Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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Monday, January 05, 2004

Pole Monday 5th January

Hi there,

well I sent a lovely long email to you all last night, pressed send, whereupon it crashed and the satellite went down. Such is life at Pole so here I am to try again.

We had a no-hassles flight here, much more comfortable than from ChC as there were only 18 passengers which left us free to wander around the plane, lounge on the cargo, or wander up to the flight deck and get an amazing view of the Transantarctic mountains. After a three hour flight we descended, and as we landed, and the cargo doors opened, I felt my heart start a deep, heavy thudding. This wasn't excitement, but the familiar first signs of a sudden jump to high altitude. As you step out of the plane and take a few breaths, your head and heart ask 'hey, where did all my oxygen go?' and for the first few hours this means dizziness, and a heart that races in fright like you've just seen George Bush in drag in your bedroom closet.

It was a balmy, bikini type day, at -25C, and zero wind. Stunning. I was met at the plane by a good friend Charlie Kaminski, so I got a big bearhug, which is always a nice way to be welcomed anywhere. We trudged into the new station (or at least the fraction that is already completed) and now towers, resplendent in chip-board, above the famous sinking shape of the old Dome. In the new Dining Hall we had our briefing, and after that I wandered out to my cosy room in Barney (a hypertat), which is nice and poetic as last time I was in Betty [and yes, next door are Fred and Wilma]. Then I had an hour sleep, to get my body a bit in tune with the height, and reduce my heartrate. It worked as I now feel pretty good, though I'll stil take it a bit easy today.

Then I wandered out to inspect the AASTO and Gtower (for more description on these, see the archived diaries). My first impression was of a horrible crime scene. In a big rectangle around both the AASTO and then another around the Gmount, was a fence of yellow tape: DANGER, DO NOT ENTER!!!!. My panic was quickly allayed as I realised the support crew had done exactly as I asked and excavated the snow from around the feet of the now well-buried structures. In the AASTO's case, standing at the feet of the building, there is a wall of snow about 4m tall, just up to normal ground level. Amazing, and understandably dangerous. At the feet of the Gtower, likewise dug out, there was a bucket and a lonely shovel. I shall have to find that poor fellow and buy him a beer.

In the AASTO was warm and cosy though, and I am impressed with the level of preparation done, so everything seems set for me and hopefully some help, to start the tricky process of retrieving the dozen cables that lie between the AASTO and up to the tower that are now well-buried and frozen solid. I have a meeting at 7am Tuesday with the Science Support leader to get this underway.

Ok, best go get some sleep. More news soon
smiles
Jess

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