Friday, February 1, 2008

Down Time

The other day, we decided to replace some of the bolometers in the SPT receiver. I'm not going to go into what exactly that means, but the offshoot is that we had to wait for the cryostat to warm up, giving the entire receiver team (who I'd been shadowing) about 24h of downtime.

There's a lot of entertainment available down here, from regular activities in the gym to hundreds of movies you can borrow from the store. We were all pretty burned out, though, so Clarence and I went and sat in the galley and split a couple of beers.

There are 3 large monitors which hang overhead in the galley, constantly displaying The Scroll". The Scroll consists of half a dozen pages telling you the weather, the flight schedule, the Daily Dose of offensively stupid safety advice (eg. "Careful taking plates out of the microwave - if they're hot, they could lead to burns.") The weather page always includes a photo submitted by someone around station, sometimes of Antarctic stuff, but more often they're unattributed and untraceable shots of "cute" pets or am unknown vacation. This usually leads to ludicrous pairings of "-51.2C Windchill" next to a photo of a beautiful green landscape.

Some of the other receiver guys took a sauna night, sitting in a ridiculously hot (200F) sauna for half an hour, then wandering out to the pole (-50C windchill) in their swimsuits for a photos shoot. Apparently the mild fever being rapidly snapped along with the sweat crystallizing on your skin makes for an invigorating experience, and actually feels fairly good.

Along similar lines, in the winter, when the temperature drops below -100F, the 300 degree club convenes. The idea is to experience a 300F temperature drop wearing nothing but shoes and a smile. More on that when the time comes.

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