Jarntimarra Diary - Jennifer Laing

WEDNESDAY 31 OCTOBER 2001, 19.45 hours

Location: Alice Wells
Written by: Jennifer Laing

Everyone woke early complaining of ant bites but this was soon replaced by stoic smiles when the film crew turned up from Imparja Television to film us. The crew actually left Alice Springs at 6.00 am to reach us at Henbury Craters, and several of the science party rewarded this persistence by going out on a quick sortie. They interviewed Carol and Larry, Graham and James W, with the latter demonstrating an MCP (mechanical counter pressure) glove worn by Jon Clarke. The MCP technology applies pressure on the body like an elastic leotard, and could be used for spacesuits which have greater mobility than the bulky pressure suits used by the Apollo astronauts and the current-day astronaut corps. As James told the reporter, the current EVA suits are essentially a "gas bag" which, when pressurised, become rigid and inflexible.

It was a marvellous sight, watching the group walk over the ridge in the soft glow of the early morning.

After a hurried packing up job, the convoy departed for Alice Springs and provisions.

Lunch at McDonalds or a local bakery while Guy and Michael headed to an Internet café to check email and respond to queries from Jason, our `Mission Controller'. Rex drove one vehicle to Australian Air Express to pick up the MSA banner sent by Marshall, our Treasurer, and we discovered an unexpected `bonus' - MSA caps - sent to us as a surprise.

More telephone calls from the media, which is great exposure for us. We are also attracting interest with our vehicles, with the prominent MSA and Starchaser logos. Even a rough ride down the Old Ghan Track road failed to dislodge them.

We headed off down the road, which followed the old Ghan train track, to our next site - Alice Wells. It was our second hot day, with temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius, and the air-conditioners were working overtime. The road was pretty rough in places, but we arrived in one piece - ready for our next site analysis. A group of Aboriginals drove up in a van, and waved as we set up camp. We began our work in the dried-up bed of the Finke River, with our geological experts Vic and Jon explaining the processes behind the landscape, while samples and photos were taken. If you blinked, some of the hills were very Mars-like in appearance, with the rich red copper-coloured soil providing a stunning backdrop to the photos.

Back at camp, we made a fire and sat around enjoying a pasta dinner, until the usual line of laptops were set up on trestle tables and work began. It could be a scene from any office, albeit bathed in ethereal light from the full moon and a soft breeze.

It's a tough life but someone's got to do it ...