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29 June, 2000

The Swiss Tower

Although the terrain at Camp Summit is quite flat, there are a few features that standout above the rest. These features are two towers made of steel. When I first arrived, the tallest and only tower in the camp was located near our weather port. It is approximately 12 meters high. It is the property of Dr. Jack Dibbs from University of New Hampshire. On this tower, there are several pieces of equipment that Jack uses in monitoring and collecting NOx data. There is a red light on top but you it is hard to see because its always daylight here at this time of year. I suppose the planes that fly to Camp Summit use it for navigation. This tower stood alone until the Swiss came. Now they own the tallest feature in the Camp.

The Swiss team, headed by Dr. Atsumu Ohmura from ETH in Zurich Switzerland, has 4 members. Interestingly, Ohmura was Koni's supervisor for a short time after their major advisor died while doing research in the Arctic. To be part of the team, you must have mountaineering experience (as well as be a scientist). Why mountaineering experience? To erect this masterpiece, you cannot be afraid of heights and you must be able to hang from high places. Maybe hang is not the right word but these fellows harness into the already existing tower in order to add new sections to the top. They need to use both hands so they have to hang from a harness. It is cold up there too. The process of building the tower is a sight to see.

The first step in construction was to dig a 4 meter (over 12 feet deep) snow pit. Into this pit is the base of the tower. In order to secure the base, water was added to the snow making a firm, frozen matrix. We do not use cement in any construction here, only water. Water freezes solid and since there is no melting that takes place, things stay firm where they are set. The tower is a triangular steel structure with dimensions of 2 meters x 2 meters x 2 meters. There is a hole up the middle where the Swiss fellows climb. After the base was set, they began adding sections of 3 meters each one at a time. They hauled each section up by a pulley system. As of the writing of this journal, the tower is 30 meters high and will be growing to a height of 50 meters(over 150 feet).

As the tower increases in height, a large system of cables are attached to various sections to hold it in place so when the wind blows it doesn't topple over. The cables are attached to anchors that are secured into the ground in large snow pits. It is quite a production to watch the expanse of this tower. I plan to climb it soon but not to the top. It would be too scary. They say the view is wonderful-another Kodak moment. The running joke at Camp is who owns the tallest tower. On the 4th of July, Tim, our camp medic and large machine operator, plans to climb the tower and put an American flag on it claiming it to be ours. I wonder what the Swiss will do when they wake up on the 4th to find our flag flying high. "And our flag was still there, oh say does that star spangle banner yet wave. For the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

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