AMF1 Azores on-site staff Francisco Bettencourt releases the last balloon of the 20-month operation on Graciosa Island.
AMF1 Azores on-site staff Francisco Bettencourt releases the last balloon of the 20-month operation on Graciosa Island.

With another balloon ascending on a windy afternoon, the AMF1 last Thursday completed its fifth deployment and 20 months of data collection on Graciosa Island in the Azores, Portugal. It was the last of more than 2,400 successful launches the locally hired on-site staff had performed.

The balloon launch also kicked off two weeks of packing up the AMF1 equipment that is enough to fill six 20-foot containers. This is the fifth time I am involved in the pack-up effort, and I feel a sense of comfort surrounded by some familiar faces: Monty Apple (team lead), Mike Alsop (AMF1 chief technician), Tom Muirhead, and Clif Meyer. We also have a couple of new faces in Paul Ortega (technical operations manager for FIDO at LANL) and Carlos Sousa (AMF1 on-site technician).

Big waves, high winds and gray skies have continued much of the time so far.
Big waves, high winds and gray skies have continued much of the time so far.

The pack-up officially started on Thursday, January 6, and the first three days went well despite the on-and-off rains and strong winds. Drizzles and strong winds are apparently part of the Azorean winter, and the first two days definitely proved it with wind gusts sometimes exceeding 40 miles an hour and short bursts of pouring rain. We had been warned of this coming in, and with all of us having a can-do attitude, I think we are off to a good start.

-- Amon

Editor's Note: Amon Haruta is part of the ARM Mobile Facility 1 Operations Team located at Los Alamos National Laboratory.