South Pole Diaries 1995/96



South Pole Diary January 29th, 6am

From Michael Burton.....

We've been through a bit of a blow during the night, nothing normally to write home about, but about as windy as I've felt it at South Pole - around 15 knots (though Jamie keeps on insisting that it reaches about 40 knots in winter, despite Met data to the contrary!) - and at these temps (-35 now) that makes it feel cold! Actually the weather has been much more changeable than my previous trip; while it has been mostly beautiful sunshine, low cloud can suddenly shoot in and the scene changes completely inside an hour. Then an hour later we are back to sunshine. The other day there were some spectacular visual affects with sun dogs, and a light beam which circled all the way around the the from the Sun - some kind of bizarre refraction affect. However I missed it, alas, as I was sleeping - the penalty of working nights!

The IRPS is now on the roof and still appears to be working! I spent several hours re-cabling to do the job, clambering over all sorts of obstacles in the lab, trying to make our cables relatively neat - it would be a real knot otherwise. I also wanted to make sure I could get my cables out on the roof before the access hole got clogged up with someone elses experiment - a case of first in, best dressed! Now all that remains is to get the nitrogen filling system up and going and I'm done. Though I'm not sure whether I will now get to see Chris Bero, our winter-over scientist. While on R&R in McMurdo he had to visit the Navy dentist for the pre-winter check out - and the dentist decided he should have his wisdom teeth out! This means a trip back to Christchurch to visit a real dentist (who almost certainly will think the teeth are OK!). I guess this is one of the penalties of have the military runs operations - everything goes by the book. Though NSF are trying to cut back on their Navy reliance - next year the McMurdo helicopter fleet will be run by a private contractor, for instance.

Craig has been messed up today - the SPIRAC boys (his competitors!) have decided they need to run all their cables up where Craig is, resulting in his having to dismantle his experiment for their convenience. Then the tower that MIRAS is sitting on rattles and shakes rather a lot as people run up and down the stairs - in fact Craig has now posted some data on the outside door showing what can happen to his readings when someone slams the door too hard! I guess this is the penalty for working in a lab where there about about 7 experiments in progress.

I gave the weekly science lecture tonight - held every Sunday night. I decided to try and explain why all these crazy astronomers keep coming to the Pole and what we really want to do. I had lined up a nice collection of slides to accompany the talk, to be told, 10 minutes before I was due to begin, that `technical difficulties' would prevent me from showing any slides!

Jack Doolittle, Mr. AGO, has been giving me all kinds of wise advice about running AGOs (our AASTOs in our instance). Our AASTO is indeed due to arrive in McMurdo any instance now, and I am trying to make arrangements to get to see it. Jack tells me they very carefully wrapped the AASTO in plastic to protect it during its journey, and in particular to prevent the shipping company from defacing it by putting their logos all over it. Since AGO6 is still in Mactown (having not been deployed) I will thus have two to see. And they both have the same access code number!

Michael Burton



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