1.3. Samoa Observatory
D. Holt and G. Mc Conville
The station chief position at the American Samoa Observatory (SMO) was vacated in July 1997 when the incumbent chief completed his 2-year term. The post was occupied with temporary managers from August until October 1997 when the permanent chief arrived. The engineer that served as station technician completed his 2-year tour in November 1997 and was replaced by an electronics technician in December 1997. The fresh ideas brought forward by these two new personnel has resulted in optimism for the future of the facility.
Internet and e-mail access at this remote site continued to be an unstable operation. The local telephone company promised substantial connection improvements through a microwave relay or fiber optic cables, but actual and/or timely implementation of either was uncertain. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which funds three projects here, promised assistance in acquisition of an Internet connection because of their requirements for data acquisition; however, with funding constraints was unable to be of assistance at this time.
In December 1996 the new remote building, housing two separate gas chromatograph (GC) systems and ozone and aerosol measuring equipment, was finally completed with all its data acquisition systems operational. This buildings construction was started in November 1995 and was fraught with many delays because of material shortages and misinterpretation of construction methods. The long delay was frustrating but worth the wait, because the result was a well built, dry, secure environment for important atmospheric data instrumentation.
Funds were approved to rehabilitate the termite-eaten house for the station chief and hopefully funds will be approved soon to upgrade the deteriorated condition of the station technicians house. The tropical conditions of humidity, salty air, insect infestations, frequent rain, and incessant mold and mildew takes its toll on most everything.
The emergency generator was given a tune-up and reported by the mechanic to be in surprisingly good condition after being in service for over 20 years. This electrical back-up provider still got frequent use because of continued power lapses by the local electricity provider.
Over the past 2 years many visiting school classes were welcomed to the Observatory to learn more about the ongoing projects that are conducted here. The teachers appreciated the students learning experience, and the students enjoyed this type of field trip. In addition to the educational benefit of these visits, and since this site is very remote, most of the children on the island learned what was contained in the facility and generally refrained from an inquisitive, forcible entry at a later mischievous opportunity. Although the new National Park of American Samoa is basically undeveloped, it was quite ironic that the employees of the Park asked permission to picnic on the observatory grounds instead of utilizing their own Park facilities. It only proved that the observatory is located upon one of the most beautiful locations in American Samoa.
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