Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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Friday, January 16, 2004

15-16/1



To some, the first night at Dome C is always the worse as it takes some time
for your body to build the extra red cells necessary to grab the few oxygen
molecules available in the air. Jon and Colin didn't have that problem
though and they are now working in the AASTINO so routinely that you'd think
they were born there. My day still being shifted by about six hours, I join
them late in the morning or early in the afternoon. After decorating the
interior with a poster advertising the natural goodness of kiwi fruit (take
a look at the AASTINO to see why this is funny), I joined the work by
modifying the battery heaters. Jon was buried deep in what he loves the
best: the plumbing system. I think I missed his chance to become a plumber
early in life and I would probably have to pay him to offer him a hand with
it. The truth is that this can only be a one man job considering how cramped
the space is around the engines. At the other end Colin was busy soldering
component onto a board. Colin being 19 years old is the youngest (ever?) of
the station. I used to hold this title before his arrival, but I am now so
far beyond that I won't mention that ever again. Despite his youth, he is
excellent at anything involving a circuit board. The first thing he did when
he walked in the AASTINO was to inspect the soldering iron and to ask me if
we had finer tips for it. I never asked myself this question before since
that at my old age my hands shake too much to care for the thickness of the
iron tip. I hope he doesn't faint when he'll see the soldering jobs I did
last year.



The only negative point since their arrival (despite the daytime temperature
dropping below -30C) is the fact that our new instrument, the MASS and the
new electronics are still stuck at DDU. They were not allowed to carry it on
the plane with them because of the weight of the guest who came with them
(not that they were overweight or anything). We therefore need to wait for
the next round of Twin-Otter fight that is scheduled to come back to Dome C
this week-end. It is not a great loss of time because they carried enough
with them to be busy until then but it's just the stress of the uncertainty
that will be with us until we see our equipment land and skidooed in front
of our door.



I still enjoy working late at night. Three people in the AASTINO is clearly
a maximum, especially since Jon is the messiest worker I know. This way Jon
and Colin get the morning time with more place to move around and we are
only all together in the afternoon for jobs that require us all. It's also
important that I stay up late because thanks to the new components that
arrived from Nice, Eric got the second telescope together. We have now two
telescopes working, the first one tracking the stars very accurately while
the second needs adjustments and therefore more attention throughout the
day.



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