Information on this blog is raw and sometimes unverified reporting straight from the road by teams. The event will issue a media release for any events requiring an official notification.

Note that links in blog entries are not maintained, so while a link may be verified to work on the day of publishing, this is not guaranteed beyond that day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Leeming Sungroper: Tuesday 27th: skid

I look out of my tent five minutes before dawn, and I can still see the Sungroper trailer in camp. We hustle over to the other side of the road, where we'll get a clear shot at the dawn, roll out, and hang the array. Breakfast gets brought over to me. I get back to camp, shower, pack. We load Sungroper, and trailer to Tennant Creek.

We do our half-hour at the checkpoint, change observers (welcome, Don!), fuel the lead vehicle, then solar out.

About 20km out of Tennant Creek, the tensioner holding the drive chain in place fatigues and breaks. The chain fouls the back wheel, locking it -- two teeth break off the drive wheel sprocket and the car paints a 15 metre skid mark on the road. Support pull a U-turn, and come back. We leap out of follow and push the car off the road; thankfully the chain has come loose and the car rolls smoothly off.

We get the array off, and spot the broken part. Our mechanical team put the chain back on, but without the tensioner it'll fall off again as soon as we hit a bump; and there are several bumps between us and where the road surface begins. The mech team decide to improvise a tensioner using some stainless steel wire - now all we have to do is find where we've put the roll of wire. The support bus with the rest of the team in it arrives, and while the mech team hunt through their various boxes we radio up to the bus to see if they've got anything that will do the job required. No coat-hangers; no random bits of steel are found. The observer has a paper clip; not strong enough.

The assistant clerk stops by on his way up the course; he's just closed the checkpoint behind us. He and our former observer, Wendy, spectate.

Eventually the wire is found right where it's supposed to be: in the tool kit. "Have a girl's look!" says John, meaning that guys fail to spot things right under their noses, but girls will find it every time. The new tensioner is improvised, we jump back into cars, and solar on.

We complete 79 solar kilometres for the day, and trailer forward. The support bus checks out Barrow Creek, but declares it unsuitable, so we stop at a picnic/camp area featuring a water tank, an outhouse, and nothing else. Tents are pitched, the circle of chairs set up, and a camp fire assembled. Steve cooks using camp ovens. The generator is started, providing some lighting, which attracts approximately 1.3 billion flying insects, and power to battery chargers for our constellation of electronica.

After eating, we turn out the lights and appreciate the stars. We spot two satellites. One student cracks open a glow stick, paints himself in glowing phosphor, and dances in the dark.

-- Doug Burbidge