Thursday, November 7, 2013

Antarctic Engineering

The LMG returned last week, bringing us more summer scientists and supplies, but it didn't bring us any summer weather.  For almost a week solid the temperatures have been in the teens and single digits, we've gotten a couple more feet of snow and some days the wind hasn't ever dropped BELOW 40mph.

All of this has put a damper on how much work we can do outside.  Many of our larger construction projects, such as our new boat ramp and boat storage areas, can't be done when the weather is this poor as it's too dangerous to try and swing chainsaws around in 50mph wind gusts.  We've been finding/inventing projects that can keep us busy indoors, which is giving us a chance to finally getting around to fixing many "little things" that have gotten pushed by the wayside.  Much of it has been very useful, but a few of us have been resorting to sorting screw salad to keep busy.

We finally got a break in the weather a couple days ago, when the wind died down and the sky cleared up, and we could get back outside.  One project that's been on our plates for a while now is the bulk fuel tank renovation, but before that happens we need more information about the current state of the inside of the tanks (Specifically, where the welds and some supporting hooks were).  For obvious safety reasons we couldn't go inside the tanks (fumes, confined space, etc), so we needed to come up with a way to photograph all the sides and edges of the tank roof through the access port, without going inside.

This is where we enter Antarctic Engineering mode; building something incredibly functional out of whatever random stuff you can find laying around.

My camera tripod's neck was inverted and modified to accept a 3/8" eye bolt, which was holding an apparatus we built out of two pieces of conduit, some scrap wood, and a segment of fiberglass hand railing.  The slightly smaller diameter conduit was slid inside the other and attached to a bar mechanism with an action sports camera on the far end; by sliding the smaller pipe in and out of the big pipe, we could pivot the camera up and down and the end of the boom to allow us to see everything we needed to.  The counterweights hanging on the end balanced it very well; they're actually from a pressure gauge calibration kit, but they work perfectly.

The camera was bolted to the far end of the boom, and zip ties and a flashlight provided all the light we'd need.

The best part about modern cameras, especially action-sports cameras such as this, is that they've all got integrated wi-fi.  A few clicks has the camera streaming live footage straight to a tablet or smartphone in the vicinity; even through it's waterproof case, the tablet then offers full control of the camera, allowing us to sight with it, and take pictures and videos of exactly what we wanted.

We bundled up, got all of our fall protection stuff on, and headed up the hill to climb up on top of the bulk storage fuel tanks.

Clipping off to the anchor points

Dispite the sun being up and it being "warm" by Antarctic standards, it was still very cold standing around on top of the tank getting everything positioned.  When it's ~10f, even then 15mph breeze sucks the heat out of you.  I was grateful for my fleece-lined pants, and the scraps of foam that we'd brought with to insulate us a bit from the cold steel.

Some last-minute modifications were made to allow us to lower the boom sideways into the access hole, and then level it out once it was in with the orange webbing.  The thick steel of the tank was quite effective at blocking the wi-fi singles from the camera, and Sean had to hold the tablet at arm's length inside the tank, while the I moved the boom around per instruction from him.

The whole rig worked incredibly well; we were able to get nice clear shots of all the edges of the roof and supporting members, and all with a rig cobbled together in about an hour from whatever we could find in the shop.

1 comment:

Fabrizio said...

Great blog, thoroughly enjoying it! This DIY probing equipment reminds me of something airplane engineers use to check the internal compressors in engines and fuel tanks... With the exception that it doesn't come with WiFi and costs in the thousands of pounds.

Great work!