Science and Shifting Satellites

It's a harsh continent to blog from, however lovely it may be to live on. The Pole is at one end of the earth's axis, and is incredibly isolated. These two things do not work well together for communications. We get all of our internet through satellite connections which last for a few hours apiece since it's impossible for a satellite to be in geosynchronous orbit with the axis of the earth. However, because of the uneven tilt of the earth, the passes move forward by four minutes each day. For me, this means that they get closer and closer to completely overlapping the work day. As I write this, I have just gotten off work and have ten minutes of internet left. It's all about the speed writing. But that's boring. You know what's not boring? Science.

There's a lot of science happening at the Pole. In fact, it's the whole reason this station exists. The view here largely consists of flat expanses of ice, berms of supplies buried in the snow, and telescopes. But what about the science that us mere contractors can understand? I managed to convince one of my friends working on the BICEP3 telescope that studying the cosmic microwave background was boring, and that it would be much more fun to do something tangible. Like throw boiling water in the air. So we wrapped a water bottle in lots of thick wool socks, filled it with boiling water, and went out to the geographic (freaking) pole to throw it in the air. I wish it was possible to convey the noise it makes when you do this. The water disperses into droplets, which instantly freeze with this wonderful "fssssshhhhhhhh" noise. And then it's all gone. It instantly turns to impossibly fine powder and disappears. It's truly surreal.

In work related news, I've been out working on the winter equipment line. It's a large area where all the heavy (and light) equipment goes at the end of the summer season. Over winter, it gets buried and frozen. My job is to dig out, thaw, and clean up after all the machinery (it tends to drip a lot in the cold). This poor loader was on the end, and took quite a lot of drifting snow.

And this Pisten Bully.... Man, I don't even know what to think about this thing.

We do have lots of fun tricks for warming, melting, and starting equipment when the average temperature is still below -40º, which I plan to share as soon as I have more quality time to spend with a satellite. But until then, you'll just have to guess.

 

Jeremy Bloyd-Peshkin

Machinist, Welder, Driver, Adventurer, Mechanic, Always smells like something flammable.