Our New Home

By Prof James Madsen

The sense of time passing completely disappears down here for me. From the moment we stepped off the plane at Williams Field, the sun has been shining.   The net effect for me is that there is never a reset that one experiences by going through a period of darkness. Each time I step outside, it feels like the resumption of one long, continuous day. But somehow, three and a half days have passed already. So what have we been doing?

Welcome to Antarctica---Robert and Laura’s first steps on the ice.
Welcome to Antarctica—Robert and Laura’s first steps on the ice.

Like any good organization, the USAP realizes that new people need to be brought up to speed when they join a community. So after a 45 minute or so ride on the massive people mover Ivan the Terra Bus, we reached McMurdo station and had our first briefing. We were told a lot of important information, most of which vaguely registered. My approach was to listen carefully to hear if there was a next thing we needed to do, and if we had any meetings scheduled for the next day. My mind rallied, and I was able to store three things. Pick up bedding at the laundry outside building 155, get our bags after 9:30 pm, and we will have a 7:30 am briefing the next day.

Observation Hill from McMiurdo Station, after a light snow. Cosray is located on the other side, toward New Zealand’s Scott Base.
Observation Hill from McMiurdo Station, after a light snow. Cosray is located on the other side, toward New Zealand’s Scott Base.

Once we got through the briefings, which included discussions of being a good citizen, sorting trash, safety, and how to drive in McMurdo, followed by a quick checkout in case we needed to use a truck, we were free to go to work. Our Location, the Cosray building, is about a 30 minute walk from McMurdo Station. It gets easier each trip, but the first time up the hill out of McMurdo can be quite taxing. The winds have also been blowing so it takes some clever clothing to keep warm without sweating during the trek.

The two remaining neutron monitor stations are inside the insulated containers in the Cosray building. Robert and I are working on the problematic tube.
The two remaining neutron monitor stations are inside the insulated containers in the Cosray building. Robert and I are working on the problematic tube.

We are working on the neutron monitors, which have tubes that detect the neutrons. The tubes, shown in the picture here, are about 80 inches long and 6 inches in diameter. One of the tubes was misbehaving, and would only work in one orientation without producing electrical arcing. We took off the outer polyethylene sleeve, then removed an aluminum shield, and didn’t see anything loose or otherwise troubling. When we investigated at the end with the electronics, we identified the likely issue. There was a suspect soldered joint.

The repaired high voltage connection.
The repaired high voltage connection.