Monday, January 21, 2013

Breaking the Record and a visit to Cosray: January 20-21, 2013

On Sunday morning, Super-TIGER surpassed CREAM I's duration of 41 days, 21 hours and 31 minutes to become the longest Antarctic Long-Duration Balloon flight!

We're still about 1/3 of the way through our third time around the continent, so we'll certainly make the record a lot harder to beat in the coming days. 

Sunday afternoon the McMurdo team got a tour of the Cosray (short for Cosmic Rays) building near McMurdo from Paul Evenson of the University of Delaware. This building houses the longest-running experiment in Antarctica, a cosmic-ray neutron monitor that first went online during the 1959-1960 season, although it was moved a year or so later so that it would be farther away from the nuclear power plant (which no longer exists).  The Cosray building is about halfway between McMurdo and Scott Base, so we drove by it every day on the way out to LDB.

Inside the building, there's a small kitchen set and a living room with some couches and a bookshelf full of physics reference books.

We first went into the data room, where three laptops are continuously working and sending data off-continent over the internet. There's a very sensitive barometer, which is necessary for making corrections to the data that is recorded. Cosray is just one of several ground-based neutron monitors scattered around the globe, with other stations in places like Greenland, Thailand, and Delaware.

In the main part of the building, the detectors are surrounded by lead rings and covered in blue foam. 

In the back of the room is a "Bit Bucket". Initially, all of the data was recorded on punch-tape to be read out by computers later. This bucket has all of the punched out chads.

We also got to see the machine that makes the holes in the tape.

The walls of the building are colorfully painted, including a description of cosmic rays interacting in the atmosphere.

There is also a lot of art scattered around the building. For the first 30 or so years that the experiment operated, a scientist would winter over to keep an eye on the equipment, and apparently would have nothing better to do than paint.

Once we got back outside, we had to get back on the main road. The snow that's been accumulating the last couple of days made this a little difficult.

Eventually, Thomas had to get out and shovel, while the rest of us remained inside the van providing moral support.

When we got back to town, we went over to the McMurdo station sign to take a photo with a sign JohnE and I had made on our shift to celebrate breaking the record. 

After that, we went back to the dorms for a bit...with a stop to throw a few snowballs on the way.

Dennis, JohnE's roommate, returns fire.

Sunday night we went to Burger Bar at Gallagher's, where we had burgers and fries in the bar before our monitoring shift. This was the right way to celebrate breaking a ballooning record.

Monday wasn't particularly exciting. After lunch, I talked with my family back in the states, and then walked out to Hut Point. The strong winds and deep snow dissuaded me from also doing the Observation Hill Loop. Otherwise, it was a pretty normal day, and we had another not-so-exciting monitoring shift at night.

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