Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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Sunday, January 11, 2004

Enter the Crypt...

Hey All,

not an awful lot to report from today except me catching up on a bit of sleep, which was pretty exciting (for me that is). The day looked stunning and clear, which is an example of just how deceptive it can be down here, for outside though sunny and clear, the wind was bitter, and brought a -28C day down to -50C with windchill. For all this, Dana had promised me a tour of the soon to be defunct Seismic vault, which is a crypt several metres below the snow, about 200m from the station. It is now being retired, and it is likely we were the last to go down there before it is closed up permanently in about three days. The new seismic project, SPRESO, is much further out, and is said to be the most sensitive measure of seismic activity on earth and can detect seismic activity all over the world.

I have attached just one photo of this dag down in the vault, trying to look cool (actually, cold, as the vaults under the ground usually sit at the annual temperature average of the site, so it was about -55C). The ice crystals were huge, perfectly geometric and stacked in clusters all over the vault. These are caused purely from the exhalations of the people who have entered the vault in the ten years of its operation! I liked the idea that my breath would soon help to improve and form new little crystalline sculptures that might never again be seen by another person. I purposely breathed nearer to the littler crystals, to give them a bit of a boost, since it was going to be the last chance they would get.

Following that, since the weather was so clear, we walked to the ceremonial Pole and I got Dana to take my obligatory 'hero shot' in front of the flags and next to the barbers pole. It was pretty bright though, so it is likely they will all come out with me squinting or with eyes completely shut. We then played a game of horseshoes which had been left there near the Pole, and is clever as it is really one of the only outdoor games you can play with any skill with gloves on. Skill is a bit of a stretch though when referring to my horseshoe talents.

I will soon head to the weekly science lecture, being glad that this time it isn't me! Tomorrow will be busy with telescopes, cables and boxes. I'm sure the prospect of that diary thrills you all to tiny pieces. Hope you all had a good weekend,

smiles
Jess

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