South Pole Diaries 1995/96



South Pole Diary January 21st 1996

From Michael Burton.....

Time marches on and begins to have no meaning as I enter my 4th day here. Progress has been made on the IRPS, and problems uncovered, which may, or may not, be resolved. Craig has MIRAS running smoothly and taking beautiful data. Its been virtually cloudless since I arrived, and a few degrees below -30. I expect the temperature to start dropping soon!

Actually there was some very unusual weather at McMurdo the other day - it rained! Only for 3 minutes, mind you, but rain hasn't been reported there for over 20 years - only snow. It is a mild summer we're having in Antarctica.

The day started in unusual fashion. For some reason, as the season nears close, it was decided to upgrade the furniture in the luxury `hypertats' where I'm staying. I'd no problem with that - our filing cabinet was to be replaced by wooden cabinets! However the time assigned for the job was 7:30am, which I thought a little uncivilised given that I'm sinking into my night schedule.

No tourists today, but more DV's arrived for a quick tour. Several heavies from Washington have been here now - and the reason has to do with the imminent plans to rebuild the Pole station for a cost of some hundreds of millions of dollars. Interested parties to the budget process in Washington are in need of fact finding missions! There is no doubt that if we astronomers are going to continue our work here we need improved facilities. They are being stretched to the limit right now. Every conceivable corner in the MAPO building is filled with equipment and people, and every other science activity here is growing. The CARA contingent only make up half of the astronomical crowd anyway, the rest being particle physicists. Just behind our laboratory the PICO ice drillers are boring 2km holes into the ice to contain the Amanda neutrino project. Boring continuously with compressed steam, there is a cloud above the site!

I tried skiing today, for the first time here. Having lugged my skis out I discovered that NSF had decided to provide skis this year for recreational use! Skiing is indeed the most sensible way to get around if you're on foot, though the little extra windchill from moving faster is quite noticeable. It makes one appreciate how remarkable are the adventurers who now ski into Pole from the coast these days. A ski trail has apparently been laid to a disused site a few miles away, so maybe if I finish my job here early I'll get to try it. My technique is certainly rusty. I haven't managed to ski into the Dome yet, which has a steep slope leading down to it, without falling over!

Chris Bero, the winter-overer for the ATP (the part of CARA we are working in) and the person responsible for looking after IRPS over the winter took off today for McMurdo and R&R. Its questionable whether spending a week at McMurdo is a holiday, but perhaps its good for making you want to come back to the Pole! Anyway Chris has orders to visit Scott Base and stock up on Kiwi Beer. Its generally acknowledged that its the best on offer around these parts, and indeed its speculated that Scott Base actually fund themselves by keeping the Yanks supplied with the stuff! Chris is due back in a week when, hopefully, we will have the IRPS ready to show him.

Michael Burton



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