Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2002/03

   

   
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Friday, January 31, 2003

orbituary

It is with grief that I have to announce the death of our beloved Sodar. He
will be remembered to all as a happy lad, always singing. His ashes will be
buried in a suitcase tomorrow at 15:30 and taken to a better place.



More seriously though, this is a real disappointment to us that this very
important experience will be missing our first winter at Dome C. It turned
out that more than the amplifier was damaged. It would be very hard to
figure out exactly what else got damaged let alone receiving the components
on the little time we have left. So now we have to concentrate on getting
the rest of our mission fully working, something we are very confident
about.



Jon had a better day than me, doing a lot of progress on the second engine
which is more reluctant than the first one. We got the rest of the fuel
delivered in the afternoon. We now have the two tanks filled up to the top.
The amount of fuel should be just enough until we come back at the end of
the year. In fact, the amount of fuel we will use will be also dependant on
the amount of energy we can get out of the solar panels. We installed them
facing north in order to get every glimpse of sun as it will make a short
appearance in spring and autumn.



Today was also memorable for being the coldest yet. It was not so much the
temperature but rather the wind which was at a record high. The 20 knots
made all our flags stand straight. So straight they looked like the one on
the moon which I guess is just as lonely as ours will be when the station
closes. The wind made it difficult to do just about anything outside and it
reminded me of the conditions we experienced last year at the South Pole. I
should probably mention that the South Pole, being on the slope of the
plateau, has stronger winds so we had to be fully covered when going
outside. Dome C on the other hand is at a local maximum and the wind is
usual negligible. Today, this was not the case and our clothes felt a little
short on protection. Even our AASTINO which usually can get to any
temperature we want (we like it at 28C) could barely maintain a temperature
above 15C. The wind was infiltrating itself through our vents which were
designed to minimise that effect. With 2,500 litres of cold fuel now inside
the AASTINO, it should take a couple of days to get our 28C back and work
around in shorts.



I guess that's all for today. I don't fell like saying much because of the
frustration. That is one thing about working in extreme environments. If
something goes wrong, either you came prepared for it or there is simply
nothing you can do. Now that all our readers feel sorry for us (and are on
their way to make a donation to our cause), I'll finish with the good news
of the day: we got one extra day in Dome C (we are leaving on the 5th
instead of the 4th) to get the bambino running.


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