A few days ago we had our first installment of package mail since I’ve been here. There was an announcement over the intercom: “Attention South Pole: All hands to Destination ZULU to bring freshies into station. Repeat: This is your Thanksgiving dinner. Come help!” I pulled on my ECW gear and walked down to DZ, which is where they load food into the station. There were already about 10 people working quickly to load the pallet of fresh fruits and vegetables onto the crane and up into the station before they froze. They looked like they had enough help, so I joined a line of about 50 people which extended all the way from some huge crates brought in by a bulldozer on the ground up 2 flights of stairs to the post office. Someone opened the first crate, and inside was mail!
It only took about 10 minutes to completely unload 2 huge (4’x4’x4′) crates full of packages and pass them up the line of people to the post office. As the mail got passed up, I found 2 packages that were for me! The first one was from my grandmother, which contained tea and INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS chocolate. I’ve only unwrapped one of the many boxes of chocolate so far, but it contained dark chocolate covered cashew turtles (this involves carmel too), which totally made my day. The other was from Dave, and it also contained tea and chocolate. Dave sent me a bunch of tea from Celestial Seasonings in many awesome flavors such as imperial white peach and honey vanilla chamomile. There are only about 10 flavors of tea on station, and I drink about 10 cups of tea a day, so I’ve quickly gotten sick of the supply of tea they have here. Thanks to everyone who has sent me something! I really appreciate it.
During the last week while we’ve been waiting for the cryostat to get cold, we’ve done quite a few maintenance task on the telescope, such as greasing bearings and gears (I now have one set of clothing that is completely grease-covered), and cabling up all the readout electronics so we can start testing our new cryostat configuration. We had a hiccup in the timing box which resulted in our optics cryostat temperatures not reading out correctly, but Ken and John fixed it pretty quickly and now everything is back to working the way it should.
In other news, Thanksgiving here was yesterday, but we are celebrating it tomorrow (Saturday) so most people can have a 2-day weekend. (Normally everyone works Mon-Sat here). Unfortunately for us, we’ve been waiting for our cryostat to cool down all week, and it should be ready to go Saturday afternoon. Normally this would mean that we would have to skip the festivities, but thanks to python and bash the fridge cycle to cool the detectors to 250 mK runs itself. (Long story short, we get to go to the Thanksgiving dinner and ensuing dance party while some code runs to control our cryostat.) Tonight, the SPT team is joining many other volunteers to help make pies for the Thanksgiving feast tomorrow. We need to make ~50 pies for the 250 people on station, so it should be a fun night! Mmmmm pie.