Today is Sunday the 26th of January. Our overseas readers may not be aware that it is the Australian National day. For this reason, we had organised a couple of special things for today.
I'll pass very quickly over this morning. Jon and I spent it again trying to figure out what could be wrong with our compact flash. We did enough test to be now sure that this is not a software problem and that the card itself is in perfect shape. This is puzzling us a bit since the rest of the system works with another card. It's probably time to call the exorcist again.
Lunch is when it started to become a bit more out of the ordinary. A week before I had explained Jean-Louis about Australia day. I asked him if it was possible to get something special for lunch (he has Sunday dinner off). So back then he asked me what a typical Australian meal was. I obviously mentioned kangaroo steak, although it is not all that popular in Australia, and it turned out that Jean-Louis had some (as you would if you were in the middle of Antarctica). I turned to Jon for the rest of the menu. Jon proposed sausage sandwich, an answer Jean-Louis pretended he didn't hear, and sponge cake. When I translated to Jean-Louis what it was, he kept on asking me "but what else do they put in it?". I thought he was going to faint when I repeated for the third time that it was nothing but sponge and icing. In the end he asked us to leave it to him and we are quite glad we did. Here is the menu: Tasmanian smoked salmon. Sydney's little Italy, tortelini. Kangaroo steak. Chocolate and cornflakes sponge cake. We even had taken the Australia flag from the AASTINO and put it on the ceiling of the restaurant. Our only failure was to be unable to answer what event triggered the choice of that date for the national day.
For the afternoon, we had planned an open day in the AASTINO. Sunday being the only day off for the workers of the Concordia station, we had advertised a week in advance that this Sunday would be the day to come and visit us, with Champagne as an extra motivation. The AASTINO being a bit small to fit the whole station, we had spread the visit over a major part of the afternoon hoping that people would not come all at once. We also cleaned the tent up and layed out a table inside with Champagne, summary sheets of all the instruments and technical parts of the AASTINO and our "Physics school annual report" that we are so proud of.
The visit was extremely successfull and most of the people of the station came (I have the names of the ones who didn't!). The Italians came first. Very civilised people, they came is small groups of two or three. I was serving the Champagne while Jon was giving out the details of the AASTINO with the energy of a car salesman. After the first hour, more and more came in the AASTINO and it became so busy that Jon and I were giving parralel talks on our system, completely forgetting the tent. Logically enough, the Concordia people were more interested by the engines and our strategy for the winter while the scientists spent more time gazing at the two instruments. By the time the American scientists came in, the AASTINO was completely full and I was regretting that we didn't ask for an entry fee. I think everyone was fairly impressed by our work and even completely baffled when they heard that no one in our team was a mechanical or electrical engineer. Eventually the AASTINO emptied and we were left only amongst English speakers.
When we got out of the AASTINO, the tent which we had completely forgotten about, was making a lot of noise and even shaking a little. I opened it and found 16 people inside going through the Champagne as if it was orange juice. It was quite a view since the tent is made to fit between 4 and 6 people. After the tour of the AASTINO people had simply gathered there and had no reason to get out until there was no Champagne left to drink. Since we had 12 bottles, it took until 7:30pm to clear everyone out. What started as a tour, became a real social gathering. Everybody told their Antarctic story and it was probably one of the most fun time we have had so far. It's a shame John left so early because it was today that the AASTINO became a real part of the station.
A smaller group kept on toasting to the AASTINO and Australia day after dinner, although Gianpiero prefered to sing: "To baigno day!". With our new spirit up tomorrow should see our victory over the supervisor.