Penguin Cameras and Tide Gauge Monitors..

I’ve only been here five weeks but it feels like forever, I know where things are, I recognise the same faces on the way to work, we discuss directions to places by using pubs as landmarks, I may even be getting used to the weather….I’m climbing the local Mountain without having to get the map out of my pack anymore, the same people are down the gym every night….I have what we used to call “Gone bush” to the surroundings…..

Talking of the gym, I’ve been down there most nights this week, I’ve managed to find my routine with that and going as soon as we get off the coach back from work – It’s got a superb 50m pool too which I started using this week after hitting the weights, I just wished I wasn’t so embarrassingly rubbish at swimming. Obviously I have to swim in the slow lane or I cause a log jam of people behind me, I also have to warn people that I’m not actually drowning but that is the way I swim, the gasping and flapping is when I feel I’m at my most elegant and powerful in the water deftly slicing through the H2O like a camel with all it’s legs handcuffed together…..It’s not good, and to think I used to be a lifeguard….

We had some interesting, non comms related training this week. Due to the cost of sending down trained scientists to collect data on some projects the decision has been made to use us comms techs to do some of the onsite work when we have a spare moment. There have been a couple of interesting bits, Tide gauges was first – It’s basically a piece of scientific kit that detects changes in the pressure of the water around it, this in turn can be used to indicate the depth of the water above it and also record changes in the tide. Due to global warming the predicted rise in the oceans around the Antarctic regions is approx. 2mm per year, now that may not sound a great deal but that is coming from ice melt – To generate 2mm a year is a large loss to the continent, these data collections are extremely important to help understand what is happening to the ice, global warming and the worlds future…I won’t deny I’m pretty chuffed to be involved in something that ultimately means we’ll start to take the future of the planet seriously, you can’t get to do this sort of thing sat at home playing on an iPad….

In order to collect the data we will need to go out onto the frozen sea ice and locate the tide gauge, it will be about 7 metres below the ice on the sea bed, we drill a hole in the ice above the position (located via GPS) and then lower a coil receiver onto the head of the gauge. This will then talk to a laptop and take about 40 mins to transfer all the data – This data will be for the past 12 months hence it taking a while!

Once collected this data is sent over the sat link to Kingston and some guys with very big beards for analysis…Who knows what the outcome will be but I will be following it with great interest!

The other thing was penguin cameras….Now, contrary to belief penguins cannot be bothered with holiday snaps, they rarely go abroad, the weather is usually rubbish and they don’t have a laptop to look at their pictures on anyway…So, NO the cameras are not theirs….They are, in fact, used to monitor the colonies, study their breeding habits and count their numbers..

The cameras are shelf standard Canon DSLRs housed in a waterproof Pelican case, raised on a tripod and powered by some car batteries that get recharged by solar panels located on the legs of the tripod. An interesting fact was that the solar panels pretty much face the horizon rather than facing the sky, the sun very rarely gets high enough to be of any use up above so the panels face where you wouldn’t expect. In the case is drilled a large hole with a lense in place to stop snow getting in. They found in the past that the severity of the 200kmph winds found in the polar regions will trash an exposed lense and likely leave it covered in ice from the blizzards thus rendering the camera useless – What they have done to mitigate this is create a plastic cover with bristles on the inside, it swings to the side brushing off any snow on the lense, the pic is taken and the cover swings back again brushing the lens once more…A very simple idea but one that has been picked up by many other countries.

Anyway, tomorrow we have ‘asbestos awareness’ due to there still being a slight possibility of exposure to old and hazardous materials at the bases, I probably won’t bore you with pics of that one but for now here are some of the items that I’ve just been talking about 🙂

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