Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04


01 January 2004
03 January 2004
04 January 2004
05 January 2004
06 January 2004
07 January 2004
08 January 2004
09 January 2004
10 January 2004
11 January 2004
12 January 2004
13 January 2004
14 January 2004
15 January 2004
16 January 2004
17 January 2004
18 January 2004
21 January 2004

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Return of the cold...

Hi All,

hopefully with this are a few pictures kindly taken by Steve from AST/RO that pretty much describe my Tuesday. With a 6am (ye GODS) wakeup, and a 7am meeting, I was high on lack-of-sleep-and-oxygen by 8am. The meeting was with the two big dudes of Science Support to discuss how and when they were going to help me to dig up our very precious telescope cables from under the snow, and then move the entire observatory to a new location. They were very positive and polite, and I can already hear myself picking up Yankee lingo (oh my GAWD...).

Jess and the AFOSThen I trudged out to the AASTO. The weather is still fantastic here, though by the end of the day cloud cover had moved in. I had noticed yesterday, grimly, that when they had excavated around the tower they removed the big ladder that allows access to the top, and the telescopes. I tried firstly, to replace it by myself. I am very very very glad there was no witnesses to this. If you see one of the photos, this was just after I spotted Steve taking shots, and am desperately trying to look cool. Moments before, I had taken a slide headfirst down into the pit, swearing. I didn't hurt myself, mum, too many clothes. But I struggled on, until conceding defeat and going to find an old pal who always helps me out of my gaffes - Bob Spotz, a great dude with a brilliant Chicago accent like out of a 1930's gangster movie. He quickly agreed we couldn't put it up in its old spot due to the big pit, and so we leant it against the outside rail and lashed it there with cargo ropes. This is a big dodgier (but this is ok, as the Safety Officer is on R&R), and means I have to hoik my leg over the railing to get onto the platform. Its actually quite safe, just horrifically ungraceful and I usually take a quick look around to make sure no-one's around before trying it.

Todays job was to disconnect the optical fibres and the power cables from the telescopes so that tomorrow when my 'help' arrives, we can begin trying to move the cabling. To be honest this was the job I was dreading and it turned out every bit as revolting as I thought it would be. The optical fibre mounts are fixed in place by tiny screws which need me to remove my heavy gloves and simply leave the cotton undergloves on. Extended time without gloves is quite troublesome, especially as your dexterity (sorry, MY dexterity) is quite decreased by the altitude, as well as the cold. I would stop for short spells and jam my hands into my overall top and try to warm them against my belly. I usually go by my feet as to when I'm getting too cold, and after two hours they, as well as my bum on the metal platform, were complaining of the chill. After thawing out in the AASTO I went back up and finished that job. So the cables are ready to go for tomorrow.

High altitude does funny things. I am lucky and find that I don't struggle physically - my breathlessness and headaches pass after the first day, but it certainly affects my thinking. I find I have to talk to myself a lot about what I'm doing otherwise I entirely forget "Ok, now put these in your pockets cause you'll need them on the tower. Have you got this? No, silly girl. Ok, now you can go.". Maybe I shouldn't be admitting this, but I find it helps (*defensive thrust of chin*). There is usually a lot of abuse in the monologue!

This is particularly worrying as I have to give a lecture to the station about our work here at Pole and Dome C tomorrow night. I am working on it now, and words aren't coming as easily as usual. My next mail will be after that, so I'll let you know how it goes!
The G-tower in the pit


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