|Making our own fun|
Z or Dead
Since the first day of my trip, about a month ago, we've calculated that Halley had only eight good days for field travel, and my trip ate up five of them. High winds have kept the garage doors firmly shut (they're big and they'll blow off), and made it too interesting to operate cranes, so we've been stuck scraping up working indoors when we've really wanted to be out shifting stuff around. We're now into the "shutdown" phase of the life of the base, and of my time here. One by one I'm taking experiments I've nutured and cursed in equal measure for two years and carefully putting them in boxes which now clutter up my office. It feels sad as activities that have continued at Halley since its start are coming to an end. As part of my packing I uncovered the ionosonde report for 1957, and saw that they faced the same troubles back then as we do now. High winds made it hard to keep the instrument's temperature correct, and it produced just a tiny bit too much data to make it easy to look after. Of course, their data was recorded using lightbeams onto photographic film which the radar engineer had to develop each day, or was entered into notebooks by a rolling shift of three aurora watchers. In all they created something like ten tonnes of results, while ours fits comfortably on a couple of tape cartridges that we ship back in someone's pocket.
The weather has improved, as it always does, so we spent Friday rushing around with shovels to dig out all the equipment and skidoos we needed. Digging against the ever rising snow can sometimes feel a little futile, but at other times it's more fun than going to the gym for exercise and a fine way to keep warm while enjoying the sunshine. I've certainly got very good at it, but don't expect to transfer the skill of shovelling elsewhere.
Evenings and weekends without much access to the outdoors get frustrating after a few days of being cooped up inside. Even in the worst winds I can go for a walk to work or dig the melt tank for a bit of light relief but the swirling snow that hides the world in white is somehow more claustrophobic than the four small walls of the lounge. I manage to keep myself amused with little projects. I'm slowly reading my way through Le Monde de Sophie to remember what little French I once knew (I know it's meant to be Norwegian, but I've never known much of that), I'm turning one of the broken longies from the sledges I fixed into an authentic picture frame and I've lost a good few hours cutting out the pieces for a contorted paper lamp.
As my work is short of programming challenges at the moment I've also been poking at the bits of Perl (the engine that runs a programming language I'm fond of) that stop it working on our radars. It's interesting as I find myself digging into obscure corners of both the radar and Perl. As Perl is an open source project, available for free and installed on pretty much every server on the planet, the improvements I make will end up helping the wider community. It's not saving the world exactly, but it's a way of helping out, and it's worth doing this as BAS, and every other job I've ever had, makes extensive use of these free software tools and would achieve much less without them. It also probably makes Perl the only programming language to have been developed on all seven continents, which is ever so slightly cool, if you're a bit geeky like me...
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