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20 August, 2003

On Astronomy and Directions.

I am up at about 2:30 in the morning; take a shower and dress to keep a positive karma going. But at 3am I get a knock on my door explaining the flight is delayed now 24 hours. It is disappointing but I glad they are extremely safe about these flights. This allows me to find some time to explore more of Christchurch.

Probably the most mentally disturbing thing down here is that of astronomical directions. I am very excited about being on the Winfly because at this time of year in McMurdo there still are dark nights and I will be able to see the stars. Having lived all my life in the northern hemisphere it is really mind bending to look north at the ecliptic. This is the path that the moon, the planets and the sun take across the sky. When you look that way your instinct tells you it is south but it is really north. I guess you have to experience it to believe it. It is so frustrating that I look at the satellite dishes on the rooftops here to find north. (they point toward geostationary orbits).

I woke up early the other morning and went outside to look for the constellation Orion. It is upside down here. Really odd, I don't think anyone would have named it a hunter down here, with the zodiac upside down I wonder what stories people would make of these shapes in the night sky. It would be hard to be an astronomy teacher here. I did see the Southern Cross; most of the constellations here are of modern names, named by Magellan as he voyaged here. There are two galaxies that revolve about our Milky Way galaxy, known as the Magellanic Clouds which are visible with the unaided eye.

The power down here is all 240 volts and as I rode through town I noticed no transformers on the telephone poles leading into the homes. It is easier to distribute power at higher voltage but it is quite lethal. In the states each home has a transformer to step high voltage down to the 110 volts we use.

And of course, the people drive on the left side of the streets, even the bicycle brakes are reversed here, with the front brake controlled by the right lever. It takes a while to get used to it.

Christchurch is greatly influenced by the International Antarctica center, there are many musuems and shops here devoted to Antarctica.

A view of the Avon River, note the trees are bare this time of year.

Looking North at the Sun setting in the West, very hard to get used too.

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