Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Today was orchestrated by the construction of the second telescope tower. The DIMM sits on the first one, but a second one will be required next year hen up to four telescopes will be running simultaneously. The second tower is an exact copy of the first one and looks like the first level of the Eiffel tower. We borrowed four workers from Concordia to put this 5m beast on its feet. The construction was very reminiscent of last year's building of the AASTINO, with breaks every 20 minutes to get those fingers warmed up in the tent.

A bit before lunch I was called on the radio by the station manager to tell me that the power had tripped in the AASTINO. During summer, we use our solar panels to run the instruments and we borrow the station power for heating. I jumped on the bat-skidoo and discovered that the station power was not coming in. The electrician joined me a few minutes later and after a quick investigation came to the conclusion that a crane had strained a cable outside, uncovering the plug enough to create a short circuit in the ice. When I came back to the base, I was humorously blamed by Eric and the American team for the loss of their precious data. Since they are also wired to the station power, a short circuit in the AASTINO means that they also lose power. I had to put on a real legal case to prove my innocence. After all, I had the perfect alibi; I was not even in the AASTINO when it happened.

The tower was finished before dinner so the two Erics opened two bottle of Champagne to celebrate the completion. They came to Dome C with six bottles but the other four exploded. It's a good thing that human beings react less dramatically to the change of temperature and pressure. Speaking of human reaction, I forgot to mention that we have a dietician in the station this year. She is here to study the diet of people in extreme conditions. I hope she won't study me in particular. I don't think she would approve my daily intake: 90% fat, 50% sugar and the rest mainly pasta. I know it sounds bad, but when you think about it, it is not so different from the diet of a walrus (plus the sugar). I can add to my defense that I actually lose weight every time I go to Antarctica. Maybe I should start a weight loss company. Instead of providing my customers with equilibrated meals like the competition does, I will send them a month at Dome C to eat Jean-Louis's exquisite menu and still guarantee they a better figure.

After dinner, Richard, one of the American scientists, gave a great talk about the South Pole station. It was interesting for the station workers to see what the competition does a few hundreds of kilometers down the hill. Most of his slides were taken the year I went there, so I was glad to recognize a few familiar faces. His show was very well attended as most people going to Dome C have never been to the South Pole. At the end of the talk I was asked by Carlo, the station manager, to give a similar public talk one of the following weekend. I think I will run them through the financial plan of my weight loss company.

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