11 June, 2000
The bizarre ovoid balloon with the purple gossamer 'skirt' (back sails actually) swayed fitfully in the air. On the tether linking it to Earth were an assortment of instruments designed to take various atmospheric data. Suddenly, the balloon started to lose altitude and the instruments were being twirled between the balloon and the ground winch like reluctant jump-ropers. More altitude was lost. In the path of the errant balloon and its gyrating load were the newly erected weather data towers. Back at the ground winch, measures to bring in the tether, thus stabilizing the balloon, were being hampered by the fact that the crew had just attached another instrument which would not permit the line to come back through the pulley. Frantically they worked, but lower went the balloon with each of the two thousand dollar instruments in peril along with the ground weather equipment. We could do nothing but watch and hold our breath. Finally, off came the restricting instrument, but unfortunately one of the instruments came crashing down. Balloon and most of the load were O.K. and the fallen instrument was all recovered and is repairable. Fast work on the part of the ground crew, Jim Boulter and Don David of the University of Colorado-Boulder averted a much worse outcome.
The Ionic Chromatograph (IC) is back in business. The syringe pump had stopped functioning correctly and the system is sensitive enough that it was trying to protect itself by shutting down. A quick replacement of the errant pump and it was humming along beautifully again.
I helped Dr. Mary Albert briefly with testing the diffusion rate of snow firn this morning. An inert gas, Sulfur fluorohexane-SF6, was released in a cylinder sealed at the top that was thrust into the snow. The gas was released into the chamber and then the chamber was monitored for concentrations of the gas remaining at timed intervals. Results won't be known until they analyze the samples later.
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