Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2002/03

   

   
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17 February 2003

Friday, January 24, 2003

Competition day

Today was a very quiet day at Dome C. Having reached a population minimum
since we have arrived, and adding to that the total absence of wind, the
main street of Dome C is reminiscent of an old western ghost town. From now
on the population will slowly decrease until there is 5 people left on the
9th of February to close the station. Jon and I will be amongst the last
scientists to leave with a date range from the 3rd to the 5th of February.
Personally I prefer the later, with hope that the replacement amplifier for
the SODAR will arrive very soon.



Jon worked all day on the Summit and the second generator (Nancy) which we
had problems getting started. The day started pretty well with the Summit
collecting its first data of the season. Unfortunately, Jon found a bug in
the system. It looks like every time we power cycle the Iridium phone, every
Ethernet connection on the hub flashes and disconnects the instruments for a
few tens of a second. Somehow the Summit does not appreciate this little
kick and replies by stopping its duty.



Nancy on the other hand was much more docile today. Jon figured out the
magic combination of parameters to get it started. In some way, playing with
the engines is a bit like preparing a chocolate soufflé. If you get one of
the ingredients wrong or if the oven is at the wrong temperature, the
soufflé will do its best trying to rise but will eventually collapse back at
the bottom of the dish. Nancy had been doing that for the last few days.
Today however, it started 4 times in a row without complaining. With this
victory in hand, Jon will try tomorrow another recipe: 2 soufflés in
parallel. What I mean by that is that we need to have a method (a script)
that manages the two engines in order to always one working at any time. Jon
has been working on that in Sydney and he will now tune it to make it work
in those more extreme conditions.



With a few things now crossed out of our job list, I realised that until the
amplifier makes a landing in Dome C, all the remaining jobs could only be
done from the one computer. Jon being stapled to it with a time bomb around
his neck, I had to resign myself to the last job away from the keyboard: the
evil inventory. This task is definitely the most boring there is, but it is
also an important one for the planning of next year's deployment. I won't go
through the details. I bet no one cares how many flat-head screw driver we
have in stock in the AASTINO. I took the opportunity to do a bit of a clean
up as well. So far it had been almost impossible to take a descent picture
of the interior of the AASTINO without having a bunch of tools messing the
view. The tent was also the subject of this clean up and is now ready for
the open day we have organised on Sunday. We thought it would fit well to
give a tour of the AASTINO to the people of the station on Australia day. We
have the Champagne ready and now a spotless, state of the art, scientific
facility.



After dinner (and a few slices of lemon meringue pie), a station wide
baby-foot competition was organised. Let me first describe for our non-Latin
readers what baby-foot is. To put it simply, baby-foot is a table soccer
game. Each side (you can have one or two people per side) has four handles
which controls a line of soccer player figurines. The aim is to use them to
kick the ball into the goal of the opposing team. Where Australian pubs have
pool tables, the French and Italian ones have baby-foot tables. I introduced
Jon to the rules of that game in Dumont-D'Urville where they have a table
and he liked it enough not to spend a day without playing it now. In Dome C
however, the baby-foot is Italian and there is a few differences with the
French one. In the French baby-foot, the feet of the figurines are made of
rubber so you can get a hold of the ball. This leads to a game focused on
pass and fake shoots. In the Italian baby-foot, the figurines feet are hard
plastic and the sides of the table are curved. The game is therefore based
on speed. There is also a few minor rule differences, but the game is
essentially the same: scoring ten goals before you opponent.



Most of the station entered the competition which should last two or three
days (playing in the evening, after dinner). Two people per team, best of
three games. The teams were drawn from a hat and the first games have
started at 8:30 tonight. I will keep you posted of the results when the
competition is finally over. So far the Italians are doing well (playing on
home ground and rules it was to be expected). At eleven I left to do my
balloon launch and set another record with a ground wind speed of 0.1m/s.



More tomorrow...


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