Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ARIANNA 2010: The Journey to Moore's Bay

I have been remiss about posting about ARIANNA, in particular on the 2010/11 field season. UC Irvine Prof. Steve Barwick and graduate student Jordan Hanson travelled back to the site in December, 2009. Jordan sent me some pictures and text describing that trip. Because of the length, it is divided into four posts. Here is part 1 of Jordans account:

The Journey to Moore's Bay, 2010

My name is Jordan Hanson, and I am a graduate student researcher at UC Irvine working for the ARIANNA collaboration. My research focuses on the viability of ARIANNA to detect high energy neutrinos in the background-free environment of Moore's Bay, in Western Antarctica. My adviser, Steve Barwick, and I, travelled to Antarctica in the winter of 2010 to revive the prototype station and make measurements of the properties of the ice beneath it.

Every long journey begins with a first step. Ours was to travel to Christchurch, New Zealand, which is the gateway city that coordinates flights to McMurdo Station, located on Ross Island in the middle of the Ross Ice Shelf. Christchurch hosts the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) and the clothing distribution center (CDC). Upon our arrival, Steve and I met with USAP personnel to gather our extreme cold weather (ECW) gear, necessary for landing on an ice shelf at almost 80 degrees South latitude. While staying at the Windsor Bed and Breakfast in Christchurch, we encountered other scientists traveling to the Antarctic continent to perform the season's research. There were geologists, climatologists, astronomers, and physicists like us. We even met several scientists in our field of high energy neutrino astronomy, working for the IceCube project (see recent posts on this blog). Specifically, we met a team led by Per-Olof Hulth, of the University of Stockholm. I had an interesting conversation with Reina Maruyama about DM-Ice, a project related to IceCube focusing on direct detection of dark matter.

On the morning of our departure, we had coffee with Vladimir Papitashvili, the director of the Aeronomy and Astrophysical Sciences Program (Office of Polar Programs) at the National Science Foundation. I learned about many other experiments like ours taking place around the Antarctic continent. When it was time to leave, we all boarded the bus to the C-17 and were escorted onto the aircraft by military personnel.

Although the details of McMurdo station and how it operates have been covered in previous posts, I'll recount our experiences briefly. We landed on the Ross Ice Shelf, near the southern tip of Ross Island, where there is a station called McMurdo station. In the summer months, it is home to over a thousand individuals, and it forms a scientific community complete with technical and logistical support staff. The dedication and hard work of these support staffs cannot be understated. Specifically, Steve and I worked with Jessy Jenkins, our point of contact, whose job it was to coordinate the accumulation of survival gear, our technical equipment, food and supplies, fuel, and helicopters necessary for accomplishing our mission. Rebekah Davis travelled with us initially to the field, to manage our camp and assist with things like tent building and radio communications. After assembling our gear and coordinating with helo-ops, we were ready to launch into the wilderness. We were accompanied by wireless communications technicians, led by Bill Nesbit, whose goal it was to establish wireless internet at the site of our prototype station.

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