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Fermilab | Batavia, IL | USA

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Bob’s most excellent particle detector adventure makes land

Editor’s note: Bob Peterson ends his month-long journey in the Atlantic Ocean with two cosmic ray muon detectors, collecting data for science and education programs that use similar detectors. Look for future Quantum Diaries posts explaining how the data gets used and how the two detectors get used on dry land. Hopefully, you’ll also get to see some of the photos from the journey, which Peterson couldn’t send from the ship.

Follow the 10-part journey here: The voyage begins, Turning the detector on, Other science on the sea, Particle detectors don’t like light, Enduring a branding for science A teaching moment on the ocean, Using ballons to study the sky to help IceCube and QuarkNet, Cosmic ray detector weathers sea mount survey and storms.

18 May 2011
R/V Polarstern
Latitude: 51-30.8 N
Longitude: 2-17.3 E
English Channel
Ship course 40° T
Ship velocity 10.3kt

18 May: Bob’s Last Polarstern Blog

France just showed up off the starboard rail. We’ve been in the soup since entering the English Channel, fog so thick you can’t see the toes in front of your feet. All the surrounding ships disappeared and the onboard birds are staying close. The only means of verifying location is the radar and the navigator’s chart. The ships had to trust the captains and the captains had to trust their charts. Scary for the ships; they have no eyes. But, there is France. We will be off Calais in an hour and half. Hope the visibility holds.

This will be the last blog installment as the radio officer shuts down the mail server tomorrow at 1200 ship time; not 1201.

There is much activity onboard as data-taking has stopped and instruments are finding their way to packing cases. The experiments I’ve talked about in these posts are finished: no more LIDAR, no more microwave cloud measurements, no more deep-echo sounding,. But the cosmic ray muon detector keeps clicking over. I’m going to take data all night; shut down and pack up tomorrow morning.

Arrival at Bremerhaven will occur at 0600 Friday morning assuming the pilot is on time (remember Las Palmas?). Quick good byes as the German scientists want to get home. The crew waits for their “pay-off” as in the old days before they depart the ship. Then the Polarstern goes to dry dock for “haul-out” and maintenance. It will have three weeks out of the water and then departure for the Arctic. Much of the same crew will sail again including Max and Klaus in the weather office.

It’s been a truly amazing trip for me. I recommend a new book, “Atlantic” by Winchester. It captures some of the scale of this body of water. The book covers history, oceanography, geology, sea battles, survival stories and sea life. I started reading it in Cape Town; finished it off of Gibraltar It’s a
worthwhile read.

Ship’s bell just rang for dinner. Thanks to all for reading and sending me mail. It was nice to feel the connection from friends, family and colleagues when so far away.

— Bob Peterson


*Starboard: The right side of the ship.

*Soup: Fog

*Pay-off: After a ship’s arrival in port, the captain would meet the crew (who had spent the night on the town) the next morning to pay the crew in cash or gold.

*Haul-out: In the old days, a ship would be pulled out of the water using a railway and cradle; now ships use dry-docks, which pump the water out of the basin containing the ship.


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