Anne Gambrel is a graduate student in the Department of Physics at Princeton University. She blogs at SPIDER on the Ice.
Nov. 26, 2015. This week started off with the very important and always somewhat nerve-racking step of moving Theo (our cryostat) to the gondola from its ground station cart. We are well practiced at this maneuver, but you always have to be on your A game when transporting a cryogenic vessel that’s under vacuum. Happily, this went off without a hitch on Sunday!
After that long day on Sunday, we were told to take Monday off in preparation for the very busy next month that spans from the first helium fill until launch. We took full advantage of the day, starting with a trip to the Observation Tube.
The Obs Tube is a tube situated in the sea ice just down the hill from town. It fits one person, and takes you via ladder down a few meters to a compartment with windows below the ice. I don’t have any more adjectives to describe these sort of incredible experiences I’m having down here! The sea is brimming with life, despite the cold. Tiny white fishes are everywhere moving in slow motion. Little transparent white skeletal looking creatures and tiny jellyfish-looking things make you double take as you realize they are alive. And the coolest part- the sounds of the whales or seals. We imitate them to each other and it sounds like we are making lame sci fi laser gun sounds effects: “Pew pew!” But that’s exactly what it sounds like.
After that, Ed and I hit the gym to do some climbing. There are three gyms here- the weights gym, the gerbil gym, and the big gym. Here is a picture of the big gym.
The next day, we took the dive and put liquid helium into the main tank. Cooling something down to near absolute zero causes a lot of boil-off and high pressures in the tank, so we do it slowly and keep people around for the 72 hours it takes for everything to equilibrate, just to make sure Theo is happy. So far, so good! Tomorrow, we should have superfluid, and within a day or two after that, a fully functioning instrument!