South Pole Diaries 1999/2000    


21st January 2000

From Jill:

This morning was spent digging a trench out to the tower. I think we picked the worse day yet to be outside. It was much colder than in previous days and very windy (-40C with windchill). You could only work outside for about 20 minutes before you had to go inside to warm up and rest. Any physical exercise here is much harder than at sea-level due to the lack of oxygen in the air. Today was also the first time I had actually felt cold and a little numb. Walking from the AASTO to the dome for lunch, my legs and fingers were very cold. So, after lunch I put an extra layer on everywhere - head, feet, body, legs, neck and hands. It is a lot of clothes to carry around, but it was worth it. I was nice and toasty!

Our afternoon was spent trying to feed cables down the pipes we put in our trenches. This seems like an easy task, but not when it is -40C outside! At these temperatures, any cables that you take outside freeze almost instantly, so you have to make sure they are unrolled. If you try to unroll them when they are cold, they are so brittle that they shatter. To get around this problem, I was assigned 'gofer'. My task was to walk off, away from roads and buildings to straighten out the cable as Andre unrolled it. As I was walking, I looked up and for the first time it occurred to me how isolated we were. There was just nothing but snow as far as you could see. It was a bit of a shock. It hadn't really occurred to me before this, as there are always people walking around, buildings at least grouped together and we always walk towards some other building - not really looking around. It was quite a relief to get back to the little AASTO, both as the comfort of having people around, and of-course the warmth!

John Storey is leaving tomorrow, a week before his scheduled departure. He is going to Terra Nova Bay to talk to the head of the Italian Antarctic program about moving some of our instruments to Dome C nest year. Dome C is high on the Antarctic Plateau, mush higher than the South Pole. It is interesting to us, as we think it would make the best site to build a big telescope. The whole purpose of us being here (maybe I should have said this earlier!) is to establish how good the South Pole is for astronomy. All our instruments test the conditions here for this purpose. Our plan is then to move the AASTO (it will fit into the back of a Herc) and drop it, gently, at Dome C to take more measurements so that then they can be compared to the South Pole data. The Italians already have a base at Dome C, so John is going to discuss plans. We will miss his expertise! I'm really starting to feel comfortable here now. The work we are doing is interesting - I'm learning heaps about electronics and am in general enjoying my time here.

Jill :)




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