Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yeti's First Steps

Today was a big day. After meeting the traverse team in the morning, Jim and I headed over for my fifth orientation briefing. This one was an in-depth hour long presentation on how to drive a pickup truck, which basically boiled down to simple point that you need to unplug it before you start driving, since the trucks have electric heaters to keep the oil from freezing at -40.

After the briefing, we headed over to our workspace in the 'Incinerator Building,' which is actually a lot nicer than it sounds. Aside from the fact that I'm working next to open barrels of gasoline keeps a pungent aroma of volatile organics wafting through the air to keep me pleasantly sedated as I work, the shop space is quite nice.

After unpacking our five crates of gear and equipment, we took Yeti out for a spin. After crossing our fingers and hoping for the best, it was excellent to see that Yeti was working out of the box, at least in manual control mode. I'll need to make some updates to the code to enable Yeti to drive autonomously down here. In a classic case of hilariously bad coding, we wrote our initial code to interpret very specific messages from the GPS. Since all of the development was done in the Northeast, we never had to deal with the extra character that comes from being at 166 degrees longitude. Changing that isn't hard, but testing the code is surprisingly challenging, since it involves loading Yeti up into a pickup truck and driving it out onto the ice. Iteratively testing code is pretty tricky since the turnaround time is on the order of an hour or more.

Yeti out for the inaugural drive with McMurdo and Observation Hill in the background.

My next post will be all about what I'm assuming most people actually care about - the people and life at McMurdo. Let me know if you're curious about anything else!


At October 6, 2010 at 8:35 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting! Would love to hear about wildlife too. Are you seeing any? Also, how far do you hope to go with Yeti? Exploratory runs around the base station, or also a longer expedition?

At October 10, 2010 at 4:11 PM , Blogger Eric Trautmann said...

We haven't seen much wildlife yet, we're a little too far south for the Adiele Penguins, but I'm hoping to see some later.

This friday we're heading out to the ice about 30 miles south of McMurdo where the shear zone starts where the ice sheet meets the transantarctic mountains and where the traverse begins GPR surveys. Yeti's range is about 10 miles on a charge, so we'll be sending it out ahead of the traverse once we get out there.


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