South Pole Diaries 1995    


29th January 1995

From Michael Ashley.....

At breakfast we meet Jack Doolittle and have a long chat about AGOs and designing instruments for use with an AGO.

We spend the morning wiring up the LN2 sensor on the outer-can filling wand, and in removing IRPS from its ``dog-jacket'' to get it ready for disassembly. Still no bench-space available. Hopefully GRIM will be moved this afternoon - if not we will have some difficulty completing our tasks before station close. Our time window to cope with unexpected problems is closing rapidly.

At 2pm we head back to the Communications Building inside the dome for our scheduled 10-minute satellite telephone calls to Australia. All you have to do is pick up the phone and dial 7118006822878 and you are speaking to a Telecom operator and can make a reverse-charges call. There are only 6, 10-minute slots available on the Marisat satellite each week, so we are fortunate to get two of them. The quality of the link is almost as good as internal Australian calls.

Incidentally, it is not possible to see most geostationary satellites from the Pole since they are below the horizon. Luckily, some of the older satellites have run low on fuel and have drifted away from a zero-latitude orbit. By negotiating with the owners of these satellites, the South Pole base has been able to secure a few hours of data and voice access each day. The frustrating thing is that there are many unused hours of satellite time available, but the owners are asking too high a price for the US Antarctic Program to afford it. Despite what you might think, the USAP is running on a shoestring budget in comparison with space missions.

After the telephone link-up John used his amateur radio licence to operate the South Pole rig, and listened-in to conversations from Pitcairn Island, the Falklands, the Kingdom of Tonga, and Brisbane. Unfortunately, the main antennas are directed towards the US, and Australia falls neatly in the worst spot on the radiation pattern. However, some contacts with Australia have been logged early in the morning, so John plans to try again then.

In the afternoon, GRIM is finally moved, and we have some space available to work in. We open our packing boxes, and the contents expand adiabatically to fill the available space. We then spend 6 hours or so getting IRPS back together for testing prior to the dewar being disassembled tomorrow. Everything works pretty well - we fix some of the problems that John Briggs had encountered last year (the aperture wheel now calibrates itself faultlessly), and encounter a few additional minor problems that we will fix in the next few days.

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment. Will we be able to open the dewar without problems? Will the solenoid control unit work under computer control? Will the JACARA song receive critical acclaim? Will John have a shower? These questions and more will be answered in the next installment...

Michael Ashley (with contributions, from John Storey)