South Pole Diaries 1998/99



Wednesday 20th January

From Michael Burton.....

There's a brisk chill to the air, not that the temperatures dropped much (its still holding above -30), but because the winds picked up. Only a few m/s mind you, but enough to make it noticeable if still going around in jeans and training shoes! I think I'll have to remember to put a bit more of my Antarctic clothing on tomorrow. The weather continues to be beautifully sunny, with barely a cloud in sight, quite unlike McMurdo where John is still believed to be holed up, waiting for a Herc to appear to whisk him back to NZ.

Regular viewers of the webcam may have noticed some strange happenings around it around midnight last night as three strange individuals were seen showing that it is really high summer in Antarctica, performing some kind of ice-bonding ritual. Doubtless Melinda has turned the images into a MPEG movie by now, so enlightenment will be forthcoming! The mega-movie `A week in the life of an AASTO' continues filming, frames coming in every
4 minutes - so there will be some rivetting viewing ahead.

Matt & Daniel decided to place the anemometer back on the G-Tower, and to start cabling it up - so a trench has appeared between the AASTO and the G-Tower. Even more surprising when I entered inside today was to find the AASTO servicing crew, lead by Ron Rainbow, there! We weren't expecting them at Pole till Feb, and nor did they it seems, but somehow they had arrived on one of the flights yesterday and were busily servicing our unit. They had a "freon leak meter" which busily chirped away and announced that freon is indeed leaking along one of the inlets. Even further, they found a cracked socket joint (with a 0.5mm crack in it) just were the meter beeped, and even replaced it. So perhaps the problem is solved??!

At the same time the propane tanks arrived for the year and were deposited outside by caterpillar tractor. I thought the whole event was being beautifully captured by the webcam movie, until I realised it was that time of the day when the Sun shines directly into the camera, obliterating everything. So all webcam viewers will see is the sudden appearance of a set of propane tanks, beside the new location of the Aussie and US flags (we'd also decided that we really ought to move the flags off the roof just in case their flapping really does interfere with the turbulence measurements we're trying to make with the SODAR.)

We've been a little concerned about the temperature inside the webcam enclosure, which has been reaching over 50C when the sun is shining directly on the plexi-glass! So today we took the radical step of taping some aluminium foil around the whole structure in order to reflect sunlight away. With 5 min the temperature (or the thermometer inside anyway) had dropped by 25C, so we must have done something!

Abu, unfortunately, is still not cooling down and Al is out looking for vacuum leaks again. This is getting quite serious now as time is running out for having the instrument ready. Fred is convinced that the problem will be solvable though, and its good to have an optimist in times like this! The delay also means that the replacement PZT for the secondary mirror might actually get here in time to be installed before the instrument goes on the telescope. After couriering the part from Germany to Christchurch it has been hand-carried to McMurdo we believe, and are told it will come in on a flight tomorrow.........

Tonight we had a lecture on the construction plans for the new Pole Station, due to be completed in only 2 years from now if I read the viewgraphs correctly. We will be placed in nice, plush building elevated above the ice and may even have windows! Summer camp was proposed to be disestablished - but on the other hand the new station on has accommodation for 110 people, and since we have over 200 present now its hard to see the station population really declining, even if you do get rid of 80 constructors!


Coming Soon!



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