South Pole Diaries 1993/94



30th January 1994

From Michael Burton.....

Its Sunday in Antarctica, a rest day around here. Well for all except us beaker-types who never find an excuse to stop work! Though I didn't wake up till 2pm myself today.......

Even the cooks take the day off on Sunday and we will have volunteer-chefs for tonights meal. Who knows what that will bring? Saturday brought traditional American fare - burger and chips for lunch and pizza for dinner; that seems to be a South Pole tradition too.

Managed my phone patch home this morning - a highly orchestrated business whereby the computer telephones the operator in Florida via the satellite - radio link, and then connects you up. It confused my parents to be asked if they'd take a reverse charges call from Miami when they were expecting me elsewhere! A regulated 10 min then the computer cuts you off and the next person in the queue gets their turn. The other way of communicating is via ham-patch through the radio network - at the right time of day and in the right bands you can make connections around the world, and it appears there are hams back in the States who live for nothing more than making contact with the Pole, then making a reverse-charge call to whoever you want talk to!

The weather has relented and the Sun is out again. Still a few cirrus clouds, but its nice to see blue sky. Temperature has dropped to -32 though, but the winds are light and it really is quite pleasant going for a walk in these conditions. You don't notice the cold at all! However there are no more flights into the Pole until Thursday. Then we have 4 flights a day for 5 days! Re-stocking for the winter; the supply ship is now in McMurdo and frantic activity is going on unloading. Apparently it takes a week to do so, and then Mactown send the supplies out to wherever there are winter-overers.

An unfortunate piece of news I heard was relating the Vostok. After much effort funds were found to keep the base going, but alas the supply train that was re-stocking the base (its done by overland traverse) had so many break down this year that not enough goods arrived at Vostok to keep it open for the winter. So its being closed down, presumably the Americans are helping evacuating it, and they hope to re-open next summer. But that will be one hell of a job.

Good progress continues with our expts; though we probably could be further forward than we are. But it pays to do things slowly down here. Though we haven't actually optimised the noise on the detector we are getting nice spectra in the lab, looking essentially like what we saw at SSO. We intend to put a new disk drive in today with mcba's latest fancy software, and then I hope we're ready to go out on the roof. The Spirex team have now placed Grim (their version of IRIS) on the telescope, and are now chasing down sources of noise. It'll be a race to see who get the first IR spectrum! Spirex really is a pretty complex beast, and if it works it will be great, though somehow I expect that will be hard to achieve without the support crew here this winter. But a lot is being learnt, and it is clearly only a matter of time before success will be achieved. I haven't been spending too much time with the microthermals so far; the tyranny of distance between the Clean Air and Astro buildings. But the noise readings I am getting so far are all to specs. Rodney now hopes to get his kite experiment to us, so were rushing around trying to order a kite from a Christchurch supplier so that John Briggs can fly it during the long winter night! There is a supplier in Christchurch who specialises in sending kites to Antarctica - apparently its a popular activity at Mactown!