South Pole Diaries 1998/99



Monday 18th January

From Michael Burton.....

Well now John has departed this fair and beloved icescape (and become marooned in Mactown) it falls to me to attempt to carry on the tradition of the daily South Pole diary. So what happended today? Got up at lunch time, wandered out to AASTO, wandered back again, did a little exercise, had a shower, took a few piccies. Yes, all in all a busy day now that John has left.

But getting serious for a minute, a few things did happen. Al Fowler decided that Abu wasn't pumping down properly, did a few checks with the leak detector, and discovered a leak near where the pump connected in. So pumping needed to be restarted. So far it looks as though its going better, but there is a couple of days to wait before we know whether our dewar really can hold a vacuum.

Matt has been busy resoldering wires for the SPIREX secondary mirror and sorting out and packing all the gear we're sending back to UNSW. Daniel continues to monitor the SODAR in all types of conditions, in particular trying to determine whether its the US flag or the Aussie one which is contributing to the turbulence measured. He's also started correlating the data with that of the Met balloons, which are launched twice daily. I expect him to be writing a paper soon on the inadequacies of meteorlogical data gathering methods! Actually the disagreement in our data sets on wind speeds and directions isn't that bad, but there is certainly NOT a one-to-one correlation between the two! The wind has, however, been pretty miniscule of late, when the swaying of the balloon payload dominates its readings. We're waiting for some strong winds to develop so we can make a better comparison.

Talking of weather, we're experiencing a heatwave. Temp around -25C. Its hard to cope. Clothing is being discarded, people wander around in T shirts and shorts, and curse the heat. We had a glorious 12 hours when the wind was absent and the Sun shining. Then the clouds came in for a few hours but now they've cleared again. Having been trained in the delicate art of taking movies with the webcam by Melinda (a very tricky unix command needs to be typed in on our local computer, pharlap) I've started the filming for the epic movie, `A Week in the Life of an AASTO', a picture every 4 mins. But there has already been a 8 hour gap when I decided to stop filming for some poor weather, only to miss the reappearance of the Sun. I'll probably get the tecqhnique right just about by the time I'm ready to leave!

If people have been wondering what I've been up to at Pole, while all this hectic activity goes on around me, I've been stuck in front of a keyboard trying to get to grips with reducing the SPIREX/Abu data from last year. One thing became immediatley apparant - how good our computer system is back at UNSW (our friendly decstation `roen'), compared to the Sun workstations I have available here! 1024**2 arrays really do generate a lot of data and when you are trying to process 100 images at once you need a computer with some real grunt, not to mention ample disk space. I've ended up shuffling files between 3 computers, parallel processing as I go, in an attempt to make progress. It must be about 10 times slower working than on roen, but since I have about 20 times as much time available to actually work as I do back in Sydney, I am making progress, just. I have, for instance finally worked out the sensitivities we reached through all the different filters we used last year. Any Abuists reading this diatribe - I will post the results shortly!

I also gave the weekly Sunday Science lecture tonight, a task neatly transferred to me by John when he decided to do a runner and hit Mactown for the weekend. Still, the galley seemed pretty packed (I guess there isn't a great deal else to do?) as I wizzed through a slide show on why study the Galaxy and used John's viewgraphs to talk about why come to Antarctica and where we really want to go.

So that will have to be it from me for tonight - its time to crunch some more data!


Coming Soon!



Further Information