The travel books have begun to surface. World maps litter the galley, as does a copy of the Star Alliance Around The World Ticket map--our tickets home are booked on United, and we can cash them in for better tickets--the most popular is the round the world ticket, allowing 3 to 15 stops at any of an astonishing number of cities, all shown on the map. I marvel at how lucky I am to be a part of this--to be down here, but also the bonus things like travel from the bottom of the earth, anywhere I want to go.
The aurorae have been amazing the last week or so--nearly 24 hours a day, and quite bright. I can see some definition in the surface of the snow just from the light of the aurora. The skies have been clear, showing lots of southern constellations.
Many people on station are interested in home brewing of beer. Early in season they "brewed" some non-alcoholic root beer, more a sarsaparilla than root beer, but delicious non the less. About a month ago they made some true root beer (well, the right flavorings), so root beer floats have been all the rage. The ice cream lives out under the dome, at -50, so making a root beer float requires some advanced preparation. We normally let the ice cream thaw for half an hour to an hour, during which time we try and remember where they've stored the root beer (sometimes in a keg, meaning we have to find the tap, sometimes in bottles, which must be found). Generally impatience overtakes us before the ice cream is even near scooping consistency, so we get out a gigantic knife and simply hack off pieces. I've put a picture of one of these evenings on my website.
It is quite noisy here at pole. I've begun to crave the idea of silence. Both of my workspaces have ambient noise around 65dB, and my bedroom is about 50dB. Whenever I do encounter silence (normally during a brief power outage), my ears ring as if I'd been at a loud concert. A few of us have taken to wearing earplugs, especially while sleeping, to give our ears a rest. There really isn't a quiet space on station--every building has equipment and ventilation fans bringing noise, getting "far" away from the station means taking a vehicle which would *never* be turned off in the field. Even walking is noisy--the squeak of boots on dry snow, the rustling of layer 17 against layer 18, wind howling by, the power plant rumbling in the background.
Every Sunday at 8 pm someone gives a "Sunday Science Lecture". I've volunteered to give one tonight, on the six experiments I run here. I'll probably give another one later on, either on my thesis (a mock defense) or more generally on semiconductor fabrication (how computer chips get made), of which my thesis covers an obscure part.
copyright 2001 Andrea Grant
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