Antarctica

Week 25 Starry Starry Evening

2nd April - 9th April 2000

Walking out to Mapo on Monday I can't stop scanning the sky until I finally spot a star - Canopus. The stars are very slowly making an appearance in the sky as the glow from the sun starts to fade. They come out obligingly slowly, so you have time to remember all the bright ones first. Only bright stars are visible so far. Canopus, Sirius, The Pointers, and most of the Southern Cross.

I remember how foreign the sky looked at night the first time I crossed the equator. We had hiked out to the volcano on Hawaii. It was cloudy when we got to the camp site. But we woke up well before dawn to see if it had cleared. The sky was glowing with stars - far more than I expected in the tropics. But the stars looked not quite right - ones I'd never seen before - and ones I knew, but oriented completely wrong. I would never have expected to feel the same disorientation looking at the stars in the southern hemisphere. How different can it be to Casey? To study the Southern Cross I almost end up falling over backwards! The moon has dipped below the horizon for it's 2 week rest from the pole.

On a more earthly matter, water has become an issue once again. The amount of water is no longer a huge problem. With the population dropped by over a quarter, we could have maybe 5 minute showers 3 times a week!! But only in the dome. Out in the sticks - El Dorm, and Hypertats - there is no pipe to the water supply. There water is "made". Jeff goes out to a place where the snow is pure, known as the "snow mine", and gets a huge bucket of it with a Cat. This is brought back and put in a snow melter, to make water. This is quite an involved process, and so there is a limited amount of water for the 20 something people living out there.

For awhile they tried to be self sufficient out there - doing their laundry and showering. But it soon became apparent that if everyone did laundry, there was not enough water. It has been decided that they will bring laundry into the dome and do it. The Dome nation, while not liking having the riff-raff invading our laundry, did feel sympathy for them. Now there is enough water for showers and drinking for the outsiders. That was until the water came out of the tap one morning a not completely opaque (but close) black colour, and with the aroma of hydraulic fluid. Sabotage by the Dome nation some yelled! This did not make sense to the dome slugs who now have to compete for showers.

Frantic tests were done on the water quality - the only tests on station. None of which made sense. How would the snow get contaminated with sewage on the plateau? But there is no test for hydraulic fluid, and any test is better than no test(???). The solution - rinse the tanks with a solution - alcohol. Then lets pour in some other nasty chemicals and flush it with precious water. Finally the water is restored to a semi-pure state. No culprit has been convicted. We have not seen the end of the contaminated water (soon to be) saga.

Radio darts this week was with Casey! I had received an email from the Casey SL out of the blue, not related to the invitation I'd sent to play darts, and suggested we organise something. With the delays in emails getting to the pole, organisation was not the greatest. We gathered in comms at 9:30pm hoping it was the time we had agreed upon. The satellite appeared not long after this to let us know that 11pm would be just fine with Casey. At 11pm the not very professional radio operator - me - tried calling them. Is that a reply? We can hear something, but not make it out. Lets suggest another frequency and hope they receive us. We finally get a very weak, just intelligible signal. We each muster up 2 teams and very very slowly relay scores back and forth. Casey finally wins - I think. It was great fun, but exhausting work on the radio. One game is enough for now.

To be continued .......

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