Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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Sunday, November 23, 2003

Slow down

Today, being Sunday, got off to an exceptionally slow start and proceeded to wind down from there.

After what seemed like an extraordinarily long time doing emails, I wandered out to the AASTINO and pottered around while Gerhard finished installing his precipitation monitor. While we were there an Italian film crew arrived and proceeded to shoot everything they could from every conceivable angle. We hastily added the French, Italian and US flags to the existing Australian one, in order to create a more international feel to our little observatory.

The question of why the AASTINO shut down continues to deepen, and now has all the elements of a good murder mystery. We have physical evidence of the crime, in the form of the non-working Iridium power supply, the 24 cm of fuel in the tanks, and the glycol sprayed around the walls. We have the witnesses, in the form of the various computer log files, and it is clear that not all of them are telling the truth. We know, for example, that the sun did not rise on midwinter's day - yet one of our data files is trying to claim otherwise. (Michael A. says that part of the software is known to suffer from a "memory leak", which sounds like the kind of thing I suffer from all the time but which apparently is pretty bad where computers are concerned.) Anna continues to interrogate the various unreliable witnesses, while I play the role of Inspector Rex and sniff around for more clues.

Today was the first proper restaurant-style Sunday lunch for the season, with smoked salmon, grenouilles, magre de canard and carrot cake. Among our table companions was Aldo, who helps out in the hospital and performs many other useful tasks. Aldo has the enviable distinction of having the largest collection of fruit stickers in Italy, some 10,000 different ones from all around the world. He has promised to send me a photo of himself in front of his collection, which is listed in the official fruit sticker collector's page on the web. Anna tried to explain to him how the English phrase "nut case" can be used in these situations, but she didn't get through to him and I fear he is going to take up also collecting the boxes that nuts come in when he gets back to Italy.

Recovering from lunch basically took up Sunday afternoon but, after working 14-hour days for the past ten days, we both need a break.

Being Sunday afternoon, it seems appropriate to finish today's diary with a photo essay:

AASTINO. Our little laboratory, sitting on top of Robert Hill. The solar panels are to the right; the Australian flag (also used as a wind speed indicator) is to the left.

Burglar. The day after we arrive, Anna takes photos through the window of the AASTINO while we try to figure out how to break in.

Snowmobile. Possibly the most dangerous form of land transport ever invented.

Dome_C. The Free-time Tent is in the foreground; the big round white things are not part of a mosque but are in fact Inmarsat antennas.

Hospital. The ambulance is parked out the front, while on the right is the oxygen tent where people go when the altitude gets to them. The steam is rising from the diesel generator that powers the whole Station.

Water. This is how water is provided for the Station - by dumping snow into a big melting pot.

Concordia. The new Concordia Station, currently under construction, taken from the AASTINO. The current station is in the distance to the right of picture.

Otter. The arrival of a Twin Otter is always a significant event. Someone has borrowed the ambulance to help with unloading.

Bus. The commuter bus between the Station and the Astrophysics Area.

Frogs_legs. Anna tries frogs legs for the first time and finds them "not bad".

John

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