Thursday, 30 August 2007

Weather Balloon

I got up early this morning (well 7:30, it's early enough) to go and observe Rob launching a weather balloon. This is done twice a week by Matt or Rob at the same time as other weather balloons are released all over the world, thus gaining beakers world-wide enourmous amounts of data about what's going on up there (the word beaker is frequently used to refer to 'scientists', presumably because we work with glass beakers full of exciting chemicals all the time and the scientist in the muppets was also called Beaker) . It was a gorgeous morning, we're still not seeing the sun above the mountains yet but we do get sunrises and sunsets which last for hours which are brilliant and truly stunning.

The huge latex balloon gets filled with helium and the instrument (which sends back information on atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity) is attached to it. Then it is taken outside and released..... As the balloon climbs higher and higher it gets bigger and bigger -apparently it gets to the size of a double decker bus by which time the balloon is only one molecule thick, it then bursts - that would be amazing to see but sadly it's about 30km up by then.

Friday, 24 August 2007

An Unusual Visitor

Today was a very special day - Richard had popped down to the Bonner Lab to do a bit of electrical work.... 'there's a strange-looking penguin on the runway' he said (knowing very well what it was) I went to the window to have a look and saw an Emperor penguin :) These are the largest of the penguins reaching over a metre tall. The nearest colony is some 13km away and they rarely visit Rothera, though most years there will be one or two who get lost and turn up here. Needless to say minutes after the radio call went out to announce its presence the whole base was out with cameras and huge grins.