Week 48 and 49 The Sun

10th September - 24th September 2000

With one month till station open some people decided it was time to do our winter group photo. Kristie did the hard part of organising the time and getting votes of where the photo should be taken. Brian and I were asked to take the photo.

It was decided, far from unanimously, to take the photo with the dome in it; since the dome is only going to be used for one more winter crew, we wanted our year associated with it. Some wanted the new garage, and some the new power plant. Since these are under snow, they would have been inside shots. I was in favour of the photo with the dome in it. Some wanted it with the sunrise in the background. But of course this would cause a huge hassle with back-lighting, and I don't have a heap of slave flashes! And the sun isn't up yet, and it's going to be dark enough without adding more headaches. NEVER do a group photo by committee!!

On Monday I go out scouting the location. It's -60C and blowing 20 knots. The sky was clear and and blue, the horizon was glowing bright yellow from the about to rise sun. There was a heavy layer of drifting snow at knee level which streamed off the sastrugi so that it looked like a huge horizontal wind tunnel. Bloody hell it was cold!! I had planned to take a tripod out and wander around with the camera. It was far too cold for this and I just had a walk around for an hour with a frozen camera.

Tuesday was a non event. Toast city.

Wednesday was a typical work day. I knocked off early to do some more location scouting before yoga. As it turned out I was the last to hear yoga had been canceled. So I ended up with more spare time in the dome than I would really want. At about 10pm Yama called to say very loudly the the sun was UP!!! We went out to Mapo and sat in the lounge chair watching the sun through the nice windows that Mapo has. It wasn't the greatest sun rise ever maybe - but it was pretty bloody lovely. We saw some minor green flashing, but nothing like the sun set.

Thursday was perfect. Cold, clear, and little wind. I went out in the morning and did the final setup for the photo. I'd made a device for my tripod so I could put four cameras on it. Plan - go out with the tripod and put in the correct location. Get the row of cameras and put on the tripod and adjust them all. Take in row of cameras. All set to go. Reality - take tripod out. Get cameras. Special ball head (you know the non greased one) on tripod frozen solid and won't lock the cameras in place. The alloy and brass in the mechanism have shrunk differently. Okay, back in with the cameras. Also bring in the tripod head. New plan - leave tripod head on with the cameras and screw it all on once out there. Messy.

By the afternoon the temperature has plummeted to below -100F!! But it's going ahead anyway. Sonja and I'd talked about doing something for Rodney. We decide to get the Australian flag which is flying over Rodney at the pole and put it with the US flag on top the dome. We decided some people might not appreciate the US flag being replaced. I've never climbed the dome before. There is a great view. And the flag looked very good.

I'm starting to worry about the emulsion on the films cracking, and everyone getting frost bitten, even if we are only out for 10 minutes. At 6pm everyone starts gathering in the galley. There are some minor panics with the cameras. But I'm ready and tell Kristie to tell everyone to go out. Brian and I quickly go out with the cameras and line up on the flags I'd put up earlier. We soon have it set up and I take my balaclava off. Of course I'm doing all the fiddly stuff with just glove liners on. We quickly do four photos with the timer. I go back to start taking the cameras in and someone says I've got to go in as my nose has gone completely white. Since I hadn't been able to feel my fingers for some time either I decide it's a good idea.

Some of my fingers were a white I'd never seen them before. So it was a minor scare. I didn't think about it too much as my nose and fingers thawed. Ouch!!! They went a deep blue and then pink. So no big dramas. Brian also had some nasty looking fingers. For a few days they were swollen, red, and throbbed. Now they are just a bit numb. I look like I sunburnt my nose! The Doc gave me some steroid inhaler for my bitten lungs. It was a cold bloody day.

When it comes to taking photos, anything below -50C is difficult. Everything freezes. The grease in the tripod goes solid. The head and legs won't move. All cameras will soon freeze. If they didn't the film would shatter when wound on. Or at the very least the emulsion cracks. Then there are minor problems like it being impossible to use a camera with huge mits on. So your hands freeze. So don't expect too many outside winter photos from me.

That night there is a lot of partying for the sun rise. For the first time since May a large group of people go up and enjoy themsleves in Sky Lab. I didn't think we had the energy any more. The next morning I have to wonder if I wasn't right!

Friday we had a small party out at Mapo. Yama has got good at cooking a full meal on a single hot plate designed for curing epoxy.

To be continued .......

p.s. Many months later I found the emulsion on the film did crack. One of Brian's photos came out quite good.

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