _should_ do is write up some Javascript to have two temperature scales that slide up and down as you move one of them, then display the HTML in a window nearby. I could probably put that up as a page for others to use. It's the obvious solution to a problem posed by one of my fellow 1995 winter-overs who wrote an F-to-C app in Visual Basic for Windows 3.1. He got it working, more or less, but the slidebars weren't tied together in real-time - you had to set one, then press a "convert" button. If you didn't press the button, then the old temp on the other scale remained on the screen. I showed him that it was possible to show that 100°C "equalled" 100°F, at least as far as the user could tell. Sadly, he didn't seem to understand the flaw.

After putting the finishing touches on the script, I walked upstairs to my room, read a chapter in the next part of the "Dune" saga, and hit the lights.

Tuesday, 4 November 2003
I stopped off at the back of Science on the way to breakfast to check on the state of the detector. I learned from a flight tracking e-mail that Darryn, my boss, and Bob, the PI for AMANDA, were coming to Pole a day early on flight P011, due in at 11:30. I think there were only two PAX originally scheduled on that flight. Now there are four.

AMANDA didn't roll over cleanly at 09:00 as it usually does, so Robert called Jeff to have him hop on a skidoo and reset the detector. That went fine, but just as Jeff was finishing up, the fire alarm sounded at MAPO. We heard the notice repeat three times over the all call before we heard "Disregard, disregard, disregard." Fortunately, a real fire is rare here. Let's all hope it stays that way.

At 11:00, P011, the PAX flight, was holding at 18,000' due to poor visibility on our end. The temps are up again, -26°F (-32°C), but the vis was wavering in and out of 1mi. After a bit of a wait, they announced over the all call that the plane was past "Papa 3" (one of the closer waypoints on the flight from McMurdo) and would be landing in 15 minutes. Unlike previous flights, I knew people coming and going. I ran up to my room to throw on some ECW gear and ran out to the plane as fast as I could.

I didn't get any photographs of the landing. The LC-130 was already taxiing by the time I passed the PAX terminal. There were lots of people there to say farewell to the latest batch of departing winter-overs, and to greet the new arrivals. I really only knew one departing winter-over well enough for a personal goodbye, Drew Logan, one of the RPSC IT guys. It was easy to spot Darryn and Bob, seeing as they represented 50% of the PAX onboard. People stood around for a few minutes, saying hellos and goodbyes, then, before the outgoing PAX could load, the recent arrivals began to slog their way into the warmth of the station. I followed, but I went the long way 'round, down the ramp and straight into the dome and back to Science for a few minutes before climbing the beercan to lunch.

I didn't sit on one place the entire meal; I moved around two or three times and finished sitting with Darryn, Robert and Steffen. From there, we all went down to the back of Science and I set up accounts for Darryn and Bob. It's very crowded back here now; there are more AMANDA people than available computers to work at. It's only the first day of this; it won't be the last. We will have as many as 14 AMANDA people on station at the same time. Not everyone will be working in the back of science, but there still won't be enough machines to go around during waking hours.

After the winter-over meeting in the new Carp Shop, I went back to Science before heading off to dinner. During the meal, we heard over the all call that all the flights landed today, three in all (one PAX, two cargo). After dinner, I stopped by my room to shed my ECW gear, then was getting ready to go to the library to play pool when the all call sounded the call for volunteers to unload mail under the dome.

As before, we formed a bucket brigade and unloaded eight tri-walls of mail into the pool room. Boxes were stacked everywhere, including under and over the pool table. It being patently obvious that there would be no pool this evening, I stayed behind to help sort the packages into piles. This is the first real mail delivery since the station opened a week and a half ago. Most of the mail was from the winter-overs, to themselves, things that they expect to need and want after station close. I didn't send myself anything this time; I'll probably have friends back in the States send my things over the next few weeks. Once the packages were sorted, I went next door to the bar to see who was hanging about.

Even though the old galley is a shadow of its former self, the bar upstairs is much the same as it has been for years. With the round of 2003 winter-overs who left today, it's finally our bar. I sat at the large round table with Paul, Darryn, Bob, Sarah and Paddy for more talking than drinking (OAEs know how hard even two drinks can hit you on your first day at altitude). As seems to be more common here than at McMurdo, by 22:30, the place emptied out. Things should be more lively as the summer progresses and people start to get out more.

Wednesday, 5 November 2003
The weather in McMurdo hasn't improved. This morning's flights were cancelled. The weather here has been nice enough, -40°F (-40°C) with winds under 16 knots, but in order to fly, the visibility and winds have to be good at both ends for about eight hours, or it's not safe.

I spent the morning in the back of Science, keeping the AMANDA computers and their users happy. Lunch was burgers and fries in the company of Chris Martin, Jake, Darryn and a few GAs. Not unexpectedly, as we ate, we heard that all flights had been cancelled today (again!)

The AMANDA team made a mass exodus to MAPO after lunch. Jeff and I practiced resetting some of the embedded processors, while Bob inventoried high-voltage cards. We also pulled two HV power supplies to retro for repair. Our last task was receiving a 1458 HV box from Cargo. Once that was unpacked, upstairs, and warming up, we trekked back to the dome for dinner.

I didn't have an exciting evening. I crashed right after I got home from dinner while trying to watch "Black Adder I". I woke up a few times, looked at my watch, considered going out, then fell back asleep. I finally got up for a little while to chase LES 9 and try to get on the 'net. After catching up on correspondence, I finished the last few pages of "Soldier, Ask Not" and called it a night.

Thursday, 6 November 2003
Before I could make the long trek to the new station for breakfast, there was an all call that today's PAX flight is indefinitely delayed due to weather. After breakfast, down at the back of Science, I configured my laptop to use the local printers and ran off a batch of tape labels. Jeff walked out to MAPO with Troy, the Physician's Assistant, to locate and review the emergency gear that's stored out there. It takes long enough to establish an emergency response from the dome that MAPO needs its own fire and first aid gear.

P015, the morning's PAX flight, was cancelled. They rescheduled it for a 19:00 arrival, and kept one of the cargo flights coming in an hour later. Perhaps they'll fly today, but the weather hasn't changed enough for that to be likely.

Steffen, Jeff and I hiked out to MAPO in the afternoon to practice detector shutdown. It could have gone more smoothly, but that's why we are practicing while the 2003 winter-overs are still here. The big hitch was having to extract the HV database and reset the 1440s to their proper values. We had gone over it on paper, but we weren't expecting to have to apply it so soon.

I decided to return to the new station the way I came, along the "road" rather than the shortest route, straight across the sastrugi. I'm enough shorter than most of the AMANDA folks that I take much longer to step up and down, rather than over, the terrain. On the way out, I decided to experiment; Jeff and Steffen took the direct route, and I walked the longer, but smoother way, over snow that is dragged every few days. I arrived at MAPO at the same time as they did, even though I probably walked 20% further. Normally, I'd be two to three minutes behind them.

Dinner was well underway by the time we arrived. I think we showed up about ten minutes after the swing-shift let out, so there was a line for food and few open seats. I had to steal a chair to sit with Sean and Kevin. They are keen to form a band this summer, and were making plans to have a preliminary session this Sunday at Skylab. Kevin used to live in Ireland, and is trying to pull together enough resources and talents to play a little bit of Irish music. I offered my talents for bass, piano and vocals. They are still looking for a concertina player. I've never picked one up, but I'm willing to give it a try. During dinner, as expected, there was an all call that all flights today were cancelled.

From the galley, I went down to the back of Science to see how the detector was settling in after we powered everything off. It seemed to be happy, so I went up to the pool room for some billiards. Jason was practicing alone, and we played five or six games before the usual crowd showed up (I lost every game, but sometimes by only one or two balls). Paul took my spot in the rotation, and having played plenty of games already, I sat on the sidelines while Jason continued to dominate the table for the rest of the evening.

After watching several more games, it was late enough that I decided to skip a visit to the bar. Instead, I went down to the back of Science to take advantage of LES 9 being up before going to bed.

Friday, 7 November 2003
Flight P015 was supposed to take off from McMurdo at 08:30 this morning. I waited for the all call that it was off deck, but even two hours later, it hadn't come. Instead, we heard that the plane was standing by at the Ice Runway, waiting for gusting winds to die down. As of 11:00, they have not yet launched.

Another morning in the back of Science fiddling with printers, and recording the current state of the detector. Presuming You-Ren and Mike fly today, someone will go meet them when they arrive. Meanwhile, Bob, Jeff and I are planning on spending the afternoon at MAPO swapping high-voltage cards.

(later in the day...)

Just before lunch, we heard that P015 launched at 11:20. If it doesn't boomerang because of low visibility here, it should arrive at 14:20. They've also pushed the departure time of the aerial photo flight an hour sooner. It should be here by 19:00, now.

(still later in the day...)

After lunch, I walked out to MAPO before P015 could arrive. I didn't want to get caught at the beacon at the edge of the skiway and have to wait for the plane to land before I could cross. Fortunately, I was early enough and got to the Dark Sector in time. Just after I left the skiway, Nick caught up with me on his way to AST/RO. We walked together for a few minutes until we reached the cluster of buildings. He went into his and I went into mine.

Bob was starting in on the high voltage controllers; Steffen watched Jeff and me shut down the entire detector. In the middle of our start up, Steffen powered off a crate of equipment to simulate an odd hardware failure. We watched the error messages spew by, and Steffen pointed out all the ways we could tell that something was wrong (the frequency of the blinking lights for one). We had to shut down all the software before restarting. I managed to remember to power that crate back on before the next startup attempt (saving another cycle).

In the middle of all of this, the PAX plane landed, bringing with it three more members of our team, Mike, Pawel and You-Ren. I made sure they had accounts, then went back to helping Bob swap high voltage modules. Things were going great until I found a single high voltage channel that read back at zero volts no matter what I set it to in software. The really ugly part was that externally, it read 3800V - the max possible. We decided to shut that crate down, grab dinner back at the galley, then see about tracking down the problem. Bob, Steffen and Robert left MAPO first, leaving Jeff and me behind to fill out the run logs.

Dinner was Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes and Wax Beans (with non-serious labels like "Rooster Fried Steak" and " Mashed Potatoes Plus", whatever the "Plus" is). I sat with Mike, You-Ren and Pawel. Mike and I talked about the ordeal of their trip down. I think they spent an extra five days in McMurdo, with nothing to do, no computer account, etc. At least when I had two extra days, I had places to go, pictures to take, people to see...

As we were finishing dinner, Bob came over and said that the group had reached a concensus to return to MAPO immediately after dinner to complete the work on the high voltage unit. I was still in my ECW gear, eliminating one obstacle, at least. I put my dishes in the dish bin, my napkins in the "Burnables" bin, and walked down the wooden staircase and back to MAPO. Robert was a little bit ahead of me, Jeff a little bit behind. All of us were stopped by the warning beacon at the edge of the skiway. P016 was departing.

We watched the LC-130 taxi away from us, disappearing as it went to the end of the skiway. After a couple of minutes, I could see a trio of landing lights in the ground clutter. They turned off and on a few times, then started to grow larger and closer until we could see the plane itself. I had my camera out, which was good and bad. At full zoom, I snapped some nice shots of the plane speeding down the skiway, growing closer, and lifting off. The bad part was that my batteries froze, depriving me of a side-shot as it passed by, less than a wing-span above the snow. Later, Jeff showed me his shot of the plane flying "over" Robert and me, with MAPO in the background.

Another few hundred meters and we got ourselves inside, warmed up, and back to work. Jeff started by shutting down the other 1440 unit so we could test its ports (all fine); Bob and Robert tested the unit we'd previously shut down; and I went to the other room to print out the map of the high voltage channels (any task involving lots of wires needs a map to keep things straight) There wasn't lots of room behind the 1440s, so while the three of them worked on the HV unit, Robert had me replace the fans in a rack-mount auxilliary cooling tray. The fault, it seems, was with the 8085-based controller in the 1440, not with the high voltage cards. We threw in the spare, finished testing the high voltage cards, and had everything buttoned up by 23:00. Restarting the detector software went well, except for having to manually reboot the processor card in the TWR (Transient Waveform Recorder) crate. Robert stayed behind; Jeff, Bob and I walked back to the station.

It was light, of course, but there was enough stuff blowing around that when we first stepped out of MAPO, we couldn't see the new station at all. By the time we approached the skiway, it was visible, if a bit dim. There was an indistinct halo around the sun (not as sharp as on a clear day with blowing ice crystals). Jeff tried to take a picture of it over the ceremonial Pole. I was pretty sure that the contrast was low enough that I didn't try to take one of my own.

Right after walking past the geographic Pole, Jeff turned to the right to head home to the new station. Bob and I continued on down the ramp, into the dome and to the back of Science, him to shuck the heaviest of his ECW gear, and me to check on things one more time before going upstairs to crash.

Saturday, 8 November 2003
First thing in the morning, I went straight down to the back of Science and jumped right into it. Among other things, we talked about what upgrades are going on the detector first. At 10:30, it was time for the first weekly science meeting, where all the grantees meet with the RPSC science support staff to go over issues and upcoming events.

We were supposed to meet in the upper galley (under the dome), but because they are preparing to tear out the freshie shack next door, all the tables were covered with hundreds of containers of spices and herbs. We adjourned to the old gym, filling all but the very middle of the gym floor. Paul Sullivan led the meeting, first a round of introductions by all the RPSC folks, then a round of introductions by the grantees. Among the announcements was a mention of two planned power outages and three planned comms outages.

Lunch had begun by the time the meeting ended. I walked up the beercan with Nick and a few others. It was Beef Stew over Noodles, Mexican Rice Soup, and Cucumber-Beet Cous-Cous. There was some kind of excellent chocolate-covered, toffey-filled slabs for dessert. They were so rich, I was quite satisfied with a half-slab. I sat with Mike, Nick and Jeff. Before I could even start on my dessert, the fire alarm sounded in the new station. Those of us on the Fire and Trauma Teams lept up, and headed to our assigned posts (mine was in Bio-Med, under the dome). I passed several Fire Team members, some already in their bunker gear. I reached Bio-Med right behind Angie, and at about the I sat down to work the radio, but never had to use it. The alarm was caused by cooking smoke from the galley. We heard the stand-down and returned to lunch.

After lunch, it was back to Science. The RPSC IT folks surprised us by coming over en masse, all hauling new computers. We jumped up and each grabbed one and helped them stow the new machines in our common storage area. We heard over the all call that P018 was holding at "Papa 3", 30 minutes out, because of our visibility. After about twenty minutes, our vis improved to at least one mile, and P018 landed. While it's good that the PAX made it in, we're really waiting for P019, the mail plane. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the all hands meeting in the galley.

It was the standard first-of-the-season all hands meeting. Various departments heads took the mike and made introductions and announcements. We heard from Pete, the Winter-Over Site Manager; BK, the South Pole Area Manager; Lisa, the Safety Supervisor; Cookie Jon, the Head Cook, Tracey, the Comms Manager, Al Baker, one of the Science Support folks, his wife, Mary, who runs the store; and a few more. The meeting bled into dinner. Lots of us waited around until the pizza came out of the ovens. After dinner, I went back to the dome, got cleaned up, and returned for Bingo Night.

I fell asleep for a little bit when I got out of the shower, and was a little late for Bingo. Brandon was generous enough to loan me one of his cards. The prizes were whatever they could scrape up from the store; the real Bingo prizes haven't arrived from McMurdo yet. They gave away notepads, T-shirts, ball caps, and the grand prize, $135 cash, the pot collected from selling the Bingo cards in the first place. I got close to winning a couple of times (once, I needed one ball, the next ball in the chute, when someone else yelled "Bingo"), and was two squares away from completely covering my card for the jackpot when Angie and Bride won. I helped scoop up the cards, and split when they started to organize "high stakes" Bingo for $5 per card. I'm not much of a gambler; I don't like losing more money than the entertainment value of the activity. I left with Nick and Paddy to go sample a rare taste of North American Single Malt Whisky.

Sunday, 9 November 2003
Before we could sample the scotch, we had to lay our hands on it. As the saga goes, it was the remains of a bottle brought down last year, and left in the hands of the cryo tech. Nick and I adjourned to the back of Science for easy phone and radio access. We had no success locating Cryo Mike, but somehow, Paddy found him and stopped by with the bottle. It was quite smooth and a bit sweet. Bob joined us in the middle of us savoring our samples, and we all talked about the medical exams we all have to pass (a common topic, believe it or not), wintering, the occasional person who doesn't make it through summer, and other things along those lines. When we were done, I returned the glassware to the bar, and ran into Sean who was playing DJ on the CD player. I sat at the end of the bar with him for a while, until Tammy came by and dragged both of us to the party out at Summer Camp.

It was a clear, sunny and calm night, about -35°F (-37°C). I grabbed my issue red wind-breaker to throw over my AOL polar fleece and walked out to Summer Camp in sneakers. The party was hot. The dance floor was packed for most of the songs, especially disco numbers. Before I showed up, I thought I had the only bottle of Tullimore Dew on the continent (I'm saving mine for a special occasion, like last time). I was pleasantly surprised to see someone walk by with a bottle.

I hung out for a couple hours, alternating between dancing, talking to some of my fellow winter-overs and meeting some of the summer people. Long past midrats, Tammy and Sean started getting hungry. Even though the party was still going strong, I walked with them back to the dome.

The galley was nearly empty, owing to the late hour. Tammy and Sean both grabbed something out of the left-over fridge, but I wasn't hungry. I just had some fluids. Afterwards, Tammy and Sean went home to their respective rooms in the new station, I went down the beercan to the dome. I stopped by Science to check on the detector, then up to my room to crash. It was not to be. The AMANDA alert system called me about fifteen minutes after my head hit the pillow. It needed to be prodded to start the daily run. I threw on some light clothes, walked back downstairs to Science and tried to restart things remotely, but as expected, the hardware needed to have hands placed upon it. I went back upstairs, threw on my usual regimen of ECW gear, then a miracle occurred: Richard Weber was next door to my room, doing his laundry, saw me getting fully dressed, and offered me a ride in a tracked vehicle out to MAPO. Of course I took him up on it. It was a nice night, sunny and calm, but I arrived sooner and with more energy to tackle the problem.

I had the detector restarted a few minutes after I arrived. It's nothing serious, but it does require physical contact to restart on occasion. We are hoping to fix this annoyance in the next week or two when some parts and personnel will have arrived. Since I was expecting the photographer for the Antarctic Sun to stop by in the morning, rather than make a round-trip to the dome in the next few hours, I siezed upon the comfy chair for some much-needed sleep.

It was not the photographer, but Al and Mary Baker, and Dana, the science tech, that first came by. They were out at MAPO to look at DASI, a large interferometer that was about to be dismantled so its successor could be installed. I tagged along with them for a tour of the inner workings of the telescope itself. After they had their turns, I climbed the ladder into the instrument platform, took a couple of pictures, listened to the PI tell me about his project, then headed back down the hall to help Bob and Mike move some of our stuff off of another group's workbench, downstairs to be packed and sent back to the dome.

It was getting close to the end of brunch; I decided to walk back to the dome rather than skip one of two meals of the day. It was pretty much the usual spread - omelettes, some sort of breakfast meat, some sort of breakfast potatoes, pancakes and eggs. One treat was a tray of fresh-made doughnuts. I normally skip them, but these are rare here (unlike at some places I've worked in the past). I sat with Nick, Eyvind and Kevin. Later in the meal, Nick left, and the DASI guys sat down with us.

Right after brunch, I scurried off to the Greenhouse Volunteer meeting in the pool room. There were more candidates than available slots (volunteers come in twice a day, seven days a week), but people quickly sorted themselves into a larger group who really wanted to tend the greenhouse, and a smaller group who would fill in as necessary. Jack and Tree told us the basics of the systems, the cycles and tasks to be done, then we drew our names out of a hat (literally) to choose a shift. I was the fifth or sixth name. I picked Monday afternoons. We then broke up into three groups to tour the greenhouse and learn specific things to do.

The greenhouse is on top of the "Annex", a berthing area attached to the side of Science. There's a wooden staircase up to that level, then a trail of matresses to keep things quiet for the people living below. The greenhouse itself has a tiny vestibule (to keep the heat and moisture in), and a main room no larger than 8'x12'. Tree pointed out the three water systems and the insulated box of sprout jars, and walked us through what all of us would have to do when it was our turn. It's much the same as when I tended the greenhouse in McMurdo - record humidity and high and low temperatures of the room, add water to the systems; and record pH, conductivity and water temp of each system (but we don't have to add nutrients). It's a little tricky to work up there - it's closer quarters, plus the "sink" is a six-inch drain with a sliding steel cover. It's important not to flood the greenhouse because of the people living below.

I returned to the pool room to catch an encore of Robert's aurorae lecture (from a better seat). I did procure a better vantage point, but with a busy as I've been, I regretfully kept nodding off. Afterwards, I extracted a picture of myself and Jeff from Bob's camera, and inserted it into his presentation for later tonight. I then headed back my room for a nap.

I had intended to hit the celtic music appreciation and jam session in Skylab, but I slept right through it. I slept through dinner as well. My next conscious perceptions were of Paul Sullivan on the all call, saying the Weekly Science Lecture started in 10 minutes. I met Mike on the way; he had just left the Library from Robert's final encore.

By the time we made it up the beercan to the Galley, Bob's talk had just begun. We came in the back to a full house. We grabbed the last empty table at the back of the room. It was a good talk. He covered the source of the neutrinos we are looking for (cosmic sources), the noise of neutrinos created in the atmosphere we have to filter out, and some the details of Ice Cube, the successor to AMANDA that will be a cubic kilometer of sensors.

When it was over, I raided the leftover fridge for some dinner. I wish I hadn't slept so late. Besides the condiments, what was in the leftover fridge was mostly things that weren't popular enough to be consumed the first time around (I passed on a large container of fish taco filling). I'd much rather attend meals where there's almost always options (vegitarian and otherwise).

I went back down the Library with Tyler, Bride and a few others, to watch "The Tao of Steve". There was a movie still in progress, so I tried to play a game of pool with Kevin. I was too tired to concentrate, and kept missing trivial shots. Kevin mopped the floor with me, but by then, the Library was empty, and we could start our movie. After the movie, but before going home to crash, I checked on the detector and all looked well.

Monday, 10 November 2003
Started the morning off in the back of Science. I tried fiddling with the new Lantronix terminal server, but without documentation, I wasn't able to do much but show its status. We heard over the all call that there were three flights scheduled today, back to back (meaning the skiway crossing would be busy more often than not between 11:00 and 15:00). I went to lunch with Mike, then back to my room to throw on some ECW gear and get out to MAPO by 14:00.

I did try, but I was only approaching the crossing point when the LC-130 began to taxi. The light came on, and there I waited, but not alone. There were four of us on foot, soon joined by Allan on a skidoo, with two passengers. After the plane took off, the light stayed on. I checked, but nobody had a radio. After several more minutes, Allan sped back to the dome on the skidoo to let Comms know that the crossing beacon was still on, long after the plane had departed. Eventually, the beacon went dark, and those of us who were still waiting around, resumed our trudge to the Dark Sector. I was still enroute when Allan drove by, picked up his other passenger, dropped them off, and came back for a couple of us. Even though it was the last leg, I was still grateful for a ride part of the way.

The work on the detector began with Robert causing failures for Jeff and me to find and fix. After a couple of rounds (including messing with the high voltage), I helped Pawel briefly with his work on the DMADDs, then Robert and Steffen went over the TWR (Transient Waveform Recorder) with us again. I answered a couple of UNIX questions for Steffen while he was finishing up some new start/stop scripts, then I had to get back to the dome for my first shift at the greenhouse.

I was almost out the door when Tammy showed up with some DNF for us. With the weight on the sled, she couldn't back the skidoo up to the door. We carried the crate inside and upstairs. I hopped on the back of the sled to give her some drag to keep the sled upright, and had big fun on the ride back.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the greenhouse was how frosted my glasses became. I tried switching to my sunglasses (which had been in my pocket), but even they frosted up in the humidity. I finally thawed things out by holding my glasses in front of a fan to burn off the moisture. The second thing I noticed was how much harder it was to breathe the heavy, moist air (55% RH) I had just begun filling the systems when Kris and Don came by from Met to see how things were done. I told them all about what I was doing and how I was recording it as I worked. Tree came by around 17:30 to see if things were done. She watched as I continued to work and explain things to the Met guys. When I was finished, I asked her how I did - "Perfect" (my experience at the McMurdo greenhouse has been most valuable).

Dinner was some kind of cooked chicken in a light sauce that was labelled "Chicken Parmesan" It was good, even if it bore no resemblance to any Chicken Parmesan I've ever seen. I sat with Pawel and one of the GAs, but moved to sit with Paddy and Bob for dessert (baklava!)

After dinner, it was time for more detector training with Steffen down in the back of Science. We worked on the "reader" program, and went over how to compose weekly status e-mails. It was after 21:00 by that point, so I dropped by the bar above the old galley to see who was around. Sean was there, along with Byron and a couple of summer people. Things dispersed by 22:30, and I went home to read myself to sleep.

Tuesday, 11 November 2003
Steffen wanted to start the day at MAPO in the afternoon. I tried to sleep in, in preparation of working late, but several phone calls thwarted my efforts. The first thing that really penetrated my consciousness was the all call that freshies would arriving soon at "Destination Zulu" (the name recently given to the place we called the bottom of the wooden staircase). I passed through the back of Science, but Mike was the only one there. I grabbed my camera to take some pictures of what's left of the Freshie Shack, then headed up the beercan for lunch.

I arrived at the new station before the freshies did. I took my place in the bucket brigade, at the top of the stairs and we all waited for Cargo to take something off the top of the freshie pallet before we could unload. The stuff we handed up the stairs was all great stuff; freshies from New Zealand: kumara, asparagus, aubergines, onions, fresh peeled garlic, and plenty of dairy items, wheels of cheese, sour cream, eggs, whipping cream and more.

Still out of it from lack of sleep, I fumbled through lunch. It was one of the best we've had so far: gyros and falafel with tzatziki, cous-cous, and hummus. We were almost smoked out of the galley by the grilling of the pork chops for dinner.

Down in my room, getting into my ECW gear in preparation for the afternoon, I heard the AMANDA alarm over the all call. I rushed downstairs to the back of Science to see why, and asked Steffen what was up. He gave the first sign that he was truely on his way out of here by answering, "I don't know, ask one of the winter-overs." I killed the alarm and followed Steffen to MAPO to look into the cause.

I never caught up with Steffen. I think Jeff might have passed me on the road, but he didn't say anything, so I wasn't sure it was him. Nick caught up to me just as the crossing beacon came on. Moments later, Allan pulled up in his skidoo. We watched for the plane to appear in the distance, and waited for quite a bit longer than ten minutes. Allan spotted the plane first, then me, then finally Nick. It seemed to take forever to land. When it finally did, and turned off the skiway, the folks in Comms remembered to turn off the beacon. Nick climbed on the back seat of the skidoo, I climbed into the sled, and Allan took off (almost before I could put my camera bag safely between my legs).

Looking across the skiway, there were several red-coated people milling about the SPASE shack whom I took to be Jeff, Robert, and Tom Gaisser (one of the SPASE people). I went straight to MAPO where Steffen was trying to get some last minute things done. Pawel had begun upgrading his part of the detector, and we tried to do some test runs around him, but we couldn't get anything going for a final tutorial session. Jeff and Robert returned from SPASE, and we looked at the GPS hardware that provides the timing needed to synchronize the detector activity. Steffen also had me ensure the high voltage values for the 1440s matched the hardware database. With no detector to play with, we headed back across the skiway, Jeff, Robert and Steffen on skidoo, me on foot.

It was still early enough that Cargo was still open. They've been sending me messages to pick up the extra ECW gear I requested after I arrived, but I was never able to get back from MAPO in time to do it. I hadn't actually been to Cargo yet, so I wandered around the cargo lines, looking for a sign or a likely building. I stumbled across the FMEC (Construction) office, and got directions from Tree and Aaron. I walked back towards the dome, and behind a two-story-tall mound of snow, I found the one-story Cargo building. I picked up my stuff, signed for it, and took the closest entrance back to the dome, along the garage arch.

I'd heard over the all call that package mail was in and waiting for us in the old galley. I couldn't find anything for me, but Mary thought she saw something of mine up by the Post Office. Indeed there was, some stuff sent from home on 27-October including a panoramic camera (I forgot to bring my el-cheapo with me). I swung back to Science, then over to dinner with Mike, stopping off at my room to stash my loot.

The pork chops we smelled at lunch weren't that great. What was excellent was the curried tofu. When I went up to thank the cooks, they said that the tofu didn't last the entire dinner period; the whole station scarfed it up. As we were lounging about the galley, Robert joined us, first with a plate of salad and some bread, then with a full-sized dinner plate covered in a layer of banana halves, topped with a thick layer of vanilla ice cream, copious quantities of slivered almonds, and Hershey's syrup. He offered to share, but only Mike and I dipped in. It was fabulous. After we gorged ourselves, Paddy walked by with her own ice cream that Robert topped with chocolate ever so slowly and deliberately to the amusement of all.

As I got up to leave, Bob buttonholed me to restart the detector after Pawel reassembled it. I went back down to Science and ramped things up and down while Robert and Steffen continued packing to leave tomorrow. I watched the histograms long enough that Pawel had time to walk back from MAPO. We decided things were working fine, and I headed up to the bar to see who was hanging out.

This early in the week, the answer is "not many people". There were a couple of folks watching a movie, and another couple of folks chatting at the bar including Allan who was bartender for the night. I said my goodbyes to him (he's leaving tomorrow but will be back to winter after some time off), but I was too tired to stay for even one beer; I went right home to finish reading "Dune" before passing out.

Wednesday, 12 November 2003
My morning began with the detector alarm playing over the all call. I went downstairs to the back of Science to acknowledge it. Nothing was seriously wrong, just a shutdown to do some maintenance (but with the alarm left on by mistake). As I was filling out the daily run logs, we heard the PAX plane was at Papa 3, 30 minutes out. Robert and Steffen left for the PAX terminal. Darryn also went out to the skiway to see them off. I ran upstairs, threw on some ECW gear, grabbed my camera and headed out of the dome as fast as I could. The plane had already landed, taxied, and parked by the time I made it to the fuel pit.

Besides Robert and Steffen, Allan was also leaving. There were lots of people there to say goodbye to the latest batch of departing winter-overs. We all took pictures and watched as they walked out to the plane and flew off. On our way back inside, Darryn took a hero shot of Jeff and me with the dome in the background.

I went to lunch with Mike and Jeff. We sat with Eyvind; he had some questions about how to set up a video conference to his family back home (given that they aren't set up to experience with Linux software, I didn't have a good solution). Andrea and Fernando (two of the summer folks with AST/RO) joined us with their desserts of enormous plates of ice cream (the soft-serve machine is extremely popular, despite what you might think about the appeal of a frozen treat when it's -40°F outside).

For the afternoon, Bob went out to MAPO, Darryn and Jeff went to move some boxes on skidoos, and I stayed down in the back of Science. With last year's winter-overs gone, I moved across the aisle to take over Steffen's workspace. GOES 3 had set by that time, and we won't have a MARISAT window tomorrow because of a maintenance window on the 9 meter (22 foot) dish.

As I settled into my new desk, Jeff and Darryn returned with the boxes from MAPO. As we were putting away the contents, Pawel called from MAPO to let me know that he had completed today's upgrade work and for me to restart the detector. Unlike yesterday, not everything seemed to be as it was before. We brought things up and down a few times, with Pawel checking connections in between runs until we got it all put back to normal. One thing that made it easier was that we could see on the histograms that the problems were grouped by the strings of OMs, as opposed to grouped by blocks of cards in racks on the surface. It helped us to visually eliminate several sources of errors. Once the detector was happy, we all went to dinner.

As freqently happens when they serve fish as a main course, in the back of the steam line, they had hunks of some kind of cooked meat labelled "anti-fish" (there are enough construction worker-types that prefer a simple "meat and potatoes" diet that the cooks usually have to provide an option to keep the peace). I took my plate of five-spice Mahi and sat down with Chris Martin to ask him about the state of photographic chemicals before he headed North tomorrow. I had thought that there was a dedicated photo lab, but apparently, there used to be, but the one in the upper galley was converted to a bathroom a few years ago. Would-be photographers have had to find dark space to load processing canisters, and space with water to do the developing. There was supposed to be a darkroom built into pod A3 in the new station (near the new Bio-Med), but someone deleted it from the plans. Chris said that with some input from a variety of individuals and departments, it's been restored, but somewhere else in the new station (and not for this winter).

After dinner, I went down to Jeff's room with Brandon to watch an episode of "Twin Peaks". They dropped in an episode of "Buffy" next, but I'm not a big fan of that, so I split before it started. I was going to see who was in the bar, but as I was going up the stairs from the old galley, I was met by Mike and Bob, with "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" in hand. We went next door to the dome library to watch it.

We passed through the pool room on the way to the library. Sean, Jason, Paul and Kevin were playing pool; Kevin came in to watch the movie with us. It's been a while since I've seen it. One of my favorite parts is when the General is trying to show the battle plans to the troops and they can't get it to work because it's running Windows 98. After the movie, Bob went home, while Mike and I stayed behind to play pool. More through luck than skill, I beat Jason and then Mike, then Jason took the table back from me. We finished the evening with a game of nine-ball (which Jason won). I stopped briefly at the back of Science to check on the detector, then called it a night.

Thursday, 13 November 2003
It was a full house this morning, down in the back of Science. Before he went out to MAPO to rebuild the third DMADD crate, Pawel had us start and stop the detector three times to make sure things were in a known state before he began his work. Bob was going to go to MAPO as well, to help Pawel, but he was stopped by the crossing beacon. It was the flight with some NSF DVs, here to look over computer security. With the detector down, there was nothing to keep me at my desk; I went to lunch early.

Lunch was an acceptable, but unexciting choice of chicken or tofu stir fry. I didn't linger over it; I went right back down to Science where Mike Hoffman was taking photographs of the servers and the fire protection equipment. Sarah and I showed him where the built-in CO2 extinguisher system was in the building, and explained a little about how the Fire and Trauma teams work (that all the winter-overs were members, etc.), then Sarah took him up to Skylab for the next stop on his photo-tour. Moments later, the fire alarm sounded in "Summer Camp". I dashed off to Bio-Med, my assigned muster point for Trauma Team, and arrived at about the same time as Angie (she was under the dome, too). We waited and listed to the radios for any request for Trauma support, but as a few others trickled in (including Sarah (who had only just arrived on the top floor of Skylab), we heard no call. The fire this time, though, was a real one, a water pump out a summer camp that burned out and was belching smoke. From the time the alarm tripped to the time it was out was under four minutes.

I noticed on my walk to and from Bio-Med that I wasn't used to walking around the dome in my parks, and it felt a little odd. Most of the time, lately, I've been walking back and forth between buildings under the dome, and back and forth to the galley in the new station, in my fleece and maybe with some glove liners. It's been around -45°F (-43°C), but unless I've been going outside, like to MAPO or to the PAX terminal, I haven't been wearing my parka. It felt like I was wearing a sleeping bag - too warm and confining. Out from under the dome, of course, it's just the thing.

With what remained of the afternoon, I ran a new Ethernet cable to my laptop, and restarted the detector. Everything looked mostly fine, except for a slightly lower than expected hit rate. We decided to let it run for a while and go to dinner.

I sat with You-Ren, Mike, Jeff and Jules for one of the best dinners we've had yet - Lamb Chops! Jules, who is Australian, was surprised at how many Americans don't care for lamb. I was noticing much the same. Those that like it, love it; the rest, well, that just leaves plenty for us. I was hoping to sit with Chris and Karina, the outgoing AST/RO winter-overs, but Jules told me that they'd eaten and left just before I arrived. I think I heard their plane take off before we'd finished dinner.

Right after dinner was our first big Trauma Team meeting, in the Upper Galley, under the dome. The meeting was short, mostly introductions, a debrief about today's fire, and a few minutes training with our portable defibrillation devices. After the meeting, since we were mere feet from the bar, a few of us wandered in and sat down for a beer, including Troy, the Physician's Assistant. As happens often around here, especially amongst the winter-overs, the topic turned to the PQ process. When someone swapped the music for some Country, I decided it was time to leave. On my way out the door, Mike walked in with a message from Pawel, asking me to restart the detector. I went down to the back of Science.

Inspecting what I could, I could see that the histograms looked normal, but the hit rate was still a little bit too low. There wasn't anything I could do from the dome, and, with the recent maintenance, there was not much I could do from MAPO either. I left the detector running, and talked Mike into some nine-ball. He scratched on the nine-ball more than once, but he also won on the nine-ball more than once. While we were playing, Troy came in, looking for a movie. He stumbled across "Dark Star", one of my favorite cheesy 1970s sci-fi movies. It even has a local twist - I tried to show off the opening scene to Mike and Troy, but it was a bad copy from TV and the first few seconds were missing, the part that identifies the first bit as a transmission coming from McMurdo. Mike and I finished up our game about the time Paul and Don from the Met department came in. We let them have the table, and I went back down to Science to check on the detector one last time.

Friday, 14 November 2003
As has happened too many times this season, I was first roused by the fire alarm, this time at ARO. Before I could even start putting on my ECW gear, they broadcast the standdown order over the all call. I finished getting dressed and headed down to the back of Science.

Pawel wanted to see the detector run with artificially lowered thresholds. I made changes to detector.cnf, but for reasons that were not apparent, the detector would not restart. Something happened to the data-collector processor that messed up even the "reboot" command. I knew I had to go out to MAPO to reset the processor.

As I was getting ready to go, Al Baker told me that he had time to check me out on the skidoo. I've been here almost three weeks and we haven't been able to cross paths on this yet; I figured today was as good as any, especially with needing to go out to MAPO anyway. Al and I went to the garage arch, and he started the skidoo. It's right at the low end of the temps that they start at - it took Al ten minutes to start warming it up. We went over the controls, how to prime it, etc., until it was warm enough to drive. Al took it for a quick spin around the cargo line in front of the arch. I gave it two or three laps, then picked Al up and he showed me where to refuel (over by the PAX terminal, from the drums marked "Pre-Mix"). He sent me on my way to MAPO to get some riding time, and I was there in no time. I parked it out front and went in to reset the data collection CPU.

This particular computer is somewhat simple-minded. Its OS is not altogether robust, at least not in the face of a hard reset. I tried again to restart from the command line, but there was some sort of memory corruption that interfered with normal commands. I had to flip the reset switch twice, waiting half an hour each time for it to rebuild itself. One of the things that Robert and Steffen warned us about was how easy it was to corrupt the disk with a hard reset. It happened. It looked like I was going to have to rebuild the disk from a backup (and there were backups!) This was going to take a while, so I decided to take a dinner break first.

Out front, I had planned on riding the skidoo back and returning it to Al. Unfortunately for me, it had stalled out front, and was too cold for me to restart. Mike and I worked on it for a couple of minutes, then decided to hurry back on foot, hopefully before the plane that was in the fuel pits began to taxi and they switched on the crossing beacon. We were 30 feet from the beacon when I saw them shut the door to the plane. Ten seconds later, the beacon came on, right in front of us. We had to wait for the plane to taxi and take off. The cool part was that it lifted off the snow almost right in front of the crossing point. The folks in Comms flipped off the beacon, and we walked the rest of the way to dinner.

We didn't dawdle over dinner. Mike and I walked back as soon as we finished our steak and mashed potatoes. I had a disk to rebuild, and he had some general purpose random desktops to update. I restored the backup from a file Steffen left me, but on a fresh disk (in case there were any files I might need from the corrupt disk). It booted on the data collection computer, but the backup was almost a year old. Darryn had come over by this point, and between Darryn, Mike and me, we tweaked the startup scripts and network settings on this restored disk image, until it was able to come up cleanly and begin to restart the detector. It still hung at the same place it had earler, so we put the corrupt disk back on, restored some individual files over the corrupt ones and tried again to restart the detector. It hung at the very same place in the intialization phase. It being past 23:30 at that point, we decided to tackle the problem in the morning with Pawel's help to identify any problematic hardware in the DMADDs.

Outside, Darryn took a stab at restarting the skidoo. No go. At this point, the last plane of the night was taking off. I had left my camera under the dome, but Darryn and Mike had theirs on them, and took pictures of the plane taking-off. Darryn then went back to working on the skidoo. He got it started, and I ferried them, one at a time, over to the Pole so that they could get their "Hero Shots". I'll be here for a lot longer than either of them, so I'll have plenty of time for my own Hero Shots. Mike is only here for two more weeks. The weather has been so clear lately, that it's entirely possible that we could have something nasty move in and blot out the skies for the entire remainder of Mike's stay. Taking a few minutes for pictures in front of the Pole was certainly worth it for him, especially since anything can happen here, and he might not get another chance with such favorable weather.

I parked the skidoo in the garage arch, and went over to Science to return the key to Al. On my way in, I ran into Mike and Darryn on their way out. We all stopped up at the bar for a beer to cap the day. I queued up some 1980s music and we talked about the day and what we were going to do tomorrow to get the detector back on its feet. Byron dropped by for a smoke. He was full of stories about Herman-Nelson heaters, the D-7 tractor, and, because we had our first DV visit today, stories about previous visits by other DVs.

I was going to go back to Science, but as Mike and I stepped out on the porch of the galley, we heard some kind of noise from the pool room. I decided to see who was hanging around; Mike followed. Don and Dar were just finishing up a game I jumped in. I missed some really easy shots, but made a few moderately difficult ones. I had more than one chance to win. I blew it I was done for the night. Mike played another game with Don as I left for Science. I tried to get my laptop working on the LAN - no joy. It had worked earlier, but something wasn't working now. Mike came by; he tried to help. We found all sorts of wierdness with the loose LAN cables in the back of Science, but nothing clearly obvious.

I was on one for the desktop computers, trying to scope out the problem, when the fire alarm sounded in the new galley. I made it to Bio-Med before the Doc could even turn the lights on. Angie was there a few moments later, Sarah followed shortly thereafter. The last one of us in was Eyvind, a few moments later. It was the detector in the fan room again. The people on the scene couldn't find any smoke. It was almost certainly some kind of smoke or fumes coming down from the galley. After a few minutes, we heard the standdown, and dispersed to our various destinations. I went back to Science, got tired of chasing LAN problems, and cheated by plugging my laptop into the back of the IP phone (there's an open 10Mbps tap on the back of each one). I got my machine online, threw the latest files up to the web page, and called it a (late) night.

Saturday, 15 November 2003
After my really long day yesterday, I slept in. The phone woke me up, so after answering a question about the detector, I left it off the hook and tried to get some more sleep. I made a brief stop at the back of Science before heading up the beercan for lunch.

At one end of the galley, the new arrivals gathered to watch the new orientation video that had been filmed during our first week here. There were plenty of familiar faces to go with the information, Kris drinking water (a good thing), Paul drinking coffee (not so good when you first arrive), scenes from our emergency drill, Drew being treated in Bio-Med, Sean reading the South Pole Visitor's Guide, and even me, checking the local web page and the satellite rise and set times. The video was a bit longer than I expected, but it was good, and filled with good advice (keep hydrated, stay safe, respect the quiet hours in berthing spaces, don't waste food and materials, clean up after yourself, pitch in to unload freshies, etc.)

Back down in Science, I restarted the detector with the lowered thresholds, and watched it carefully. As I monitored the run, the Raytheon IT folks filed out for their weekly safety meeting (to watch a movie about slips and falls). With the test run still going, I popped up to the galley for dinner, then came back down to Science to stop the test run and start a normal run. Things looked good, so I called it a day and headed up to the bar to see who was around.

Bob was up there, talking to Nick and Brandon and Andrea. Over at the poker table, Kyros was pouring martinis. I shared some Bushmills around. After Sean and Brandon had each put some music on, I took a turn up at the bar. I threw in some Boston, some Jethro Tull and a few other classics (and one ringer: "The Devil Went Down To Jamaica"). My tunes were still playing when Tammy came in, fresh off her split-shift, and dragged a bunch of us out to the party at the non-smoking lounge at Summer Camp.

It wasn't the swinging time it was last week. There wasn't a consistent effort on the music, plus some of the guys sitting in the lounge chairs lining the dance area kept shifting the spotlight off the disco ball. Also, folks were playing foosball in the middle of the jamesway, and they had the one end all lit up. We managed to get the music upgraded and chase out the guys who were fiddling with the ball, but the brightest light remained the one over the door. It was still a good time. I especially love the "non-smoking" part. After a while, Sean lead the usual expedition to midrats/breakfast. I stayed behind for a little while longer, but the crowd started to trickle home, and I did the same.

Sunday, 16 November 2003
The all call announcing the impending end of Sunday Brunch roused me out of a deep sleep. I threw on jeans, thermals, my fleece jacket, and sneakers and ran up the beercan with ten minutes to spare. Brunch was the familiar omelette, pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs, with a treat of spanikopita and freshly-sliced interesting cheeses from N.Z. (Whiskey Cheddar, Goats-milk Gouda and Brie). I sat with Sean and Kevin for a while as they talked about electrical issues with the smoke detectors and alarm panels. I was snagged by a question over at the table with Dehlia, Aaron and Jason, and joined them for a while. The long conversation there was about field-dressing and butchering game. I left for the back of Science while GOES 3 was still up.

I wasn't the only one - the place was packed. All the public-access AMANDA computers were in use. Fortunately, I have my own desk now, and I sat down to check the detector and catch up on e-mail while we were still connected to the outside world. Pawel called and asked me to start a new run (he was out at MAPO, working on the DMADDs). Whatever he did, it brought the data rate back to around 90 events per second (something to do with the "string trigger" being blocked). I bounced the detector one more time to give him a few minutes to make his fix permanent. After I restarted, everything looked great.

With the satellite down, and no connectivity for several more hours, I dropped by Skylab to practice some music. The place was unfortunately not empty. There were a few musicians puttering around quietly, and someone was there, reading a book. I sat down at the keyboard and played for a while with headphones on. The other musicians started up when Sean, the book-reader, left. They strummed away on a variety of stringed instruments, much better than I could ever hope to, even if I did try to play along with them now and again (still with headphones on, so as not to throw them off). I must have been mostly quiet - someone made a comment as I was playing that it was like watching someone dance without hearing the music. I tried to remember some fragments of Chopin, and various bits of Scott Joplin rags that I've played for years. Just before dinner, at the encouragement of the other musicians, I belted out the first strain of Maple Leaf Rag with the sound up, so they could hear what I'd been doing the whole time.

Dinner wasn't bad - New York Strip with roasted potatoes and fresh asparagus (part of the freshie shipment I helped unload the other day). I sat down and ate, and lingered over dessert long enough that we had a few people rotate out. I was still lounging about when the Sunday Science Lecture started, on star and planet formation. One of the coolest slides was one of a star and what could be a jovian planet, taken in visible light by the Hubble Space Telescope. Time will tell if the detached blob of light in the picture is really orbiting the star or not.

Several people told me I had received a package in the recent mail shipment. I was hoping it was my 50mm lens for the Pentax P3 that I borrowed from my buddy Bill Kirke back home. There were no packages in the old galley, and none for me up outside the post office. I went down to the back of Science and it was sitting in our area next to the laser printer, a smallish box from Activision - my complimentary copy of " Empire: Dawn of the Modern World. If only I had a computer here that was new enough to play it.

I checked on the detector (running fine!) and stopped on up at the bar to see who was hanging out. Folks were watching "Red Dragon", but since I missed the first hour, I decided not to spoil the ending for myself, and went back down to Science to try and catch LES 9. I got on AIM and checked in with friends back home, but they'd just left the party at Erin's apartment a few minutes before I could get online. I chatted for a while, then, as the satellite window closed and the comms grew increasingly unreliable, I went upstairs to bed.

Monday, 17 November 2003
It was a quiet morning in the back of Science; the place was nearly empty. Bob left for MAPO, leaving me on my own. I kept a close eye on the detector, then went to lunch, which was ordinary, but edible; I sat with a bunch of my fellow winter-overs.

Back down in Science, we heard another fire alarm, this one in the back of Comms. As I headed for Bio-Med, I thought it was odd that the person calling out the location of the fire was working a few feet away from where the fire was reported, but I mustered at Bio-Med anyway. Several members of the Trauma Team reported in, but the call to stand down had already gone out before we got inside. Another false alarm, this one because someone was soldering in the back of Comms and the fumes set off the detector.

Back at Science, I watched the daily run turn over smoothly, while Jeff was working out at SPASE. The end of the day rolled around pretty quickly, and it was my day to tend the greenhouse. I arrived before the lights came on. It was easier to work in there, not as hot. I filled the systems, checked temps and pH, and took some pictures before going back down to Science for a little while to watch the detector and wait for dinner to start.

After dinner, I tried to get back down to the dome library for the viewing of "Chicago" but I was a few minutes late. I stuck my head in the door and caught a couple of the musical numbers, then played a couple of rounds of pool with Jason before retiring to my room to read.

Tuesday, 18 November 2003
The morning was the usual back of Science, nothing out of the ordinary. I went to lunch with Mike and sat with a table full of AMANDA and AST/RO folks. In the afternoon, back down in Science, we relocated a server on the network, which was supposed to be easy, but as these sorts of things typically go, we had a few small fires to put out. As a result of fiddling with DNS and DHCP servers, I was late to dinner, and barely made it on time to my Trauma Team meeting in the Upper Galley.

It was a good first meeting of our sub-group. We went over the agenda for the summer, and examined the contents of a "jump bag" in detail (bandages, gloves, oxygen, rescue breathing bag, etc.) We finished by scheduling a station walk-around to learn where our medical resources were stored.

After the meeting, down in the back of Science, Mike and I discovered and corrected the last of the fiddly details we disturbed earlier, and departed work, at last, for the evening. I stopped by the pool room and the library. Strangely enough, they were deserted. I found a copy of "Grease" on the shelf to watch later. Right before turning in, I tried to get on LES 9 to chat, but it was flapping so bad, I couldn't get a connection. It's been like that a lot lately.

Wednesday, 19 November 2003
Right after I came down to the back of Science, we had a meeting about high-voltage and the calibration team who is coming down in a few days. We decided that we couldn't plan until we knew that all of the expected hardware had arrived. Right after the meeting, GOES 3 dropped off the face of the Earth (several hours early), so I went to lunch in the hopes that I would be able to catch the tail end of the window.

It was burger day. I had a burger with fresh onions, dijon mustard, topped with N.Z. Whiskey Cheddar. By the time I got back to my desk, GOES 3 was back in action (I heard them page the satellite engineer). While catching up with the latest to come down the pipe, we had to spin some directories off to tape to make room for the latest run. While we were cutting the tape, Bob told us that all of the high voltage boards had arrived at Pole.

Before heading up the beercan for dinner, I stopped by the store for some Bombay Sapphire and Tonic to share around this weekend. I also picked up "The Sting" in an attempt to stimulate my interest in practicing some piano in my free time. Because of my errand on the way to the Galley, I arrived at about 18:35, right after the swing-shift folks arrived. The place was packed. Dinner was some sort of breaded chicken breast, with peas and cheese grits on the side. While standing in line, a woman I recognized from my last season walked up and asked if I remembered her. I couldn't dredge up the name (Kathleen), but I did remember that she was a grantee studying thyroid hormone "T3" and cold adaptation. She and her fellow researcher, Marc, are here to sign up winter-overs for a year-long study involving light therapy and supplemental thyroxin. They need at least 20 winter-overs to fill the ranks of their project.

After dinner, down in the back of Science, I tried to catch the rise of LES 9, but I was falling asleep waiting for the packets to start flowing. I headed upstairs and crashed early.

Thursday, 20 November 2003
After crashing very early last night (virtually right after dinner), I got up in the middle of the "night" and went downstairs to the back of Science to catch the waning minutes of LES 9. MARISAT 2 was supposed to rise half-an-hour later, but it was an hour after rise time that packets started to flow. I caught up on some correspondence and site maintenance, until Bob came down around 04:00 to make a call to some school kids in Madison. I stood by as a technical resource during his call, helped him with some attachment/printing issues, then went up the beercan to the galley for breakfast, then back down to my room to catch some sleep.

The morning in the back of Science was unremarkable. The only thing we had to wrestle with were some SSH keys on a server that was locked down from general use. Lunch was some kind of seafood in light sauce over noodles. The table was mostly filled with AMANDA and AST/RO folks. Back down in Science, to quiet down some of the traffic in the log files for my workstation, we rebooted it for the first time since mid-August. It was much happier afterwards. I left work a little early to get dressed for our Trauma Team's walkabout.

We met in the Old Galley, to locate and inspect the trauma gear we might be need to find in case of a real emergency. We started in the arches that are on either side of the dome entrance, going in the Old Generator Building, out the Paint Shop, through the UT Shop to the New Garage; then, the other way, past Bio-Med, down the fuel arch (with its 45 10,000 gallon tanks of JP-8), and up the spiral staircase to the surface, half-way to ARO. We walked the rest of the way to ARO above ground, and spent some time there, going over the jump bag and the "Dr. Down" thermal wrap (essential for transporting a patient outside for any real distance). From ARO, we headed out to MAPO, and the Dark Sector.

We came down the graded snow road, almost back to the new station, then took a sharp right just past the ceremonial South Pole, and went out the Dark Sector road. We crossed the skiway (no planes due for another hour), then I took over leading the tour. We passed by AST/RO, and I pointed out the names of all the buildings. One of the things that's not clear people who don't work in this part of the station is that there are lots of names used to refer to, essentially, the same general area. The Dark Sector is the wedge of territory that encompasses several buildings (MAPO, AST/RO, the SPASE Shack, AASTO and the Dark Sector Laboratory), in which are several experiments (AMANDA, DASI, VIPER, VULCAN, SPASE, Ice Cube, Ice Top, and more). These terms are used somewhat interchangably, as in, "I'm going out to AMANDA", meaning, "I'm going to the second floor of MAPO in the Dark Sector". I had several questions from the other members of the trauma team about what was what and what was where. Eventually, though, we did get to MAPO and I gave people an upstairs/downstairs tour of where the gear was, and what some of the more significant risk-of-injury areas were in the building.

We left MAPO, crossed back across the skiway, up the beercan, and into the uncompleted parts of the new station. I had never been in these areas before. They seemed larger than the sections we were already occupying, but I'm sure that's because they were mostly empty. Some parts weren't even heated; they are being used as cold materials storage during construction. Our last stop was the new Bio-Med which is scheduled to go online in January. We finished up quickly so we could catch the last few minutes of dinner (ribs in Hosin sauce). I saw with Andrea and Eyvind as we filled out a survey on the quality of the food and service in the Galley. I moved over to sit with AST/RO folks for dessert, then went back down to the dome and to the back of Science.

After checking on things at my desk, I popped by the bar briefly on my way to scare up a game of pool. There were two guys I didn't know well already on the table, so I went next door to the movie room and watched a bit of "Jurassic Park" before going back to my room to read a bit more of the "Dune" saga.

Friday, 21 November 2003
We had new team members coming in on the morning's PAX flight, Per Olof and Christian, here from Sweden to do noise studies on the detector. Jeff went off to meet them as the plane arrived, I stopped off on the way to lunch to volunteer for the Polar T3 study. The first phase was pretty easy: fill out some paperwork, answer a couple of questionaires, and get my baseline vitals recorded. The next phase (which I'll do on Sunday) is a battery of memory, mood and reaction time tests on the computer. The final phase is blood work (scheduled for Monday, before the eclipse).

Up in the galley, lunch was Asian chicken over rice. I sat with Kathleen, one of the T3 researchers, Nava, Brandon and Jules. We had a big afternoon planned over in the Dark Sector - the Ice Top tank fill. I went down to Science, met our newest arrivals, then suited up in my ECW gear and headed for SPASE.

The beacon was already on before I approached the skiway crossing. Tyler pulled up on a cat, towing a large sled of water for the tanks. As soon as the plane landed and turned off the skiway, Tyler started creeping forward so that he was in forward motion by the time the beacon went off. He passed me on the skiway, but I was able to walk directly to Ice Top (he had to go around on the road to avoid the markers for the tops of the AMANDA strings).

Over at the tanks, Tyler pulled the sled of water as close as he could, but the longest water hose was too short. We tried to reposition the sled, but in the end, we needed another hose. By the time someone had returned from the main part of the station with it, the valve on the sled had frozen. We thawed that out, but in the process got some water in the hose which froze and blocked it - we would have to bring the hose inside, thaw it out, dry it out and try again another day. It's hard to work with water when it's -43°F (-42.8°C) outside. When we gave up for the day, I took the opportunity to unstick a computer over at SPASE before returning to the dome.

Folks in the back of Science had a variety of things going on, but dinner came quickly. I went up with Mike and we sat with Eyvind and his boss Bill. I chose my table wisely. I almost had a front row seat for the science lecture that followed dinner. Kathleen and Marc presented their T3 Polar Studies talk. Kathleen had more content about the study, but Marc, being head of the NASA medical department, had a number of great space photos he uses to illustrate how extreme environments on Earth can be useful for testing hardware before it's used in space for the first time. Unfortunately for Marc, right as he was winding up his part of the lecture, there was an all call for people to cart freshies from the bottom of the wooden staircase to the hallway outside galley.

The galley emptied to help get the freshies in - cucumbers, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, parsnips, whipping cream and more. Someone nearly lost a large box of squash when the top and bottom of the box separated, but we managed to get everything up without losing a single thing. The lecture was over by this point, so I went back down to Science to fill in some missing columns on a spreadsheet filled with our high voltage values.

We'd heard rumblings of slushies out at ARO even though there were other things going on tonight. After we got a little work done, we called out to ARO, and Glen confirmed that there was a small gathering despite the widespread rumors that nothing was happening. Bob, Mike and I threw on our parkas and goggles and walked out to the Clean Air Sector. It was indeed a small gathering; we were the second group there. Due to several thousand pounds of cargo distributed amongst the upstairs work spaces, things were going on in a medium-sized room on the first floor. A little while after our group arrived, we were joined by some of the AST/RO folks. We all sat around talking until the wee hours of the morning. One of the nice things about the walk home is that the wind and the sun are at your back. I checked on the detector one more time at the back of Science, and tried to get sleep before breakfast.

Saturday, 22 November 2003
After a morning high voltage meeting with Darryn and Bob, we subjected ourselves to the Turkey Tetrazzini in the galley. At least there were plenty of freshies and a nice large salad to go with it. Immediately after lunch, Mike and I jumped on updating the hardware database and tweaking on the query page, while the rest of the team met to hash out other issues with the new high voltage controllers. We all took a break for dinner (pizza night!), but Mike and I came back down to the back of Science to finish things up tonight versus getting them done by the end of brunch tomorrow so the rest of the team could start swapping cables.

I did manage to get the new cgi scripts written before I left work, but that was at 21:30, another long day. The bar was mostly empty, and, since they fixed the vent fan, mostly smoke-free. Most of the people there were fellow winter-overs, and most of the rest, we wish would winter over with us. We tried to play a little blackjack at the corner table, but every other song on the CD player was a good dance tune, and the entire table (including the dealer) kept jumping up to dance. As at the parties at Summer Camp, it seems that the Bee Gees get the ladies out on the dance floor every time. We played cards, spun music and danced until the crowd drained away, leaving us a few hours to catch some winks before brunch.

Sunday, 23 November 2003
As has happened too many times this season, I was roused from bed by the fire alarm. It was another disregard. I took my verticality as an opportunity to go to brunch. I sat one table over from Sean and Dehlia assembling a jigsaw puzzle. After brunch, I went back down to Science and caught the trailing edge of the GOES 3 window. I had a few moments to chat with Tom, back home, before the window slammed shut.

I was scheduled for my T3 study computer tests today. They weren't hard, but the point isn't to be hard, it's to establish a baseline so that when I take these tests later in the season, there's something to compare them to. With the rest of the afternoon open, I went up to Skylab to practice some piano. I played some ragtime, some Chopin and some Gershwin until it was time for dinner. The pork loin was nice and moist, but the best part was the sliced shallots in the gravy.

After dinner, Marc (one of the T3 researchers) led swing dance lessons in the Bouldering Gym. There were six men and four women. We swapped in and out between rounds. Marc taught us basic six-beat moves, spins, duck-unders, and more. We were at it for an hour and a half, then Angela and I practiced some more after the class broke up.

After dance lessons, back in Science, I caught LES 9 rising and tried to get online. While fighting with a slow connection, Bob suited up and walked out to MAPO to deal with our ongoing high voltage upgrades. I stayed in the back of Science until my patience with the slow satellite ran out, then I went to bed.

Monday, 24 November 2003
I tried to get up early to get a set of eclipse glasses from Al, but by 09:45, they were already gone. I went to my appointment at Bio-Med for the blood draw for the T3 study, then up to the galley to see if Mary had any glasses left up there. All gone. I'd starved myself for the blood draw, so I had a late breakfast, only toast and juice, really, then went back down to Science.

Dana came by with an interesting offer. "Sky & Telescope" (the ones that sent us the viewing glasses), also sent a sheet of mylar filter material. We went up to BKs office to get it, and we made a pair of camera filters at my desk. Dana put his piece between two layers of cardboard; I nestled mine in-between my 62mm neutral density filter and my polarizer. About this time, people started getting ready to head out to find a good spot to watch things from. I finished putting on my ECW gear and did the same.

I walked out of the dome and up the ramp with Angela, but she was on her way to ARO. From the top of the ramp I could see where Mike and Darryn were standing, and I joined them. Darryn had his tripod set up (mine is still on the way from the States), and was trying to position the sun over the dome for some multiple exposure work. Freehand, I just plopped down in the snow and took a few shots of the unoccluded sun with my digital camera to get a feel for what would need to be done. The weather was perfect - cloudless, nearly calm, and a bit warmer than it's been of late - -36°F (-37.8°C). The sun looked great through both the camera filter and a pair of viewing glasses. There was a huge sunspot near the center of the disc that you couldn't help notice even without magnification.

It was still a while to the start of the eclipse, so Darryn, Mike and I went back into the Dome and warmed up in the Met department. I threw a new roll of film in the camera (100 ASA slide film) and we went back outside. The eclipse had started a few minutes earlier. There was already a noticable chunk missing from the left side of the sun. I tried to take some pictures with the dome underneath, but it was too hard sitting on the snow without a tripod. I moved over to some tri-walls by the top of the ramp to the dome.

As we snapped pictures every few minutes, two planes came and left, leaving contrails that nearly covered the sun. Fortunately, they were just below where the sun was in the sky, with the wind blowing them away from our view. The National Geographic camera crew was on the second plane. The first thing they did when they arrived was to set up a group shot at the ceremonial South Pole as part of their coverage of live in and around the new station. There were probably 40 to 50 of us there. We milled around, staring up at the sky, taking pictures of the sun, direct and reflected in the ball on top of the pole, until a few minutes after the maximum extent of the eclipse. After than, people started to disperse. My cameras were frozen, so I went in, too. Jeff and I went straight from the Pole to lunch.

Down in the back of Science, I tried to catch the waning minutes of GOES 3 while I dumped the memory card from my camera. I captured several good images of the eclipse. Taking the best images, I threw them down into a composite with The Gimp.

I finished my editing in time to slip out to do my weekly greenhouse stint a little early, and still get back in time for our 17:00 meeting to go over the current state of the detector's high voltage crates. We worked out a plan to move some channels over to one of the old controllers while we waited for repaired parts to come back down from the States. Plan in hand, we all went to dinner - a real treat tonight: crab legs. Unfortunately, as I worked hard for my tasty dinner, I noticed that it was past 19:00, and that I was missing the second night of swing dance class. After dinner, I decided to stop by the bar and see who was around.

The bar was empty when I arrived; moments later, Paddy came in. Between the two of us, we got the counter wiped down, the dishes done and the trash taken out. Michael, the producer from the National Geographic film crew, came by to see what the place was like. The place filled in with a couple of the regulars, and a few of us who had just come up from the back of Science. I sat in the DJ seat, manning the CD player, mostly '80s stuff. There was an anxious moment when the smokers ran out of cigarettes (they found a pouch of Drum rolling tobacco, and worked on that till the place reeked; from their reactions, I don't think they found it pleasant, either). After a while, I went back down to the back of Science, checked my e-mail, and read the message that the current phase of the high voltage upgrade was complete and that the detector was put back together.

Tuesday, 25 November 2003
I spent the entire day in the back of Science, migrating stuff around as Mike upgraded the operating systems on our servers here. Paul Sullivan paged me late in the afternoon to check on my Ice Time and my degree. He has to select a Station Science Leader from the grantees who will be wintering over. They choose based on a combination of nationality, degree, and number of months on The Ice ("Ice Time"). The primary duty of the SSL is to be the representative of the National Science Foundation over the winter. I'm sure the biggest component is conference calls and periodic reports, but we'll just have to see how it all unfolds.

After dinner (good lasagna, mushy zucchini), I went down to the Upper Galley for our weekly Trauma Team meeting. We went over the A, B, Cs (airway, breathing and circulation), and practiced ventilation and CPR on our Resusci Annie. When we had all had a turn, and our meeting was over, I went next door to the library and watched a few games of pool and waited for the movie room to turn over. The new flick was "Miller's Crossing", which I decided not to stay for. There were a few minutes left in the satellite window, so I went down to the back of Science and jumped on the 'net until Mike started a server upgrade that made my home directory go away. In the abscense of fresh bits from the outside world, I went up to my room to read before falling asleep.

Wednesday, 26 November 2003
I woke up extra early to get ready for our scheduled power outage. I started off in the back of Science, gathering my things. I tried to help Bob move a Power Point presentation North, but I ran short on time and had to dash up the beercan for a quick breakfast. I called Comms for the shuttle, and booked on over to MAPO to begin powering off the detector.

There's a lot to do to shut down the detector - thirteen racks of computers and analog hardware. What complicates things is that there is a particular order to powering crates off to prevent damage. In particular, the high voltage needs to be ramped down before the amplifiers are switched off. I dashed from rack to rack, shutting down CPUs and flipping off breakers. I also had all of the general purpose computers in the outer room. The power went off right at 09:00, just as scheduled. I was just shutting down the last of the the machines when the room went quiet and the emergency lights kicked on.

I spent the next 70 minutes disconnecting plugs to protect the hardware from any surges that might occur when the power came back on. I was taking a few photographs of the quiescent detector when You Ren came over to reload the high voltage values. He had a while to wait, first for the power to come back, then for me to get enough of the detector powered up to be able to load the high voltage crates, and finally, for the station network to be brought back up so that we could have DNS services, etc., to let the programs run.

Once everythng was powered on and we were taking muon data, I called Comms for a ride back to the station. No luck. I think it was right in the middle of the shuttle driver's lunch (mine, too!) Fortunately, I'd brought my wind pants and some other ECW gear that I hadn't needed on the ride out. I walked straight over to the new station, up the wooden staircase, and right to the galley to lunch (sloppy joes and fries).

I spent part of the afternoon in the back of Science going over the details of the new Java high voltage program with You Ren; the rest of the day, there was a meeting for just the winter-overs to go over a few recent developments that affected us. Things went on long enough that many of us went straight to dinner. I sat with a bunch of fellow winter-overs, talking about stuff from the meeting. I finished with dessert with Pat Smith and IT management. It was fun, not work. The most serious we got was trading lines from Firesign Theater.

After dinner, it was time to make pies for Thanksgiving. We cleared and cleaned three rows of tables, and rolled two large bags of pie dough into 19 apple pie shells and over a dozen pumpkin pie shells. Once we had the apple pie tops rolled, we started getting creative with cutouts. Some people did letters; I made an image of the dome out of dough. Tomorrow night is vegetable slicing and peeling. I signed up for both.

Thursday, 27 November 2003
Today was a big departure day. I went from the back of Science out to the PAX terminal to say goodbye to folks. I was running a bit late; I didn't have time to throw on all the ECW Gear I usually wear. I had the parka and the balaclava, but I skipped on the wind pants and FDX boots. I went out in jeans and sneakers.

On the way, I bumped into Kathleen, one of the T3 researchers. I walked out the garage arch with her, and went straight to the PAX Terminal where I could stay out of the wind. When I arrived, Bob Morse was the only one there. As we waited for the shuttle van to bring the bulk of the PAX, I popped outside a few moments at a time to photograph the plane, and to watch the National Geographic crew film the unloading of the plane. There was something unusual to see - they were offloading a 21,000 lb steel girder for the new station. When the shuttle van arrived and disgorged a full load of PAX, I said my goodbyes to Abbie, Andy, Nancy and a few others. I couldn't stay - my toes were starting to get numb.

I walked to the back side of the new station, up the wooden staircase, and on up the inside stairs to the galley. My feet started to itch from thawing out while I was in line for food, Chicken Pot Pie and Mashed Potatoes. I sat with the usual AST/RO crowd, Nick, Jules and Greg, plus Mike was there, too.

I spent the afternoon in the back of Science, hammering on a variety of OS upgrade-related issues. The National Geographic film crew came through Science, filming people at work. Except for a brief moment under the bright lights, it was an uneventful day. I sat with Eyvind, his boss Bill, and Pat Smith at dinner. Lamb chops! Pat left the galley to head back to McMurdo on the evening flight. We watched his plane take off as we peeled potatoes and sliced parsnips, cucumbers and more. Erika came out of the kitchen around 20:30 to help me bake no-crust cheesecake. For the rest of the evening, I bopped in and out of the kitchen, swapping between chopping and baking. Some folks were around helping out until well past 22:00. I did my bit, saw the cheesecakes to the cooling rack, then hit the back of Science on the way to bed.

Friday, 28 November 2003
Cookie Jon was smoking turkeys under the dome today. The smell was amazing. It was like walking through the woods after a snowfall past a cabin with a wood burning stove. Smells are so rare down here, especially nice ones.

I worked in the back of Science for most of the morning, then trotted up the beercan for some fish & chips. In the middle of my late lunch, the fire alarm went off, and it wasn't followed by "disregard, disregard, disregard." Most of the rest of the trauma team was under the dome or already out at Summer Camp, the location of the alarm. I was just about last in to Bio-Med. When I arrived, I took over comms, keeping up with what was on the radio, and taking notes for the doctor to refer to later. About twenty minutes into it, I realized that it was a drill. I knew we were scheduled for one, but they did not announce this one in advance.

The drill scenario was that there was a helium leak in the cryo barn, with two people overcome by anoxia, one of them while standing on a ladder. The trauma team went in (after the Onsite Incident Commander had the presence of mind to ventilate the building) and got both patients assessed, packaged and tranported to Bio-Med in 22 minutes. We had a debrief in the carp shop afterwards.

After the drill, I went back up to the galley to finish my lunch. It was there, waiting for me; nobody had taken away my half-finished lunch. I ate, cleaned up my plate (and a few others who had also left for the drill), and went back down to the back of Science. Darryn was going over the polechomper script, looking for bugs. I took over for him, squashed what he was looking for, and fixed another one while I was in there. By the time I had things debugged and tested, the wine and cheese party had started over in Met.

The Met department is on the other end of the Science building. They had thrown table cloths over the counters, put some soft Jazz on the CD player, and set out a spread of wine from the store and cheese from the galley. Initially, it was mostly folks who work in the Science building and in Comms. As the evening wore on, new folks came by from just about every department on station. I hung around until the dinner hour was almost over, then ran up the beercan to grab a bite to eat before the galley closed. They were serving something with beef in it, and some excellent vegetable curry. When I went back down to Met, things were still hopping. I didn't stay long. I wanted to get cleaned up before the rest of the evening commenced.

Showering at Pole is not like showering at McMurdo. Here, they really mean two minutes and they really mean no more than twice a week. We get all of our water by melting the ice with waste heat from the generators (McMurdo gets theirs by desalinating water from the Sound). Every shower here is a joy. I've heard that Polies on R&R in McMurdo enjoy the chance to take "Hollywood Showers" for the week. I certainly expect to.

After my semi-weekly two minute immersion, I stopped by the bar briefly, but the atmosphere wasn't as appealing as it was last week. Different crowd, different vibe. I walked out to Summer Camp for the usual dance party and spent the evening there. Some folks went to midrats. I went to bed.

Saturday, 29 November 2003  -  Virtual Thanksgiving
Today was our Thanksgiving dinner (not Thursday, like in the States), and were were on a holiday schedule in the galley. I ran off to bruch, but couldn't dawdle. The Europeans had scheduled a meeting on an American holiday. We met in the Upper Galley (under the dome) and discussed how the next couple of weeks were going to unfold. I tried to catch up with correspondence on my day off, but there was too much work going on in the back of Science with so many people not taking the day off that I couldn't even squeeze out an e-mail between work-related requests. I headed up to the new station for a bit of an open-house: several people on the same corridor had opened their rooms, set out refreshments and put on music; kind of a gallery hop without the art. A number of us sat in Toby's room, where he had put up a slide show on his laptop, cycling through pictures of a cruise he did recently where the boat sailed around the Pacific as a floating university. Most of the people there were part of the second seating for Thanksgiving, so when it was our turn, we went upstairs for hors d'oerves in the hallway outside the galley.

I snuck in before 17:00 to get pictures of the food - cheese and crackers, tapanade, smoked salmon (with cream cheese, onions and capers), and a very nice wheel of baked brie that I'd watched being wrapped in pastry just last night at our vegetable cutting party. Darryn broke out a bottle of champaigne for the members of the project (and a few close friends), as six dozen Polies milled around in the hall, chatting and munching until the galley staff threw the doors open and let us take our seats for dinner.

They had rearranged everything in the galley. Instead of ten rows of four tables, we had four sets of ten tables aligned the other way. I sat near the middle of the room, with Nick, Mike, Kris and other people I'd been hanging out with lately (you can tell who some of your good friends are by who you end up sitting with at holiday meals). Before we jumped up for food, Pete, the winter-over site manager, started us off with a toast, then Jerry Marty reminded us that it was a historic event - the first Thanksgiving in the new station. With the preliminaries out of the way, we got in line for the food: smoked turkey, deep-fried turkey, and plain-old roasted turkey with all the trimmings.

I had problems finishing my meal during our seating because I kept jumping up to take pictures. We all were rushed out by the clearing crew to make room for the third seating (the night-shift and swing-shift folks). I finished my cheesecake, and met in the back of the seating area with Tyler, our sommalier, and the rest of the wine stewards. Tyler briefed Eyvind and myself on a few of the finer points, then the doors opened and the last round of diners filled the hall.

In addition to wine, we served cold water and soft drinks through the meal, and coffee and pie afterwards. Eyvind, Tammy and I milled around the floor throughout the meal, as National Geographic filmed the festivities. After all the dishes were cleared, and we'd made several rounds with the desserts, Tyler cut us loose, and let the third seating folks continue congregating (that's the advantage of third seating - nobody rushes you out when you are done). I went back down to to the open house on the first floor of the new station, and hung around with Topy, Amanda, Dan (one of the Light Ground Traverse (LGT) crew), and Bride for a while, then went back upstairs to the galley to see where things were.

Things were much as I had left them - there were numerous tables packed with people. I sat at the less boisterous end of the room, and got to play wine steward one last time when Darryn dropped of a bottle of Chianti with us. This late in the evening, I was drinking more water than wine, anyway. Eventually, the crowd worked their way through the last of the wine from dinner, and started to disperse. I went home by way of the bar to see who was up. Compared to the galley earler in the evening, it was dead. It had been a long holiday, and it was time to say goodnight.

Sunday, 30 November 2003
I tried to sleep in, but there were numerous all calls for absent members of the Pool Tournament. I stumbled to my feet, threw on some regular clothes (you don't need full ECW gear to walk up to the galley), and made it to brunch barely in time. I sat with the ARO grantees and some of the cargo folks. I indulged in a rare cup of coffee lightened with real milk (out of a box). After a leisurly brunch, I puttered around in the back of Science for a while, then went up to Skylab to practice piano for an hour.

I left Skylab when I noticed that it was time for dinner. Dehlia had been cooking since last night, and I didn't want to miss it (she used to be the cook at Palmer). She made pasta with a white sauce, vegitarian shepard's pie (with real mashed potato topping), and a stunning chocolate torte for dessert. After dinner, there was still a lot left to do on the server upgrades in the back of Science, so Mike and I blew off the Sunday Science Lecture, and headed down to the dome. I was so busy fixing Polechomper bugs, and Mike was so busy with installs that we didn't even notice that MARISAT had risen. We just kept working through the night.

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