Exciting Times with the Hurley Dolly
Yesterday was the first installation and test of the Hurley Dolley – part of our motion control system for fulldome shooting in Mawson’s Huts. Track systems for cameras and motion control can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I estimate ours probably cost less than $500. The track system itself was invented and welded together by Chris and I in his workshop in Tasmania; the motor system is Chris’ Heath Robinson invention concocted out of broken Chinese drills & the camera mount is a simple triangle of aluminium parts mounted on roller-skate wheels. Most parts came from the local Tip Shop. The camera tripod (the most expensive part) is a Meade astronomical mount with a motion-control handset (this is the Milapse system) – normally used to point telescopes at stars and planets – but in this case forming the perfect basis for a timelapse motion-control system.
Anyway, here is the system set up and running. Because it had only been tested once in Hobart before we left there were, naturally, a few glitches – it is very important that the system run at a continuous speed and not wobble – which, after a bit of fiddling around, proved to be the case. Needless to say, this is an ‘alpha release’ version – not ready for an Ikea DIY kit yet! So we set the system up for a few runs whilst the blizzard raged outside. The preliminary results are very satisfactory and will look wonderful in a dome.
It was a peculiar privilege for me to be stuck in Mawson’s Huts in a blizzard with Chris and Tony, shooting fulldome content, thinking about Frank Hurley. It was amazingly quiet in there – if you stepped outside just a metre you were suddenly caught in the swirling, howling maelstrom of snow and wind. Quite amazing – and bitterly cold, with visibility down to just a couple of metres at times. We elected to stay in the huts until it blew over – even though the average temperature of the workshop is a charming -3C; in the right gear you are fine (also helped by Michelle’s hot Ribena thermos & chocolate). After a few hours though, the chill does start to seep into your bones and, finally, the opposite side of the valley was dimly visible through the tearing sheet of white. So we decided to make a dash for the Granholm Hut – which has been here since 1978 – and is a designated refuge with water, food, bedding and other needs. Our chance came and, tied together with ropes, survival packs on, we charged off in the right direction – and after clambering over rocks, found it almost immediately – a looming brown container, outlined in the blizzard. The dash there was very brief – it’s only a couple of hundred metres from the Huts – but quite thrilling in the midst of the dynamic freezing white wildness. This is a situation where you are very grateful for the blizz training provided by field officers at the AAD and the ability to draw upon previous experience (I’ve survived a few blizz experiences in my time, in a few different countries, in the middle of nowhere.) The point being that, we knew how to manage the risks involved – plus, I was with two Doctors – what could be better!
We were in the Granholm for a couple of hours before deciding to venture home, having decided that we weren’t ready to eat Tony quite yet – about 20mins through drifting, blowing snow across a couple of valleys to the Sørensen. It was still fairly hard going and bitterly cold – it’s quite amazing how deep the snow drifts were after just a couple of hours – and almost invisible in front of you, so very easy to stumble into. We arrived home to a dramatic welcome at 10pm, after a heroic odyssey of extreme survival in life-threatening conditions, fearlessly trekking across icebound wastes in our valiant quest to master the Hurley Dolly; demonstrating the true depths of pluck and courage required, even these days, in this most challenging extent of the Empire. Long live the King! Huzzah!