Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Mountain yoyo effect



The sunsets at home are never as spectacular as those seen from the summit, for one thing I live on the wrong side of the island and have jungle and mountains in the way of the setting sun. This evening's sunset looked nice though, the sky was a vivid yellow-orange due to all the muck in the atmosphere (vog) from the Kilauea volcano. Still, I'll get to see another superb sunset tomorrow evening, and again next week and again the week after.

Sigh...

After a couple of days down from Mauna Kea I have to head up again tonight to Vacation Resort Hale Pohaku and then to the summit for tomorrow night. Then back down again at the weekend only to have to go back up for more observing next week. Again, down for the weekend and back up the week after. Add into that all the work I need to do in Hilo at sea level, and possibly some daytime work at the summit during the next couple of weeks, I suspect I'll turn into a complete wreck by the end of the month. If you notice any of my blog entries becoming incoherent including an obvious change in my state of mind, do please let me know!

It's one thing working at the summit during the day, as I quite often do, the whole process of three to four hours commuting each day and working in an oxygen deprived environment takes it out of you. For people who dislike early mornings such as Andrew, it can be quite unpleasant! What I find worse, though, is continually changing between day and night shifts, you're not only confusing your body clock, the lack of oxygen at altitude disrupts your sleep, you become dehydrated and to further confuse your body, on the mountain you're now in an arctic-like climate zone whereas a few hours ago you may have been in the tropics. To make matters even worse, the night shift can be very long. Quite often at this time of year the shift can last 14-hours. Add in an hour or two of preparation before you even head to the summit, the shifts soon turn into 16-hour working days, sometimes even longer.

So this is the month from hell as far as I'm concerned and comes just after a particularly busy period last year, so I'm not a happy bunny! The schedule was supposed to be changed but as is often the case other factors came into play and it wasn't. Oh well, I have a long vacation coming up and think I'm going to need it!

So what am I heading up to this time? It's pretty calm down here this evening but the winds at the summit are around 60-mph, 20-mph higher than the forecast. I doubt any observatory is open right now. The temperature is well below freezing and the windchill factor must be high (or low?). As I mentioned in a previous post I hoped to take pictures of Subaru firing off their lasers tomorrow night, but I have a feeling that may not happen. Even if they open, I'm not sure I want my camera lens sandblasted! Still, it looks as though I may have a few other opportunities.

7 comments:

Andrew Cooper said...

Yuck! You are right about the stress on your body.

I spent three days on the summit in the last week. But at least they were all day shift! It has become quite rare that I am up for a night run.

Tom said...

Andrew - I have to admit though, I know a lot of engineers and technicians at several observatories that go up 4 or even 5 times a week. I really wouldn't fancy that at all. I've done it, but not for week after week.

Brad said...

Before your last paragraph I was all set to say, "Are you sure you're not going to be blown off the mountain?" It doesn't look good at all wind-wise for the rest of the week...

John Powell said...

What do you mean "becoming" incoherent?

Tom said...

Brad - one thing the MKWC seem to do very badly is forecast summit winds. I was a bit surprised to see such high speeds tonight. I can't blame them, I suspect they're short of observations and the anemometers at the summit are notoriously unreliable (I was at a SMOWG meeting when I had to point this out - god knows how many weeks of research that lost them!).

John - fair cop, you got me there! How about you let me know if I start writing things with random capitals and multiple exclamation points? That'll be a dead giveaway;)

Tom said...

By the way, John, congratulations on your first grandchild! I'll post a similar comment on your blog - I've been a bit busy to visit everyone's blog recently.

Protege said...

I could NEVER work night-shifts. I heard somewhere it is even dangerous, it has something to do with the release of melatonin.
Good luck with all your work and hope it will only get better from now on.;)