South Pole Diaries 1993/94



27th January 1994

From Michael Burton.....

A miserable day at the Pole. The weather has been steadily deteriorating over the past couple of days. Now the mist is down, and we have one of those dreaded ice-drizzles where the lowest part of the atmosphere has a constant rain of ice particles. Visibility about half a km. And its blowing a bit, 20 knots. However this all causes the temperature to rise and its up to -27C., the warmest since I've been here. Makes for a wind chill of -55C however, and you certainly notice that if you expose your skin. I was trying to shoot some video film as I walked to base this morning from summer camp (where I sleep), and if you ever see the clip I think you'll notice that the cameraman was shaking!

Some other reflective comments; I haven't noticed static buildup to be a major concern and can only remember a discharge once. Certainly you don't get anywhere near as many static shocks as on Mauna Kea. And you can touch bare metal with your hands without burning. OK, I wouldn't want to hold on for long, but quick operations liking opening a door, or picking up a bolt are OK. I think because its so dry there is no moisture to stick and burn to the metal.

Yesterday John Briggs made some progress on repairing the wires to the stepper motor module for the aperture drive, while I looked into Rodney's microthermal experiment. That latter one has half a desk in the Clean Air building in a room conveniently built with some small holes punched in the walls! (So I can stick cables out.) It looks towards the 20m mast we intend to install the sensors on. There are stairs up the mast so climbing it is not going to be so much of a Polar adventure as I first thought! I guess I can describe the situation as nominal to coin NASA jargon; we have some problems to sort out but it all looks to be in hand. I hope to try driving the IRPS motors todays from the computer once John has everything back in place.

The roof to the ASTRO building is now very crowded with four experiments up there. SPIREX, an airglow monitor, Bill Volna's 15cm (with cosy operating cabin), plus the IRPS. I'm hoping our views are not going to be impeded! Its a good thing the ASTRO people aren't actually running their experiment this year - there is no room in their building for them. CMBR is also using the building, though their antenna is next door, and the AMANDA people (the neutrino detectors) seem to be using the half complete CARA building plus some tents as they drill holes deep into the ice to drop their detectors into. The GASP telescope (gamma rays) sits near to the Dome, but is covered up right now, and SPASE (the cosmic ray air shower array) (plus Union Jack) sits in little boxes near to the Clean Air building. It certainly shows there's a lot of activity going on in astronomy in Antarctica right now!