Sunday, March 06, 2005

Take the Sledgehammer in Two Determined Hands and...

Well what an Interesting Week.
It didn't start well, nearly every system on the telescope wasn't working in its normal state - half of everything was on its spare, or hashed together from something else. For all this, I was amazed but we were still observing. So it wasn't all bad. At the start ofthe week.

The weather was blowing, quite cold and dim when the sun was hidden, and it is getting somewhat frosty out nowadays.

Tuesday, when the video server wasn't working, the heaters computers had both decided to go on holiday, the guys in the power plant decided to help us out with an unscheduled power outage.

All the science folks were having lunch, and the lights faded, flickered, and there was this horrible sound like a howling dog fading away in a passing car "Borwwwouwwwwowwwwwwwwwww...." and then everything went dead. We all moved faster than if there were a fire alarm. Six of us hanging off a sled and skidoo and out to our experiments in five flat. You see, if they turn the power on again, and we don't power things up in the right order, potentially millions of dollars of custom-made, hand-built, one-of-a-kind electronics puts on a pretty light show and then BLAT. Done for the year. Sowe were running around in our dark little rooms switching knobs, dials and switches. The power plant engineer runs in to me and says something quite similar to Scotty on the Enterprise "I can't doooo it, Cap'n, I dooon'thooove the pooowrrr...", only imagine it in a twangy city American accent and you've got it about right. Translation, the emergency generator, designed for entirely this purpose, can't hold out and was about to die.

So I told him to switch back to station power, only he forgot to tell a bunch of other people before he did it...the results were, Interesting. Luckily, nothing precious broke. The downer was that later in the day, power restored, and the dewar started showing some funny temperatures. By that night, I was very worried, as the instrument was burning helium like crazy,about twice usual. By six the next morning having been up all night watching it, I was, hmm, more than worried, and in our telecon with Berkeley they confirmed my fear - if we weren't out of nitrogen (i'd only filled it the day before) then we had a vacuum leak. This is the worst possible thing that could occur. It would mean removing the instrument, bringing it inside, pumping it down, and at least two weeks downtime. Nightmare. In addition to everything else broken, this was bad.

My Aussie mate Allan came to the rescue and helped me do an emergency nitrogen and helium fill. Turns out that the power outage had somehow helped all the nitrogen burn off, and it was empty. So no vacuum leak. Yay. A full frantic day outside and things were back on track. By 10pm that night, withno sleep in 40 hours, I decided what the hell, and sent off my first Station Science Report to the powers-that-be. I thought it was funny as hell by that point. Even more hilarious, they thought it was great.

The good news is that by today, my video server and heaters machines are back working and the dewar is behaving itself. I seem to have ratcheted back to only having the problems I had three weeks ago. Whoopee! I've now had some sleep too, and that was pretty exciting...

In other news, Allan managed another skidoo feat, by falling off it while driving. This takes a bit of doing. Robert was on the back, sitting backwards with his feet in the grandma basket when suddenly he feels the skidoo start swerving, and then, the skidoo still moving, he sees a big cloud of snow go by him, from which Allan's head appears. Robert yells (cue German accent) "Hey, aren't you meant to be driving??!" Allan's a nugget who played grade rugby and is built like a brick outhouse, so this was nothing short of hilarious for him, and all in a day's work.

This weekend was a two day weekend for most of the crew - this is unusual, normally people only get Sundays off, so everyone was a bit excited. The science people don't really get a day off at all, but it is still fun to join the festivities. On Saturday, the Aussies and Kiwis banded together to cook a bbq for the station, and let me tell you, there's nothing quite so challenging as getting a fire going at -50C! It was managed with aplomb, and as usual, every man in the vicinity, given half the chance, turned into an instant pyromaniac and played with the fire all day. A good time was had by all.

We have cobbled a couple of bands together for the winter, and somehow I've ended up in both of them. We have an originals band, which has got together a couple of times now, and we've put some fun stuff down. Our first performance is the Sunset party, which is only three weeks away. Crikey.

Oh, that's reminded me. A little bird has told me there has been some *questions* regarding my spelling of certain Australian slang words. Two things: slang words, for a start, do not have a 'proper' spelling. Second, it is my diary, so stick it up your jumper. My goodness. I notiss you dont comment on the thrillingness of the commentari, the perfektest ways that idiskribe the goorgus seeneree and the wunderfullee witti dial ogg?? ;)

Will try and get some piccies up soon, hope you are all well,

Hooroo (hah, see!!!)

smiles and love

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