South Pole Diaries 2001/02



Tuesday 15th January

From John Storey.....

Woke up Tuesday morning amazed to be here, as always. We (Tony, Duane and I) unpacked the rest of the boxes, convinced each other that all kinds of things were missing, and started making long and pointless lists of things that we eventually found. Have I introduced Tony yet? Tony Travouillon is a UNSW PhD student whose thesis work will mainly concern the SODAR (acoustic sounder). However Tony is amazingly useful at all kinds of things, and has been at South Pole since the New Year. Tony also speaks French, which is bound to come in handy sooner or later.

Next we scoped out the AASTO and tried to work out how to fit the Stirling engine and its various accessories into an already overcrowded space. At various times the bench, the cupboards, the bunks and ANU's video monitors were all under threat - especially from Tony who had the advantage over us of being already acclimatised to the altitude. I think Tony has spent the past week eyeing off the AASTO fixtures with a view to demolition. Duane got into the mood too, and at one stage almost had to be forcibly restrained from heading out to get a chain saw. In the end we figured out exactly where everything could go - the Stirling engine in front of the bench (so you can't miss it when you walk in the door), the dump tank behind it, the batteries under the bench, the heaters in front of the ANU rack, the header tank on the bench in the right-hand corner, and the control panel where the right hand half of the bookshelves are. The only demolition required will be of half the bookshelves - and frankly we don't do much reading in the AASTO anyway.

That was about enough thinking to go on with, so we repaired to lunch. It's about 1 km from the AASTO back to the dome where the galley is. The walk is quite heavy going at first, but good for the appetite. However after lunch Duane was looking a bit green and feeling decidedly queasy, so we packed him off to Tim the station doctor, who measured the amount of oxygen in his blood. This turned out to be not very much, so Tim popped some Diamox into him, put him on oxygen for an hour, and sent him off to bed. By the end of the afternoon Duane was looking as right as rain, and we think he'll live.

Tony spent part of the afternoon removing the old exhaust pipe from the AASTO - a major task because of the way it was bolted and then glued to the roof. The old exhaust pipe was an amazingly complicated freon-heated coaxial tube assembly. The new one will be a simple piece of car exhaust bent up at Tuffy Mufflers just before we came away. Despite Tony's best efforts we ended up with fibreglass everywhere - this being yet another component of the old exhaust system. To complete this orgy of destruction, I sawed up the bookshelves.

After dinner a couple of cargoids (cargo people) arrived out at the AASTO with a Skidoo towing a sled with a big box on it. This turned out to be the batteries for our Stirling engine - four big sealed lead-acid batteries each about half as big again as a car battery. Because they are considered "dangerous", such batteries are packed into a box filled with zeolite or vermiculite or another of those absorbent minerals you grow hydroponic vegies in or sit the cat on. Even with the gracious assistance of the cargoids we ended up with zeolite all over the AASTO carpet, already looking rather shabby on account of the fibreglass. Tomorrow we will get the industrial strength vacuum cleaner from the MAPO building, and the AASTO will be as good as new again.

Not much else happened - Duane and I tried to take things quietly while we got acclimatised. I sorted out my South Pole computer account; the very fact that you are receiving this means I have acquired at least some rudimentary skills in Microsoft Outlook. I think I have at last persuaded the stupid thing to send messages in plain text instead of RTF, Word or HTML format; though the computer and I are still having an ongoing discussion about the finer points of what might reasonably be possible with a
rationally designed email program.

Meanwhile the weather has started to clear a little, with the sun poking through occasionally and producing some dazzling ice halos.

The only other item of note is that the coffee machine, which has been at South Pole for as long as I have been coming here, finally gave up the ghost today. This is very bad news - it used to be possible to get quite decent coffee out of it by filling the filter to double strength when no-one was looking. The new machine is digitally controlled with touch-pad switches and might not be as easy to lead astray. We shall see.



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