BLAST on Ice!

(Not So)
Current Conditions [I]

2007-01-02 21:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:0°C
Wind:ENE @ 17 km/h
W'chill:−4°C
(1080 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear

Past Weather

Well, here we go again. After flying the telescope around the North Pole, it seemed like the next best thing to do would be to fly it around the South Pole, so we're heading that way to get it done. This flight probably won't land as close to Toronto as the last one, but we'll see...

For those of you who'd like a bit more background, I'm a graduate student working on the BLAST experiment, a telescope which flies on a stratospheric balloon at altitudes of about 37 km (120,000 feet). We're here in Antarctica because it provides certain advantages for us, namely:

So sit back and watch us prepare, if you'd like. We'll be launching the telescope sometime between 15 December and 15 January (depending on weather) so if you keep an eye on this page, you should be able to catch the launch.

Note: clicking on the images in the posts below will take you to the picture gallery for that entry. Clicking on an image in the gallery will take you to a full size version of that image. You're welcome to email me, if you have questions (my email address is at the bottom of the page), but I can't guarantee that I'll have time to answer everything, so apologies in advance. Veteran watchers of this journal will notice that I've switched the order of the posts, so the oldest one comes first. If you want the old way, you can change it with the "newest first" link below. If you live in a backwards part of the world which doesn't use the metric system, the weather conditions can be displayed in Imperial Units, by clicking on the [I] in the box to the right; click the [M] to go back to metric units. And don't forget to check out the panoramas page from time to time. Panoramas are usually added a day or two later, when I get the time to stitch them together.

bottom | newest first | RSSpanoramas | See also: Gaelen's phlog | Marco's blog | about BLAST | BLAST GPS Data ]

Fri 2006-10-27 00:35:03 UTC
The flight from Toronto stopped right next to an Air New Zealand 747 at LAX.  Looks like I'm in the right place.  (Although we're flying Qantas). Caltech campus.
It's currently Thursday afternoon. I'm at Caltech in Pasadena. Since I was passing through the area, Barth managed to get me an opportunity to give a talk to our friends here in the Observational Cosmology lab. They're hoping to use some of the BLAST technology in upcoming work they're doing. This evening I fly out to New Zealand, along with Enzo, Mark, Marco and Marie, the "Second Wave."

The "First Wave", Gaelen, Chris, Nick and Matt already made New Zealand and may be flying down to the Ice already, where they'll set everything up in advance of us. If you're interested in their exploits, why not check out Gaelen's phlog.


Sat 2006-10-28 05:35:41 UTC
Christchurch in the distance. Christ Church in Christchurch. The path to the greenhouses.
It's Saturday afternoon. Enzo, Marco, Mark, Marie and I are in Christchurch, at various different B&Bs due to overcrowding. Pole hasn't opened up yet, due to cold weather there, so all the people who were headed that way are stuck in McMurdo. As a result, McMurdo's full, so we're stuck in Christchurch. We're expected to head down on Tuesday.

We left Los Angeles a little late, due to some congestion on the taxiways. I had a window seat, but since the Pacific Ocean is near the most boring thing to watch yourself fly over, it didn't matter much. Enroute I was cheated out of having a Friday, so I hope for everyone else it went well.

We arrived in Aukland about 6:30 Saturday morning, a bit late, having been unable to make up the time in flight. Unloading a 747, naturally, takes some time, and the line at passport control was also long, so I didn't get through it until about 7:30. After that it was collect the baggage and head over to customs, where I had to wait half an hour for a single stamp on a form. And I mean just wait... in the area where other people's worldly belongings were being vigorously reduced to their constituent elements to check for what-have-you.

By the time I got out of customs, the flight to Christchurch was already boarding. Taking the advice of the "first wave", I wheeled my luggage out the front door of the international terminal and embarked on the Walking Tour of Auckland Airport, which was posted to take twelve minutes, and ended at the domestic terminal. Through a clever combination of weaving, dubious short-cuts and, of course, ramming people ahead of me off the path with my luggage cart, I managed to make it to the terminal before the plane took off. I hadn't needed to worry: Mark was there, and would have been able to prevent the plane from taking off by main force, if necessary. Check-in at the domestic terminal was untypical for an aiport: it mostly involved sauntering around a bit until I happened across a check in agent. I made the luggage hand-off, abandoned my luggage cart idling in the middle of a terminal thoroughfare and made a bee-line for the gate. Even the security screening people seemed to be more interested in getting me on the flight, as opposed to figuring out what sort of stuff I might have in that interesting looking cardboard box.

Once on the 737 bound for Christchurch, I discovered that I had been assigned a seat in business class, along with another guy bound for the Ice. Upon landing in Christchurch it appeared that a large portion of the flight's passengers were doing the same thing as us: heading for Antarctica, because a lot of us ended up in another area at the Christchurch Airport, where we had the "meet-and-greet" with some people from Raytheon Polar Services (RPS). Here we learned about the overcrowding at McMurdo. After briefing us, we got our luggage, got our hotel assignment, and then were shuttled to our hotels. As it turned out, Enzo and I are staying in B&Bs right next to each other, and Marie and Mark and in the a third B&B a few doors down, the other side of the street, and close to Cathedral Square and the Arts Centre. Unfortunately, Marco wasn't so lucky, and is staying some ways away.

After a few hours of post-travel recuperation, we got together (sans Marco) for lunch, and a bit of a walk around. Enzo took off to do some grocery shopping while Mark, Marie and I tooled around the Arts Centre for a while. Marie and I then walked around the botanic gardens for a bit, while Mark went off on his own. We're now all back at our respective lodgings (for another round of post-travel recuperation) and we'll all meet for dinner (hopefully with Marco) later.


Sun 2006-10-29 04:13:02 UTC
Christchurch.  The city centre is on the left. Setting out again. The Mount Adams. The view of Lyttelton from the pub.
It's Sunday afternoon. After a welcome night's sleep, we met at ten at the Art Gallery to decide what to do. After wandering around the galleries for a while, Mark, Marie, Enzo and I decided to head out to the gondola, and a bit of hiking afterwards. Marco decided to stay in town and explore more of the Art Gallery. We took the bus out to the Gondola, south of the city. We took the gondola up to the top of the Port Hills, where we had a great view of Christchurch to the north and Lyttelton, the harbour, and the Banks Peninsula beyond it, to the south. From the summit, we hiked down the other side to Lyttelton, where we had some lunch.

After lunch Enzo headed back into town while the three of us took the ferry across the harbour to the small village of Diamond Harbour, where we drank some beer before heading back, just in time to get rained on heavily.


Mon 2006-10-30 03:28:53 UTC
An odd contraption in someone's yard.  Possible a wind powered tea maker. Bags of ECW gear ready to go.  Everyone gets two bags, one for checked gear and one for carry-on. Operation Deep Freeze's coat of arms.
It's Monday afternoon. We've just returned from the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) at the Antarctic Center at the airport. At the CDC we got all our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear, tried it on to make sure it fit and also got our laptops screened for use at McMurdo. This took several hours. We still don't know if we'll be leaving tomorrow morning, since the USAP hasn't figured out who (if anyone) is going down tomorrow. It sounds like there's more than one plane load of passengers queued up here in Christchurch. It all depends on whether South Pole will open today or not. We'll know later this evening if we should expect to ship out in the morning.


Update: 19:53 (local time): CDC has indicated we're scheduled on the flight tomorrow, leaving the hotel @ 6:00am (a late flight, often pickup time is 4am).

Tue 2006-10-31 00:03:18 UTC
Our transport to McMurdo: a C-17 Globemaster. The view from the front of the hold.  There are five rows of five regular airplane seats in the hold on skids for easy removal.  Another twenty or so of us sat on the cargo seating along the side bulkheads. The flight deck.
It's Tuesday afternoon, we're currently sitting on a C-17 transport, four hours out from Christchurch enroute to McMurdo. Another hour or so to go. I woke just before five, packed my bags and got ready to meet the shuttle. My host at the B&B even managed to provide me with a full breakfast before the shuttle picked us up at six a.m. to head to the CDC. At the CDC we were informed we had half an hour to get our ECW gear on and re-pack our bags for the flight. Repacking meant putting enough stuff in our single carry-on bag so that if we got partway out and the plane "boomeranged" (that is, aborted and returned to Christchurch) we would have enough stuff to live with in Christchurch until our next attempt. This was because all our checked baggage was crated up like regular cargo and wouldn't be uncrated again unless we were to spend more than three days before the next flight attempt.

After a brief pre-flight briefing, we took the buses over to the C-17 and boarded the plane, making sure to pick up our bag lunch on our way to the plane. The taxi was long, and seemed longer since we had no idea what was happening outside due to lack of windows. However we eventually took off and have had an uneventful, if loud flight so far. Everything looks promising for touchdown in McMurdo in an hour or so.


Tue 2006-10-31 09:03:01 UTC
Antarctica! More people deplaning. A jack-o-lantern trailer.  How appropriate.
It's ten Tuesday evening. We've arrived at McMurdo and got settled in. It's time for bed: the bus to the highbay leaves at 7:30 tomorrow morning, plus I got up before five this morning.

Other than getting some impressive views of Antarctica, little happened on the flight since my previous update. One of the things I forgot to do when packing and putting on ECW gear was pack a book into my carry on bag, which worried me because I thought I might get bored on the five hour flight. Fortunately, Marco found a book in the seat pocket in front of him when we boarded the plane, so I read that. Unfortunately it was not a very good book and obviously hadn't been seen by the eyes of any copyeditor. Fortunately it was short enough that I didn't have to take it with me when I left the plane. Instead I left it for the next group of travellers.

We landed at McMurdo around 4:30. The planes come in on the Ice Runway, which is built on the ice sheet just off shore from the station. Later in the season, when the ice gets thin they'll move to Williams Field (where we work) and land planes there. The ice runway is preferred since it's both longer and useable by planes with wheels (like the C-17). Williams Field is only used by ski-equipped Hercules and smaller aircraft.

After disembarking, we were bussed to the Chalet where we had our arrival briefing and got our room keys and other useful information. The dorms we are in are two people per room, with a shared bathroom. I'm sharing a room with Enzo. Around six the guys from the highbay came back for dinner and we met up with Gaelen, Matt, and Nick. Chris was away at Snow School. And now, after a hearty dinner and some relaxing, it's time to say goodnight.


2006-11-01 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−19°C
Wind:N @ 17 km/h
W'chill:−27°C
(1700 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Wed 2006-11-01 19:44:44 UTC
Scott Base. The LDB facilities at Willy Field.  We're in Payload Bay two, the second of the large buildings.  The big vehicle in the foreground is The Boss, the Antarctic launch vehicle. BLAST coming together.
It's Thursday morning. I'm starting my second day at work. Yesterday I spent the day here checking out the ACS. Today I'll put the flight computers back together, and then we should be able to bootstrap the gondola.

We caught the bus yesterday at 7:30, which meant waking up at 5:30 to have a hearty breakfast at 6:30. We take with us all our ECW gear when we go out to Willy Field, so there's a lot of stuff to lug around. The ride to Willy Field takes about half an hour. On the way we pass Scott Base, the Kiwi base here in Antarctica. It's much smaller: about 90 inhabitants in summer. At Scott Base the road makes the transition from the rock of Ross Island (where McMurdo is) to the snow road on the ice shelf, where Willy Field is.

In the evening, Gaelen, Nick, Matt and I attended a lecture on penguins' diving habits and oxygen consumption in the Crary lab before heading to bed.


2006-11-02 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−19°C
Wind:Calm
W'chill:
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Thu 2006-11-02 20:07:09 UTC
The empty pressure vessel on the bench for reassembly. Marco walks back from lunch. A heated game of foosball.
It's Friday morning. I spent most of yesterday assembling the PV and doing some computer maintenance. Most of the rest of the crew spent the day working on Cryostat alignment. The ACS was mounted. In the evening we went first to our lounge for some beer and table tennis and then to the lounge in Mark's building for foosball and pool.

2006-11-03 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−15°C
Wind:ESE @ 17 km/h
W'chill:−22°C
(1570 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Overcast
Fri 2006-11-03 21:09:40 UTC
The only cat in Antarctica. Enzo and Marco route cables on the gondola.
It's Saturday morning. It's cloudy and very grey today, but the weather remains reasonable. Yesterday I did the final checkout of the PV and then mounted it. The flight computers are working, which is good news. I also set up the ground station telemetry, and got that all working. The cryostat was closed up in preparation for first cool-down. Gaelen and Nick started working on the solar panels.

In the evening, after dinner we went to the bar and hung out with some of the LDB guys for a while.


2006-11-04 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−12°C
Wind:N @ 19 km/h
W'chill:−19°C
(1510 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Overcast
Sat 2006-11-04 20:40:43 UTC
Chris and Matt do another nitrogen transfer. Enzo rotates the gondola to check for clearance. Being Canadian, Matt finds the weather nippy but refreshing, and, after a bit of fun with Nick, decides a little relaxation is in order.
It's Sunday morning. We're hard at work still, and the weather remains pleasant. Enzo spent yesterday characterising the gyroscopes in order to orthogonalise them. Liquid nitrogen was pumped into the the cryostat to start it cool down. Marie inspected the star cameras and Chris reassembled the secondary actuator system.

In the evening we attended a beach party at Scott Base, the nearby (and much smaller) New Zealand base.


2006-11-05 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−8°C
Wind:E @ 19 km/h
W'chill:−14°C
(1380 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Sun 2006-11-05 20:23:30 UTC
Bringing the mirror inside. The primary and secondary mirror assembled. Hut Point.  The prominent building is Discovery Hut, built by Scot in 1902.
It's Monday morning. The weather remains pleasant. Yesterday we brought the mirror inside to warm up so we can mount it today. Mark made a thermal shield for it, which he mounted on the inner frame. The Sun Sensor and flight batteries were mounted. Marie continued to work on the star cameras. I spent some time playing with the lock motor, and also trying to track down some bugs in the telemetry. I took a restful evening, and made a vertical profile of Willy Field based on some information I found in the station guide. I also took a short walk around town.

2006-11-06 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−15°C
Wind:Calm
W'chill:
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Partly Cloudy
Mon 2006-11-06 19:27:19 UTC
Hey!  There's only one picture here!If you're wondering what's happening, during our walk out to to Hut Point the rock under my foot dislodged and I lost my balance.  Most fortunately I wasn't injured, but I landed on my camera and as a result it stopped working.  When we got back to the dorms I took a closer look and discovered:There's a magnificent dent in the camera.There's a magnificent dent in the compact flash card.The battery was dead.The dent has caused the back plate to cave into the compact flash cavity, the reason for the damage to the flash card.  The battery cavity is directly behind the flash cavity, and presumably the impact shorted the battery somehow.  The result:The flash card that was in my camera is dead.  It contained all the pictures for Monday, so no pictures, for today.  Fortunately Gaelen is here to pick up the slack.  I have another, smaller flash card which I'll try to made do with.The battery, after recharging, seems to work.The dent makes it very difficult to insert or remove the flash card without a fair bit of persuading.The optics and electronics seem fine, which is fortunate.This picture shows the final resting place of the dead flash card, and was the first picture I took with the resuscitated camera.  If you're wondering about the orange, I thought it would be appropriate to add some flowers to the picture, but they're hard to get in Antarctica, so I opted for the closest thing I could find.
It's Tuesday morning; the weather remains nice, although cooler than yesterday. The big thing yesterday was the mounting of the primary mirror, which went on without a hitch. Enzo and I tried to track down telemetry problems. Our porch was moved into place in the afternoon. Mark spent most of the day trying to figure out where our liquid helium was and why we don't have it yet. In the evening, due to the nice weather, we took a walk out to Hut Point.

2006-11-07 18:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−14°C
Wind:NW @ 9 km/h
W'chill:−19°C
(1350 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Tue 2006-11-07 20:49:05 UTC
BLAST out on the porch. The last solar panel finished.
It's Wednesday morning. The weather is still fine, but cloudy. I'm happy to be able to resume normal service to you with this journal. With the porch now in place we wasted no time making good use of it yesterday. First Gaelen and Nick went out there to test the solar arrays. We also hauled the telescope out there so that Matt could test the new sun sensor. Enzo and I also whacked away at more telemetry bugs, killing one, but finding another vigourous one in its place.

As usual, Ivan picked us up at 5:30, but we had a slow time of it, and picked up a few hitch hikers along the road, so that we didn't get back to base until 6:20. We then had a quick supper, in order to catch the outdoor recreation seminar, which is required if we want to do any moderate to long hikes in the area. The seminar started at seven, and we almost didn't make it, but got there just in time. After the seminar we headed to Galligher's (the bar) for a drink and some foosball.

This morning, Mark, Matt and Marie stayed in town in the morning. They're planning to come out after lunch, in preparation for an all night helium transfer, assuming our helium arrives today.


2006-11-08 20:31 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−14°C
Wind:SE @ 6 km/h
W'chill:−17°C
(1200 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Wed 2006-11-08 19:44:17 UTC
Checking the alignment of the secondary mirror. ANITA peeks out of its highbay.
It's Thursday morning. It's cooler but sunny and calm. In the morning Chris got the secondary actuators working and most of the day was spent aligning the secondary mirror and characterising the actuators. I also spent some time working on more telemetry problems. Enzo and Nick debugged and fixed a problem in the ACS which had caused our elevation encoder to screw up the previous day while out on the porch doing sun sensor tests.

As planned, Mark, Marie and Matt showed up just after noon. Marie spent some time in the afternoon leak checking the star cameras. The helium showed up in town shortly before we left for the day and, on our way back to town, the helium passed us heading out to Willy Field. Early reports this morning had Mark, et al. leaving Willy around 3 a.m. last night, with the optics box at 15 Kelvin. A successful transfer.


2006-11-09 18:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−18°C
Wind:ESE @ 28 km/h
W'chill:−29°C
(1870 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Thu 2006-11-09 19:31:31 UTC
The LDB camp. Mark disassembles the leak checker. Scrabble!  One of the contentious words of the day: ob.
Friday morning is cool and overcast. Chris did a few more secondary alignment tests yesterday morning, and we also continued monitoring the cryostat cooldown, which went slowly but smoothly. In the afternoon Matt, Mark and Marie returned, and we started gearing up to doing cryostat beam maps. Nick and Enzo assembled the X-Y stage with the cold source, while I fixed up the code to work the stage. Marco continued to work on thermometry cabling. In the evening we spent some time at the Coffee House cum Wine Bar, where a bit of scrabble was played.

2006-11-10 19:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−15°C
Wind:E @ 31 km/h
W'chill:−25°C
(1800 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Fri 2006-11-10 21:10:44 UTC
Marie runs the FTS attached to the cryostat. They're starting to lay the fuel line out to Willy Field, in preparation for opening the air field next month.  Note the Kiwi road crossing the line out on the ice.
It's Saturday morning. It's bright and cold today. Yesterday was spent mostly doing cryostat calibration. In the morning we got the X-Y stage and cold source set and started the raster scan which went for a few hours. This test checks the alignment of the cold optics inside the cryostat. After that, we set up the Fourier transform spectrometer (FTS) to measure the frequency response of the detectors. Marco worked more on thermometry, and I poked the flight code a bit to work out some bugs in the actuator code that we discovered on Wednesday. In the evening I did laundry, and we went to Gallagher's for beer, shuffle board, and air hockey, the foosball table having been mysteriously removed.

2006-11-11 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−17°C
Wind:SE @ 17 km/h
W'chill:−25°C
(1640 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Sat 2006-11-11 21:27:18 UTC
Nick, Chris, Enzo and Marie inspect the FTS. The twin otter. Bottles.
It's Sunday morning, and we're taking our first day off since we got here. We spent yesterday morning doing another round of FTS tests, and then did some noise tests as well. Marco and I worked on the calibrating the gondola thermometry. In the evening we attempted to get onto a trip out to Cape Evans, but it was booked. Instead we headed over to Galligher's, the local bar where we were entertained by the Freak Train, the local open talent show. Today we're planning to meet for brunch and then figure out what to do.

2006-11-12 18:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−19°C
Wind:SSE @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−24°C
(1420 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Partly Cloudy
Sun 2006-11-12 19:16:57 UTC
Me and cheese. Walking the trail.  The Ice Runway is on the horizon at right.  In the distance is the Royal Society Range.
It's Monday morning. It's sunny and cool, again. Yesterday was a well needed break. We met for brunch around 10:30 and then most of us (all but Enzo and Marco) decided to hike the Cape Armitage trail. This trail starts out heading south from McMurdo, out towards the Ice Runway. Before getting there, however, it veers left and heads in a large arc out on the ice around Cape Armitage, eventually ending up at Scott Base, on the other side of Observation Hill. From Scott Base we then hiked up the road back to McMurdo. We left around noon and the entire trip took about two and a half hours. A very satisfying hike. Marco spent this time trying out the skis he had rented.

After a brief rest following the hike, we met at the Coffee House, which also has a movie theatre in it, to watch 12 Monkeys, which was playing. Then dinner and a quiet evening to finish off the day. Today looks like it'll be a busy one. We hope to mount the cryostat.


2006-11-13 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−12°C
Wind:ESE @ 26 km/h
W'chill:−20°C
(1620 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Mon 2006-11-13 22:00:07 UTC
Heading over to the galley for lunch. Inserting the cryostat. The cryostat in place, with the DAS (right) and Receiver (left) also mounted and cabled.
It's Tuesday morning. Yesterday was a busy day. The main work for the day was mounting the cryostat and associated electronics on the gondola, which went smoothly. While this was happening, Marco, Gaelen and I spent the time debugging and calibrating the thermometry. Nick and Chris also spent some time testing the X-Y Stage to see if it would work in the cold outside. Near the end of the day, the hard drive of one of the flight computers died, and I started the process of creating a replacement.

Barth and Mark Halpern arrived today and we met them at dinner. After dinner we headed over to the lounge in Mark's dorm for some foosball and pool.


2006-11-14 19:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−13°C
Wind:N @ 20 km/h
W'chill:−21°C
(1580 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Partly Cloudy
Tue 2006-11-14 20:14:18 UTC
The flight computers out on the desk for hard drive replacement. Something going down over at one of the dorms.
It's Wednesday morning. Most of yesterday was spent looking at noise in the detectors. They seem to be somewhat vibration sensitive. The other thing was the replacement of Frodo's harddrive, which took down the gondola for a short time while I installed and debugged it. In the afternoon I looked at more telemetry problems, before getting sidetracked with Barth on flight computer clock problems. Mark and Enzo remained out at Willy Field over dinner to work more on noise, and Barth stayed too, to get the NTP working on the flight computers.

2006-11-15 18:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−6°C
Wind:ENE @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−9°C
(1060 W/m2)
Vis:1200–2400 m
Sky:Overcast
Light snow
Mist
Wed 2006-11-15 19:43:16 UTC
Enzo's RF shielding of the DAS-Receiver cables. Terra Nova Hut. Looking back towards the ice. Erebus from Wind Vane Hill.
It's Thursday morning. We seem to be in the middle of a bit of a snow flurry. Yesterday was a busy day, first at the lab, and then again in the evening. During the day, the CSBF guys mounted the SIP on the gondola and we cabled it up. Marie, unfortunately, had to open up the ISC (twice) to fix some issues, which didn't make her too happy. Most of the day was spent trying to reduce the noise in the detectors by damping vibrations and electrically sealing parts of the gondola.

We headed back for town shortly before five in the evening, making use of a shuttle instead of Ivan (which comes for 5:30) because we were scheduled to take a trip out to Cape Evans to see Robert Scott's 1911 Terra Nova Hut there around 6:30. The trip left on time and we headed out on a delta for Cape Evans, an hour or so away. The road headed northwestwards over the annual sea ice, around the west side of Ross Island, and across Erebus Bay. Cape Evans is almost due west of Mount Erebus. The road was smooth and the delta trip uneventful, although crowded since we were sitting on two benches facing each other in the delta, with our ECW gear piled up between us. We stopped once on the way near the Erebus Glacial Tongue, a glacier etending down the side of Erebus into Erebus Bay, where we could see some seals near the pressure ridges that had developed.

At Cape Evans is Scott's Terra Nova hut, which was larger and extensively used by Scott's 1911-1913 expedition. Everything in the hut is very well preserved: it's a freeze-dried museum, and it looks like it could still be in use. Like Discovery Hut on Hut Point near McMurdo, Terra Nova Hut was prefrabricated, this time in England, before being errected on Ross Island. Unlike Discovery Hut, it was designed for cold weather, and not an Australian outback hut, so it kept things warm instead of cold. Also at Cape Evans was a (modern) fish hut, where scientists had cut a hole in the ice to study local wildlife, which we were also permitted to enter to take a look. We stayed at Cape Evans for a few hours, and took lots of pictures, before heading back to McMurdo, with another stop to admire the scenery, along the way. We got back to town around eleven at night.


2006-11-16 19:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−9°C
Wind:SE @ 33 km/h
W'chill:−18°C
(1590 W/m2)
Vis:4800 m
Sky:Overcast
Blowing snow
Thu 2006-11-16 20:16:10 UTC
BLAST mostly assembled. And this one is White Island.
It's Friday morning and we're having some blowing snow again. Yesterday we had some flurries in the morning, and blowing snow the rest of the day. There were warnings about having a Condition 2 today, but so far weather has been okay. Yesterday was spent aligning the cryostat. I spent some time with Chris Field, one of our support personel, to debug a problematic Science Stack, which is a small white box that allows us to turn on and off our electronics when we're up in the air. I also whacked away at the telemetry bugs some more. Marie and Nick mounted the data and video line-of-sight transmitters. There was talk in the evening of heading over to Scott Base to check out the store, but we didn't go through with it in the end. Instead I remained in the galley with Barth and Chris, where we discussed art and 20th century military history (sequentially, not simultaneously) for a few hours before heading to bed.

Oh, yeah, this funny thing happened yesterday in the early afternoon where I somewhat absentmindedly deliberately erased all the pictures from my camera. So, if you were looking for pictures of us from the morning up until that point, you're out of luck. Fortunately we looked basically the same in the later afternoon, so you'll have to make yourself content with those. I think Antarctica's making me go crazy.


2006-11-17 18:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−14°C
Wind:NW @ 9 km/h
W'chill:−19°C
(1350 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Fri 2006-11-17 19:22:48 UTC
Marco leans precariously over the primary mirror to mount one of the ferrings. The sun behind the highbay.  Note the sunlight refracted in the ice crystal clouds.
It's Saturday morning, and the weather has cleared up a bit. Enzo, Barth and I, with many helpers spent most of yesterday working on the gondola trying to characterise and fix our grounding issues. The way BLAST works, there are several different electrical grounds, usually related to different power regimes. We need to keep these different grounds largely separated from each other to keep all the electronics happy. So we spent the day measuring the connectedness of different grounds, and fixing things when we discovered where they had been inadvertantly shorted together. Matt, Chris, Nick and Mark Devlin worked outside to survey and set up the stage for our near focus tests which we want to do in the next few days. Nick and Marie stayed at Willy Field over dinner to get the inner frame balanced.

2006-11-19 01:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−6°C
Wind:ESE @ 19 km/h
W'chill:−12°C
(1310 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Sun 2006-11-19 02:26:16 UTC
What's everyone looking at?  There's a laser mounted in the centre of the secondary which is shining a dot on the back wall above and behind me.  We're checking to see if the elevation axis is aligned by scanning up and down and seeing if the dot moves only up and down as a result, or also side-to-side. Another shot of the same. BLAST on the porch.
It's Sunday afternoon. We slept in today again, and caught brunch at the galley before heading out to work. Yesterday we did the 50 meter near focus test. This involved putting BLAST out on the porch, and setting up the X-Y stage and cold source 50 meters away, on top of a shipping container. We then scan the beam with the cold source to find its shape and then move the secondary mirror in and out to find the optimal focus position. Once we have this, we compare it with the number we expected to get. This test took the bulk of the day. In the morning we set up stuff outside. I mostly remained inside and fixed a few bugs we had discovered earlier in the secondary actuator code. The afternoon was spent doing the test. Dave Sullivan, the LDB campaign manager, warned us that the weather would be turning poor later in the afternoon, and sure enough it started to snow. Despite this, we remained outside for a bit longer to finish the test, and when we brought it inside all our electronics were covered in snow. As a result, we quickly shut everything off, to prevent problems when the snow started to melt, and left it off for the rest of the day. Around five Dave came in and told us that the weather was getting worse and that we were going to pack up and head back into town. There was a lot of blowing snow on the ice as we drove back, but we arrived back at station without incident, and early, where the amount of blowing snow was significantly less.

2006-11-19 21:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−7°C
Wind:ESE @ 33 km/h
W'chill:−15°C
(1520 W/m2)
Vis:1600–4800 m
Sky:Overcast
Light snow
Blowing snow
Sun 2006-11-19 22:33:45 UTC
The X-Y stage set up at 100 meters. Midnight sunburst over Mount Discovery.
It's Monday afternoon, another snowy day, and we've decided to stay inside today and work on other things. Yesterday we spent the day doing the 100 meter test, which was a repeat of the 50 meter test we did on Saturday. Again it started to snow at the end and we were forced to quickly pull the gondola back in and try to remove the snow and ice from the electronics. We missed Ivan in the evening because we were still doing tests when it came, having started late due to attending brunch. We caught a shuttle around six thirty and made it back just as the galley was closing. Fortunately Mark Devlin, who had taken Ivan earlier since he was giving a talk at station in the evening, had asked the kitchen to set aside meals for us.

2006-11-20 19:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−7°C
Wind:E @ 26 km/h
W'chill:−14°C
(1440 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Mon 2006-11-20 20:33:02 UTC
Mark test fitting the baffle. Icicles on the railing.
It's Tuesday morning and not snowing. Monday we decided not to go out and do the next round of tests, the 150 meter test. Instead we stayed inside and did other things that had been put on hold. I worked a bit on the secondary actuator code. Others analysed the data from the 100 meter test. Still others assembled the sun shield frame, which required us to clean up the lab a bit in order to make room. We also discovered that if we open the big doors all the way, something we haven't been able to do yet due to stuff being in the way, it breaks the beam of the smoke detector and the fire alarm goes off. Fortunately a quick call to the firehouse to tell them it was a false alarm stopped them from coming out here needlessly. At the end of the day Willy Field was declared Condition 2, for debatable reasons, which meant we all headed back on time, though Enzo would have liked to stay to do noise tests.

Because the weather is better today than it's been in a while, and better than forecasted for the near future, we're taking the gondola outside to do the 150 meter test.


2006-11-21 18:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−4°C
Wind:ENE @ 24 km/h
W'chill:−10°C
(1310 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Tue 2006-11-21 19:23:57 UTC
Mark, Matt, me, Marie, Nick and Gaelen at the top of Ob Hill, next to Scott's Cross. What Gaelen would look like if he were a 1930s newspaper photographer.
It's Wednesday morning, and the weather is still pleasant. We spent yesterday doing the 150 meter test which went well enough, and was the first one of these we did that didn't end with getting snow into the electronics. In the evening some of us climbed Ob Hill, which turned out to be easier for some, say, Devlin, than it was for others, say, me. Nevertheless it was a good climb and the view from the top is great.

Today was the second day in a row that we weren't able to come in on Ivan, due to it being in the shop for preventative maintenance. Instead we needed two deltas and a van to get out here, which didn't make Shuttles very happy. I'm hoping to get the secondary actuator system working fully today. Others will spend the day building up the gondola.


2006-11-22 19:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−6°C
Wind:NNW @ 6 km/h
W'chill:−8°C
(1000 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Wed 2006-11-22 20:26:10 UTC
Mark Devlin: BLAST crusader. Two deltas and a van come to pick us up at the end of the day.  It's a very inefficient system in terms of drivers required.
It's Thursday morning and it's the clearest we've seen in a week. Yesterday I spent the day working on actuator code and got the basic commanding working, with Chris's help. Now I need to work on the higher level portions of the code. While I was doing this the sun shields were mounted and the GPS antennas cabled up. In the evening Enzo and Mark Devlin did more noise tests.

2006-11-23 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−4°C
Wind:ESE @ 19 km/h
W'chill:−9°C
(1240 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Partly Cloudy
Thu 2006-11-23 21:44:58 UTC
Checking another panel. More noise tests.
It's Friday morning. I'm doing more actuator code fixes. Yesterday was a slow day for me; most of the time was spent doing noise tests. Ed Chapin arrived in the afternoon from UBC. Because it's American Thanksgiving, we had a delightful turkey dinner for lunch prepared for us by Matt, the LDB cook. McMurdo is observing American Thanksgiving on Saturday, like they do with most special days. Many of the employees will be able to enjoy a long (that is two day) weekend. In the evening, Gaelen, Marie, Matt and I took a shuttle out to Scott Base to check out the store and bar, and then walked back.

2006-11-24 06:38 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−2°C
Wind:NW @ 6 km/h
W'chill:−3°C
(890 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Fri 2006-11-24 21:59:00 UTC
The BLAST team in front of Erebus.  From left: Gaelen Marsden (UBC), Don Wiebe (Toronto), Marco Viero (Toronto), Mark Devlin (Penn), Ed Chapin (UBC), Enzo Pascale (Toronto), Chris Semisch (Penn), Matt Truch (Brown), Nick Thomas (Miami), Marie Rex (Penn), Barth Netterfield (Toronto), Mark Halpern (UBC).
It's Saturday morning, Thanksgiving Day at McMurdo. Because of that most stuff is closed. Instead of taking Ivan in today, we travelled here in a fleet of vans driven by the CSBF riggers. Due to the "long weekend", we have split into two shifts: the gondola shift which is getting the gondola put together today and the noise shift, which will do noise tests with the gondola tomorrow. Everyone except Mark Devlin, Marie and Enzo is on the gondola shift. Enzo came in with us today as well, but we're not letting him do any work.

Yesterday I spent doing more actuator work, which went slowly. Hopefully I'll finish it today. Others spent time putting on sun shield panels. Enzo, Mark and Marie did more noise tests.


2006-11-25 19:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−3°C
Wind:E @ 15 km/h
W'chill:−7°C
(1150 W/m2)
Vis:6000 m
Sky:Overcast
Light snow
Sat 2006-11-25 20:40:48 UTC
BLAST coming together. At our table.  If you're wondering about the funny angle of this picture, I took it at arms length while seated.
It's Sunday morning, and I, like many of the BLAST team are taking the day off. The two team plan didn't go exaclty as planned yesterday, since both Enzo and Mark Devlin ended up coming in anyways, much to the annoyance of Marie, who was the only one who stayed in town all day. Today only Nick, Marie, Mark and Enzo are going in. (And possibly Barth.)

Mark Devlin took the morning off yesterday to do the Turkey Trot run, and placed seventh overall, and first in his category. I spent most of the day at work finishing up the actuator code. Others mounted the chin on the gondola. Saturday McMurdo observed American Thanksgiving, and we got in on the seven o'clock seating for dinner, which involved the standard turkey fare. It was good and we all ate our fill. After dinner some headed off to the bar for a few drinks. Gaelen, Mark Devlin and I watched Kill Bill, Vol. 2.


2006-11-26 18:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−7°C
Wind:SE @ 6 km/h
W'chill:−9°C
(1020 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Sun 2006-11-26 20:00:16 UTC
The welcome to McMrudo sign.  Note the face in the ice. Gaelen, Ed, Matt and Chris Field walk back to town along the Ice Runway road. Attaching the solar array in the morning.
It's Monday morning and we're about to head outside to do some sun sensor and solar array tests. Yesterday was a day off for most of us. I spent the day resting. A few of us walked out to the Ice Runway for a bit of exercise. Other than that, we deathmatched on the computers for a bit, and I did my laundry. I found it to be a well needed rest. Enzo, Mark Devlin, Nick and Marie went in, and worked at fixing some noise in the detectors.

2006-11-27 19:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 2
Temp:−7°C
Wind:N @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−10°C
(1090 W/m2)
Vis:200 m
Sky:Overcast
Ice fog
Mon 2006-11-27 20:38:06 UTC
Rotating to point the solar arrays towards the sun. Chris tapes up the crown. Mark at the top of the lift.
It's Tuesday morning, a second clear day, despite what that box at the right says. (It's reporting conditions at the Ice Runway, where the fog is much closer). We spent a good part of the day outside yesterday, testing the solar arrays and the sun sensor, which generally went well. In the late afternoon we started assembling the crown, the last (and hardest) piece of the sun shields. We were considering staying late to get our outside tests done, but in the end we decided to head back at the regular time.

Nick left this morning, heading back to Christchurch and beyond, the first of the team to leave. Today we hope to get done the sensor alignment tests we didn't do yesterday.


2006-11-28 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−7°C
Wind:WNW @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−10°C
(1090 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Partly Cloudy
Tue 2006-11-28 21:37:18 UTC
Picking up. BLAST, with ANITA and SBI in the background. A delightful dinner menu.
It's Wednesday morning here, another clear day, with a bit of fog, We're inside doing maintenance work. I've spent an hour or so trying to get the biphase working, before tracking it down to improper termination. Yesterday we went out to the patio where we did our sensor alignment. This invovled: Now we need to spend some time and analyse the data. The magnetometer was acting dodgy, so Barth's been working on wiring in the ACS today. In the evening some of us attended a video presentation by Anne DalVera about an expedition she was part which skied to the South Pole.

2006-11-29 19:33 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−7°C
Wind:E @ 35 km/h
W'chill:−15°C
(1530 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Wed 2006-11-29 19:47:31 UTC
The sun sensor outside for more tests. Multiple levels of filming.
It's Thursday morning. We're planning to look outside again today, and we're getting prepared. Yesterday we spent inside working on some final tasks. Matt and Enzo did more sun sensor tests. Barth disassembled the ACS to fix a broken wire. I worked with Chris Field to test the TDRSS, our beyond line-of-sight communication.

In the afternoon acclaimed (and bizarre) filmmaker Werner Herzog showed up here to do a bit of filming. He's been in Antartcia for a while filming all sorts of things for a documentary he's making. Enzo, Mark, Mark, Marie and Barth stayed late to do more noise tests.


2006-11-30 19:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−4°C
Wind:Calm
W'chill:
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Overcast
Light snow
Thu 2006-11-30 20:52:23 UTC
Gaelen heads back up to tape more stuff.  Note the creative tape holders. Matt up on the yellow container to check on the cold source at 100 meters. Gaelen's farewell party.
It's Friday morning and we're hunkering down in a cold highbay for the second day. We spent a bit of time in the morning yesterday doing a few last minute steps. Then we got ready to set up to our 100 meter test again. This time, however, we decided to leave the telescope inside and open the doors. This gave us a test of what the focus would do while it was cooling down, so we could test the temperature correction code. Of course that made everything inside very cold. And, unfortunately, we've decided we need to do this thing again today. Gaelen left this morning, so last night we had a going away party for him.

2006-12-01 19:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−3°C
Wind:ESE @ 31 km/h
W'chill:−10°C
(1350 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Low drifting snow
Fri 2006-12-01 21:16:05 UTC
Working inside the galley because the highbay is too cold. Looking back at BLAST.
It's Saturday morning, and the highbay is warm again. We did a full day of near focus tests yesterday, which meant most of those people who weren't involved directly in commanding the gondola went over to the galley where it was warm to work. Just before we went back, we closed the doors and got the technicians to bootstrap the heating system again. When we got in this morning the temperature inside was 24°C, which made us happy.

ANITA was hoping to do compatibility and the hang test today, but the poor weather has caused them to delay until tomorrow. We're hoping to do our hang test as soon as we can after ANITA is done. We've also gotten news from Gaelen, who made it safely back to Christchurch on a kiwi piloted Herc yesterday. Today we'll do the last button up of the gondola preflight and tomorrow I'll do the final software rundown.


Sat 2006-12-02 23:52:45 UTC
Peter installs the mylar floor on the gondola. Another picture taken through a less dirty window on Ivan.
It's early Sunday afternoon. ANITA is outside today doing compatibility. We'll try to do it tomorrow, so that means today we're doing a final button-up of the gondola, finishing all the stuff we didn't do yesterday. The airfield was moved over here to Willy Field yesterday from the Ice Runway which will close for the season. As a result, regular shuttle service has started between here and McMurdo, allowing us to be a bit more flexible in our schedule. It also means more people out here doing things.


2006-12-03 22:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−8°C
Wind:E @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−11°C
(1120 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Mon 2006-12-04 00:18:37 UTC
The pig barn. Willy Field, fully populated. Marie, Chris and Mark debug the star camera.
It's Monday afternoon. We were planning a hang test today, but have decided to wait until tomorrow, due in large part due to several issues overnight. There was a bag of snow on top of the pressure vessel to keep the flight computers from overheating. Some time during the night it sprang a leak and got the some of our electronics wet. As a result, we've been drying things out. The second small disaster was the pump on the cryostat pumped pot was accidentally left off overnight, which caused Marie some anxiety in the morning when she realised it. As it turned out, the cryostat was fine in the morning when we came in, and we turned the pump back on. The third and final disasterous discovery of the morning was one of the star cameras had died, which required Marie to unmount and open it to find what was wrong. The culprit: a DCDC converter that stopped working abruptly overnight. We'll try going out again tomorrow. We're not bored waiting for the hang test, at least.

2006-12-05 20:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−4°C
Wind:Variable @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−6°C
(1010 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Tue 2006-12-05 22:08:48 UTC
A seal pup on the Willy Field Road. Starting the hang test. Coming back in at the end of the day.
It's lunch time on Wednesday. After a Monday which was spent fixing things, yesterday we headed out and did our hang test and compatibility without incident. After the hang test we went back to the patio to do another round of pointing sensor tests, which got rid of a few bugs in the pointing code. This morning we had another small set back: the power supply had been incorrectly connected to the charge control system, which meant that one set of batteries fully discharged. As a result a PCI card in the PV died and was replaced.

2006-12-06 22:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−2°C
Wind:E @ 15 km/h
W'chill:−6°C
(1120 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Thu 2006-12-07 00:27:47 UTC
Enzo cleans the PV seal with 190 proof kosher alcohol.  Why does research grade ethanol need to be kosher?  Probably to make it more expensive. Matt's going away party.
It's Thursday afternoon. We're almost flight ready, doing a few last minute tasks. I have a few failure modes I want to clear up in the flight code. Some final fits and modifications are being done to the sun shields. Barth's been playing with noise in housekeeping channels and measuring currents. Matt's leaving today for Christchurch and points north, and we had a going away party for him last night. This morning we had a flight planning telecon in town which went smoothly and gave Ed a concrete list of targets for flight planning.

2006-12-07 23:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−3°C
Wind:N @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−5°C
(980 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Fri 2006-12-08 00:50:10 UTC
Just about done inflating. ANITA ready to go.
It's Friday afternoon, and conditions look very favourable for ANITA's first launch attempt. This morning Marie and Chris put a few last pannels on the sun shields. This afternoon we're trying to do some scan tests. Last night Barth and I stayed late to finish up the flight code, which we're now calling complete.

2006-12-09 23:25 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−4°C
Wind:NE @ 17 km/h
W'chill:−9°C
(1210 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Sun 2006-12-10 00:13:29 UTC
ANITA rolls back in after being scrubbed. Marie and Mark ties up the jowels.
It's Sunday afternoon. ANITA has been scrubbed three days in a row now (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and weather looks like it might get worse the next few days. We've been buttoning up. The gondola is done; we've been doing scan tests the last few days. Today we were hoping to go outside and run a few more scan tests, since BLAST is now too big to turn around inside the highbay. Unfortunately, the wind picked up early in the morning before we got here, so we weren't able to do that. It looks like weather might remain poor for the next few days, but we'll see. Hopefully ANITA can get off successfully sometime this coming week.

2006-12-10 22:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−3°C
Wind:Calm
W'chill:
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Sun 2006-12-10 23:54:41 UTC
Ed flight plans. Aircraft sit at Willy. Chris and Marie wait for the Shuttle out to Willy.
It's Monday afternoon, ANITA has scrubbed again. Tomorrow looks bad for launch, but there's a possiblility early Wednesday. We've been doing some prep work for the flight, getting our computers ready. Ed's deep into flight planning and is hoping to get others to take over some of the load, now that we have little to do.

2006-12-14 22:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−7°C
Wind:NE @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−10°C
(1090 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Thu 2006-12-14 23:35:39 UTC
Me with an impressive hat. Waiting for launch.
It's Friday afternoon, and it looks like ANITA will launch today. They've just started inflation. Those of you who are interested can sort of watch the launch here.

As for BLAST, we've been doing a bit of last minute prep work, flight scheduling, and waiting for launch. Both Paul Devlin and Pete Hargrave left yesterday. We also had Jamie Bock and Bill Jones, both from Caltech, stop by to take a look at the telescope. They're both involved in a project at South Pole and were passing through McMurdo. More news later, I should go outside to catch the launch.


2006-12-14 23:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−4°C
Wind:NE @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−6°C
(1010 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Fri 2006-12-15 00:59:03 UTC
After fill. ANITA heads up.
After a successfull launch, ANITA's up in the air. Launch occurred around 1:30. The surface winds were low, and the low-levels weren't too bad either. A bit of driving around was required, but on the whole, things went well. Immediately after launch, a LC-130 took off from Willy Field and another landed shortly after, so it looks like our launches can cause some interruption in the flights to pole. We're now preparing for our own launch. ANITA's flightpatch can be montorred from the link given in the last post.

2006-12-15 13:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−10°C
Wind:E @ 7 km/h
W'chill:−13°C
(1170 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Sun 2006-12-17 19:47:25 UTC
Winter Quarters Bay, with the Ice Pier ready to go. Sun over Ob Hill.
It's Monday morning; we're waiting for the word to roll out for our second launch attempt. We had an attempt yesterday that was scrubbed before roll out (or, rather, postponed until today). Right now we're just waiting. As I've mentioned before, http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/antarctica/ice0607.htm is the page to watch if you want to follow along from home.
Update, 2006-12-18 01:14:07 UTC: After a long day of waiting, we've scrubbed for today. We'll try again tomorrow. The low level winds were decent most of the day, but the surface winds refused to dip down low enough to let us roll out.

2006-12-18 17:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−10°C
Wind:SE @ 31 km/h
W'chill:−19°C
(1610 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Low drifting snow
Mon 2006-12-18 20:30:06 UTC
Marie and Chris go snowmobiling. Ice.
It's Tuesday morning. When we came in today, surface winds were up to 30 km/h (17 knots) and they've since gone higher still, the result of a continental outflow. The CSBF meteorologist is trying to figure out what's up for tomorrow, and if we should try another attempt.

2006-12-20 18:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−9°C
Wind:NE @ 9 km/h
W'chill:−13°C
(1200 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Clear
Wed 2006-12-20 19:15:23 UTC
BLAST sporting the BLAST pinup, drawn by Adam Rex. The Chapel of the Snows gears up for Christmas.
It's Thursday morning. We're gearing up for another launch attempt. This one seems promising so far. Yesterday was a day off and I sayed in town all day. Chris, Marie and I watched Doctor Zhivago backwards. Winds on the pad are currently very low.

2006-12-21 04:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:0°C
Wind:NE @ 9 km/h
W'chill:−2°C
(950 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Thu 2006-12-21 05:36:32 UTC
Awaiting inflation. Me and inflation. BLAST goes up.
Launch! It's Thursday evening, and we've made float, 39.5 km (129,500 feet) up. Roll out occurred with nothing but the usual minor hitches, and once we got out to the pad, inflation and launch went without any delay: the CSBF guys got the surface and low level winds just right. Launch occured at approximately 02:00 UTC and we reached float around 06:00 UTC. Launch went off almost without a hitch, except at the end when it looked for a short while that BLAST wouldn't come off the pin. In the end BLAST took off with a lot of worry from us, but otherwise safely.

A few worries going up: one of the back-up gyros seems to have issues, and the GPS is not performing at peak. One DAS card stopped working briefly on the way up (a much less worrysome echo of our problems in Sweden), and an unusually cold Helium-4 stage. Since getting up, we've successfully unlocked (which has always failed in the past), discovered the pointing system is working very well and have done a few preliminary maps on a very bright source to calculate pointing offsets. Now we're starting our focus test, which is going swimmingly.


2006-12-25 14:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−10°C
Wind:ENE @ 15 km/h
W'chill:−16°C
(1370 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Mon 2006-12-25 15:26:56 UTC
BLAST at float. Ed plays guitar to pass the time while on shift. Christmas Dinner/Breakfast.
Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day, everyone. It's the twenty sixth here already. Like all holidays, Christmas was celebrated on Sunday, although most people also had Monday off.

The first eighteen hours or so after launch were, naturally hectic. We had a lot of things to do to set up the telescope before we lost out line-of-sight communication with the balloon. In addition to just making sure everything worked, we had to focus the telescope, a new procedure, which went pleasingly well. After losing line-of-sight, we slowly settled into our regular routine: Jeff, Ed and I would be on the night shift. Barth, Chris and Enzo would be on the afternoon shift, and Matt, Nick and Greg in Palestine would take the morning shift. Other could come and go as they please.

We've now been at float for four and a half days and things are going very well. There have been a few run-of-the-mill emergencies, but no show stoppers, fortunately. Because everything is performing as planned, we're in "schedule file mode" most of the time, which means that BLAST is operating autonomously on a premade schedule which we uploaded before flight. This is a welcome change from our previous flight from Sweden, where things went poorly and we were forced to manually control the telescope the whole time. (Not because it couldn't have done things automatically, but because we had to do different observations than the ones we had programmed into the autopilot before launch.) Becuase this time BLAST is running automatically, shifts are mostly fairly low-key, and involve looking at the data to make sure everything is working as it should. And, of course, dealing with those run-of-the-mill emergencies, when they arise. One thing that is occupying some of our time is trying to figure out when the cryogens will run out, which will dictate how long the flight will last. The calculations are a bit imprecise, but we're no where near done yet.

Due to most things being closed down Saturday, Sunday and Monday, we've had to make several alterations to our usual schedule. Chris Field, from CSBF, has been driving us to and from McMurdo when we need to change shifts. As well, Matt and Nick agreed to fill in for us for a few hours so that everyone down here on the ice could enjoy the Christmas feast in the galley. For those of us on the night shift it was effectively breakfast, but for most people it was dinner. Whatever you call it, it was a tasty concoction of lobster, duck and beef wellington.

The other bit of news I have concerns SBI. They showed for their first launch attempt on Christmas Eve day and managed to get a good launch. A welcome Christmas present for them, we thought. Unfortunately Christmas Day (that's yesterday down here) brought bad news for them: they were having serious communication issues with their flight computers and they decided to terminate the payload early Christmas morning, before the payload got off the ice shelf. Their reason for making this call is so that they can recover it quickly and return next year to try again.

Just to round things out, ANITA has started their second lap of the pole. Haven't heard much from them, but hopefully they'll get further out onto the ice shelf where they want to be this time round. We're just approaching the Ronne Ice Shelf now. We appear to be about half way around.

Last minute update: as I was sitting here writing this, I heard faintly outside the sound of someone yelling. Curious, I went outside to discover it was a (presumably very lost) seal tooling around the camp. Included are some pictures.


2006-12-29 13:55 UTC

Weather: Condition 3
Temp:−7°C
Wind:NW @ 28 km/h
W'chill:−14°C
(1460 W/m2)
Vis:Unrestricted
Sky:Mostly Cloudy
Fri 2006-12-29 14:39:51 UTC
Scott Base from the back. Barth's happy that BLAST is working well. Packing for Bag Drag. The back of Discovery Hut, looking back towards McMurdo.
It's very early Saturday morning. It's my last night here in McMurdo, and I'm doing my last McMurdo shift. Due to scheduling difficulties on the transpacific leg of our return, we've decided to leave sooner, rather than later. The telescope is still doing well, and we expect to be able to get to Monday (McMurdo time) before we run out of cryogens and the bolometers heat up. If all goes according to plan, Barth, Enzo and I will be in Toronto by that time. The only ones remaining behind are Chris and Jeff, who are going to be staying until recovery. This past night we had bag drag, which is basically like check in, but the day before. This is because all our luggage is palletised before put on the plane. So we're left with only our carry on. Jeff, Ed and I are still working night shifts, and have had the distinction of being the only people on whose shift the exiting things happen. Other than watching BLAST perform its duties, we have done some of the packing. Jeff and Chris will, unfortunately have to finish that up on their own. For the rest of us, if we play our cards right, we may be able to get two New Years' in...

ANITA's still up and taking data. It's been a season of strange strasopheric weather, and we're now firmly caught in the centre of the stratospheric vortex and headed very slowly towards the pole. This may make recovery a bit of a challenge, but this worry is offset to a great deal for us by the remarkably good performance we've seen from the telescope. Unfortunately, it could mean that the recovery team may be here for a while.

(Oh yeah, I finally found the time to stitch together the panoramas of both ANITA and our launch, so please take a look at the panoramas page.)


Tue 2007-01-30 19:02:05 UTC
Our LC-130 on the ground in Christchurch after a successful, boring flight.  Behind you can see the C-17 which we were supposed to fly out on, but was grounded in New Zealand due to the threat of bad weather at McMurdo. Waiting at LAX for my flight to Toronto. The new machine shop cum storage area.
Well, it's been a month since I got back, and I've finally found the time to put up the last of the picutres. I left, as scheduled, on the 30th of December, but not on the flight I was scheduled on. That flight, a C-17, was grounded in Christchurch due to fears of bad weather down at McMurdo later in the day. However, Ed and I, along with a number of other scientists, but no one else from our group, were put on a LC-130 "Hercules" flight that was leaving earlier in the day. We got the call just before we were supposed to head out to Willy Field to board, so our departure was rather rushed. Fortunately we had done all our packing the day before for bag drag, so we made it to the plane in time.

The LC-130 flight was cramped and cold, but uneventful. Fortunately Ed and I had been working the night shift, so we slept for most of the flight back to New Zealand. Other than the half-dozen scientists (including three crew members of the Swedish ice-breaker that was heading towards McMurdo—they had been airlifted to McMurdo so they could make their flight out) the flight was full of USAF personnel. Obviously the original plan for the day had been to get the servicemen out on the LC-130, while the scientists rode in style in the C-17. Barth and Enzo, who were not on our flight, remained in McMurdo until after termination, a few days later.

Deplaning in Christchurch, the first thing I noticed was how humid it was. Later I was also struck by the proliferation of plant life, something I hadn't seen for two months. We caught a lift to our B&Bs, and were able to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening getting re-acquainted with polite society. Our flight to LA via Auckland left the following afternoon. My biggest problem now was that my ticket for the LA to Toronto leg of my journey was not until the 15th. I needed to get it changed. I tried in Christchurch for a while to get through to Air Canada via Skype, but with little luck, due to intermittant wireless connectivity. Nevertheless we headed to Auckland in the morning, and while waiting a few hours in the Auckland airport for our trans-Pacific flight, I was able to contact Air Canada via Skype and have my ticket changed to something more appropriate.

The Aucland to LA flight was as boring as usual. Ed and I were sitting together, which made things a little more interesting, but we were both still on strange schedules, and we ended up sleeping for part of the journey. We also held the distinction of being the only people on the 747 who were not served dinner (a mix up quickly corrected). We left Auckland Sunday afternoon, the last day of the year, and, due to the date line, made it into LA the morning of the same day, some number of hours before we left Auckland. Immigration went smoothly, but it took at least an hour for our luggage to be disgored by the luggage mangling device, so it was a good thing our following flights weren't until later that afternoon (2pm for Ed to Vancouver, 3pm for me, back to Toronto).

We managed to get some lunch at the airport, and by the time my plane departed, I was ready to sleep again. I slept the entire flight, and woke up just as we were coming in for landing at Pearson, around 10 at night, local time. I made it downtown with fifteen minutes before midnight, tossed my luggage in the lab, and was buying some dinner as Toronto ushered in the 2007. My sleep schedule thoroughly randomised, I then went back to the lab and worked all night, monitoring the telescope, which was still taking data. In the afternoon I finally made the trek back to my apartment and got settled back in. Sometime later the flight was terminated, resulting in much excitement. In the end, however, we're happy with the result: we recovered the pressure vessel, with it's precious cargo of data, and are now eager to get to work on the analysis.


For all of you who wrote me during this campaign, thanks for your words. I'm sorry I wasn't able to respond to more of you than I did. I am astounded at how many people have ended up reading this journal. I hope you found it worth your while.


© 2006, 2007 D. V. Wiebe. Generated Tue 2014-07-29 02:33:36 UTC