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The adventure of going to the south pole (affectionately called just "pole" by us polies!) has already begun. I've just gotten home from 6 weeks of training for my job as science tech. Now the packing begins in earnest--I am slated to deploy on the 14th, less than 2 weeks away, and I haven't packed a thing in my apartment! I have located some storage places where I can keep my stuff for over a year, and now I just need to get it there.

My job looks like it will be quite interesting and certainly well suited for me. I will be responsible for about 8 different research projects. The scientists for these projects will be down for short visits in the summer (i've simply switched over to using the southern seasons. When I say summer, I mean summer at pole, which is november through february.). I will be running their equipment the rest of the time. This may mean calibrating it, tuning it, fixing it if it breaks, transferring data around. I've learned what "normal data" looks like on the 3 systems I've been trained on so I can have a quick look at the live data and see if the machines are working ok. Out of the 8 projects, I have been trained on three. Apparently I will learn about the others when i'm on "the ice".

The training has been a lot of fun. The first two weeks were general pole winter-over training. THere was a 2 day wilderness medicine course where we learned about putting fractured femurs into traction and moving people with injured spines (without increasing the damage!). 12 people got to take this class (out of an expected winter-over crew of 50, although only 35 had been hired at that point). Then the remaining winter-over crew trickled into town (this was at Raytheon Polar Services in souther Denver. Raytheon is the contractor to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide all the support personnel, of which I am one.) and we had some administrative training (HR, the inventory system at pole on some archaic DOS machines) and the psychological evaluation.

The psych eval consisted of taking the MMPI, a 500 question test designed to pick out various mental conditions. There was also the 16PF, a 300 question test of a similar nature. These were taken like an SAT--read the question in a booklet and bubble in your true/false choice on the "scantron from hell". There was a lot of paranoia about skipping lines or otherwise sabotaging ones test accidentally. The tests themselves were amusing--most popular questions among the takers is the top of your head tender are there evil ghosts following you are you afraid of dirt would you like to be a sports newscaster We also had a half hour in person interview with two psychologists. They asked us questions about ourselves and our hobbies, whether we drank or used illegal drugs, how we handled stress, if we'd ever been in a fistfight. They also will score our tests and compare that with the interview notes. Rampant rumors are flying about various people passing or not passing. I haven't heard directly but since Raytheon continued to send me to the later training (at their expense) I presume I have passed. I also, by the way, passed the physical. I was pretty sure I would but its nice to hear the words!

The first job-related training was in Golden, CO and Albuquerque, NM with the US Geological Survey, in their earthquake detection unit. There are several seismometers at pole and we will be picking out earthquakes from these every day. 5.0 quakes in Alaska can be easily detected at the south pole! I had no idea!! The computers are kept inside the dome, but the equipment itself is under the ice a bit and is very cold. Hopefully it won't break too many times!

The next project was in Boulder, CO. This group is measuring winds in the upper atmosphere--50 to 100 miles up. These winds are interesting not just for the general scientific interest in all things, but because they can affect weather patterns and communications (many comms signals are bounced off the ionosphere, located at the upper edge of the measurements). The winds also give some information about global warming. This group is using a radar to measure wind speeds.

The third training was in Seattle, WA, and is another group measuring winds in the upper atmosphere, this time using a passive optical technique. Don't be fooled--passive optical in this case means a few finicky optical bits and a giant rack full of electronics to control and measure the signal!

I like the projects--I like learning about them and I especially like running them. I'm even happier that I don't have to be responsible for doing the data analysis/interpretation!!

Seeing as I deploy in 10 days I had better get back to packing my apt. If anyone has questions please write and I'll try and answer them!

/andrea

Andrea Grant Aurora Science Tech to be

xagrant@yahoo.com

copyright 2000 Andrea Grant

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