South Pole Diaries 1998/99

   

   


Monday 25th January

From Michael Burton.....

This may be my last journal report from the South Pole! I'm due to fly out to McM tomorrow (well actually today, but since I'm on a night schedule that means tomorrow for me!). The weather's now beautiful and it looks like things are working, so its fingers crossed for another great season!

Devotees of the webcam will have seen the great weather we're now having. Barely -28C and next to no wind, with great blue skies - its wonderful! Two Twin Otter's arrived last night, from Adventure Network International, to pick up our French adventurers (at last!) and also the Dutch paragliders, who'd radioed in to say they had only 1 days food supply left and please help! What that really means is that there is likely to be a food cache about 100 km out from Pole in the McMurdo direction if anyone feels like making the journey here one day.....

The Kiwi's, on the other hand, still seem to be struggling on. I heard today that its actually an official government appointed program under their Antarctic program, and thus that the Yanks will pull them out on Hercs if/when they get here. Sounds like an interesting way to be spending their meagre budget, but I guess when the PM can make calls to them on the Iridium phone and get it broadcast nationally, what does it matter about the cost!

NSF are apparantly going to have to apply some hard words to ANI for leaving their clients at Pole so long, after they had arrived on time!

The TEG is running again on the AASTO! After the AGO boys had left Charlie, our cunning winterover, decided to just put the radiator back on himself, fix up the connectors, and switch on power again. So far no freon leaks and everything seems to be working.....

SPIREX, the 60cm telescope, is back together, and now just awaiting Abu, its million pixel infrared camera, which is scheduled for tomorrow when they can get the crane operator to drive the massive mobile crane over. Measurements of the background flux from the instrument in the lab were high, but if I have my calcs right by the time it drops to -60C in the middle of winter there wont be much emission to worry about from the instrument, just that from the sky and space beyond. Lets just hope that Planck got his radiation formula correct!

Then comes the task of making sure everything is lined up, we can find stars and track on them. Its another few weeks work, but there is a hard working team from CARA here for the job.

I've been sorting out lots of things to do with how to process the data this year. We're trying to be really clever and automate most of the process using some software gurus in Rochester in the US. However, since it is software, this process probably wont prove to be as easy as it sounds on paper!

We are being visited by DV's (or Distinguished Visitors). Arriving tonight, as the only passenger in a Herc, was Karl Erb, the recently appointed Director of Polar Programs in the NSF. Tomorrow we have several other heavies as well. So all the PI's have been madly typing into their laptops summary and fact sheets to impress the DV's by as they make their whistle stop tour of the facilities. Those arriving tomorrow only have 5 hours at Pole, and are due to see everything. Given that it takes at least a day to acclimatise its going to be a tough day in the office! I've been given 10 minutes to make my mark with them! Actually what we really want to do is open their minds to our next project, SPIRIT, the 2-m telescope we want to start building at Pole in a couple years, and for which the chase for funding is now beginning in earnest! So we all have to be on our best behaviour tomorrow and put on our best pair of jeans for the occassion.

So weather permitting, this will be my last message from Pole, though there may be a few commenting on the delightful food at McMurdo. Daniel will have to take over the reins for the rest of the week!

Michael

 

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