Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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Friday, January 09, 2004

Its all about the hard hat

Hi All,

its true, its all about the hard hat. It was another 5:30am start, and by 6:15am I started the walk out to AASTO, and saw that the big black crane was already most of the way out there. When I caught up I met Froggy, the night crane driver who was working through his supper and bedtime hours, just for me. He was a very cool little dude, with a big handlebar moustache and I learned how he got his name a few minutes after I chatted to him when he walked up to his crane, and in a big bounce, landed on his knees on the big tracks of the crane, before another leap launched him into the cab.

Soon about six or seven people had headed out to help with the move, and I saw they were all wearing hardhats. I felt a little disappointed because I didn't have one and within minutes saw how much fun it was. It is amazing just how much more important you look in a hardhat. All you have to do is point at stuff, gesture authoratively, nod seriously in agreement with your workmates and talk in unintelligible lingo on your radio and you have instant street (or should I say, construction) cred.

As they lifted the telescopes down, I stood quite a ways back on the AST/RO building to get some good photos. Then as I came down on the ground, Froggy leaned out of the cab of the crane and gestured to me. I walked up, confused, and he threw something at me. I ducked, before realising it was a hardhat!!! All for me! And it was in black. Very slimming, black. He showed me how close I could stand, and next thing I was right up in the action as they hoisted the AASTO out of its huge snow-pit. Soon I was pointing, gesturing and nodding with the best of them. They didn't trust me with a radio, though. Wise of them.

The AASTO lift went amazingly quickly, and they slid it down off its stilts onto the ground and then placed it on a sled. As they prepped the tower for its lift, I went out to the new site with the Support leader, Jack Corbin. The new site is really just a cleared patch of snow that they'd run over with a bulldozer a few dozen times. It was ready with electricity and computer cable, and after a few minutes I felt like the owner of a new block of land, trying to work out with the site manager where the house was going to go. I tried to couch it in scientific lingo, like "Oh, we really should put the short axis of the building into the lee of the prevailing wind" but in honesty I was trying to angle the AASTO so that it has a great view of the dome and station from the front door. Luckily the two goals coincided, and I think once we set the webcameras up again, it is going to take some pretty cool pictures, even in winter.

By the time we got back to the old site the tower was already standing straight up on its own sled and I got a few shots of it as it headed towards station. For this evening it is actually sitting about two metres from the geographic south pole, and you can see it close up from the windows of the dining facility. I have had many comments on it from "is that our new diving platform for the pool?" to "hey I could use that to go deer hunting" and "we could ice fish from that thing" no matter that the closest deer are about three thousand kms away, and to icefish we'd have to drill a hole two miles deep, and then it'd likely hit land anyway. I said "actually I was thinking of doing astronomy from it" and they looked at me like I was mad.

The AASTO is already snug in its new location, and powered up. Tomorrow Froggy will be working through his dinner again to shift the tower to the new spot and raise the AASTO up on its little yellow legs. The telescopes are tucked up snugly in a warm weatherhaven tent still out in the dark sector. When I looked out there after dinner, they had already filled in the deep holes where the buildings were, and all trace of the AASTO and tower were gone from the whole area. Strange days...

more tomorrow and hopefully some photos
smiles
Jess

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