South Pole Diaries 1997/98



Monday 24th November 1997 - AASTO fixed

From John Storey......

An exciting day today with lots of things happening. The AGO service crew got everything back together again and got all six burners running. They've repaired the internal chimney and replaced almost everything else. It was very heartening to walk past the AASTO at lunchtime and see smoke (or steam) rising from the chimney. It looked like a friendly country cottage. The TEG is producing 55 watts, well within spec. At the moment it's actually uncomfortably warm inside (about 30C). It's likely that the temporary repair to the inside chimney is insufficiently insulated, and is radiating heat into the room like a pot-belly stove. We've turned the thermostat down; in addition added some more lagging. We're very grateful to Ron Raimbow and the AGO service crew for their heroic efforts.

Ev Paschal has also put in an outstanding effort, not only with his help with the initial clean-up and diagnosis, but also fixing the noise problems in the DCU and calibrating the various sensor channels. The ARGOS transmitter is back on the air, and it should be possible to see our signal on the AGO website (although I haven't checked yet).

The weather today is fantastic, in complete contrast to yesterday. Yesterday was windy and overcast, with a lot of blowing snow. Visibility was only a few hundred metres, and it felt strangely claustrophobic. It felt like we were wrapped up in a little ball of cotton wool (or worse still, Rockwool). Today the sky is crystal clear, a blue hemisphere over a sparkling white landscape.

The replacement SoddingSchwein batteries still have not arrived, so we have taken the spare 20 Ahr PowerSonics from the AASTO. In addition, the AGO service crew had some other spares flown up from McMurdo. All of these batteries have been removed from AGOs that have failed during the winter. (In the case of the AASTO batteries, they were first frozen in AGO 2, then again this year in the AASTO!) All are a few years old. I tested all six batteries, and all six have a capacity of better than 14 Ahr @ C10 - in other words - almost as good as new! We will use four of them (don't panic - they're 6 volt units!) to power up the NISM, while running the NISM off the only two Soddingschweins to survive the winter.

The leak in the freon system was found to be in the drain valve of the freon tank. They tightened the shaft seal, and reckon it's ok now. I wouldn't trust it as far as I could throw it - I hope they replace it in January.

I started wiring up the remaining bits of the Abu heater box this morning, but Mike Masterman brought me down with a below-the-knee tackle and sat on my head until I agreed to let him do the wiring. He and Mark Thoma have been very helpful all day, and we're quickly making up for the late start to the project down here.

Fred has expertly machined the excess length off the dummy T-tube, and built a very handsome eyepiece holder. It is a reasonably lightweight flange fabricated out of aluminium. This comes as a surprise after seeing SPIREX, as we thought he might insist on having it drop-forged out of a solid tungsten billet.

The problem of running an ethernet out to SPIREX seems to be solved now. There are two spare fibres which Mark Thoma says he can terminate, and Ant used his charm and good looks to score a couple of fibre-to-10BT boxes.

The morning concluded with Ant and I rip-sawing large sheets of plywood to make a base for the Abu electronics rack. We think we're going to lift the rack onto the roof via eye-bolts in the plywood base, though the structural integrity of the plywood is a bit sus. We've found a few pieces of two-by-four, which we can either use to reinforce the structure or to beat up innocent bystanders with if the plywood breaks and Abu falls into the snow.

I swung past the doctor's surgery and was interested to see he keeps his implements in the same "Snap-on" brand tool chest that we use in MAPO for our wrenches and screwdrivers etc. There's also a large cylinder of "aviators oxygen", and the radio is powered from an enormous Caterpillar tractor battery. There's a certian "outback" feel to the South Pole...

All eight flights got in yesterday, so the fuel crisis has been successfully averted. But now an even worse disaster has occurred - we're out of beer! This doesn't worry me too much because I don't drink when I'm on field trips, but it's certainly shaken the Station to the core. As I type there is a group of people in the kitchen with large vats stirring up some strange liquid that they probably hope is going to turn into beer.

Al Fowler and Nigel Sharp arrived in time for lunch, and have quickly settled into the routine. Already Abu is unpacked and is being pumped on the turbo pump. NIgel is a woolly character who did a postdoc at Stromlo and is going to have to get used to our Stromlo jokes. Al has grown a beard in the hope that we wouldn't recognise him, which we didn't.

Does anyone know why "newt" always waits until I'm in Antarctica and then crashes? Is it trying to tell me something? Speaking of computers, and out of fairness to the PC world, I should mention that the ancient Toshiba T1000 that Jack left in the AASTO has survived intact. The DCUMON programs etc are running on it just fine. I spent an hour or two with Ev while he explained to me how the system works. As soon as we've lugged the 386 over we'll run DCUMON on it, hook up some cereal cables (sorry, that should be "serial") and see if we can talk to it. Ev was able to show me how to set up the power allocation for the instruments, and how to limit the data they can store. I think a few milliwatts and half a dozen bytes per week should be enough for Stromlo. I can also send 3-line messages (each of 29 characters) out via the ARGOS satellite, to where they will be received by a waiting world hungry for data. I can feel some Haikus coming on.

Tomorrow we'll vacuum out the AASTO (thereby getting rid of the Rockwool), have the carpet professionally shampood and maybe get an interior decorator to give the place the once over. Then we'll be ready to move back in and *take data*.





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