South Pole Diaries 2000/01    


Thursday 7th December 2000

From John Storey.....

So what happened to today's diary entry, you ask. Why have John and Paolo failed to submit a report by the midnight deadline for transfer over Intelsat B? Have they lost interest? Do they have nothing to report? Or have they simply become, to use the expression Paolo found in the Dictionary of Australian Slang, a "pack of bludgers"?

Wind generator at Dome CQuite the contrary. Thursday was the big one; the day when we got everything assembled, wrestled the software to the ground, solved a whole bunch of problems we didn't even know we had until today, and crossed off almost all of our "to-do" list. It was a very long day that started at 5:30 am for me and finished at 1:30 am on Friday for Paolo. It began with the Summit instrument poised over the electronics rack on the tines of a remarkably versatile forklift, and finished with the completed instrument sitting on the floor by the doorway, ready for its first foray into the great outdoors.

Along the way we met and overcame a series of unexpected challenges. One difficulty was that the software automatically measures the temperature at 18 points around the instrument once every 60 seconds. When it does so it generates enough interference to---as Paolo put it---bring down a C130 Hercules. That being the case it could probably down a smaller plane, say a Twin Otter, at a range of up to 20 km. That could explain why we haven't seen one for several days. Fortunately Michael Ashley was able to send us a software work-around. We're still measuring the temperature of a 10kg lump of copper every minute, but at least it's not completely trashing our data any more.

My relationship with Eric also became a little strained because of a misunderstanding between us over the use of semicolons. (Eric is the fine young program that actually runs Summit. He's a likeable lad, but somewhat pedantic and a little unforgiving.) Anyway, semicolons are not something I normally use much---my writing style being characterised---so I have been told---by excessive---possibly even profligate---use of the m-dash. It turns out that our stepper motor controller is into semicolons, while Eric is not. Sorting this out took a couple of hours.

Paolo set up a blue-foam customising plant at one end of the lab and produced an excellent insulating jacket which will keep Summit warm in temperatures that could later dip to -80C.

At 8 am Friday a bulldozer will come and drag Summit out of the building, ready for first light!



South Pole Diaries 2001