Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2002/03

   

   
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Tuesday, December 10, 2002

SUMMIT, to the max

South Pole Diary, Wednesday Decmber 11

Paolo and I actually spent some time debating whether today was Tuesday or
Wednesday, coming to the wrong answer several times. Such is life when the
sun simply goes round in circles. Midnight is "north" and midday is "south"
and generally one is very confused!

The weather - need you ask - no, just see the previous few days entries.
The wind was a bit up today, though, upto around 10 knots. Enough to
eliminate airplane-fog, which was good for the South Pole International
Airport was a busy place today. At least 6 Herc flights came and went, and
the Twin Otter went off on 3 separate trips to meteorite fields, dropping
meteorite hunters and their equipment off at nearby blue-ice fields.

The morning was eventful for Michael Ashley solving the pharlap-IP problem
minutes before the satellite was about to disappear. So this fascinating
tale came to an end, with Michael and I exchanging a virtual conversation on
the keyboard of the "supervisor" computer, using the well know "wall"
command (type wall before everything you want to say, and the response is
echoed to everyone else logged on, in this case between the South Pole and
Siding Spring Observatory).

The afternoon was Paolo's adventure with SUMMIT, which he will tell you
about in far more lyrical a way than me. SUMMIT is Paolo's thesis, and he
knows every quirk and trick this sub-mm sky monitor possesses. My main task
was to take a few "hero-shots" of Paolo with SUMMIT standing on the AASTO
roof for use in his PhD thesis!

My main practical contribution to the day, aside from "walling" with Michael
Ashley, was to find a large piece of blue-board (insulating foam) from the
cargo berms, and cut it to size to fill all the holes in the wall of the
AASTO where we used to have pipes protruding from the power generator. The
floor of the AASTO is now covered in blue-board bits because no-one wants to
saw outside, and a good vacuum of the floor is urgently in order!

I also went shopping (Wed is late night shopping at the Pole with the store
open from 6-9pm), did my washing and had my weekly shower! I also finally
got round to commenting on one of my grad students final part to her thesis
(sorry Jill!) - a project which has actually built from the SPIREX infrared
telescope we operated at the Pole in 98/99.


Michael


10. Madness

10 Dec 2002 - by Paolo G. Calisse

To get admitted to the tiny club of people wintering in Antarctica is a frightening adventure. Getting out of a crevasse? Fighting with killer seals? Tiring walks in the gale? No, nothing like that. After a long series of medical exams, including removal of most of your poor wisdom teeth, you have to pass the most frightening test. The so-called "Psycho".

Some people included me have been submitted to the exam today, directly here at South Pole. At 7:30 we have been asked yesterday to meet in the upper galley, inside the dome. There were 6 other person with me. The test consists in the endless Minnesota test (567 questions), continue with another test called M2 or something like that (185 questions) and finish with the interview with the "psycho", that is my favourite because at last you have found someone happy to know also the most boring details of your life and for free.

The Minnesota test, in one of its multiple forms, consists of exactly 567 true/false questions. The declared aim of the test is to check if you lie, but I guess that it works just in this way: if you suddenly stand up, redden and start to scream the 10th time you have to reply to the question "Sometime I feel my head tender (true/false)", in one of his various form or to declare that "I would prefer to be a sport journalist than play wrestling or baseball (ture/false)" you are out of the game.

In my case this tireness test was even more boring because I couldn't get 1 by 10 times what the hell the question was meaning. As most of my most reader will know by now, I am not exactly the kind of person skilled for other languages.

But let me explain using a simple example what's happened. For example: question 65 asked to say if it's true or false that "Most of the time I feel blue".

I taken my time to try to imagine a person that actually feels blue. I watched to the skin of my arm and tried to see it turning from beige to cyan and than blue. It didn't work. I never feel blue. But I couldn't really imagine such a person, wishing to spend a winter in Antarctica and contemporarely feeling blue. Why should someone feel blue? Why not green or black, for example? For politically correctness?

I continued for a good 2 hours to reply to questions like that. I have been asked if "Almost ever I feel a lump in my throat". If someone will send me an e-mail at this address telling me what the hell is a lump I'll be very glad. I checked false, and continue ahead.

Anyway at question 566, just one before the end, something happenede. I found the following question:

"When I am sad or blue, it is my work that suffer". Uh...oh! I got the feeling that I had just misunderstood the word in another 13 or 14 statements.

But the worst was that only close to the end of this endless series of questions I realized that "hardly ever" dosn't mean "almost ALWAYS" as I was guessing, but almost NEVER.

This means that the portrait will come out of my test will probably be the one of a person that would like to kill his father each Christmas while getting upset for almost every reason, and, even worst, the kind of person that if Penelope Cruz would access his "cubicle" at midnight, would just starts chatting with her about submillimeter site testing. This doesn't mean that I will not be envolved in the winter at South Pole. First, as my boss said one time, you have to be completely crazy to wish to do that, second, if you could see the kind of people populating the station you could "hardly" believe that the psychologist has still not killed himself.

Anyway, in this way I spent 3 hours of my poor time here addressing stupid or inchoerent questions. The second test included other 185 questions. After that I got to the interview with the psyco, that last a good half an hour longer than the other people because, you know, it is particularly nice to find someone interested in accurate description of any detail of your life. And for free! I enjoyed that poor guy with a discussion about arguments starting from the problem of emigration from South Italy after the WWII (the guy's father was coming from a tiny center in Calabria), to the production of amatorial movie with brodcast quality cameras, to the route taken from Skua when emigrating from the Pole, etc.

After that I got my launch and get back to the AASTO, where I'm used to work. We had a long list of things-to-do. They span from maintance to the experiment, preparing crates, cleaning up, dismounting assorted stuff, replying to the mail, send diaries, to change the IP address of obsolete computers, find the allan key 7/64 (this could take several hours) in the tool box, depressurise stirling hanging from 28 to 4 bars using a pushbike tyre gauge, shoveling the snow, put a thermometer large like a tower-clock in a stick on the snow, convince a webcam to wear sunglasses, etc.

Let me say that it's true that doing this kind of things in this place I never get blue.

Right?

Note: all the examples and information in this diary are completely true.

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