8 December, 1996
We made it back to McMurdo yesterday. The McMurdo station is surrounded by views of the mountains and the Ross Ice Shelf. I was able to hike to Scctt's hut. We immediately noticed that it was much warmer here. We didn't need our parkas or bunny boots and were able to wear windbreakers and hiking boots. The ground here is covered with volcanic rock, called scoria. There is also ice and snow. The snow is not dry like it was at the pole, but contains alot more moisture and sticks to your boots and clothing. At the pole, we found that we never brought snow or water indoors on our boots, and certainly not dirt since there wasn't any. But here it is a different story. We were able to hike around town and attempted to drive to Arrival Heights which is located in the volcanic hills surrounding town. Arrival Heigts is off limits to the general population because all of the instruments there, including ours are very sensitive to vibrations. On the way to Arrival Heights, however, we got the four-wheel drive van stuck in a snow drift across part of the road. We spend about an hour shoveling snow in order to get the van out of the drift. We will try to reach the research building again tomorrow.
Before we left South Pole, they had erected two drilling towers for the AMANDA (Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array). The ice will be drilled about 2 miles deep and sensitive photomultiplier tubes will be imbedded with optical cable in the ice. This will make it possible for researchers to use the ice itself as a Cherenkov light (the blue light that is emitted by nuclear sources) detector for high energy neutrinos originating in space. Neutrinos are very small subatomic parcticles. They are much smaller than an electron. Another development that we heard about before we left was the detection of carbon monoxide in the spectral emissions from interstellar regions of space by ASTRO (Astronomical Submillimeter Telescope/Remote Observatory). This development is part of ASTRO's mission to determine how planets form, what makes up galaxies, and how are matter and energy distributed throughout the universe. The cold temperatures and the absence of water vapor are important contributing factors in making Antarctica the ideal place for these measurements. The skies are clearer and darker in the infrared range than anywhere else on Earth. This is also important in the operation of the instruments that our project is installing for the measurement of molecules in the upper atmosphere.
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