I went with Carol and Elin to the Mac Weather office, where the forecasters, observers, and Joey work. We asked the observer, Edward, if we could join him in the balloon launch and he was more than happy to have us along. They’ve said that doing the launches ends up becoming a chore rather than a fun experience, but for us newbies and weather nerds it’s awesome!
He gathered the string and instrumentation and we walked to the launch site called Sausage Point (there’s a fun story behind this name), which is across Winter Quarters Bay from Hut Point. It’s near the weather office, but we need to walk through the water treatment facility… Random yes, and smelly, but also nice and humid inside!
We then come to a staging area where the balloons are kept and we can access the helium. Edward meticulously attached the balloon to the nozzle, started pumping the helium. While the balloon was getting bigger and bigger, he made final preparations such as cutting the string at proper length to tie the instruments to the balloon and making some calls, presumably to Mac Ops notifying them and any air traffic that a balloon will be launched soon.
Finally the balloon was done inflating (took about 3 minutes) and Edward turned off the supply of helium. He tied the string real, real tight and handed me the now-connected instrument and balloon. At that point, all I really had to do was make sure the balloon didn’t hit anything as I exited the staging area to go outside and make sure I let go of it when I planned on letting it go!
Of course, I posed for a couple photos (thanks to Elin for taking them) and then I let it go!
And as a bonus, we have the data from the launch available on our ftp site! You can find it here: