Geoff Sims @ UNSW
Home South Pole Diaries 2012/13 17th January, 2013


Thursday, 17th January, 2013

Arrival at Ridge A (Geoff)

The Ridge A robotic observatory. Hover your mouse over the image to see a photograph taken by Craig Kulesa almost exactly 12 months earlier.

We arrived at Ridge A at approximately 13:30 NZDT (or around 05:00 local time). The temperature was around -45 C, and winds were blowing at around 25 knots (46 km/hr or 13 m/s). For one of the calmest places on Earth, this weather was extremely unusual, and unconfirmed as the "worst" (windiest) in recorded history (based off the nearby Dome A automated weather station).

The three of us, known as "team destructo", had around half an hour to dismantle the modules, extract some parts, package them, and send them back to the South Pole to be repaired. My first task, however, was to document the site before any destruction. This is mainly of interest to see the snow drift caused by wind over the past 12 months.

Instrument module (batteries, computer control, Iridium connectivity, all-sky cameras, webcams, etc.):

Engine module (engines, fuel):

Telescope, solar panels and weather tower:

Simultaneously our guide/mountaineer was required to setup at least one tent before the plane could take off. Thankfully, our two Canadian pilots lent a helping hand:

And here is "team destructo" in action. If you look closely in the second photo below, you can see the tip of a sledge hammer which was used to mark the location of buried treasure (read: essential servicing tools). It serves as an indication as to the amount of snow accumulation over the past 12 months.

All these tasks were made exceedingly difficuly by the strong winds. Despite my camera (Canon 5D Mk II) being known to operate for hundreds of exposures at these temperatures, the wind blown snow caused an ice covering around the camera body, rendering it useless (until thawed out) within half an hour of landing. Here are a couple of photos of our complete camp setup, including a large tent for cooking/eating, and a couple of smaller "mountain" tents for sleeping:

-- Geoff


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