South Pole Diaries 1998/99

   

   


Tuesday 19th January

From Michael Burton.....

A bright sunny day at Pole, with the temperature creeping down towards -30C and a notable absence of any wind. A pleasant day for a stroll to the Dark Sector and back. Life continues apace with CARA; there were 30 people at our biweekly meeting last night working on 5 major projects and its getting a little tight for space in the MAPO building. The arrival of a large crate meant that you literally had to climb over the furniture to access and work on delicate instruments like dewars, three of which seem to be littering parts of the floor at the moment.

Abu is still on the vacuum and pumping hard, and Al Fowler looks worried, but its hard to judge whether this is just his usual worry or whether its more serious (ie we have a vacuum leak somewhere in the system). He plans to start cooling tomorrow and the instrument will be placed on the telescope by Friday, whether or not its really ready, as people cant stay here for ever. We're also waiting for a replacement piezo to arrive for our secondary mirror, which allows it to compensate for any untoward motions of the telescope. This has to be here by Thursday or we simply have to work without it. So its fingers crossed for a few days.......

Daniel still experiments with the Sodar, but its possible we aren't getting any sensible data at all with it at the moment. A Herc parked outside the Dome, a kilometre away, creates total garbage in the system, and I expect passing Caterpillar Tractors dont help. The South Pole is just too noisy a place! However at least these distractions will be absent in winter, which is when we want to gather our data. I guess microthermal flucuations in the atmosphere 300m above our heads dont really rate when competing with passing heavy machinery!

Matt has decided to attack the Orbcomm transmitter, and bits of wire and solder were littering the AASTO today. Even the communications expert from COMMS was called in, and commented maybe we had a dodgy transmitter (thanks!). So John, John and Matt have been baffled by this wonder piece of technology. Andre, where are you when we need you?!

I thought my movie making abilities were secure given the good weather, but a recent check of the webcam shows that it hung up about 12 hours ago, and so I've missed once more the 24 hour shadow-circle we're trying to capture on film (thus updating, ever so slightly, the original method Amundsen used to find the Pole in the first place!). Following Matt's pioneering efforts at Antarctic ice-running last week, I thought it time to come of the treadmill in the gym and run the skiway too. The skiway is about 100m wide and 5km along, just about big enough for an errant Herc pilot to catch if dozing off after a hard night at MacTown, and provides a hard surface to run on. The snow is jus too crunchy off it, and a real effort to trudge through, though its fine on skis. However the biggest problem with running is what to wear. Its just too hot here for the clothes your provided with, even though I removed a couple of layers! After 30 min I was nicely toasting and sweating profusely, which over the second half of the run then started to turn to snow and ice on the outside and giving me the appearnace of the abominable snowman. Next time I think I'll stick to my shorts and T-shirt!

That's all folks!

Michael


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