Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2002/03

   

   
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17 February 2003

Sunday, February 02, 2003

The miracle

When someone dies, you call for the priest. When a SODAR dies, you call for the schematics. That's right we are not the type of people to give up so easily.

Through the night, I got the schematics of the beast faxed to us by the manufacturer in France. In the morning my trusted multimetre and I probed the life-less body in the hope to find a sign of weakness. This weakness revealed itself in the form of power converter which was not converting anything and taking a huge amount of space on the electronics board. This was good news only if a replacement could be found in Terra Nova and easily shipped to Dome C.

At lunch at I explained all that to Saverio, the station electrician who has been a wonderful ally so far. He was going to ring Terra ova to get to see if they had replacement parts and also check around his lab if there was anything useful lying around.

In the mean time I started pulling the faulty component out of the board, an exercise that required a large pair of pliers and Jon's assistance to get the little ripper detached from the rest of the circuit. We then had to wait for the replacement to arrive before attending more surgery to the SODAR.

So I went outside with my video camera to catch a few scenes since the last remaining days might be too busy to do so. Walking around the station to get a few shots of the main tents, I felt again the solitude of the place. The station population had gone down again that morning and will again tomorrow morning when the Twin-Otter takes the Americans Scientists down to Mc Murdo. The two advantages of having less people here are that, first of all, there is less snoring in the tent and secondly Jean-Louis can prepare more exotic dishes that he could not do before because of the lack of ingredients. Tonight for example we are having tartar steak and tomorrow, duck with orange sauce.

In the mean time, Jon was working on the remote connection of our system with Sydney. He and Michael Ashley had been trying to get it going for a few days now but had a few problems that are too boring to list in this diary. At the end of the day, they finally succeeded and we will be able to spend the remaining days doing some tests to see if we can control everything from Sydney.

At 5:00pm Saverio walked in the AASTINO with a replacement converter. We were wondering with Jon how he got a hold onto such an uncommon piece of equipment. He told us that he ripped it off the wind generator (which was not working, so who cares?). Of course it was a bit bigger than the original one so there was a lot of wiring and soldering to be done to get it in place. Now the SODAR looks a bit bigger than it used to be. The converter in place, we fired up the SODAR and we heard it singing with a little voice. This created a smile on our faces but we were not done yet. We plugged the oscilloscope and cranked the gain of the brain new car amplifier until we got the proper signal strength coming out of the antenna.

Victory! It was all working. We could hardly believe it. That was probably the greatest moment we've experienced in Dome C. Two days ago, we thought the machine was dead and ready to be shipped back in Sydney, and now it was making a racket of a noise that can be heard from both the new station and the summer camp. The man of the hour is of course Saverio, who has deserved to be taken out to diner the next time he comes and visit Sydney.

The day finished pretty well as you can see. And we hope that the remaining couple of days will be just as successful. I also negotiated with the station manager for one of us to stay until the 7th now. So it's likely that the fellowship of the AASTINO will be broken soon and then reunited in DDU to relax amongst the penguins.

Ciao

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