South Pole Diaries 2001/02



Friday 25th January

From John Storey.....

Abba? What are they trying to do! This morning's breakfast music was clearly not designed to get the day off to a good start. Fortunately by lunchtime the kitchen staff had moved onto new-wave grunge sung in German - not exactly art but definitely an improvement. By dinner we were back to Hendrix and Joplin - perhaps the station manager had had words with the cooks about the Abba thing.

The Stirling engine is purring sweetly, as we log data every 120 seconds into a file to check everything is OK. While the engine may consider this to be something of an invasion of its privacy, it does remind me of the process I had to go through before I could be declared medically fit for travel to Antarctica. It seems that every one of my bodily functions was subjected to scrutiny in the most exacting detail and written down in a file, in much the same way as we are now doing to the Stirling engine. At least my results were not broadcast all over the world (or so I believe).

Duane left just after lunch. In the end he coped extremely well with the transition from metric measurements to things American, and by the time he left could distinguish between a 4/40 thread and a 6/32 thread from a distance of 10 paces. For me, using American nuts and bolts brings back nostalgic memories of the four happy years I spent as a postdoc in Berkeley in the late seventies. My only problem now is that I can't pick up a handful of 6/32 bolts without thinking of the song "Horror Movie" by the seventies Australian band "Skyhooks". (Remember how it finishes - "Horror movie, right there on my TV; horror movie: it's the six/thirty-twos")

Just after lunch Paolo Calisse called me from the Italian station of Terra Nova Bay via HF SSB radio. This time the signal was loud and clear, and we were able to wrap up the details of this year's campaign. Paolo is on his way home after a very successful couple of weeks at Dome C. Talking on HF radio is also a nostalgic experience for me. You see, once upon a time there was no Internet...

Duane's final task this morning was to find a sheet of Lucite (Perspex to our British readers; Plexiglas to the Americans; polymethyl-methacrylate to our Chemists) to put over Jim Lovell's signature on the wall of the AASTO before it gets damaged. Two years ago, Lovell (of Apollo 13 fame) was visiting the South Pole intending to spend just a few hours here. However bad weather at his return base meant he had to spend several days with us, along with Owen Garriot (of Skylab fame). Fox Television decided to conduct an interview with Lovell via Iridium phone and, since the only web-camera at South Pole was out at the AASTO, it became an impromptu outside-broadcast studio. Lovell was kind enough to autograph our wall before he left, and the signature is now preserved for posterity.

In terms of scientific achievement, today was a "slow" day. The Supervisor computer did not work despite several hours of patient re-soldering of connectors, and was lucky to escape without an ice-axe through its CPU. We have gone back to using our original Supervisor, which unfortunately uses a floppy disk as its one and only storage medium. If I have time after all the other jobs are done I might have another go at finding a machine that can read our Flash disk. The station is definitely starting to wind down, and a lot of time is taken up sorting through junk and getting equipment ready for the winter. I will be leaving on Monday, and there's a lot still to do.



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