I should say a bit about the reason I'm here. I'm here to work on the IceCube experiment which is under construction here at the South Pole. It's made up of a bunch of light detectors strung together like pearls on a string and buried 1.5 km (~1 mile) under the surface of the ice. Each string is about 1 km long and has 60 sensors on it. The final plan for IceCube is to have 86 strings filling a cubic kilometer of volume. IceCube uses these light detectors to watch for light in the ice made by exotic particles from outside this galaxy (and also in the atmosphere, which is the only thing we've seen so far). There's also two surface detectors placed above each string which look for cosmic rays. The surface array is called IceTop. I mentioned it in a previous entry when I talked about helping to fold up the sunshades.
But enough physics, let's get to the pictures. Yesterday a group of us walked around on top of IceCube. The array stretches nearly a kilometer on each side. Here's a shot from the station to try and give you a little perspective.
The blue building on the right with the two silver columns is the IceCube Lab (or ICL). It sits roughly in the middle of the IceCube array. The multicolored boxes to the left are the IceCube drill camp. This is where the equipment they use to drill the IceCube holes is packed away for the winter. The black flags you can see are not IceCube holes, they denote the edge of the runway. For obvious reasons, people don't want you to blunder across the runway accidentally.
Although most of the equipment is buried under the ice (even the surface tanks are buried under the snow), each string is marked by three clumps of flags and a little numerical marker. Here's what the surface above a string looks like (along with a better shot of the ICL):
The two surface tanks are directly in front of the the two people (perhaps the one on the right looks a bit familiar?). The site of the in-ice string is the four flags on the left side of the photo.
From the ICL we walked about a half a kilometer to the edge of detector. Then we walked out to the "Line of Death" which marks an unsafe region where the old station used to be.
There could be caverns under the snow which could collapse if you walked on them. There's basically nothing beyond that except for one clump of flags. I don't know how far we walked, the snow was quite fluffy and ankle deep which made it quite a slog, but this is what the ICL looked like from there:
And here's what I looked like at that point:
Yes, that is an icicle hanging from my mask, and that's ice in the middle of my goggles. Kind of annoying, since the main reason I went out there was to see stuff, but at least my face was warm. Oh and here's what the view out from the edge of the array looked like:
Pretty cool, huh?