29 January 2007

I-TASC expedition 2006/2007

Today was a big day for Tom and First Born. They have been working really hard on the AWS unit, preparing it for installation, and today it actually goes out to the field. I think they had to wait quite a long time before the crane crew could get through the other tasks they had for the day, but just before dinner, the AWS was swung out on the crane and placed on the back of a Skidoo. After dinner, I think they will try and place it upright, although it’s getting pretty windy out there right now. In the meantime, I’m inside testing the scripts for delivering the data from the unit to the WWW.

We brought down some projects to enact on behalf of artists. We didn’t have much time to prepare for the trip, so I managed only to get four projects, plus we are assisting the Media Shed in Southend by the Sea (UK) to do some workshops using weather data.

Today I pulled Tijmen Schep’s ‘Coke Bot’ out of the suitcase and soldered up its solar panel. It’s a cool installation that is a coke can (pretty much the last thing you want to see in Antarctica) with a noise robot inside that beeps and is powered by a small solar panel. I really like it; it’s a cool installation for here as it plays with the ironies of reusable energy and recycled materials. Tomorrow I will put it out on the ice and document it, and then leave it inside the base for the next I-TASC crew.

There are some other projects by artists but I’ll unveil them as we install/utilise them. Look for documentation of Tijmen’s can tomorrow.

Advice from the bottom of a well, Part III : basic tools, and cameras
tools
All right… this will be a short session on what to bring for a SANAE residency. They have pretty much everything here, so you don’t need to bring much (unless you need specialised tools). In fact they have a very well-equipped workshop for electronics, a carpentry room and a metal shop, so you can do quite a bit here if you have to… so there is not much you need.  I mention just a few things that can be handy… personally I think you should not even cross the road without a good Leatherman or Victorinox. I have one of the later, and it proves useful almost everyday and unequal in the field when you need to do almost anything.

Additionally, I think you need to at least bring a soldering kit and all the wires and cables you can expect to use. Don’t bring pre-made cables, they are always too expensive and too chunky to freight in any quantity. Buy as many different types of connectors as you can.

Bring a roll of gaffer tape… it’s always useful….

That’s about all I have found that is useful… for everything else I used what they have here….

Cameras
Some small advice with cameras… get a good digital camera. I don’t mean a pocket-size cam, I mean a good SLR camera with interchangeable lenses. Don’t settle for anything less than 6 megapixels. You won’t regret it. I purchased a second-hand Canon 300D with a 18-55mm lens. In addition, I brought a screw-on wide angle adapter which had produced some good shots but I think the wide angle is optional. What you shouldn’t do without, is a telephoto… its absolutely essential. You will see many things from the boat that you can’t get close to (penguins, birds, whales, icebergs) that will look beautiful in a telephoto but like a dot in a 18-55mm lens or similar.

Whatever camera you get, don’t leave without _two_ rechargeable batteries. There are periods when you are away from the base for a day or so and you will need that extra battery. Also, don’t even think about coming without a polarising filter. It will help cut through the glare of the water and bring out the beautiful blues of the ice and the sky… it’s really essential. Lastly, get a small camera bag that has good padding, that you can sling over your shoulder and run out the door at a moment’s notice. Nothing too heavy, just big enough for your camera and your lenses.

Of course, make sure you have lens cleaner stuff etc (all the normal camera things).

If someone in your team has a small digital camera, this will still be very useful for having in your pocket if you need a quick shot but you are somewhere awkward (on the end of a rope in a crevasse for example).

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