Doing the Dobson Dance: Arrival Heights Lab

IPod + Arrival Heights Lab + 1930’s Ozone instrument = a RAD moment. A Random Act of Dancing (RAD). Actually, many RAD moments were had, and mostly on the lab roof.

Arrival Heights is a location on the hill above McMurdo Station, with a 360degree panoramic view of Mt Erebus, Mt Discovery and the Royal Society Range. In late summer it is the best vantage point to watch the sea ice fragment and disperse forming open ocean. Its windy, wild and exposed, but restricted.

The Kiwi operated lab sits prominently within the restricted zone like a fat green elephant, painted Chelsea Cucumber Green. Inside, it is full of obscure, technical instruments, some state of the art and some simply but reliably ancient. Each instrument measures important aspects of the atmosphere. Smoke and mirrors to most, but essential pieces of the puzzle in order to understand the impacts we are having on our atmosphere.

Kiwi Lab for Atmospheric Research

Kiwi Lab for Atmospheric Research

Each day I would bounce the truck up the 4WD track from Scott Base to Arrival Heights to operate these instruments. My favorite being the mighty but ancient Ozone instrument, The Dobson. Favorite, because you get a quantifiable value at the end of each measurement. Favorite, because it involves mechanically moved mirrors. But most importantly, favorite, because it allows me to dance. Dance, while moving the encoder wheel to take a measurement. Dance, while waiting between measurements. And dance, while attaching the sun director onto the roof. The sun director looks like a submarine periscope, but directs the suns rays into the instrument. Two wavelengths of light in the UV range are measured, one absorbed by Ozone, and one not. This gives a ratio, which is converted into a Dobson unit, which is the relative measurement of atmospheric Ozone.

Opening the hatch

Opening the hatch

Along with smoke and mirror instruments, comes magician like scientists. Passionately, they come for short stints to service, calibrate and upgrade their instruments. Behind them trails the media and distinguished visitors for their tour of the new, impressive lab. This involves a little stress on my behalf as tour guide for these complex instruments. But the Dobson never fails to be the star of the show, like a wizened but quirky old man. We can see the mechanical cogs of his brain turning. He was revolutionary in his youth but steadfast in his old age. He, is one that has done a bit of dancing in his day.

Operating the Dobson. Photo by Jana Newman

Operating the Dobson. Photo by Jana Newman

Operating The Dobson. Measuring the Ozone in the Atmosphere. Photo by Jana Newman

Operating The Dobson. Measuring the Ozone in the Atmosphere. Photo by Jana Newman

 

 

 

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