Broken Glasses

I broke my glasses last week.

In order to explain what happened, I have to backtrack a little. Remember how I was trying to fly out to Siple Dome? David and I were going there to set up pulsing stations far away from noisy McMurdo. Well, we finally made it on Tuesday...after 5 cancelled flights. Five days of a Groundhog-day-esqe ritual of going to sleep early, eating a hearty breakfast, dressing in three layers to protect against the projected -40 degree F winds, only to be told that the flight was cancelled again.

Every day at breakfast, we would review our chances of flying out. Tuesday was the first day that David was optimistic about the flights, and the second day I wasn't. We flew in a Bassler out of Willy Field. Three hours and one hot chocolate later we landed to be welcomed by the two people who live at Siple Dome and a sundog, a rainbow forming concentric circles around the sun due to the ice crystals in the air.


It wasn't nearly as cold as expected (only -5 degrees F), but we had to work fast. The pilots were told to wait for us as we set up our equipment, but under their contract, they can only work for so many hours. Subtracting off the duration of the flights there and back left us with only four hours. Doug of Siple Dome helped us set up solar panels that power the pulsers, test and bury the antennas. We buried the antennas and electronics since the snow would accumulate on them anyway. It keeps the cables and connectors on the electronics from getting damaged. Loading an antennas with snow, or any insulator, changes its response, so we wanted to load it up with as much as possible so we know exactly how it behaves.


The four hours flew by. As we boarded the plane, Jonathan gave us pork and bean burritos. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was one of the most satisfying burritos of my life. Later on when I slowly removed everything from my pockets, I realized I had broken my glasses. At some point, as I was rolling around, digging holes, reaching out to connect cables, I must have snapped my glasses. Casualties of science, I guess.


I didn't bring a spare pair. Fortunately for me, I'm surrounded by some talented engineers. Paul and Dana helped me epoxy them back together. We put a piece of copper across the bridge to add some structure, and then soaked a piece of nylon in epoxy to seal everything together. The only type of epoxy I could find was a drab grey color, which rounded out the look. They look hideous, but at least I had nerd-cred. They lasted about four days.

Right now, we can go down a metal narrow metal pipe that sticks straight into the sea ice at Ross Beach. The sea ice melts and refreezes every year, so it's only about 7-10 ft thick which is nothing compared with the 70 meter thick ice at LDB. The pipe is capped at the end and has windows that allow you to look out into the Ross Sea and under the ice. I think this is my favorite place in Antarctica right now. I liked it so much that I went twice.


The second time I went, I broke my glasses again. I was so excited about seeing the jellyfish, the krill, and fish. I was fascinated by the eerie blue, but bright glow of the underside of the ice. Seals talk to one another with laser sounds that bounce off the ice and sea floor. Humongous icicles plow into the water like a bullet. I think what I like the most about it us other-worldliness. My enthusiasm got the best of me though. I was shoving my glasses, my camera lenses, my gloves, my hat into and out of Big Red so many times, that eventually I crushed my already fragile glasses. Given the trials they valiantly endured, I'm not too upset.