Last week, the NEWS-G summer students of Queen’s University had the opportunity to visit SNOLAB.
SNOLAB is one of the deepest laboratories in the world. Located in the Vale Creighton Mine near Sudbury Ontario, Canada (400km north of Toronto), this 2km underground astroparticle physics lab hosts large experiments specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics, including NEWS-G.
Dressed in their flashy yellow mine gear, heavy safety boots and orange helmets, our students were ready to take the “cage” (elevator) which would bring them 2km underground at a speed of 40km/h. As the nickel mine is still active, they had to share the lift with miners who stopped at others levels of the underground labyrinth.
After that, they still had to walk along the 1km tunnel that led them to the laboratory entrance where another interesting experience was waiting for them. To pass from the dirty mine to the clean 5000m2 laboratory, strict cleanliness policies are enforced; all people entering SNOLAB need to stop by the shower, which is the boundary between the dirty and clean sides, and then put on special clean-room clothes.
Once in the lab, the students had the chance to participate in a guided tour with Pierre Gorel, our collaborator at SNOLAB, who showed them the different experiments as well as the future site of the NEWS-G SPC which should arrive in spring 2019.
“For me, this tour of SNOLAB was an unforgettable and irreplaceable experience for a multitude of reasons. Simply having the opportunity to go into an active mine was amazing! The trip down was unlike anything I had ever been a part of, crammed into a dark elevator with 20-30 other people, ears popping several times a minute due to the pressure change, an adventure in itself. But the real adventure only began when we got out of the elevator. After passing through to the clean side of the laboratory, the environment is so different it is difficult to believe it can exist 2km underground. Walking around the facilities, I truly got an idea of the incredible amount of work that went into creating this marvel of modern science. The experiments are so grand in scale and quality, they give the feeling that any feat can be accomplished with enough effort and dedication. I am intensely appreciative to have had this inspiring experience, and I feel especially motivated for my future scientific efforts.” – Will Salmon
“Touring the SNOLAB underground facilities was thrilling and enlightening. As the tour began, our descent into the mine and our slow meander down towards the laboratory resembled what one would generally expect from an active mine: dark, wet, and unrefined. When we entered the lab, everything abruptly changed; the walls were smooth, the climate was controlled, and I soon forgot that I was underground at all. It was incredible to be able to witness first-hand the cultivation of such a precise and rigorously maintained environment in the most unlikely of circumstances, and I am grateful to have had the experience.” – Alan Goodman
“Throughout our tour of SNOLAB, I often found myself in awe of the sheer engineering marvel that I was witnessing before me. The amount of resources and passion for research that has gone into the ongoing construction of a facility in such an inhospitable environment was very inspiring. Despite a ride on the infamous “Cage,” and a 1.5 km hike through an active nickel mine, it was all too easy to find myself completely forgetting that I was 2 km underground once inside the smooth white-grey walls of SNOLAB. The journey down was not the most comfortable, having to wear borrowed mining gear and go through a thorough cleaning prior to entering the lab. Thankfully the cool temperatures inside the facility more than made up for it. SNOLAB had a sense of camaraderie; everyone that our group encountered was friendly and eager to answer all of our curiosities, including our excellent tour guides Blaire and Pierre. I was most excited to see the future location of NEWS-G’s SPC, whose empty corner appeared minuscule next to the monstrous water tanks of the neighbouring DEAP-3600 and MiniCLEAN experiments. Nevertheless, I am very excited to see the future installation and development of NEWS-G inside SNOLAB. I am grateful for the opportunity of getting to experience SNOLAB firsthand, it left quite the impression on me – so much so that it warranted the purchase of a souvenir toque!” – Carter Garrah