South Pole Diaries 2000/01



Thursday 1st February 2001

From the AASTO Team.....

Hi Guys,

For some unexplained reason there was an internet outage from the Pole last evening. Not that there was much to report; Paolo wasn't here yet, Michael was acclimatizing to the low atmospheric pressure, and Andre was in bed nursing a virus. But in the space of 24 hours, everything has turned around...

* Paolo has arrived with all equipment
* Mcba is dancing on tabletops
* Andre has mostly 'thrown' his bug.

Michael and Andre visited the AASTO last evening and concluded that the leaking gas smell was 'fresh' and in urgent need of attention. This morning Michael acquired a 'photo-ioniser' gas detector and quickly discovered that the butane refrigerant was leaking at a number of joints, and indeed (judging by the liquid level in the view glass) most of the butane appears to have already been lost. Michael was able to fix some leaking joints with a little extra tightening, but there are a series of big joints on-and-around the thermostatic regulator valve, which will likely need to be completely dismantled and redone properly. We'll think further about this one tomorrow.

Today's major activity was a serious clean up of the well-junked AASTO. Even though it is too late in the season to Retro cargo, we have been filling a 'retro' box, as well as eliminating some out-and-out junk. Paolo and Michael spent most of the afternoon sorting and repackaging equipment, and now the inside of the AASTO is considerably more roomier.

Andre's major task today was mounting the DataTaker DT50 data logger onto the wall, and running 12VDC to power it. Over the last couple of days Andre has fiddled with this instrument and found it surprisingly easy to program, and it will make a perfect interface for monitoring zillions of TEG parameters. The DT50 'knows' of just about every resistive/voltage-source/current-source/thermocouple/bridge device ever invented, so we should be able to quickly splice in all the TEG thermocouples etc.

And that's about the all the AASTO news for the moment. Paolo is looking well, and surprisingly neat and trim despite all that world-class Dome-C cuisine. Also, since he is already acclimatized to the pressure, he's bouncing off the walls, manhauling sleds etc. He plans to get SUMMIT brought over to the AASTO tomorrow AM, and to use the transporting fork-lift vehicle to lift the instrument straight onto the roof. In for a penny...

Michael has made sufficient space in the AASTO that we should be able to work on the NISM here, rather than trying to make space in the currently *very* congested MAPO building.

So after a slow start, things are happening very quickly.

Andre is currently working the Graveyard Shift, so shortly I will attend 'Midrats' (midnight dinner), which has become my lunchtime on the current schedule.

One last bit of interesting gossip. Last evening a Herc was unloading when a bulldozer driver noticed that a large metallic object fell out of one of the engines. It turned out to be the tailpipe, effectively the exhaust pipe of the jet engine. Which is a little embarrassing. Because it cannot take off on three engines from the Pole, that Herc is still here and a replacement engine, and crew to install it, have already been flown in from McMurdo. Whilst the aircrew were here last evening, Michael and I had a very long conversation with one of the pilots which touched on, amongst other things, runway considerations for high altitude antarctic air ops. Very interesting!

That's it for now.

Cheers, The AASTO Team.