One of the interesting aspects of an interesting job is that people ask me all sorts of questions about it. Before I began at BAS last week, I had to be a little vague when describing what I'll be doing over this summer. Now I've started I've a much better idea...
I'm going to Halley to look after the data produced by a host of different experiments. Ensuring that the infrastructure is in place to keep all the results we collect, and that we know exactly when and how we produced a given set of measurements. This requires a set of multi-lingual computers to understand a Babel of loggers. So my primary task at the moment is learning how this happens, how to put the systems we use back together should they fall apart and how we monitor the different aspects of the collection process so that we know straight away if something goes awry.
We're collecting that data for scientists to analyse and understand, and it's useful (and fascinating) for me to know the background to the experiments. Over the course of the summer I'll be introduced to the different groups working at or with BAS, and the operation of their experiments.
We do a little analysis of the data down at Halley. In part to form good diagnostic tools when looking after the experimental equipment and partly because we cannot send the raw data back to Cambridge the moment it's collected. Some of it having to wait for many months before a plane can land to take away the post. To that end, I'll be learning about visualisation tools and techniques and keeping my programming hat polished.
Beyond my data management role, I'm being trained to be generally useful about the base. One thing we have a lot of is masts, and they take a lot of looking after when they're built on foundations that shift, buckle and sink by a meter every year. So that we can bend them back into shape every now and then, and do so safely, I'll be spending a week scaling geometric giants.
As we're isolated from ambulances, everyone receives a healthy dose of first aid training, and a thorough grounding in how do our jobs without hurting ourselves or anyone else. Much of that happens at a briefing conference here in Cambridge (the training, not the hurting). The conference is followed by a week in the Peak district where we'll learn the basics of fieldcraft, although much of the ice work will wait until we've got some ice to practice with.
Other than that, I intend to drink lots of tea, enjoy England while I still can, and soak in baths as often as I can get away with.
Then in November, before I go, I get a couple of weeks off to taste the final fruits of freedom.
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