Monday, June 8, 2009

Fellowship Reflections (week 19)

A close shave

Over this week the four of us heading to Alaska depart with various separate schedules. The first to leave was Jesse on Saturday, reason being, he was to visit Fairbanks to look at museum specimens of godwits - take photos and do some spectrometry work. However, in the 5 months here at Massey we had no success in getting the spectrometer to work as we required. First attempts back in February centered around trying to get the light source (a Xenon PX-2) to fire up while connected to the spectrometer. We then found out from the sales rep. that we were missing the breakout box, a critical part that assisted communication between the two pieces. That then got ordered. Arriving April or so, we tried again. Still no luck - we then had to go through each part to work out where the problem lay. We finally identified the actual spectrometer had faults and so needed repairing. Now early May we faithfully shipped it off to the States with URGENT written all over it, hoping repairs could be completed prior to our departure, early June. Well, Wednesday last week the part arrived, 3 days before Jesse headed off and needed to take it with him. We carefully put all equipment together, having already tested each part knowing individually they worked, we then pressed the critical ON button and... silence. It still didn't go! Grrrrrrr!! Thursday morning, as a final desperate check, we were up at the Chem lab at Massey (they had a functioning unit we could troubleshoot with), we then piece by piece replaced their parts with ours, the hope was to create our own fully functioing unit. Eventually we found that one cable was the cause of the problem - the thing was, for the whole system to work the cable actually needed to be inserted upsidedown! So, now with just over one day to go before departure, we needed to perfect the actual use of the gear. Talk about cutting it fine!

Here's the setup I'm talking about...

Innocuous looking stuff, caused us enough grief though. Anyway, positive outcome in the end.

So, Saturday was a great day because I got to pick up my Sibley Field Guide to North American Birds. I've always travelled with a field guide for each country and have a great stash of them in my book shelf. This one though will be very special as the birds we see in Alaska are going to be just amazing. I will of course, gleefully scribble each sighting in my book as a wonderful record of my time up there. I love being a bird geek!

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