South Pole Diaries 2001/02

   

   


Wednesday 23rd January

From John Storey.....

Up bright and early this morning to log onto the UNSW computer via satellite, just to check if anything really bad was happening to the School of Physics while I was away. I'd set up an automatic vacation response that says, in effect, "I'm at the South Pole - go away", but it doesn't seem to have deterred people. It took me a few hours to go through the 520 emails
that have accumulated.

We had two big successes today. The first was that, with the arrival of the magnesium perchlorate, we were finally able to assemble the sub-millimetre instrument, SUMMIT, and put it on the roof of the AASTO. SUMMIT is unreasonably heavy, mainly because it has a huge heatsink under it that enables it to be warmed entirely by AASTO interior air. Thermodynamics being what it is, no matter how we burn JP-8, we end up with a lot of a heat and only a little electricity. So, all our instruments are designed to be heated only by heat (if that makes sense), leaving all of the precious electricity available to run the electronics.

Just before lunch we sledded SUMMIT across to the AASTO, towing it behind a Skidoo. With the help of the brothers Pernic and some ropes we hauled it to the roof, where it is now sitting in the end port. It looks remarkably like a US mailbox - Paolo has even put a sticker on it that says "No junk mail please". This evening we will leave SUMMIT hooked up to the Internet, enabling our colleagues back at UNSW to run it and see if we've forgotten to hook anything up.

The second major success was to get the Stirling engine running under its own steam, as it were. It is now controlling its coolant temperature (with admirable success, I might add), and trickle charging the batteries in a most appropriate manner. Best of all we have the monitor computer hooked up to the Internet, so that we can keep an eye on it from anywhere on the planet. I think everyone in the computer room here is now thoroughly sick of me showing them the little screen.

Today's entertainment was to test out the little tilt meter and shock indicator stickers that were attached to the crate the Stirling engine came in. It's childish, I know, but yes the indicators do turn red when you turn the box upside down and drop it on the floor. At South Pole you have to
invent your own amusements...

I have decided not to reward the Supervisor computer any more for its attention-seeking behaviour. It is sitting in the corner and it is not allowed to talk to any of the other computers. Tomorrow, if its behaviour has not improved, I will attack it with a soldering iron.

John

 

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