I can hardly believe that an entire week has gone by since my last post. It has been a fairly typical week here, which, to me, means that the work is going OK and the days are starting to blend together. The bad news is that we have yet to launch a long-duration balloon - hence, the title of today's post. The French launch team has been busy preparing their equipment and the first balloon gondola, while the carpentry shop has finished building the "rac tents" for the launch site. Much of this activity was delayed by last week's storm, but all is complete now and ready for use! We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weather cooperates for a couple of launches this coming week.
Meanwhile, we have been testing our instruments, currently scheduled to fly on Flights 2 and 3, to verify that they are ready. Everything appears to be in order, so we will work this week on our spare instruments in case they are needed or other launch opportunities arise.
Outside of work, this has been a pretty nice week. We had four days in a row of spectacular polar stratospheric clouds. No one can remember ever seeing as many or seeing them spread so far across the sky in past years. It has been fun to watch people in the science building (Crary Lab) get excited about this; every day about 3:30, you would see noses pressed to the windows and people running for their coats and hats with cameras ready to capture the beautiful colors. I know I've posted some pictures of these clouds earlier, but I can't resist one more. I especially like this because it also includes the setting sun! 1 September was the first day we saw the sun in town.
So, today is Sunday in McMurdo, and that is the one day off for the staff here - they work 7:30 am to 5:30 pm Monday through Saturday. Some departments obviously need to have people work on Sundays (the kitchen, for example), so their shifts are somewhat different. Saturday evening is usually the big "party night" here - there are often private parties held in dorm lounges or other places around station, plus plenty of folks gather at one of the bars (there are two) or the coffeehouse (which also serves wine). There's also usually at least one movie being shown - sometimes at the coffeehouse, sometimes in the galley. Last night there was a little craft show at which people were showing and selling hand-made knit goods, artwork, etc. It was a pretty small affair (there is a much bigger show held later in the season), but a nice opportunity to chat with some of the people working here.
I will sign off now and hope that the winds die down enough to go for a walk this afternoon - if not, I have books to read, videos to watch, etc. Plenty to keep me occupied while I wait...