Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Cold

After breakfast this morning it was still only -44 C. To make matters worse, there is an unusually strong wind blowing for Dome C, around 8 metres/sec (30 km/hr). This equates to a "wind chill" factor of -74 C. Wind chill factors aren't actually terribly meaningful; but suffice to say today is a day when you'd die very quickly if you went outside without wearing every piece of clothing you could find. Pity really - I was hoping we'd be able to put our tent up today.

Worse still, we weren't able to find a snowmobile and so had to walk the kilometre or so to the AASTINO. (Actually, that wasn't so bad, it was walking back that was really tough.) After lunch we again walked out, but by the end of the day couldn't face another slog through the icy wind and flagged down a passing bus - actually a traverse vehicle on caterpillar tracks that was returning to the Station with the University of Nice folk.

I took apart the cigarette lighter adaptor that was meant to, but in the end didn't, power our Iridium phone last winter. I hope I can fix it before we leave, as it provides a convenient way for us to "power cycle" the phone. Exploring someone else's electronics design is often fun, but in this case the manufacturer had carefully ground the part numbers off every major component to prevent anyone from understanding the circuit. I can't say I was impressed. The phone manufacturer should be required to include a note to prospective purchasers: "Two dollars of the purchase price of this phone was spent having some moron grind the part numbers off the integrated circuits."

(Note to the phone manufacturer: Come on guys, who do you think you're kidding? There's only a handful of switching power supply controller chips that come in a 14-pin DIL package. Hard though it may be for you believe, we have no intention of reverse engineering your power supply and starting up a rival manufacturing plant in Antarctica. Save yourselves the trouble, will you. Frankly, it would be better if your engineers devoted their time to making a power supply that can hang together for more than few months, rather than thinking up ways of stopping me from fixing their mistakes.)


Apart from that, it was a good day. We got the sodar running again, this time putting some fuses in the power supply to help discourage it from self-immolation.

Anna found out all kinds of fascinating things about why our instrument didn't collect as much data as they should have, we ran up a staggering Iridium phone bill trying to get some information from UNSW we need (the email system here being a bit of a disaster), I spent half an hour talking to Richard Macey from the Sydney Morning Herald via Inmarsat about the upcoming eclipse (his phone bill, not mine), and we finished the day pretty exhausted.

John

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