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

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Cable chicks

Hey All,

I am writing now, as I plan to be comatose as soon as my talk ends, around 9:30pm. It will be touch-and-go not to be before that! Today was ridiculously productive. I was up at 5:20. AM. (CRIKEY). And out at the AASTO by 6:15. What a keen little bunny I hear you all say. By the time my crew had arrived an hour later the finicky job of disassembling the fibre optic supports was completed. My crew was all girls - two carpenters Ange and Kara, and they were miracle workers. Removing the cables from the tower was, well fiddly. I seem to notice that when people (including myself) come to Pole and assemble something, the single aim seems to be to affix it in such a way that even if every event in Revelations was to occur to that structure/instrument it would remain intact. There seems to be little thought to the poor sods who have to disassemble it someday ;)

That said, all went very well! By lunch we had the cables loose. The cables then thread through several PVC conduits down the tower legs, under the snow (at a formidable depth of 2.5m) to the AASTO walls. We then twisted the angled PVC at the tower base down to the snow and slid the conduit off the cables. Then the hard part. I had allowed up to three days to attempt threading the heavy and fragile cables through the well buried conduit that runs deep underground to the AASTO. After all, if it gets stuck halfway, the only way to retreive it is to dig down and bust the pipe. After covering the cable ends in socks and duct tape (cause I'm all sophistication, as most of you know!), the job was accomplished by 3pm.

To top it off, while Ange, Kara and I were taking a breather in our deep, sheltered snow pit (and the sun so hot I have a good dose of sunburn to the lower half of my face), we watched one of the most wonderful ice halos I've ever seen, appear in the sky. An ice halo is like a rainbow, only the shapes are caused by ice crystal refraction, instead of water droplets. A great white ring encircles the sun, and today two brilliant spots of rainbow color sit on either side of the circle, in a line with the sun, and these are called sun dogs. Then a line parallel with the horizon bisects these and a circular rainbow at the sky zenith evolved right over our heads. Clearly the Antarctic gods saw the Cable. And it was Good.

After this some of the work Bosses appeared, and they were as surprised with our swift progress as I was. Many hands make light work and ten minutes later Andre Phillips' clever domed webcams that perch on the tower, were safe and unscratched in the AASTO. Like I said, ridiculously productive.

Dana, the science tech, has provided a few photos of today for you, including an excellent one of my double chin. Hope you like 'em! Tomorrow, the girls and I will thread the cables into the AASTO and by the afternoon the power will be shutdown so they can excavate around the rest of the building. At this point we will do the lifts with the crane on Friday.

I am now going to stagger off and try to be coherent in front of a bunch of people. Wish me luck, will chat more tomorrow,

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