South Pole Diaries 1995/96



South Pole Diary January 27th

From Michael Burton.....

Well the past who knows how many hours have been dominated for me by calibration measurements. The IRPS is sitting out on the bench in the lab, just longing to be placed outside in the pristine air, yet there are all these boring calibrations measurements to make. To find what position corresponds to what wavelength, how much signal at each wavelength and aperture corresponds to how much flux, how linear is the detector, etc etc. Not exciting stuff, but essential to doing good science. I devised a substantial series of tests to do, and then Michael Ashley came up with a whole lot more! The jobs taking much longer than I would like but I hope to be finishing in the near future! The most important thing to do is find a tub of water and keep it at a constant temperature while the IRPS does its stuff and measures the IR flux coming from it. I tried to make the process more interesting by specifying the need for 12 year old malt whisky for the job, being particularly suitable as the calibrating agent on account of its constitution, but somehow I couldn't persuade the station staff to make such a source available!

My body clock is really working strangely now; I seem to be getting about 3 hours later each day as far as my body rhythms go. For instance I got up at 6pm yesterday, had breakfast at dinner, lunch at `midrats' and dinner at brekky! Since it was Australia day, Craig and I paid a visit to the South Pole store to collect a few crates of beer to share around. Shopping at the store is like going back in a time warp, or visiting a shop in India. The store only opens for an hour 3 times a week. Four people are there to serve you, but they can only deal with one person at a time. You have to place your order with one, have it written on a chitty by another, who gives it to a third to use a PC to enter it into an inventory catalogue, scanning each postcard and stamp individually! If you are purchasing beverages the chitty comes back, and you wait around for the `all clear' announcement when you then can visit the `fridge' where the alcohol is stored and pick up you order. With waiting in line, the whole process can take an hour!

So the evening was passed guzzling cans, and telling all who passed about Governor Philip and the convicts, but at midnight I had to stop to head out to work, where I now am some 10 hours later. I have just completed another major accomplishment, photographing a `shadow circle', showing the circle a shadow makes over the 24 hours of daylight at the Pole. The whole process has taken several days to complete, with my having to contend with weather and unsocial hours. My last picture, of a series of 8 taken at 3 hour intervals, was for 9am in the morning, a difficult time for me as I always seem to find myself in bed then!

Craig continues to gather data at a great rate with MIRAS. In fact a group of three scientists from NASA Goddard contemplated defecting to Craig's experiment today! They have been charged with the task of getting both a mid-infrared telescope and camera ready for wintering over (which they call SPIRAC, not to be confused with SPIREX, the near-infrared telescope that's here), and are still waiting for some of their team to arrive with vital bits (such as the mid-IR camera!). Since they have just got their telescope working, and Craig has a working mid-infrared camera, there are some interesting possibilities.....

My skiing continues to improve - I didn't fall over at all going down the ramp to the dome yesterday, and I even managed to skate out to the MAPO building to go to work. Give me a few months here and I might make the Oz cross-country ski team!

Finally I have learnt that Jack Doolittle is expecting to share the same desk that I have all the parts of the IRPS covering...........

Michael Burton



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