20 December, 2000
About 8:30 last evening when I was returning from deploying the polycorders for the FPH's I noticed that the weather was changing from clear to low clouds on the horizon. When Von returned to SPARCLE after his Barber Shop Quartet rehearsal at about 9"15 it was almost overcast. Von said that he would like to make a HYVIS flight early in the morning, and asked If I would be willing to get up at 5 AM to help him with the Blimp. I said why don't we do it now when we know we have clouds. So we set out on our second HYVIS mission of the season. The HYVIS needed some adjustments since it seized up yesterday and after about an hour or so we were ready to launch. As you can see form the image it is fairly gray, and the Blimp is sitting right at the edge of the cloud.
This time the HYVIS worked as advertised... at least for the first hour and thirty minutes. We had a fantastic flight! The HYVIS recorded the actual impacts of water droplets! Yes that is correct! Liquid water exists in clouds above the South Pole!! This is outstanding news for our research. There is only minimal research on super cooled liquid water and its existence in clouds over the Pole. If there is any published information on water droplets in Polar clouds it is by Kikuchi and Hogan, and according to Stephen Warren this is pretty unlikely. Von's comment about our HYVIS flight was that this is what makes research in Antarctica great! New things still can be discovered! After an hour and a half we lost signal from the video, naturally just as the liquid was beginning to glaciate, when ice begins to form in a super cooled cloud. As we brought the Blimp back down we could see that it had begun to rime, or become covered with a layer of ice. This is evident by the white coating on the stabilization lines that attach the tail to the Blimp.
It was about 1:30 AM this morning when we finally got a chance to take a look at the HYVIS to see what caused the signal to be lost. It was a real bummer to loose the signal form the cameras. I was entranced by watching in real time water droplets of all sizes impacting the 35 mm leader film. The HYVIS is an awkward, quirky piece of electronic technology, and at times I have even cussed it for being so difficult to work on and use. But, once I saw the images of water droplets coming from the clouds above the Antarctic Plateau I knew that this instrument was worth the frustration and the effort. I was seeing history in the making! Science as a Verb.
Von found out why we lost signal. Here you can see him pointing at the take-up reel for the 35 mm leader film. We didn't run out of film or run the battery dry. The reel got jammed by to many ice crystals! This never happened last year. In fact the data from this one flight is on a magnitude of 4 or 5 times the data that was collected during the entire research season last year. We saw tens of thousands of water droplets in this one flight and possibly 100 ice crystals last season. Truly a remarkable data event! I am hopeful that once we have Frame Grabber up and running I will be able to send some images of what we saw.
It was very important to document the fact that crystals had caused the film to bind and prevent the film from advancing so I took an image of the take-up reel. The dark splotches and specks on the film are the actual crystals! This has been a great experience and I am lucky to have been part of the discovery.
In addition to the early morning with the HYVIS we had some other excitement here at the Pole today. Our first expedition group has arrived at the South Pole. They are Rolf Bae and Eirik Sonneland of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition. They wintered over in the Dronning Maud Land region of Antarctica, and began their journey to the Pole from their winter base Troll on October 21...2 days before the first flight of the season to Pole.
These two Norwegians have covered an immense amount of territory in two months. All the while pulling these sleds while skiing and or using sails to pull themselves. They were trying to make Pole on the 14th of Nov. the anniversary of Amundsen's arrival at the Pole.
Another big event happened today! The foundation for our new building was put in by the carpenters. The brought out laminated plywood and foam pads that they will eventually place the metal legs of the new building on.
Once the laminated pads were in place they were stomped down into the snow to make them as level as possible.
After the carpenters finished up the job of leveling our new foundation we invited them in to warm up and have a little Chocolate. Chocolate is our currency for saying thank you to anyone who helps the SPARCLE folks out. Von made sure to bring twenty pounds of Dark Chocolate to help grease the skids of progress here at the Pole.
Both Von and I were a little disappointed that the signal was lost right at the moment of transition. We were anxious to see if we had run out of 35 mm leader film or if the HYVIS camera battery had gone dead. Here you can see Von, very happy to have the HYVIS back in his possession. The box appears to be lightly frosted. Now to get it inside and see what caused the signal to be lost.
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