Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2002/03

   

   
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Sunday, January 26, 2003

balloon day

I woke up this morning, hoping that the previous day was just a bad dream. I rose out of my tent and the first thing I saw was the station doctor tanning outside his tent only wearing boxer-shorts and sun glasses. Ok I dreamt the whole Antarctic thing; I must be still in Tahiti.

This idea didn't last long, it was still -30C and when I joined Jon in the AASTINO, the supervisor was still not working. This is not coming at a great timing either as I had organised today to launch a weather balloon every two hours between midday and midnight. Let's not panic! First thing, let's call Michael. We've called him every weekend since we have arrived at Dome C, he is probably wandering how small our brains got with the altitude. Nevertheless, we decide to call him. He leads me for half an hour through a series a linux command into a fight with the SODAR laptop to find out why it won't start up. Eventually the fight comes to an end: Michael 1- Computer 0.

Jon on the other side of the AASTINO is waging another day of war against the Supervisor. He only stops to answer another wrong number on the Iridium. It was the same guy as yesterday, who we know now is trying to reach someone in Mc Murdo (close enough).

At the end of the day however, the compact flash memory card is still not working. We have on the other end, another flash card which works. It is not ideal because it does not contain all the programs that the original did, but if worst comes, we can work something out from it.

Tony launching a BalloonI spent my days doing the balloon launches, helped by Brad, a South Pole meteorologist I had seen there the previous year. He is at Dome C to work on some satellite validation which also benefits from the balloon data. We launched our first sonde at midday when the temperature was a comfortable -26C. But every other launch after that became harder and harder as the temperature dropped regularly and reached -41C on the midnight launch. At this temperature, tying the knot to the balloon is very painful to the fingers and sometime you can barely do one before needing to get your hand back in the gloves.

Between launches I went back to the AASTINO to help Jon on the problem of the day. Every time I passed the door wishing to see the computer up and running. Unfortunately it never happened and the day finished with this problem still in the air.

The evening was a typical Dome C Saturday night: A few people on the baby-foot (the competition was won by Gianpiero and Fabricio by the way), 5 French men playing Tarot and the same amount of Italian playing another game of card. The rest of the people are usually spread around a movie or simply talking around the fire place (ok, there is no fire place. I just meant heater.) The evening being the last for half of the Epica crew, the evening dragged on for a bit longer. At midnight, a bunch of Italians went to the kitchen to prepare some "midnight pasta". The French replied by an even more predictable "5am French fries". It's a shame Jon and I were not around at that time because we would have probably answered to that with a "6am meat pie"

A domani...

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