South Pole Diaries 1999/2000    


19th January

From John:

Today was the first full day since I arrived that has been devoid of both DVs and astronauts, so I was able to get stuck into a few of the more subtle problems facing us. First amongst these was the fact that the AFOS stops working when you plug the CCD in, which is a shame because the CCD is not only the most expensive part of the system but also rather central to its operation. The problem was that the power supply smoothing inductor had too high a resistance, and the 5V power supply was dropping too low to keep the CPU running when all the current load was on. The first idea was to get another inductor. The second idea (following the lack of success of the first) was to rewind the inductor with thicker wire. Unfortunately thicker wire was no more available than substitute inductors. Finally we unwound the inductor, doubled the wire over, and rewound it with half the turns but two wires in parallel, thereby cutting both the inductance and the resistance by a factor of four. This done, the AFOS CCD electronics now works like a champ---at least to the point we have tested it.

    The main excitement of the day was the arrival of not one but two bulldozers (including the fearsome D7) to shovel roughly a metre of snow from around the AASTO and Gtower. Webcam devotees will notice a significant difference already, and will also see how we carefully removed all the junk before the bulldozers got there. (The black thing on the roof is a "Do not freeze" box which is probably only a bit frozen. We had to put it somewhere.) Jessica's trench has been sort of obliterated, and so we'll all get out tomorrow and start a new one. The two bulldozers spent many hours shovelling, and now there is a huge snow hill behind the AASTO.

Trapped inside the AASTO while the heavy machinery rumbled in circles around us was like a scene from Mad Max II. They're after our propane, I thought! Fortunately sanity returned shortly later---put it down to the altitude.

Other good things we did were:

  • Took hero shots of Jess and Jill at the actual South Pole, holding aloft a UNSW logo and trying not to look cold.
  • Locating the NISM in Christchurch and setting it en route to the Pole.
  • Getting the Gmount up onto the tower (it fit, this time)
  • Digging out the G-tower ladder.
  • Finding *almost* all the ex-SPIREX bits and shipping them back (The main thing missing is the gorgeous 5-inch diameter sapphire window.)

Jill also took all the electronics spares out of their plastic bags and put them in proper anti-static ones. She also labelled them properly, starting a new and disturbing trend towards a properly organised spares collection.

Michael Ashley continues to give us great software support from Sydney, and acts as our "sea-level brain"---he who still has his full mental faculties.




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