South Pole Diaries 1993/94



28th January 1994

From Michael Burton.....

Weather continues to be miserable, indeed worse. I guess there is no site in the world which is always perfect. The ice-drizzle, blowing-snow is worse, and visibility can't be more than 300m at present. It does bring warmer weather with it though; we've reached -26 right now. Wind is a steady 15 knots at the moment, and always coming from the same quadrant, towards Dome A. The old-timers, however, say that late Jan - Feb is the worst time of the year for weather, as winter time starts to approach and the temp steadily drops.

Flights only just got in yesterday, and I'm not sure whether they will today. Yesterday we were heading out to the Astro building in the Cat at about the time of the first flight (there seem to be two a day) - Astro is set across the runway, when the flashing light came on telling us not to proceed - ie a plane was coming. We got out to watch, sheltering in the lee of the Cat, when suddenly a plane appeared out of the mist. It circled once and disappeared. A few minutes later it reappeared this time on the right approach to the iceway, but about 50m above it. A practice approach to see if they'd got the line right. Finally on the third time they came in and landed. This flight was cargo-only; I think with people in the back they would have turned around and headed back to Mactown.

I'm close to having adjusted to the conditions; I am sleeping reasonably now and not having to get up in the middle of the 'night' anymore. I seem to have established some kind of inner body schedule which is close to having a 24 hour period, but I get to sleep 2am is and wake in time for lunch. I will probably never see breakfast here! However I can report that the meals are indeed good at Pole.

The experiments are progressing as well as expected - though Michael Ashley and Rodney Marks are being subjected to continuous streams of questions. I often have just worked out the answer 24 hours later when the reply comes back, but by then have sent another stream of Qs. I think we have fixed the problem of stepper modules blowing up from short-circuits with John having scrounged some fuses and and fitting them in series with each module. I hope we are going to turn some motors with the computer today! I've also found out most of the info I think I need to set up the ethernet connections, so we may yet be able to control the IRPS via email. The South Pole ethernet is in a state of flux, and it has only been in the past couple of days that it has been even possible to connect to the Dome from any outlying buildings. No further news on the real-time internet access yet, though. I took my first data too yesterday, noise measurements with the microthermal experiment. So not desperately exciting, but it is the first data we've obtained in Antarctica. I'm waiting for Rodney to tell me if the numbers are OK!