Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2002/03

   

   
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Friday, December 13, 2002

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

South Pole Report, Friday December 13th, 2002

The clouds have gone, and we're back to brilliant sunny days once more at
the Pole. The wind dropped to under 5 knots, and at -32C it actually felt
quite warm outside. People were discarding their coats as they went about
their duties, and could be seen strolling across the station in jeans. Not
for very long, mind you - its OK to walk around the Dome in street clothing,
because in 30 sec you wont freeze, but it is a 10 min walk across to the
Dark Sector, and you don't want to chance it too much!

The perfect weather has left me with one disappointment so far - I've seen
very little in the way of ice halos. The most spectacular halos can be seen
with the right types of icy clouds, but we've been free of cirrus, and
consequently simply had beautiful blue skies. The only real ice-effect I've
seen was a smattering of "diamond dust" in the aircraft-induced fog of a few
days ago - fine crystals of ice reflecting sunlight as they drift through
the air.

I've had three meetings today! One of the reasons many people come to the
Pole is to escape the dictums of modern life, including that of incessant
meetings. But I've had three to go to today - almost like being back at
Uni! However being Pole we cut the protocols, ran two of them back to back,
and the third lasted only 20 mins. So not too draining on us.

The first meeting was to discuss the future of the AASTO, in particular
whether it might have to be moved next year. Snow build-up in the Dark
Sector is becoming significant as the various buildings there disrupt the
airflow in ways that weren't originally anticipated. The AASTO may be the
smallest building there, but it still affects the airflow, and perhaps more
importantly, can impede the snow ploughs that are used to move snow around
and level surfaces. So there is to be a thorough investigation into whether
the AASTO should be moved next season, and if so where. Our meeting started
looking at the various options.

The second meeting was our "outbrief" - reporting to station personnel on
our time here, and whether we'd achieved our objectives. Since we've only
been here a short time, there wasn't really too much to say. But it did
give Paolo the opportunity to ask whether it was really necessary to
bulldoze snow at 4am outside his Jamesway. We discovered that this is in
fact the biggest single grip at Pole!

The third meeting was the weekly CARA meeting. CARA, as an entity, doesn't
actually exist anymore, but all the astronomers still remember it fondly,
and we do all have to work together, even if we are no longer under the same
umbrella organisation. But in fact, aside from Paolo and I, everyone else
around at the moment is involved with the AST/RO sub-mm telescope - and so
spend most of everyday under each other's feet. So there wasn't too much to
talk about, and we could all clear out and start doing our nightly e-mail!

The main practical achievement of the day was the crating up of the
Whispergen and the Summit. Here Paolo's practical carpentry skills came to
the fore as we had to find ways of both fitting everything in to the boxes,
and making sure they were secure. There was some delicate handling of some
heavy equipment on the roof of the AASTO, trying not to drop it, or fall
off, whilst trying to gently place it inside its container. Originally our
plan had been to simply pass it down off the roof using a few beefy blokes
to help it on its way. However we quickly realised that this would likely
result in those same beefy blokes falling off the roof - hence the need to
package the instrument up on top of the building. A forklift is going to
come along at 7:30am tomorrow morning to gently prize it off the roof.
Paolo spent the evening then organising express mail to Dome C, so we in
fact now expect to have Summit at Dome C by the 18th - probably before we
have got off the continent ourselves! And better than Australia Post!

Michael


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