South Pole Diaries 1999/2000    


10th January: Trench warfare

From Jessica:

Hi everybody, for the first time since I've been here there was a 9 knot wind up. It has been incredibly still up until now. Ohhhh, it makes a difference! Though it was only -31C, the dodgy and subjective wind chill factor put it at about -47C. It didn't feel quite that bad but my eyebrows and ponytail frosted over, and you definitely don't want to stand still.

I lay in bed the last night and could hear the SODAR from my bed! I should have known something was wrong when I couldn't hear it in the morning. My first thought when I realised it wasn't going was that some irate scientist had taken to the poor thing with an icepick and blowtorch, but Andre was already neck deep in electronics when I got out there, and I realised it was far more dire. Over the next few hours I was privileged to witness the best piece of electronic detective work I've ever seen. Andre would NOT be stopped! Quite frankly I was doing too much of an impression of the abominable snowperson (I *hate* political correctness!!!), to focus on exactly what magic he was concocting, but in short what started out as one of the deepest electronic mysteries of the universe ended up as a brilliant solution and the SODAR hooting again before dinner.

Why the abominable snowperson? Well, one of the jobs we have to do is dig out the one remaining buried cable trailing from the tower where we will put our new telescope and mount, back to the AASTO, and dig a new trench for some pipes which will hold all the new cables. Piece of cake says me. The snow is called sugar snow, because it clumps just like ....well, you know, sugar. Ahem, (oh her wondrous descriptive powers), anyway, it isn't hard stuff to dig. The fact that about three seconds standing still made you an iceberg didn't help. So I dug to find this cable. It was only laid last year, and on top of the snow, so it shouldn't be too far down, I think. I found it when I was waist deep. That gives you an idea of about how much the snow rises at the Pole each year. I dug at least a metre before this cable showed it's frozen little cords to me. Andre has nicknamed me "Digger" Dempsey, and I think it's because I've made the AASTO look like the Russian front from world war 2. There's even a very nasty booby trap. I have a rope and a line of soft snow across where the new trench will be, and if you trip over this, it will send you stumbling just the right distance into my deep trench. If I don't write tomorrow, you know what has occurred.

We are getting carpet in the AASTO as I type! Yay! The place will look civilised soon. Not much else to tell. More digging awaits me. The nazi's will never get me now. An interesting little coda to that was when the Russian buggies rocked into town the other day. I just remembered what the US comms chick actually said over the intercom. It must be the first time in the history of the human race that the Americans have cried "The Russians are coming!" and actually looked forward to the event.

chat soon,


Jess "Digger" Dempsey :)


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