South Pole Diaries 1999/2000    


14th January:

From Jessica: War of attrition

G'day from the south, wow what a great day we had yesterday! Between finally beginning to set up the beautifully remade AASTO, the day culminated in the forklifting of the g-mount, adorned with the gorgeous ADIMM and AFOS, to the base of the G-tower. Earlier that morning Andre., Brett and I repositioned the primary mirror and mounted the AFOS on the mount with only a bit of fidddling. I would have liked to have seen hands larger than mine get the screws in place though.

So it looks *beautiful*!!! I stood on the G-tower and got some historical photos, and also a few of a herc taking off. What an amazing site! When the sky is grey, as it was, the snow it kicks up causes the dome and all the rest of Pole civilisation to disappear and blend into the sky - it looks like it's not there at all! 

I came down when my chin went numb. Then we were fortunate enough to have Gary who runs the AMANDA neutrino project, give us the gold-plated tour around the facility. It was enormous. Thousands of metres of cables, millions of dollars worth of optical fibres and these OM's (optical modules), these spherical detector units that look like more complicated versions of the finder drones in Star Wars. Very cool. We watched the fifth of six holes being drilled (2000 metres deep, though they were currently at 1000m), and the guy told me to lean over the hole and look in. So I did. It was about 100m down to the water level and kind of terrifying. Just as I did, though, all of the drive noises shut down, and something went "clunk!". I jumped up and staggered back from the hole crying "I didn't touch anything!!!" I was convinced I had just broken a million dollar experiment.  The guy supervising the hole had merely turned off the blower heater that was keeping him warm, to scare the living daylights out of me. Very funny.

We had a CARA meeting tonight, and not only us, but everyone seems to be having a good run with their telescopes this season. 


Jess :)


From Jill: Christchurch ---> McMurdo

My first Herc flight! It wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting, after hearing all the horror stories about flights getting half-way, turning around and sitting squashed up against 2 other people with your knees touching the "chair" of the person across from you. I think I was fairly lucky, I got a seat up the back where I could put my feet up on luggage. I was a little concerned about the flight, but once we got on and into the air I was feeling much better. I was just hoping that we would get to McMurdo and not return to Christchurch!

All my worries were soon forgotten when we eventually arrived at McMurdo (after an 8 hour flight). Stepping off the plane was amazing. It wasn't really that cold (I think it was about 5C), although I did have half my gear on. I guess the best description would be "crisp and fresh"! The sun was shining brightly, not a cloud in the sky. This made the white of the ice even brighter in contrast to the sky. It was great just to stand there and look around. It was white as far as you could see, with Mt Erebus just behind the runway. Well when I say "just behind", I really mean a long way away, but the air is so clear in Antarctica that distances are deceiving. What looks close by is really quite a way away - this is very disconcerting! I saw 'diamond dust' here for the very first time also. This occurs when sun-light reflects off ice crystals in the air. It looks like little sparkles everywhere!

We didn't really see a lot of McMurdo. As soon as we arrived we ate, found our rooms and then were very keen and hiked up 'Observation Hill'. This is a big, very vertical 'mountain' on the edge of McMurdo. It was a little enthusiastic considering the early rise, the long flight, and the heavy gear we were wearing. Regardless, John Storey, two German guys and myself did it anyway. I was tired before we even got 1/4 of the way! 

We (I mean I) made it eventually and it was certainly worth it! The view was just magnificent! In one direction there was the buildings of McMurdo, then behind you the white ice of Antarctic continent and then in the other direction sea ice and the ocean. It was incredible. I was absolutely amazed to be standing there. Even stranger was the fact it was 10:30pm and the sun was not only up, but felt like mid afternoon - this was going to take some getting used to! After our marathon hike I crashed into bed in preparation for our early flight to the Pole the next morning.

Jill :)


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