South Pole Diaries 1999/2000    


20th January

From Jill:

This morning we were assigned shovel duty. After the bulldozers finished with the majority of snow removal yesterday, we were left to dig small trenches around the corners of the AASTO so that the bulldozers could get in closer. It wasn't too hard to dig through, some of the snow was like powder while other stuff was as hard as .... well I guess ice! It is really a strange place to work. While we were shovelling snow, I heard a load noise, raised my head only to discover a Herc taking off a short distance from us. It was great to see this big chunk of plane get off the ground. A magnificent sight.

Paolo arrived today, so I was 'tour guide' this afternoon, which was fun. He arrived with another of our instruments which is to be installed on the roof of the AASTO in the next couple of days. I'm just getting used to being here. I slept properly for the first time last night. I'm living in a Jamesway, which is a semi-cyclindrical tent type thing out in the "Summer camp". I have a room on the end, which means I get a window! They are reasonably comfortably, the only problem being that the toilet is in another building!

The telescope is now on the tower after our initial 'problems'. We hope to dig trenches to run the cables out to the tower tomorrow - more digging! While I have been doing odd jobs in the last couple of days - and mostly watching the electronic wizardry of Andre and John, I become kind-of useful when we want to run the software for the telescope, being somewhat familiar with it. This coincided nicely with the time I was scheduled to leave (tomorrow), so I smiled sweetly and asked if I could stay an extra couple of days - and guess what it worked!

So I'm here until Monday, yay!

Jill :)

From John Storey.....

Today it was action-packed fun from start to finish. We began by noting that the bulldozers had removed about a metre of snow from all around the AASTO, except for a little island surrounding the AASTO itself. Basically they couldn't get in any closer because of the guy-wires, webcam, and other essential AASTO accessories. Unfortunately, having a raised bit of snow in front of the AASTO would be very bad over winter, as it would almost certainly trip the wind and cause rapid burying of the AASTO. After some debate we undid the guy wires (we don't think we need them at South Pole), dug them out, dug up the webcam, and invited the bulldozer back to slice his blade within centimetres of the AASTO. Webcam devotees will already have noted the transformation. Andre was the hero of the occasion, digging out with his bare hands the original hole that the webcam mast had sat in, to ensure it went back in exactly the same place.

Around lunchtime a Herc arrived carrying not only Paolo, but also Dave Pernic (who will tend to the AASTO over winter - according to his dad - but I'm not sure he knows that yet), John Carlstrom (Director of CARA), Rodney Marks, Randy Landsberg, and Tom Bania, plus a whole bunch of people I don't know.

Not only that, but the NISM arrived too. It was carrried out to the MAPO building on bulldozer, and unpacked by Paolo and Jill. It's ready to go into the AASTO, but right at the moment here isn't enough room. We'll get all the cabling done first.

With the ground level properly esatblished, we then set about digging a new trench from the G-tower to the AASTO. This was mainly a Brett and Andre activity---I hid in the AASTO and pretended to do electronics.

Actually what I was doing was verifying that the COM2 port on the AFOS works properly, having yesterday discovered an unpleasant little problem that kills COM1 as soon as the CCD is initialised. I had my ususal sanity-threatening RS232 experience, finding that when I put the DB25 - DB9 adaptor plus DB9 gender changer into the socket there wasn't enough room for the DB9 cable, so I had to start with a DB25 cable, add the DB25 - DB9 adaptor plus DB9 gender changer and finish it all off with null modem for good measure. Fortunately it worked. We can even re-use the DB25 - DB9 adaptor plus DB9 gender changer when we connect to the G-mount, which hopefully will be soon.

I didn't sleep well last night because some idiot parked a Hercules outside my window and left the engines running for an hour while they transferred fuel.

After dinner we scored two 25-foot lengths of Cat5 UTP cable ethernet from the lovely Jenny in the computer centre. This will allow us to tidy up the wiring in the AASTO which is currently lying across the floor. This time we got white cable, which will have a significantly less delterious effect on the Feng Shui of the AASTO than the hideous Barbie-doll pink stuff they gave us last time.

We're a bit stymied with the AFOS because the IRAF software on pharlap appears to have vanished. We'll chat to Rodney about it. Rodney has bright purple hair. Dave Pernic has bright red hair. Another of the winterovers has no hair at all except for a large star. It's shaping up to be an interesting winter.

I promised I'd go back and describe the experiments in the Clean Air Sector (as much for my benefit as yours). Most are in the new ARO building.

NASA Goddard are running a green LIDAR with 20 m resolution, and a range of 200 m to 9 km. Interestingly, this is different experiment and different bunch of people to those that were here last year.

There's also an Alexandrite laser LIDAR to measure stratospheric tempertures. It pumps two energy levels of iron and works out the temperature from the Boltzmann distribution of the populations. It has an *average* power output of 3 watts at 372 and 374 nm, which might make an interesting calibration line for the AFOS!

The NSF are running a high resolution solar spectrometer, whose reults will alos be interesting to compare to those from the AFOS

The Univeristy of Washington are running a mid-infrared FTS, and are getting results that are directly comparable to those from the MISM. We've had some very useful discussions already. The FTS can not only
measure atmospheric emission, but can also measure absorbtion over a horizontl path of a few hundred metres to a retro reflector. This will really nail the aerosols!

The most fun experiment is SPARCLE, which is a CCD camera that is towed up by tethered blimp. As it goes it unrolls a reel of sticky tap, onto which the ice crystals ("diamond dust") stick. The camera takes an image
at two different magnifications, and the live video is recorded at the receiver.

That's enough for today. Tomorrow we hope to get the G-mount up and running, and put in the trench that will carry the AFOS fibres and electrical wiring.




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