Technical Update from Alex Foessel
Today Nomad drove autonomously to Camp Cricket (eastern side of the Patriot
Hills) from the field of rocks called Patriot Hills Moraine. Estimated
travelled distance: 1755 m.
Panoramic images from the Patriot Hills sparse morraine (Asteroid Belt)
downloaded to main camp. They are being processed to obtain color images.
General team meeting: evaluation of the feasibility to achieve operations
at the Independence Hills Morraine (a.k.a. "Panther Hollow").
Reasons against: reduced resources for missing PolarHeaven tent that would
force operations from smaller facilities in cold conditions. The lack of
a real geological reason to go to the place. Risk of damaging the robot
during the traverse.
Reasons in favor: deliver the advertised long traverse. Visit a more scenic
place. Opportunity to obtain valuable data for ambitious potential enhancement
to landmark navigation. Operate classifier in an area with known distribution.
Operate classifier in two different areas (Panther Hollow and Asteroid
Belt). We can do it.
Decision: Nomad goes to Patriot Hills starting driving tomorrow, pending
succesful initial test of the spectrometer tonight. The return will be
forced to give more test time in the Asteroid Belt.
Initial testing of the spectrometer: up to this time (1:04AM), I was told
from Camp Cricket that the initial tests to get data from the science camera
and the spectrometer are succesful. This facilitates a prompt departure,
once readings for all the meteorites are concluded (with the robot static,
so it does not count as part of the demonstration). The robot is distinguishing
meteorites from meteowrongs.
FACH commandos found one part of the tent several kilometers towards the
wind direction. This opens the hope that more parts could be found to have
that facility for next expeditions.
Weather today: max -15.8C, min -19.7C, 15 knots winds, overcast in the
morning turning to clear sky later, some snowdrift.
Expedition Report from William Cassidy
24. Nov. 19, 1998, Thursday: Patriot Hills Camp
Woke up this morning to driving snow. This could
be a poor results day if the snow doesn't let up. Visibility was initially
very poor-- a partial whiteout in which we couldn't see Patriot Hills and
there was almost no surface definition. We must wait until this weather
condition plays itself out.
Today we learned once again that Antarctica can punch
your ticket in other ways beside poor weather. Liam and Mike went out to
Nomad as the weather got better and better during the afternoon. The gasoline-engine
generator started up nicely but after about five minutes, it seized. Checking,
they found it was out of oil, even though the oil gauge read "full" and
the low-oil cutoff switch had not prevented starting. What other damage
this may have caused, if anything, remained to be seen. Alex, Mike, Peta
and Moncho (two Chilean mechanics) went back after dinner to learn what
they could. They were back in two hours with bad news: the crankcase is
cracked, and the robot's motor is not going to run anymore. They took a
photo of the damage; the crack looks about six inches long. Now we must
explore the possibility of hooking up the 5 kw generator we have been using
in camp, get it to run Nomad, and perhaps tow it behind as it travels.
Hopefully, this will be possible and allow us to complete the field agenda.