South Pole Diaries 1997/98



Sunday 23rd November 1997 - Good will restored

From John Storey.....

Yeah, it turned out all the screws were loose inside, including the ones that convey electrons from one part of the circuit to another. When I tightened them up, everything worked again including the meter with "bad" written on it. This hardly rates as the major headline event of the day, but it made a catchy "subject" line.

Actually, we're finding a lot of loose screws. For example, the screws holding the ring-gear onto the NISM were finger tight, and there was considerable slippage. I can't believe we left most of the screws on our gear so loose, and wonder if the thermal cycling is to blame.

Last night I made the mistake of going out to MAPO while Ant was shovelling snow. I couldn't resist reciting the appropriate verse from "The Good Ship Venus", which instantly incurred me the punishment of having to spend the next couple of hours, shovel in hand, clearing all the remaining snow away from SPIREX. Meanwhile, Ant and Fred were attaching the new platform to SPIREX (a job which was completed today). Fred is from the "locomotive" school of heavy engineering (the SPIREX azimuth table being made out of 2-inch steel plate, for example), and there is no doubt that this is one of the heaviest instrument support platform ever installed on a telescope smaller than Parkes.

This morning we sledded the AFOS across to the MAPO building and spent an amusing hour with the crane (yes, MAPO already has a crane), lifting things up and down. Eventually we ended up with both the AFOS and its crate "up" (in the sense of being inside the building), and some useless piece of VIPER junk (oops, for a minute there I forgot I'm sending these messages to Al Harper) down (in the sense of being outside on the snow). Actually we did ask the VIPER people first. This made enough space inside MAPO for us to unpack the AFOS crate, and start putting things in it to ship back to Sydney.

We began by making a short list of the most revolting substances known to man:

1. The brown slime we found in the AASTO
2. Rockwool
3. VXE-6 brown-bag lunches
4. That awful 2-part foam that mcba put in the AFOS crate.

It is left to the reader to place these in some sort of order.

We took the primary mirror out of the AFOS and packaged it in its original cardboard box. It's in great shape. Then we simply bolted the AFOS back together again, leaving the window in place. We have great confidence in the ability of the window cover to provide the necessary protection, but padded everything well anyway.

We included the Oriel and CCD, the electronics from the AFOS (in a sealed plastic bag because its covered in brown slime), a triangular block of wood that looks terribly important but we've no idea what it's for, and a plastic bag containing chemical samples from what used to be valuable pieces of scientific equipment in the AASTO. I worried a bit about how to get these through customs, but in the end decided just to put mcba's name on the box and leave it at that (this is in retaliation for the 2-part foam).

One item of some concern is that when we opened the AFOS a little piece of broken glass fell out. It was very small - maybe 2mm - and at first I thought it was a piece of ice except it didn't melt. There's no apparent damage to the primary, secondary or tertiary, so I assume Max just put it in there as a joke.

We're really low on fuel here, and they've taken the extraordinary step of scheduling flights for today even though it's Sunday. In fact, they've sent 8 of them, all tankers. They've been arriving all day, but it's very windy and overcast, at times approaching a complete whiteout. The planes typically have to do a couple of low passes before they can land, and sometimes just wander off for half an hour or so while the weather clears. Six have made it so far today, with the other two still en route.

Don't worry about the fibre optic cable ends, Max. We made little boxes to put them in, then wrapped everything securely in place.

Andre: we don't seem to have any male IEC plugs. Did you put them in, or did you just intend that we steal them from VIPER?

Mcba: it turns out there are two unused fibres going out to SPIREX. This will be perfect for the ethernet, and we won't need the drum of cable that somehow is still at Yerkes. Can you buy a plug-in ethernet card for the PC with a fibre connector instead of 10BT? We *think* there is a spare fibre ethernet port in MAPO for the other end of it; otherwise we need a 10BT - fibre converter box thingy. We'll get back to you on that.

After more gear-stress caclculations we've reached the conclusion that the most likely failure mode of the NISM stepper-motor drive is that it will crash through the limit switch, wind the cable up around the elevation axes, drag the elactronics rack across the floor until the whole AASTO unbalances and falls over, filling the air intake with snow and shutting everything down. Should be a minor problem to fix after this year's disaster!

We just had a Sunday Night Science Presentation by Jerry Marty and John Rand (NSF heavies) on the new South Pole Station. It's a $115m project. (It did occur to me that maybe we could just flog them Mawson, cheap.) Anyway, it was mainly pretty dull, *except* for a brilliant synthetic aperture radar image of the existing station, taken from a satellite in October this year. It shows all of the subterranean structure, including the Old Pole Station (where the aliens live), the old runway, and Pomerantz's old experimental station>.

The AGO service team have been working hard all today. They've replaced the platinum beads, the exhaust manifold, the exhaust shroud, the freon lines, and various things I couldn't identify but which looked important. They fired the TEG up this afternoon, but only 4 of the 6 burners came up. They have to leave for AGO 2 on Tuesday, but are optimistic of getting it all running tomorrow. As soon as they do, we'll put both the NISM and MISM on line, and mcba and Max can flog them to death.

Dinner tomight was steak and giant crab legs, with fresh brocolli and home made bread.

After dinner we installed most of the heaters in the Abu box. Every so often we stick our heads back in the AASTO, but it's still full of Rockwool and unidentifiable bits of the TEG.





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