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20 June, 2000

Trouble Shooting

In every field camp, there is a bit of troubleshooting that must take place. Today, I did my share of troubleshooting. Yesterday, I worked with the balloon guys, Don and Jim. Jim needed some equipment calibrated with equipment that Koni has on his towers. Since I was the natural link between the two, I volunteered to take Jim's weather instrument (which contains an anenometer, temperature, relative humidity and wind direction) and install it on one of the arms of our tower. The data logger, which collects the data from the weather instruments, is encased in a large cylinder and attached to the tower by Velcro straps. The data logger is a palm-top computer and a data board. Both these instruments need batteries. This was the first problem I encountered.

I prefer to place these instruments on electrical power. We have buried a box of 12 volt batteries into the snow because these monitor tower are 50 yards away from any electrical power. it would be easy to connect the data logger to the buried battery box. Since the temperatures are well below 0, conventional batteries cannot withstand this environment. Unfortunately, only the palm-top was able to connect to electrical power which means the data board is on batteries. How long do the batteries last? I ask Jim. Not sure, he says, you'll have to change them every two hours. OK, I said. What a mistake. This was not a simple task. Remember the conditions we have-blowing wind, cold temps and you have to remove your gloves to check everything. Ouch.

After setting up the equipment on the tower and starting the system, everything worked, well almost. Oh yeah, I forgot something. The palm-top has an LCD screen (similar to your typical computer screen). When there is 83% reflection of the snow, it is very bright. Remember, we don't ever get darkness at this time of year. You always have to wear dark glacier sunglasses. The glare will blind you. I could not read the computer screen and assumed that it was not working due to the cold temps. It never occurred to me that the glare was responsible for the black screen. After about an hour of hearing the palm-top beep (because it really was on), I brought it into our weather port to reduce the sunlight. I quickly discovered that it had been always on so I set it back on the tower and began to monitor data or at least until the next battery change.

My entired day was involved in collecting data and trouble shooting the various problems that occurred. At 11pm (nobody sleeps here), the truth be known about the data collected. Jim opened the data logger and guess what? All the data was '9999' which means in science, you screwed up again. Why? Because every time I changed batteries there was a parcticular sequence to start the collection process. I was inadvertently shutting down the system and so therefore, no data was collected. How was I to know? Tomorrow is another day and I'll try again. The conditions in Greenland are not ideal for outdoor troubleshooting. Maybe next year I'll do research about volcanoes in the Caribbean or Hawaii. No really, I do like this white paradise.

Ciao, Cathi

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