Saturday, August 18, 2007

Work picks up

One of the main reasons for having over-wintering teams based in Antarctica is to study changes in the local climate that take place in the Austral spring. My department is interested in two media favorites - global warming and the hole in the ozone layer. Global Warming is studied by analysing trends in long term records (which we've kept ticking over through the winter), but Ozone levels stay pretty much constant across the year, save for a big drop in the southern spring. One research area is the chemical interaction between the southern ocean and the lower atmosphere (more here).

What this means to us is a busy time getting instruments ready for deployment. Most of this falls to Neil, our atmospheric chemist, but I've been covering for Jules by preparing the solar/wind generator power system. It's an interesting and well built little system comprising a controller/data-logger for each of the three wind generators, all sending data back to a central logger. This lot will be deployed at Precious Bay, about 10km away to monitor ozone levels at the coast.

Wind generator controllers (L) and logger enclosure (R)

We're also chasing Ozone on the Simpson. But rather than looking across, we're going straight up using a set of mirco-instruments mounted on a helium filled blimp. This experiment begins with setting up the Weather Haven, where the kit is stored between flights. A nice day made for plenty of volunteers.

The weather haven goes up

It's been flat out, but there's still been time for a laugh. Ant, our ever cheerful chef, turned 30 last week and wanted to go camping. Un-deterred by the cold, seven of us grabbed survival bags and headed into the grounds.

Ant celebrates his 30th

It was about -40C with a bit of wind, but nowhere near as much snow as the photo suggests (the flash picks up on really tiny particles in the air). It was a bit cold when we toasted Ant's birthday with some perfectly chilled champaign, but I soon warmed up when wedged in the down-filled warmth of the survival bag.

Bivi-ing in the garden

Today is gash-day, bringing the delights of domestic chores at the weekend. And so life swings back from Polar Hero (TM) to housewife!


Anonymous Skinny D said...

Hi Dave, two questions...

1) It appears as though the staff at your base changes on an annual basis? Are there any processes in place to ensure experimental continuity year to year? I know what it can be like when one set of experiments is repeated by another person!

2) Any more info on those survival bags and general practices for survival when you are out and about working.

Cheers, Dave

7:57 am GMT  

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