South Pole Diaries 1997/98




Saturday 29th November 1997 - Wine waiter

From John Storey.....

When I accepted the position of wine waiter for the Thanksgiving dinner I had no idea of the enormous responsibilites involved. The five of us, Prof. Jim Jackson (Boston University), Dr. Leonard Johnson (NSF Science Representative at South Pole), a couple of Daves, and me, were inducted into the Exclusive Order of Wine Waiters and instructed in the finer arts, which go as follows:

Each bottle has to be sampled upon opening, when halfway depleted, and when nearly empty, in order to ensure that only consistently high quality wine is delivered to the customer. For this the wine waiters were issued with a standard NSF "taste-vin", with a capacity of no more than half a litre. As it turns out, the customers were enthusiastic consumers, and we had to open and apply proper quality-control measures to a large number of bottles. We had on offer:

    • A sauvignon blanc from some miserable vineyard in California
    • A chardonnay from the same vineyard
    • A zinfandel from the same vineyard
    • A red Montana "Salyut", consisting of debris left over from vineyards in Australia, New Zealand and Chile
    • The same red Montana wine (at least as far as I could tell, given its temperature of +0.1C), but labelled "Timara"

None of these wines was actually drinkable, with the possible exception of the Montanas. We kept the whites in a big bowl of snow, but there seemed to be no convenient way to bring the reds to room temperature except to drink them. They seemed to improve with age.

I lost a bet with Jim that he couldn't tell the difference between the California white wines - I think he cheated, because the Zinfandel was clearly pink.

Anyway, this will be a fairly short report because all the computer keys have gone a bit fuzzy and seem to all have the same characters printed on them. Beakers are staggering out of the Dome and demanding access to a GPS so thay can find their way back to their experiments.

Actually, we did do enormously good stuff today. Ant and Al convinced each other that the T-tube wasn't leaking, put Abu + T-tube + mount together, convinced each other again (while still sober) that it still wasn't leaking, and now it's on the pump for the next couple of days. By the time they wake up there should be quite a good vacuum in the dewar.

Meanwhile, the MISM optics were being re-aligned according to the following procedure: a laser was set up at a height of 80 mm above the work surface (ie the height of the chopper hub), and directed down the centre line of the baseplate. In the absence of an optical bench, this required use of the #3 bunk in the AASTO, plus a pile of floppy disks (formatted for PC, of course) to sit the laser on.

The lid of someone's perspex electronics components box was set up on two labjacks at the same height as the window of the optics box. After carefully measuring where the beam from the "intact" side of the optics should emerge, I was shocked and amazed to see it come within 3mm of the expected position. The "repaired" beam was then adjusted to also be within 3mm of the nominal center of the window.

Lines were drawn on the ceiling of the AASTO, from which was measured the angle from which the beams were emerging from the window (or electronics box lid, as fate would have it). Eventually I was satisfied that the new beam passed through the window, at 45 degrees to the other beam as required. It wasn't terribly accurate, but it's as good as we can do given that the #3 sleeping bunk in the AASTO appears not to be optically flat. (This oversight must have slipped past our purchasing people at UNSW.)

I hope future generations of AASTO users will forgive me for the pencil marks on the ceiling, and the perpendiculars that have been dropped and seemed to have rolled under the bunk somewhere.

Ant and I put the MISM back together, under completely windless coditions. It would actually have been impossible if the wind had been blowing more than a few knots, given the difficulty of doing the wiring outside. Fortunately, today was a beautifully still day, with virtually no wind. It's possible to wander around in normal "Sydney" clothes, even though the temperature has dropped to -35C.

Michael Ashley kindly pointed out that the problem with the NISM signal-to- noise is that I was using "adc" instead of "sample". "Adc" takes the instantaneous value of the waveform, and thus one expects the "noise" to be the full peak-to-peak value of the waveform. "Sample" is needed to actually measure the rms value of the signal. The beaut thing about being at the Pole is that I can blame all my mistakes on the altitude, yet still ascribe other people's mistakes to stupidity.

Speaking of mistakes, in the last email I should have said the null modem is *not* needed for the DSE but *is* needed for serial data port. (Note: this error is a result of altitude, not stupidity).

One more brain-teaser: if you do a "ds read" without first "ds init", the computer reads non-existent sensors and reports their last known readings.

Normal service will returned after the next sunrise (whenever that is).





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