Wednesday, November 29, 2006


After only 6 days of travel, we've made it to the South Pole!

Our 3 hour flight from McMurdo to the Pole went off without a hitch and gave us some spectacular views of inland Antarctica (see photos). The plane landed, I stepped outside, and the inside of my noise instantly froze (it was -37 F when we landed, with the wind chill bringing it down to about -55 F). We were cheerily greeted by our PI John Carlstrom and Project Manager Steve Padin.

The South Pole sits on top of about 2 miles of packed ice and has an effective elevation of about 11,000 ft. This means that altitude sickness is a serious concern up here. So of course we've taken it really easy so far: no work, lots of water, lots of rest. Poor Jeff had a strange reaction to the anti-altitude sickness medication that we all took and has had legally-blind vision for the past 24 hours. His vision is slowly and steadily improving.

After lunch we did take a walk over to "The Dark Sector", the region of the polar base where electromagnetic noise is kept to a minimum for the sake of the telescopes which live there. This is where the South Pole Telescope (locally known as "10 Meter") will be built. Along the way we got to see a piece of CMB (cosmic microwave background) history, "DASI", an earlier and extremely successful telescope of John Carlstrom's. DASI was the first telescope to detect the polarization of the CMB light waves. Its current incarnation is a telescope known as QUAD, which is also studying the polarization of the CMB. (Sorry for all the science lingo without any explanation. If you'd like to learn more about this science, please check out these great introductory CMB pages by Wayne Hu).

So anyway, after months of anticipation, I am very glad to have finally made it to the South Pole!

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