The sun is fully up, about 7 degrees above the horizon now. It has finally begun warming the upper atmosphere in earnest, so the surface temperature is slowly climbing. There have also been some thin cloud covers which help keep it warm, but haven't totally obscured the sun. I have taken over a small met duty--the daily changing of the sun cards. There is a beautiful instrument here called the Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder. It consists of two glass spheres, each about 3 inches across, each in a little brass stand. One faces south, the other north. A cardboard card slides into each stand behind the sphere, and as the sun makes its way around, the sphere focuses the light and burns a small mark in the card. When the sun is very strong (i.e., no clouds or anything else obscuring it), it will burn right through the card. When its faint but still visible, it just burns a little mark into the front of the card. When its cloudy, there isn't any mark at all. The two cards get changed every day at 0 GMT, and the previous day's cards are inspected to derive hours of sunshine for that day.
It almost feels like summer, as everyone who has ever driven a cat is out driving now. The area between the dome and the hypertats, and out onto the skiway looks like LA to me--a haze of exhaust hangs over the region. They have even gotten out the "6s" (D-6, a very large cat) for skiway grooming. These vehicles can move faster than 3mph, so we stay on our toes out there.
It briefly warmed up to about -40, so I eagerly switched over to some lighter ECW. I had acted too hastily, as a few days later it was back to 80. I have been sorting through my clothes and other personal items, trying to decide what to leave here in skua (about half), what to ship home (about half), and what to take with me travelling (almost nothing). A few of us managed to nab some small triwall boxes (normal sized cardboard boxes, made of the nice triwall cardboard) for packing both scientific equipment and data and our personal stuff.
I have a lot of paperwork type stuff that I've put off until the end. I've been quite busy updating the project manuals for the 6 experiments I run. I also have some paperwork to fill out for retrograding all the tapes and cds of data I've collected over the winter.
They will be shutting down the kitchen to "public" use in a couple days. Its hard for us to believe the first plane will be here in just 10 days. Everyone seems really emotional. Its an odd time. We are all anxious to get out of here, yet we are sad to leave. Its like a family--there are people you don't like as much, maybe look forward to not having to live with them. But I know that I will miss every single person here. I'll miss the closeness of this place. It is nice that we all decompress a bit in New Zealand. We'll likely be bumping into each other there for a while, making the separation a bit less abrupt.
People have all variety of travel plans. Some spending just a few weeks before going home, some perhaps a year. Many of the crew are coming back for next winter, so they have only a few months to relax and also take care of any business back home.
I am scheduled to leave on the 29th of October, although I highly doubt we will get out that day, due to the variablities of the weather at this time of year. I will probably continue to write occasional journals of my travels, so here's a heads up to folks that aren't interested in that.
I find it hard to sum up this year. Its exactly what I was hoping for, and more in many ways. I knew it would be a bit of a pressure cooker, that we would all be forced to really look at ourselves and hopefully grow from that. I think I have, but its hard to have perspective while I'm still here. And I wonder if the things I've learned will stick when I'm back in the real world.
copyright 2001 Andrea Grant
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