I am excited to say that I am now celebrating the first of my two birthdays I will be having at the South Pole. This marks the beginning of my year here. One interesting thing about this is that due to the timezone here, my birthday is almost an entire day earlier than it would be if I was back in the US. So I may be cheating a little and celebrating earlier. At the South Pole, we mostly use New Zealand time. This has to do with the fact that most of the flights into McMurdo are from New Zealand, so I think it makes things a little easier to coordinate if everyone is using the same timezone. That being said it is about 18 hours ahead of Central time. I suppose that by the time I get this posted, my birthday will just be starting in the States!
So far, today has been fairly uneventful. I had a wonderful brunch with an nice big omelet and salmon and some great pastries. I have been told that the chefs who come here can vary in skill, but everyone seems to agree that we have one of the best for the next year! It turns out that he is from North Carolina, if I remember correctly, so I am looking forward to some good southern cooking this year! After that, I spent some time monitoring our detector (the IceCube Neutrino Observatory) with the other IceCube winterovers (my colleague for the next year and the two who will be departing in a week). We also had a small gathering to watch some aurora videos that were made by a winterover here last winter. He has actually spent more time here at the South Pole than almost anyone else. I am sure there will be more to say about him in the future as I have heard that he is going to be leaving for the summer, but returning to spend yet another winter here. After that I did some more checks on the detector and a small little task for another growing experiment that I watch called ARA.
Normally, today would be a little more relaxing, but due to some issues with our power plant here, there has been maintenance going on the past couple of days. The station here at the South Pole is very isolated. This means that we have to generate all the power we use here. We have two large generators that power the station, and over the past few months there have been some problems with the system that switches between them. I don't know all of the details, but I know that now they are trying to fix it so we don't have to worry about it during the next winter. Since our experiment draws its power from the power plant on station, this can cause us some small issues during this maintenance time. Our experiment is very sensitive to power changes, so we have to be ready to fix any problems that show up. Unfortunately, there were a few problems during the work they were doing yesterday and we had to spend some time fixing problems in the detector. Hopefully, they will get the kinks all worked out soon so we won't have to deal with power issues for a while.
If some of my terminology seems a little complicated or I seem to be glossing over details, I apologize. I am happy to answer questions in the comments. Your questions may even eventually turn into a post in and of themselves! I am still trying to get settled and balance work life and science with station life. I hope to be able to spend more time in the future focusing on the details of the experiments here, but for now, the Antarctic summer is about to be very exciting for us with all the people coming into the station to work on the experiments. During the Antarctic winter season, which actually lasts around 8 months, there will be about 45 of us on station. During the summer, there can be over 150 people living and working here! We are all still getting adapted to the altitude, the cold, and each other. Many of us are still learning the details of the work we are going to spend the next year doing. So I am trying to express a balance of work and station life in general. That being said, I can't think of a better place to be celebrating my birthday!