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22 August, 2003

Balloon School

Today I toured MacTown and learned about the functions of all the buildings. There is the water treatment plant (all the water comes from the ocean). There is a fire station; this is a big deal here, because it would be difficult to control a fire on an aircraft or a burning building. There is a mail room where a lot of packages come through. There are many dorm rooms, the helicopter pad, the science buildings, machinery buildings and various smaller specialty buildings. Everyone has a job doing some small thing in this outpost of a town.

After freezing my toes on the tour we gather in the science lab to do balloon school. My job is to become proficient with launching the balloons with the other members of the group. The balloon is very fragile and one small tear can ruin an expensive science experiment. Helping us learn is Olivia and Becky, two science winter-over's. We tour the launch site, check the helium tanks, and check the logistics of a launch. Then we go over the sequence of the launch, my job is to handle the helium intake and assist in keeping the balloon from getting out of control.

Tomorrow there is a window of opportunity to launch an ozone balloon. They are trying to sample a parcticular batch of air that was sampled by another station in Antarctica and is circulating over the continent in the Polar Vortex. If we launch tomorrow we can catch that sample of air.

I saw beautiful Polar Stratospheric Clouds of all colors. These refract and diffract sunlight from the frozen crystals they contain.

Later I observed the night sky and found the Magellenic clouds, these are not clouds but look like smudges in the sky. Instead they are two large galaxies circulating around the Milky Way.

Checking the Helium tanks

Balloon school.

Polar Stratospheric Clouds

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