Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04


05 December 2003
08 December 2003
11 December 2003
12 December 2003
13 December 2003
14 December 2003
15 December 2003
19 December 2003
20 December 2003
23 December 2003
24 December 2003
25 December 2003
29 December 2003
30 December 2003
31 December 2003
01 January 2004
03 January 2004
04 January 2004
07 January 2004
08 January 2004
12 January 2004
14 January 2004
16 January 2004
18 January 2004
19 January 2004
22 January 2004
25 January 2004
26 January 2004
27 January 2004
29 January 2004
30 January 2004
01 February 2004
03 February 2004

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


I know I am getting lazy. Summarising three days in one journal is clearly not acceptable. My superiors in Sydney are probably starting to think that I have been sleeping the whole time. In fact it is quite the opposite. The bed is small, and the temperature in the tent is too low in the evening and too high in the morning. Part of the problem was fixed yesterday after the departure of Eric F. He was occupying the only long bed of the station that was built last year for a 2m giant who didn't come back this year. So as soon as Eric's plane took off, I rushed in my tent. Took all my stuff and claimed the bed. It felt good to sleep with my feet inside the blanket for once.

The big part of the day is starting to become a routine. This is why I thought that one journal would suffice to talk about the last three days. In the morning, I do my round in the AASTINO. Armed with my torch, I check that no one is hiding in a corner, waiting for me to turn around to steal the SODAR or worse hit me at the back of the head with the Iridium to strip me from my dear parka. Accessorily I check that all the instruments are working as they should. So far, they are behaving themselves. It is not really a surprise considering the effort we made last year to get the whole system fully automated. It is so self-sufficient that I expect it to start talking to me and propose to make me a cup of tea (hey, that's an idea for next year!).

Writing these lines, I realize that I have only been at Dome C for 6 days. It feels a lot longer because all the people around me are so familiar now. It's almost as if last summer and this one has been connected and everyone lives here permanently. It's always the same groups chatting together during the aperitif. The ambiance is great. Almost everyone has a nickname. I don't have one yet this year (no more Casimir, thank god), although I get called "L'Australien" sometime.

A baby-foot tournament has already started. I haven't entered the competition this time. I haven't even touched the table yet. I'll wait for Jon Lawrence to arrive before I play. I don't want him to say that I had more practice when I beat him next month. This year the tournament is a bit more elaborated than last year. Each team must choose the name of an existing French or Italian team (like Olympique de Marseille or A.C Milano). There is a preliminary round that follows the Italian Championship point system before entering the final ladder. I think it will take at least a month before they get to the quarter finals. The first game played yesterday gathered a big crowd. There were at least 15 people screaming to motivate their team. It's almost worth building a stadium around the table.

Sports wise, I am a bit disappointed that the scientist who brought a golf club last year is not back this time. I wanted to take a sand-wedge with me but I forgot at the last minute. Dome C is the perfect place for golf as long as you use pink or orange ball. The texture of the snow is just right and buildings like the AASTINO make great obstacles. I hope that Jon will think of bringing a club after he reads these words. After all he and Colin will only have to take about two or three hundred kilos of equipment with them, what difference does a golf club makes (especially if it's a titanium one). It's always the same story each year. We rush to get thing ready on
time and we forget the essentials like golf clubs, beach towels and glow in the dark stickers.

Going back to my story; after my check up of the AASTINO, I go through a few biscuits and I join Eric in his little lab next to the telescope tower. There, I eat some more and help him re-centre the star on the CCD. The DIMM is meant to track the star automatically, but the inexactitude of the pointing makes Canopus (that's the name of the star we are using) wonder around and sometime get out of the field of view. Then we sit there for a while, marveling about how low the numbers the DIMM is giving us (low is good!). We also analyse the data coming from the weather balloons. After looking at a few hundred flights, we noticed that the first 30m of the atmosphere were not properly sampled, partially because the sonde usually shakes a lot from the acceleration it is under right at the launch but also because the sonde needs to adjust its first few data points. We were wandering on how to fix this problem when a bulb lit above my head (it was
Eric switching the light one.). The solution was looking at me through the window. All we had to do is attach a sonde to a pulley at the top of the 30m tower next door and pull the sonde to the top. We could do it at any speed we want and sample these 30m many times by letting the sonde go up and down a couple of times. Tomorrow, we'll test this idea of genius. At an altitude of 3268m and at -30C this counts as an idea of genius; especially since there is no one to argue with me about this issue (Eric could, but since he' s as tall as John Storey I don't think he will.).

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