South Pole Diaries 1993/94



2nd February 1994

From Michael Burton.....

The days are starting to become a blur here now. It's hard to remember even what I was doing today, let alone a couple of days ago. Partly a result of days indeed having no meaning down here, but also of being totally wrapped up in getting your experiments going. A strange existence, and I'm only doing it for a couple of weeks. What must it be like for the winter-overers?!

We have had some problems balancing the detector for the IRPS at low or zero flux levels, but I think its really just a matter of patience when you run the program up. Other than that the IRPS seems to be behaving as predicted and can take data. John Briggs spent some time playing with it yesterday getting the feel of how the software works. We missed the Moon though - a matter of not having got our geography right! We will try again tonight and start a bit earlier. It was quite noticeable, however, seeing how the flux changes from zenith to horizon. I was working at 3.8um (L) to minimise the sunlight, but for instance going from zenith to 60 degrees the flux increases by a factor of about 70%, then from 60 degrees to the horizon by a factor of 5 times. The trouble for us is that the Moon is only 10 degrees above the horizon so we have a strong varying background problem to deal with. However our measurements did seem repeatable on short timescales as we scanned from zenith to horizon.

I spent some time messing with the microthermal experiments and confusing myself. Doubtless Rodney will come to my rescue, but the time delay of around 48 hours between indentifying problem, sending off help cry and receiving answer is making things a bit slow. O for the real time internet. This will be available soon, we're promised, for around 5 hours a day. It may even be possible to get an aging NOAA satellite for another 7-8 hours at hundred-K baud rates soon, if NOAA can be persuaded to turn off a weather fax line on it which no-one now uses. These satellites can be picked up virtually as they cross the horizon, so its looking promising for the future of Antarctic communication, wherever we might want to end up. And the Pole is certainly the hardest place to reach!

The weather (thought you'd never ask!): 38 below, beautiful clear blue skies, pressure 686mb (this never seems to change) and winds from the E (grid!) at 8 knots.