Status Report

Keith Cowing’s Devon Island Journal – 11 July 2002 Lexan kites, shotguns, and driver’s ed

By SpaceRef Editor
July 11, 2002
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Click on Image for larger view. Images Copyright
NASA HMP-2002/SpaceRef

Greenhouse support platform under assembly

Support platform with Base Camp in the background

Keegan Boyd and Tom Graham next to a load of Lexan sheets on an ATV trailer

Keegan and Tom offload Lexan sheets

Keith standing next to Lexan sheets; “The Fortress” is in the background

The greenhouse support platform is coming along nicely. Yet we still have some crucial materials to get over to the island from Resolute. After a day’s delay due to weather, a Twin Otter flight is due in midday today.

The plane arrived from Resolute with two more team members (Dave Herrera, our camp doctor and Nesha Trenholm, an undergrad field assistant) and the remainder (or so we thought) of the greenhouse. Notable among the greenhouse parts were a dozen large sheets of Lexan plastic which serve as the outer covering of the greenhouse. Most of these Lexan sheets are 4 feet wide and 12 feet long. We soon discovered that they make very efficient kites.

As the plane was taxing out, the prop wash caused the Lexan sheets to lift off one after another. A flying leap in spread eagle fashion upon the pile by myself and Vicki Glass (our paramedic) managed to keep the sheets from taking off completely. The Lexan survived this mishap nicely giving me confidence that it would do well during the local winter.

Getting the Lexan from the airstrip to the construction site (about 1 kilometer) took some innovation. There was a stack of 12 sheets, each 4 feet wide and 12 feet long. After trying a variety of configurations we hit on one that worked. While Tom Graham (University of Guelph) slowly drove an ATV hauling a trailer, Keegan Boyd (a CSA intern from McGill University) and I walked behind. We used a nylon packing sling over our shoulders belay fashion to hold the Lexan from hitting the ground. It looked silly and was tiresome – but it worked.

As we pulled into Base Camp, Marc Boucher was setting up one of the SpaceRef webcams. This one would point at the greenhouse during construction – or anything else that might be of interest to web visitors. Another webcam was set up inside the Comm Tent where Marc, I, Steven Brahams Simon Fraser University) and Victor Rundquist (NASA ARC) were housed. Given the plethora of computers, antennas, cables, and other gear this was quite clearly the geek tent.

As we had now discovered that half of our 2x4s (needed for some internal structures), and much of our 1/2 inch plywood were missing. We would soon find ways around these missing parts. The plywood had been intended to serve as source material for a series of footing pads on the ground. Once we looked at the site – and our supply of wood – we decided to take a different approach.

The more troubling disappearance had to do with a box of closed cell foam inserts that were designed to hold the Lexan in place and seal the upper seams against drafts and moisture. Without them a substitute would have to be fabricated.

At first thought, sacrificing several rigid foam mattress pads and cutting them into strips came to mind. I brought my own pad down and found that it was not the right thickness. Some searching through camp spares led me to a piece of blue foam that could be cut into the right size strips. Armed with a straight edge, a marking pen, and some shears I began to cut. The pieces worked OK after a fashion. An inquiry sent to the folks in Resolute was returned with “all items have been shipped. Nothing here.” Oh well. When in the arctic you need to be flexible.

Later on, once we had a sizeable group of newcomers it was time for ATV (All Terrain vehicle) training. We all managed to get these vehicles (an odd hybrid between snowmobile and moped) through the required motions so as to pass driver’s ed. Over the coming weeks I would get to enjoy these vehicles immensely. In so doing, it became obvious that something like this would be in dispensable to the exploration of Mars by humans.

To be certain, a large mobile pressurized rover is desirable for long-range sorties. But having something like an ATV – something that you can just hop aboard – be it at base camp or as something your large rover pulls along on a trailer – is highly desirable.

We also got mandatory shotgun practice. With polar bears known to frequent the immediate vicinity, this training is a must if one is to be allowed out of camp on a traverse. With one exception, all of us newcomers managed to hit the target: an old Dell computer box poised on a hill.

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