Friday, August 29, 2014

ARO trip log day 2

We had planned an early start so to make the Algonquin Radio Observatory in the early afternoon.

I heard people moving about. Talking quietly. Someone said it was 4°C. Wow. Happily I was comfortable in the tent. My three-season sleeping bag plus Katrina's blanket had kept me warm. It was very dewy outside. Visited the kybo, returned the candle.

7:42 AM. The truck was packed up. The lads were signing the guest book—I already had. The cabin was very nice. Somehow I pictured it to be half the size. Steve too.

Phil forgot to unpack Argo Navis cable again. Doh. Echo!

7:50. We said "Bye, cabin," and we're on our way. Steve took the first shift. We could see the lake this time.

First stop: The Blue Roof Restaurant for a hearty breakfast amidst the locals. I had the big breakfast with peameal and infinite coffee. Potatoes! It was yummy.

Nicole apparently saw my aurora photo, via Katrina, and exclaimed: "Are you kidding?!" Sara liked my aurora photo. Malcolm Park too. Ripples outward.

Chas phoned me while we were at the Blue Roof. They were in Ottawa. He said to say hello to the gang. "Hello!"

8:50. Breakfast was done. Was looking like a nice day. In short order we were back on Highway 11. On the road again.

9:29. Somehow we missed our turn. Phil was riding shotgun but missed the sign for 94. No worries. To pick up Highway 17 we just continued further toward North Bay.

9:32. It was warming up. The vehicle thermometer said it was 16°.

Someone spotted an attraction sign and we agreed to an impromptu side trip of the Brent meteor crater! Not to hike the 2 km loop trail; we'd take a gander from the tower.

10:25. We stopped at the park office. Stretched our legs. It was warm. Phil took the opportunity to pay for our Algonquin vehicle permits. We picked up the brochure on the crater. I looked for factoids.
  • discovered in 1951 by John Roberts of Spartan Air Services
  • he noticed a perfectly circular 3 km feature from an aircraft
  • the Dominion Observatory of Canada was notified
  • first scientific investigation was conducted later in the same year
  • today it is among the best known and most thoroughly studied craters
  • far older and smaller than Mexico's Yucatan crater
  • being in Canadian Shield rock, it is less affected by erosion
  • the meteor was probably 150 metres in diameter
  • it carved out a depression 600 metres deep at the time of impact
  • the walls would have raised up 100 metres
  • the explosion was estimated to be 250 megatons
  • if repeated today, every tree in the park would be flattened
I warned them of a few remarks, such as "It is true that the Brent Crater is not especially striking—at least from the ground."

11:07. I did some comet review with SkyTools. Funny. We all forgot to look last night!

We arrived at the parking lot for the Brent Crater. Climbed the steps to the wooden lookout.

Stitched panoramic photo made with 4 or 5 panels.

11:37. We left the tower. The crater observing platform was OK. But not great. Still, it was the first known crater site for me (I think). Had some ARO cookies. Asked a French couple to shoot a group photo. Merci.

Bio break. Steve and I. A very steep cliff, the edge of the crater wall.

11:46. We were heading north again, back toward Highway 17.

11:53. My battery started running low. I tried charging the netbook thought my custom cheater adapter and the 3-way CLA splitter. A loose connection somewhere made it awkward.

12:16 PM. We passed the park office. Carried on. I reported the crater side-trip took us 2 hours. Interesting but it required a good amount of imagination. Still, we were not too worried about the time.

12:17. Yeh. We were finally back on the main road, eastbound again.

12:57. I might have cat-napped for a bit.

We pressed to Deep River and stopped at Tim's—beside the LCBO of course. Mr Horton's place was packed! I somehow ended up in the slowest lane. Quickly consumed my soup. Carried on. Immediately it seemed we were approaching Pembroke. Yeh. At last we turned west to enter the park. Long way 'round.

2:34. Phil checked with the park office about more paperwork. We were good. We left the Sand Lake Gate. This was the last leg.

2:44. Passed the Achray campgrounds. It was now 34 km or less! But dusty dirt roads with the occasional on-coming. So, it felt very slow.

Photo by Phil Chow.

3:09. w00t! We arrived Algonquin Radio Observatory guest quarters. Yes. Spotted Ian's truck, Charles's van, in the parking lot. We parked near the 6-wheeled Argo. We were here. No dish in site. I wondered if it was just over the trees beyond the parking lot.

Charles was playing with his toys on the picnic table. Ian said hello. Greeted Sara and the boys.

Caroline Roberts greeted us. Friendly, pleasant, humble. Showed us our rooms, the shared bathrooms. Gave us the door code. Initially, Caroline put me in room 4, with two beds, overlooking the front lawn. But when we told her we were expecting Catherine and family, she asked if I wouldn't mind surrendering it. No problem. So, around the corner to room 12. Which was probably better for me, in the long run, a bit quieter, distant from the office. We also heard that Rajesh had registered. And Michelle—just for the day.

Nice view of Lake Travers. I quite liked the open fireplace in the living/dining area. That would be spectacular on cold evenings with snow whipping about. I mused over the bright orange-red carpeting, the small boy, a tricycle, the ATV in the lot, and what it would be like up here in the winter...

The wireless networking was not working, unfortunately. I could see the router but nothing happened after that.

Noticed the big reflector telescope and equatorial mount in the hallway near the stairs... Hmmm.

4:01. The gang, including Ian, went for a quick canoe, Phil with Ian, Katrina with Steve. I walked about for a bit. Old broken pavement to nowhere. A pleasant afternoon. Fresh air. The birds.

4:13. Charles was trying his quad copter. Some trouble with the controls. A calibration problem? We checked the video from the small HD camera on gimbals.

Bill and Nicole arrived.

5:30. We set the 'scopes up in front of the lodge. Despite the grey skies overhead. I helped Phil, Ian, and Bill. We discussed our motivation. Or sanity.

Ian offered his barn door tracking device with ball head and quick release. Awesome! I calibrated it, one minute exactly for the large gear. I should make one of these one day. Talk about cheap and easy!

Ian and I talked about regional astronomy clubs. I was surprised at his dissatisfaction with the one closest to his home. Too bad. Sounded like politics and power trips. Surprise, surprise.

After reviewing yesterday's photos from my camera on the flatscreen TV in the living room, I helped Charles with his MS Surface, reconfiguring the default app for playing video.

Charles gave me the book The Martian by Andy Weir. He had received it from Denis. A survival-style tale. I'm looking forward to it.

6:32. Relaxed on the front lawn. We wondered where Catherine was.

6:40. Met director Brendan, a prof at York, and Chris, helper, fixer, ARO jack-of-all-trades. Brendan "Ben" Quine told us they were installing fibre from the focus cabin to the control room to offer more bandwidth and less degradation. We would be able see it, if we looked along one of the supports, a bright blue line. Chris Soucy sounded like he could fix anything. A radio telescope repair man! We learned that Caroline was Thoth president and CEO. Huh!

Ben sounded rather intrigued when I shared that I had been running SETI scans for many years.

Dinner was served. By the CEO no less! Tasty butter chicken and rice. It hit the spot. Dessert was apple pie with spiked whipped cream. Very tasty. Katrina shared some wine.

Skies were not looking great but it didn't seem like it was going to be full-on rain, fortunately. We asked about visiting the antenna after dark...

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