SHIRE is an imaging Riometer, basically a wide angle radio telescope that takes a 7 x 7 pixel image of the sky, unlike a normal camera it does it in radio frequencies rather than light. The instrument at Davis studies the ionosphere by looking at how much cosmic radio noise the ionosphere absorbs.
The instrument itself consists of 64 antennas arranged in an 8 x 8 array and receivers in the vault (box) located at the centre of this array. This arrangement allows the received “beam” to be steered in different directions thus giving the 7 x 7 pixel image.
As the winter closed in a few months ago and temperatures at Davis dropped, it was time to put back the extra winter insulation into the SHIRE vault that is removed for the summer so the electronics don’t overheat. While doing this I noticed that about eight guy ropes at the perimeter of the array and one of the outer support posts were down. Not good news as repairs during winter are difficult but leaving the array without guy ropes could cause a lot of damage in a blizzard.
To make matters worse some of the guy anchor points were buried in a blizz tail that had turned to solid ice. During the preceding two months I had managed to smash my way through the ice to them but had not had the opportunity to put up replacement guy ropes.
After last week’s blizzard, a few days with winds between 70 and 100km/hr, I thought I’d better check on how the antennas had held up. It wasn’t too bad: no extra guy wires had come down, no antennas were damaged, but another of the outer support posts was down.
Since the Met boys had informed us to expect another blizz on Wednesday, I thought despite the −30°C temperatures it would be good to put up the guy ropes before it hit.
I’ve still got to get used to everything in Antarctica taking a lot longer than expected. It took the entire available hours of daylight on two days to get it done — about four hours a day. I did have to dig through new snow deposited by the last blizz to find and clear the anchor points. The last two guy ropes ended up attached to a piece of pipe hammered into the snow as I had run out of time and my fingers were getting too cold. Hopefully it will survive the coming blizz.
One advantage of working in the winter was that I was able to get a Hagg to the Riometer due to a good covering of snow and ice and thus did not have to carry all the tools and materials in by foot.
The first of the two days (Mon 18th July), was also the first day we actually saw the sun since it last set on the 2nd June so it was not such a bad day to be outside after all.