South Pole Diaries 1997/98



Friday 5th December 1997 - Weather ?

From John Storey......

Well, a most unusual day. The only tine I have seen a complete reversal of direction on the wind. It is blowing a wimpy 0 - 2 knots from around 160 - 200 azimuth. It has brought with it a most unusual foggy substance which has cut visibility dramatically - probably 200 yards max - and is leaving nice little ice crystals on everything. (But no drifting)

One of the upshots of this was that the 6 Hercules flights scheduled today have been thrown into complete disaarray (for a change). The first flight which tried to find the runway missed nicely - gave the AASTO quite a nice little shake as it did a low pass hunting for the flags and came directly over us. Never actually felt the AASTO shake, rattle and roll before ...... he did a couple more passes before heading back to MCM.

The next flight did a pass, couldn't find us, and announced it was heading back in 20 minutes if it didn't clear. There was a short pause - after which it was announced that MCM had overridden the pilot, and told them to stay orbiting the pole for 90 minutes, in the hope it would clear. It didn't.

However just after they left, a Twin Otter announced it was landing. Runway lights went on, everyone waited .... and waited. ..... and waited... and finally it called in to say it had landed 2 miles grid east from the Pole, and was slowly taxiing across the sastrugi (bumpy snow to the uninitiated) to get to the base. Apparently he had found a clear spot in the fog (!) and put it down. He is rumoured to have a GPS in his brain - he has quite a reputation here ......

Well, the rest of the afternoon went along the same lines - I think we have had 4 flights go back, and the 5th just did its first pass - no chance. The 6th is about 90 minutes out, so .....

On a work note, the second Helium compressor line was pumped all night and came down nicely. So Al and I assembled the various pieces, and started purging with ultra-high purity NO2 - sorry Helium. This process went quite well untill there was a rather large and sudden failure in one of the solder joints. Dave Pernic has taken it away, and spoken to it sternly (this may be more effective than a talking to from any of the of the Tek, Fluke, Cal or in-sinkerators ....) and it is now being pumped again for another trial. Fred finished the design of the new tertiary mount, which is quite trickey as the 3 holes in the back bear little relationship to the requested dimensions. Dave Pernic will start machining that first thing in the morning - he may be somewhat delayed by having to recover from the work I did tonight on these parts.......

I took great joy in witnessing the MISM and NISM taking data in a nicely automated manner. In fact, at first I thought the propane burners were about to go into one of their little undocumented modes (Note to propane burner: do NOT eat Freon.....). I quickly realised that it was way too smooth and rhythmic, so I climbed out of the hole I made in the snow when I landed, refitted the door - and looked up to see a wondrous sight: the MISM happily doing cute little steps, pausing to examine the sky above us, then in desperation at the appalling conditions, taking a few more steps in an attempt to find a patch of sky which had better characteristics than the bottom of Sydney Harbour, and which would justify it freezing its (insert favourite anatomical part here) off. I even had the joy of seeing this sequence repeated, and to watch almost simultaneous data taking by both the NISM and MISM. Thank you Michael for all your work on the s/w (and John for destruction testing so much of the electronics so we could find the most reliable boards.....) (Now, I must also point out that there is a strong correlation between MCBA taking data so smoothly, and the worst weather we have seen since I arrived here ......)

I also started the search for/assembly of a turbo pumping system for Rodney to use during winter. It needs to be: a) portable; b) suckey (in the sense of capability); c) portable; d) easy to build a box to keep it warm; e) portable.

I have located a few items which are now undergoing JWVS-1287450123-A (one of the little known US NASA and Military Standards which relates to destruction testing of components utilising unusual techniques: eg not connecting some pins, pooring a variety of acids frequently encountered in space over them, that sort of thing). I'll test for several days to find a good unit for next year.

The platform for the Helium lines to coil on has also been constructed, and we will start fitting it either later tonight or early tomorrow morning, in conjunction with He line purging. In this process we will attempt to liberate enough He gas to lift the planet a significant amount ..... This will take a fair chunk of time, as all existing cables must also pass through this new azimuth wrap.

Hmmmm odd ..... I seem to have spent much of the day playing with Helium lines, gas fittings (there is an unusual metal-to-metal system being used to join the lines in several places) and turbo pumps. The euphoria of watching MISM/NISM collect data automatically rounded the day out nicely.






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