South Pole Diaries 1995    


5th February 1995

From Michael Ashley.....

The morning begins with ``Aussie burgers'' thanks to John, Bob Pernic and Nancy Odalen. John assures me that they met with critical acclaim, although by the time I get to them a few hours later they are a bit on the tough side.

The plumber has a look at our vacuum line, and agrees that he made a mistake with the connections, and will fix it tomorrow morning. He is a bit hung-over from a party the previous night, so we're happy to let him recover before taking a blowtorch to our experiment.

In the afternoon we make an effort to determine the alignment of IRPS with respect to Greenwich and the local horizontal. To zero the mirror rotator we decide to use a long tube filled with water to find the direction perpendicular to up. Unfortunately, the water freezes within about 90 seconds of being outside, requiring two attempts for us to make the measurement. If we had used ``toxic purple'' from the galley we would have had no problems.

John gets the azimuth zero by timing the instant at which the sun is aligned with the dewar. After some astrometry we are fairly confident that we know where IRPS is pointing. Normal astrometry concepts such as local sidereal time become meaningless, or at least difficult to apply, at the South Pole. The latitude of IRPS is -89:59:30, and the dewar itself subtends about 1 arc-minute of longitude - moving it to the other side of building would change its longitude by about a degree.

In our attempt to make an artificial source for IRPS to look at we try a torch (``flashlight'' for our US readers) - but the batteries give out after a few minutes in the cold, and a mains-powered (``line-powered'' for our US readers) lamp - the cord of which becomes as stiff as a didgereedoo (``long wooden musical instrument played by Aboriginal Australians'' for our US readers).

By the end of the day, IRPS is looking in good shape, we have had no new disasters or unexplained problems, and Jean Vernin has successfully launched another balloon. The balloon reaches an altitude of 30km before exploding (as it is supposed to do), and data is recorded during both the ascent and decent phases. Jean decides that a celebration is in order and so produces a bottle of fine champagne that he hand-carried from France. The champagne provides an interesting culinary counterpoint to the Aussie burgers of earlier in the day.