Amundsen at the South Pole

This year (2011) it is the centenary of the South Pole conquest, the very well known ‘race’ between Amundsen and Scott towards the most southern point on Earth, which had such a tragic ending. Today, Antarctica is still a very extreme continent, but with ideal conditions for research. To protect this unique environment, the antarctic treaty restricts any activity to only scientific goals. Since about 50 years a number of scientific stations have emerge throughout the continent, mainly in the cost.

One of the most singular ones is the american Amundsen-Scott station which is located at 90 degrees south, few meters away from the geographic South Pole. This season, and after more than a decade of construction, the largest neutrino telescope, the Icecube experiment, was completed at this station. I will be talking frequently about Icecube since it is the experiment in which I will be working, but it is worth mentioning that it is a very particular telescope, since it spans a volume of 1 km3! Besides Icecube, other telescopes and experiments operate at the station. Due to the harsh environment conditions at Pole, most activity is performed in the summer season (mid October to mid February), but neutrinos doesn’t understand of cold weather, and polar night is the proper time for astronomical observations, so a reduce population stays in the station during the winter. They are isolated for eight months since the low temperatures prevent any flight from reaching the station. These intrepid (or crazy) people are called Winter Overs. And this is just the position I will develop, I will be one of the two Winter Overs of the Icecube neutrino telescope during the 2011/2012 season.

South Pole nowadays. Picture Icecube collaboration.

The aim of this blog is to report about this experience, trying to outreach issues about Antarctica, the Amundsen-Scott station, neutrino physics, astroparticle physics, other science at South Pole and the daily matters of an experience that to some extent is by itself a sociological experiment.

I have always been amazed by travelers in documentaries and how they succeed in finding what is interesting to tell, I think it is extremely difficult. Indeed, narrations about a travel are themselves a travel, a travel to the travelers mind. And I find this idea perturbing. I am not a traveler, and even this blog is my first experience with the cyber-world, so I cannot anticipate what the result will be. But I remember I would have loved to read about an experience like this before I got involved in this, so I hope that people interested in nature, adventure or science will find these appealing. Feel free to comment, suggest ,correct anything that you find can be improved. I cannot promise i will answer all the time, since access to internet at Pole is limited, but this will be for sure more interesting with your feedback.

Welcome.