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10 November, 2002

Weather Balloon

Date: 11/10/02

Latitude: 77 degrees 51 minutes South

Longitude: 166 degrees 40 minutes East

Temperature: -12 C / + 10 F

Wind speed: 7 knots

Wind Chill: -27 C/ -16 F

Wind direction: Northeast

Meters of ice collected: 0

Notes on daily Life:

Thanks to the friendly folks in Mac Weather observations, especially Ted, I have had the chance to practice launching weather observing sondes for the past few days. I Ted when I was on my scavenger hunt a few days ago. Ted has been doing weather observations since he was 17 years old! He "tells it like he sees it" several times a day here in McMurdo. His observations take place on a rigorous round the clock schedule, coordinated with other weather observers worldwide. These observations are all recorded in a central network. From that network database weather patterns can be tracked and forecasts made. Ted generously allowed me to help with the balloon launch today. I will be launching these same types of balloons in the field, so I am grateful to have more chances to practice my technique in the controlled conditions of McMurdo station.

The process of launching a balloon begins in the office where the receiving units for the radio signals are kept. There we activated the sonde gave it a chance to begin its communication signals. As soon as the radio beacon and the receiver have located one another, we headed out of the office to attach the signal unit ? sonde to large helium balloon for a launch. The balloons are made of latex and are filed in a shed to protect them from the wind. In the field I won’t have a shed to work in, so it will be more difficult to control the balloon while filing it.

Once the balloon is filed with helium attached the sonde to it and then took the balloon outside for the launch. Something about holding a balloon in your hand brings out the kids in a person. After I let go of the balloon I felt a pang of sadness as if I had accidentally let go of my balloon at the county fair. I watched the balloon go high into the sky. Ted says that they go as high as thirty thousand feet in about an hour and a half!

Today the weather is glorious! It must be because there was a beach party here last night, so the wind stopped and the skies cleared. Everyone could go out in shorts to get to the party. Many people could be seen shopping in the recycle (skua) bins for pairs of trousers and other garb to wear. Not only is the clearing skies good news for the partiers, but it also means that the rest of our team may be arriving later today. We are definitely looking forward to seeing Paul, Markus, Blue, Brian, Eric, Steve and Gordon.

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