Antarctica

Week 42 A Day in the Life of

30th July - 6th August 2000

Just before the moon rose this week, a slight glow was noticeable on the horizon - the first sign of the sun's return. Once the moon was back that was the end of dark skies for us. When the moon sets in two weeks the sky will have a definite glow from the rising sun. I'm going to miss the stars, but am also looking forward to seeing the sun again. Standing outside the dome I was looking towards Mapo and thought, how am I going to find my way around without being able to see the stars? Hmmm... Maybe it won't be as big a problem as I initially thought.

With about 12 weeks to go it still feels a long way from the end of the season. My routine here was never as settled as at Casey. At the beginning of the winter when I came off the night shift which I was working over the summer, I found for about a month I'd wake up at 4am. In the middle of the winter my schedule got quite messed up because of the weird satellite times. I need the satellite for a lot of the computing I do, and I ended up working till around midnight a lot.

But these days I have a very settled routine. This is a reaction to life being a bit difficult, and needing something solid to rely on. A typical day has my alarm going off at 7:30. I get dressed and go have breakfast. I get up at this time because most of the station leaves for work promptly at 7:30. There is only 3 others that regularly have breakfast at this time, and we like it this way.

At breakfast I will get a vague idea of what is happening around the place. This may influence when I head out to Mapo, if someone is taking a snowmobile out. Depending on what has been the recent meals I'll often get a plate of left overs for my lunch, and if it is a favorite food of Yama's (he lives in Mapo these days and his favorite food is steak) then I'll bring that out for him. Otherwise at 8 I walk through BOS (Back of Science) and check the tape archives. Every other day I'll change tapes and label new ones. If I intend to do other archiving or restoring from tape I load the tapes so I can do it from Mapo. I then go upstairs to my room and put on my ECW.

The walk out to Mapo certainly wakes me up. Nothing like -60C air to wash away the cobwebs. If it's a nice day I might walk in a round about way out to Mapo. Most people seem to have trouble walking anywhere but along the cane line for fear of getting lost. But I often just wander along some random path. This is especially the case if the sky is clear and I'm watching the sky more than where I'm going. Just so no one worries, there is no way of getting lost as the Met tower has a red light on it which can be seen from miles away, and the stars are also excellent beacons back to the dome. Anyone that goes on about the adventure they had getting lost because they momentarily were not on the cane line is a complete wanker. There seems to be a few of them.

We've been having some trouble with a computer out at the SPASE shack. We should be able to check everything is okay from BOS. But at the moment we can't. Since it's a nice walk I don't mind and either walk there on the way out or back. If it is very nice I'll walk down the runway, or out to ANI's food cache, just to stay outside longer and get some exercise. Every so often I'll walk out to the pole and spend a few quite minutes there.

Once out at Mapo I get out of all the ECW and then do a quick round of checks. First I make sure AMANDA is running, and have a look at the statistics of the data, which will show problems that may have occurred. Then I'll turn on the monitors for the old AMANDA, RICE, and Super Nova, and check everything is okay with them. There is usual some minor problem which is quickly fixed.

Checking email is good and bad. I'll usually have a few nice emails, and 10+ work emails. On an easy day I'll have all the work emails responded to in an hour. Typically they will be questions about hardware or software configurations, or requests for some data. But on others days they will be work requests involve jobs that take a day or two. I'll usually put these jobs off till after lunch. This will give me time to work on some of the long term projects, such as the archiving scripts, or the configuration of the UNIX system. On Fridays there is an experiment which has a useless Mac on it, and the data needs TXing manually.

If I've brought something nice with for lunch I might break early. If it's to be Raman noodles again, I might not eat till 2pm. Would be nice if some other form of easy meals had been supplied. Maybe some cupa-soups. Anything but the noodles which I'm starting to get a bit tired of. For some place that supposedly have professionals making sure the correct amounts of food are sent down, we've run out of a lot of things. With the food it's not as obvious, as the cooks just have to adjust. But we certainly notice things like running out of Steinlager in mid April!! One of the first beers I'd had in the US was a Samuel Adams when Helen and I went to Hawaii, and it was very novel and not too bad. I wouldn't drink it all the time. Well since we only have Guinness, Boston Lager, Winter Lager, and Export left (the NZ equivalent of Fosters - but not as good), I'm now a bit sick of Sam Adams!

After lunch I'll start doing larger jobs such as tracking down minor problems in the AMANDA data, or doing requested calibrations or hardware checks. My enthusiasm will start flagging at around 4. Yama who is on a very unusual schedule will be up by this time. I might go talk to him for while or I might watch a bit of movie that I might have started watching at lunch. Sometime before 6 once I've become completely unproductive I'll head back to the dome.

The most regular things I do through the week are go to Yoga on a Wednesday evening, and shower on Wednesday and Saturday nights. We're a fairly unusual Yoga group. Our instructor is very keen, but would never claim to be an expert. As for the rest of us, we'd never done it before coming here. There are 5 regulars, and we meet in the gym at 6pm for an hours relaxing and stretching. The galley leaves the food out for us and we usually all eat together afterwards. Probably the most social meal I go to here.

Showers are not the big deal they are in the summer. We still have a limited amount of water. But since unless a pipe bursts we aren't going to run out, and water restrictions aren't really in place. Thus a - gulp - 5 minute shower won't result in a firing squad being assembled. But I have noticed that a number of people have got in sync with me for shower days. So the biggest danger is of keeping someone waiting. And with everyone getting a bit edgy it's worth trying not to get on someones bad side by making them wait 10 minutes for a stupid shower.

On Friday night we had a very good night. The ARO people hosted a wine and cheese night. I'm not sure where the fancy (not fancy by real world standards) cheeses came from, but it was really good. And crackers are a bit of a problem with only individually wrapped ones (airline food) left. The wine selection is far from great also, but Sonja rescued the situation by donating one of the last bottles of Wynns. The end of the night is a bit fuzzy, but I've been assured I was really enjoying myself. Everyone enjoyed a conversation Brian and I had, which neither of us seem to quite remember. Maybe we're having our legs pulled.

To be continued .......

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