Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2002/03


31 October 2002
23 November 2002
30 November 2002
01 December 2002
02 December 2002
03 December 2002
05 December 2002
06 December 2002
07 December 2002
08 December 2002
09 December 2002
10 December 2002
11 December 2002
12 December 2002
13 December 2002
14 December 2002
15 December 2002
17 December 2002
18 December 2002
27 December 2002
29 December 2002
30 December 2002
31 December 2002
01 January 2003
02 January 2003
03 January 2003
04 January 2003
05 January 2003
06 January 2003
07 January 2003
08 January 2003
09 January 2003
10 January 2003
11 January 2003
12 January 2003
14 January 2003
16 January 2003
17 January 2003
18 January 2003
19 January 2003
21 January 2003
22 January 2003
23 January 2003
24 January 2003
25 January 2003
26 January 2003
27 January 2003
28 January 2003
30 January 2003
31 January 2003
02 February 2003
04 February 2003
11 February 2003
14 February 2003
17 February 2003

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

the caravan

Late last night, Dome C lived one of the major events of the season. The
traverse (or raid as they call it) from Dumont D'urville arrived after 10
days spent driving on the ice. We were aware of their approach from the
Aastino by the conversations the station had with them on the radio. The
first message they emitted was the report that some of the traverse had
mechanical problems and had to stop to repair 20km away from Concordia.
Imagine how you must feel so close to a warm meal and shower and suddenly
your engine stops. Being so close, some of the raid kept on driving and left
the others to their problem.

After another hour, the radio screamed: "I can see the camels!" The camels
they were talking about are carved out of plywood and sticked at the entry
of the station (if there is such a thing as an entry). I think they
symbolise the similitude between the raid and a Touhareg caravan going
through the Sahara. This meant that they were arriving. Jon and I dropped
everything, ran out of the Aastino with the video camera and watched the
first part of the raid driving in the base. There was two large snow trucks,
each pulling about 4 containers worth of supplies and attached one after
another making the whole procession look like an Australian road train. The
first two containers were clearly the habitable ones. With doors and smoke
out of them, they looked from the outside easily as comfortable as out
tents. Driving the leading truck, I recognised Georges, the Doctor who fixed
my skull on the Astrolabe. It was good to welcome him in Dome C. He even
came with a present: a shirt I had forgotten just before taking the
helicopter at DDU. After arriving with Astrolabe, he helped with the
unloading of the Astrolabe and the loading of the traverse. We witness a bit
of this work while we were at DDU. A helicopter goes back and forth between
the station and the boat, picking up a box roughly every 3 minutes. It was
simply unbelievable to see the ease at which the pilot made those

We didn't stay around to see the rest of the traverse arrive a couple of
hours later. This morning however, the station, fattened with 10 extra
and a lot of trucks and containers, was busy like a bee hive to unload
everything. At 10:32am, Jon decided it was time to use brute strength on the
supervisor. He took the ribbon cable out of the guts of the beast and after
hesitating between running over it with the skidoo and squeezing it with
pliers, he chose the later option. Like a surgeon, he then placed the
tortured cable back in place and switched the power on. Having lost all
confidence by that stage, we barely looked at the monitor when the miracle
happened. The computer started normally and gave us the usual prompt as if
nothing has happened. Time for Champagne! Unfortunately none of it was left
from Sunday so we celebrated with the packet of biscuits I steal every day
from Jean-Louis' reserve.

This misadventure did cost us 4 days of work. We are now left with 6 days to
complete the mission. This should be just enough to get the Aastino fully
operational. The only uncertainty is the Sodar. I am still waiting for the
amplifier from Mc Murdo to fix it. According to the station manager there is
only one flight left out of Mc Murdo to Terra Nova on the 1st of February.

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