South Pole Diaries 1993/94



5th February 1994

From Michael Burton.....

What a night! What a night! Todays activities for JB and myself were dominated by one thing; connecting the sensors and cables for the microthermal experiment to the Met. mast outside the Clean Air building, an activity which occupied us for 6 hours from midnight to 6am. Every trip has its little adventure to recant, and for me this was it.

The temp dropped to -41C as we began. Really it wasn't a difficult task we had; just run 16 cable the 100 metres from the Clean Air building and 25m up the mast, connect them to the supports we had bolted on, and then connect the sensors which were going to make the air turbulence measurements. But it was a labour intensive task, and as you quickly find if you work here, physical activity is exhausting. Even after two weeks, I find that running 100m leaves me completely breathless. And as most of you know, I do a little running in my spare time!

JB did most of the real-hero bits, hanging off the tower, catching cables as I swung them by, and bolting things together with his bare hands. I mostly hearded cables around and climbed up and down the mast fastening things down. The view from the top of the bottom of the world is simply sublime, if you don't worry too much about the swaying and don't look down. An endless, featureless horizon in all directions, with a panoramic view on the miniscule portion of the Plateau where Man's presence has been felt. It must be the ultimate in etherial experiences, at least for Earth-bound travellers.

I think the expt is now working, at least the sensors seem to be giving sensible looking readings, though since neither JB or myself really know how to interpret the voltages (that's a black art which only Rodney and our French collaborators back in Nice have fathomed) we can't give instant science. It was, however, a calm day (for which we were fortunate), and as I left for breakest the lower two levels of sensors where giving readings of a few tenths of a volt, and the upper sensors about half that amount. In my naive interpretation that means (a) both good seeing (levels of 1-2 V are more normally expected) and (b) at 25m height you do better! But we will see; the real action for this experiment is in the winter.

The IRPS got a rest today, apart from a refill of the outer. But it seems to be holding well, and easilys last one day without replenishment of LN2. Today after tidying up around the microthermals we will go back for a final test out and trouble shoot, and then I hope we can start observing!