Ice Lenses


One of the first projects I undertook on arrival at the South Pole in 2016 was the construction of a series of ice lenses that were flawed or ‘noisy’ due to the conditions of their creation. Each ice lens was formed by filling the void between two watch glasses with water (supplied from South Pole Station’s ‘Rodwell’, located about 100 metres deep in the ice and yielding fresh water that was deposited approximately 2000 years ago). This water froze in about 2 hours when left outside. I then had limited time to use the lenses before the warmth of my hand melted the lenses or the numbness in my fingers made the task impractical. Grasping these lenses in my bare hands enabled a haptic appreciation of the unique conditions of the Pole. One reason that the instruments probing the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation are located at the Pole is to reduce the influence of heat noise – these instruments must be supercooled to fractions of a degree above absolute zero to distinguish the tiny signals from background noise. The Ice Lenses also were also rendered useless by excess heat – in this case, from my body.