Saturday, March 31, 2012

Norwegians Mads and Rune, headed for the North pole, have dropped out due to worsening frostbite and are searching for suitable ice on which to land a pickup aircraft. That's that for this year's Ward Hunt Island -> N Pole teams...all knocked out in less than a month! Nice photo of the terrain! Photo, from their website, is from last year, not this year, but still gives an idea of the terrain.


Rather unbelievable, but with the pressure solenoid dialed in properly, the suit is now holding appropriate pressure, indefinitely. That is, the solenoid has knocked out the leak rate, with only a very small use of pressurization gas. It's a bit of a cheat--I still need to seal a leak in the boots--but the principle is well-established, now. In case of leak at altitude, the solenoid kicks in and maintains exactly the pressure I establish with one control knob. The tangle of hoses and wires, of course, is just here during development, and will be completely squared away in the final build. Hoo-ah! Triumph!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Man in the Moone

I've been reading the 1657 edition of Francis Godwin's book 'The Man in the Moone -- or A Discourse of a Voyage Thither' online at the fantastic Early English Books Online site (' facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700...'). Below, I fit together this little synopsis of some of his marvelous experiences:

On his way to the Moone in the early 1620's, Our Hero Domingo Gonsales of Seville was intercepted by "Devills and wicked spirits" inhabiting the high atmosphere; they were wary of this mortal intruder, however, and circled him cautiously "wandring at me like so many Birds about an Owle..." On arriving at the Moon, after an 11-day voyage, Gonsales found that the 'Devills' had played mischief with his Victuals; "As for my Canary Wine, it was turned to a stinking and filthie kind of liquor like the Urine of some Beaste."

That synopsis isn't for the article I'm currently writing, just for myself. I've been reading this in search of one small nugget of information that will go down well with readers of Scientific American, and I might have just found it!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pressure Solenoid

Worked a bit on installing a pressure solenoid the other night; this unit will automatically keep the suit pressure at an acceptable level. Update before long!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Scotland the Brave!

I will fly my airship with the flags of Scotland and Bohemia, the lands of my parents!

Here comes Scotland the Brave!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Suitup March 2012

First time in the suit after quite a while. This is as far as I can get it on without an assistant: the airtight zip closure on the back requires help. The suit is a lot easier to put on than before, due to some important changes I've made to the restraint garment as well as the liner garment that I wear inside (sewing socks to the legs made it a lot easier to slip into and out of the suit). Pressure tests before I put the suit on today had it leaking from 4psi to 3psi in 5 min, 3 to 2 psi in 11 min and 2 to 1psi in 14 min. This is the whole trick; get that leak rate down as close to zero as possible. Right now the suit isn't flyable, but I still have to replace the boots (part wasn't right, must reorder) and I have a few other places where I think I can knock it out.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pressure Restraint Garment Work - 4psi

Worked on improving the knee restraint garment sections. These are separate from the restraint garment on the thighs for a number of reasons. In the first photo, an old knee section with the suit at 3psi: it clearly is ineffective, binding severely. The next photo shows the new, longer knee sections, which I sewed and grommeted, fitted to the unpressurized suit. Next, the suit pressurized to 4psi, with the new knee sections (also notice new black reinforcements around the pressure fitting) doing better than the old ones. Also, photos of the left arm upper section, where, under pressure, there's a significant gap, leaving some of the pressure bladder layer exposed; another photo shows a prototype of a cinching system that I'll use to close this gap.

Finally, a photo of a dive -- I don't go below 60 feet without the spare tank and regulator that you can see here, mounted on my front. That's a very conservative, perhaps even hyper-cautious, approach...but I am still alive after many life-threatening adventures, and I attribute that in part to exactly this kind of careful approach. Always have a backup!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Captain Oates

From Capt. Scott's diary, from 100 years ago, today:

"Friday, March 16 or Saturday 17. — Lost track of dates, but think the last correct.

Tragedy all along the line.

At lunch, the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn't go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do, and induced him to come on, on the afternoon march. In spite of its awful nature for him he struggled on and we made a few miles. At night he was worse and we knew the end had come...he woke in the morning—yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said, 'I am just going outside and may be some time.' He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since.

We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman. We all hope to meet the end with a similar spirit, and assuredly the end is not far.

Photo is a wonderful portrait of Captain Lawrence Edward Grace ("Titus") Oates.

Red Bull Stratos Test 1 Success!

Congratulations to the Baumgartner / Red Bull Stratos team -- Felix has made a test flight to over 71k feet, and parachuted from that altitude with a successful(that is, healthy!) landing.

His project is very different from mine, but exciting to watch! Direct link. Interesting also to see his mentor, Col. Joe Kittinger, who made several jumps from over 100,000 feet altitude in the years just prior to the advent of manned space flight.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Breathing Gas System Test #43

Test after test, the system continues to grow into a functional, integrated whole.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sheer Joy

From Everest climber George L. Mallory, who died on Everest in 1924:

"The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest ?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is no use'. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It's no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Photographs / Interview

Just wrapped up an interview with writer Peter Smith, who is working on a short item about the project for a prominent magazine. We talked a lot about writing, and he audio taped a long segment where I walked through the history of these pressure suits and did a tour of the suit itself, pressurizing it and showing the various systems and components. Peter is seen in the photo, shooting one of several photos of the suit and the workspace. He asked me about the name, Margarethe, painted on the side of the balloon car mockup -- my Mother's name, which will be the name of the airship. I'll probably change it to the Donald and Margit, for both of my parents.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Night Climb

Sketch, done the other night, of my climbing partner, Chiu Liang Kuo, years ago on Mt. Hood's East face. We were picking and spidering our way, very delicately, up acres of steeply tilted rime ice and unconsolidated volcanic rock. We climbed at night because during the day the face was streaming with meltwater, ice and rocks. In this sketch, Chiu has turned towards me, blinding me with his headlamp. We didn't reach the summit, and had a scary retreat, downclimbing a thousand feet or so of unstable terrain; rappelling was out of the question as there was no rock or ice solid enough to take a good anchor.

Having wrapped up two books this month, for a total of six in the past six years, my mind is completely wrung out. I've spent some time listening to old radio dramas and drawing, or just watching movies, or just laying in the bath, reading. When I feel the urge to get up and do something, I have to remind myself that I am doing something: I'm resting.

Interview and photos next week RE the pressure suit project. A few items to take care of before that. Then off to California to fly my glider and dive some with John Haslett from the raft expeditions. I am going to enjoy completely detaching from the intellectual world for a week or two.