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By Tess Tangney, Gabriel Finneran and Oscar O’Hara
Started by Tess
The day had finally come, tonight we were opening up Dunsink to the public. Unfortunately it was set to thunderstorm all day so we were a bit worried that not many people would show up to the event. But as the day wore on we realised that, as usual, the weather forecast was completely wrong, apparently “Thunderstorms all day” really means ten minutes of heavy rain in the afternoon followed by a few clouds. With only a few hours till the visitors would arrive we set about putting the finishing touches on the displays. Then the hoover and dusting cloths were brought out for a finally clean of the whole place. As evening closed in Peter announced that pizza was on its way, we scattered around the house looking for places to change into more respectable clothes and wash the dust and dirt from our hands. The sound of the delivery car coming up the driveway drew everyone to the Meridian room with rumbling tummies. The pizza and chips raised everyone’s spirits as we went through a final brief for the night. (more…)
By Tess Tangney and Oscar O’Hara
Started by Tess
It’s been a long 7 weeks working in Dunsink and yet the time seems to have flown by. After all our research on the artifacts we’ve found it was finally time to start assembling the exhibits. We were preparing for the Festival of Curiosity event on Friday the 19th, this would be our first opportunity to show off what we’d been working on all summer. It was one thing to see our ideas on paper but it seemed like a huge task to transform each of the rooms into what we had envisioned. Luckily Peter had recruited some extra help for a few days, an enthusiastic first year physics student from Trinity called Ava, meaning Oscar was no longer the baby of the group. A cup of very bitter coffee later and we were ready to get started. We chose the eclipse room to begin with as it’s one of the smallest in the building, it was probably best to build up a bit of confidence before trying to take on the larger rooms. Piece by piece we cleared the room of everything from tables and chairs to ancient fax machines and disconnected phone lines. We couldn’t decide where to store everything so we piled it all up in the Solar Room – a decision we would later regret.
The room appeared unexpectedly big once it was empty, we had a blank canvas and now it was time to fill it. As we moved in the stands for the artifacts and filled them up the room began to take shape. We took note of what pictures we wanted to get printed for the walls to tie the story together and then took a much needed break to rest our arms and refuel for the next room.
It was on to the Hamilton room, this required a much bigger clean out as it has been used as an office and reception for some years collecting an assortment of bits and bobs. We worked our way through the room filling boxes destined for either storage or the bin.
While the aim of previous room was to display impressive scientific instruments, this room required a different atmosphere. We wanted to create an environment that Hamilton might have lived in, almost like walking into his study. We set up an old wooden desk in the corner with his original writing table on top and filled a bookcase with his notes and calculations where they could be on display but protected behind glass from inquisitive hands. After putting pictures on the walls and moving tables and telescopes around, the room was almost unrecognisable. It was open and airy with a sense of purpose it previously lacked, we had somehow breathed new life into it by filling it with things from the past.
Continued by Oscar
As a reward for yesterday and a much needed mental boost, Tess had the idea to make a quick pit stop at Keoghs on her way to Dunsink. A small bakery just off Dame Street which we all agreed had the best muffins! And so unknown to the rest of us, Tess picked up a selection of muffins in the hope to surprise us at lunch time.
After what felt like the longest cycle in human history, we lugged the lead bikes up the last stretch of Dunsink lane. Our muscles struggled to lift the tree trunk like legs we’d sprouted in the night. I’m telling you now we certainly hadn’t set any Strava records. Immediately we headed to the bitter coffee, faces of shock followed each sip, telling one another “we’d get used to it eventually.” We all knew what had to be done for the day, we all dreaded it. Our feet dragged along the carpet toward the solar room, we stood (not in the room more outside the doorway), staring down the monstrosity we had created. The silence broken only by the occasional slurp. After downing the remains of our coffee we set to work. A trail of items streamed out the room, working like a colony of ants retrieving and depositing food, ready for it to be stored in our underground hive (AKA the basement).
Our work was interrupted by a friendly “hello” echoing through the house, looking at each other we darted to the door in the hope of roping in someone else for their daily dose of manual labour. Peter had asked Philippe yesterday if he could help move the weather station in the eclipse room. He needed someone to help, which we all immediately jumped at the opportunity (anything to get out lifting) luckily for me I just got in there first. Unfortunately this only lasted a couple of minutes and primarily consisting of hauling computer parts. We then informed Philippe all about what we were doing today, at first sight of what had to be done he immediately got to it, chairs, telescopes, books and tables, flew out of the room as we looked on in shock. Philippe had more youth in his bones than the three of us combined.
Lunch time rapidly approached which we all couldn’t have been happier about. A pot of tea was brewed while our food was heated up. All sitting down in the walled garden looking out at the incredible view across Dublin, we began reminiscing about our adventures, about the journey the rooms and we have undergone, the Hi-Vis jackets, finding Hamilton’s notes, the Brasso days, our venture into the rather spooky basement and not to mention the first time we set eyes on the beauty that is Dunsink observatory. Most of all we spoke of sharing these stories and how this is the beginning of a new chapter for Dunsink. Tess disappeared mid conversation only to return with a plate filled with what I can only describe as a mountain of muffins. There was anything you could want from banana bread to blueberry. Silence ensued as we stuffed our faces trying each one and voting for the best, the clear winner was the raspberry and white chocolate, an unexpected favorite.
With much left to do before Friday, we began packing away our lunch boxes and cleaning up and got back to work. At the back of our minds the thought of our internship finishing loomed, shadowed by the excitement for Friday and our love of Dunsink.
By Gabriel Finneran
At 0600hrs Monday morning I packed my bags and set off from Athlone, bound for Dunsink which would be my home for the next three days. With a cumbersome loadout of a backpack, pannier and a sleeping bag I made my way from Heuston through the Phoenix Park and down Auburn Avenue before a leg-killing climb up Dunsink lane. Arriving at the observatory it was immediately apparent that there was a lot of work to do, the Festival of Curiosity was only two weeks away and we were starting from scratch. After spending hours arranging books artistically on bookcases and rummaging around in the basement we called it a day and Tess, Oscar and Peter left for home. I was staying in Dunsink House that night and Peter warned me to watch out for the ghost of Hamilton who has apparently haunted Dunsink for many years. We had heard a great deal of strange noises in the Observatory whilst working there and doors had been known to slam for no apparent reason so I wasn’t entirely convinced there were no phantoms lurking close by. I for one certainly hoped Hamilton was more a friendly neighbourhood poltergeist than a madman lurking around the next dark corner. I was looking forward to using the South Dome Telescope to observe the Moon but unfortunately clouds obscured the night sky.
By Gabriel Finneran
As the fourth week of our internship began to draw to a close, we arrived at Dunsink early Friday morning to begin cleaning the South Dome Refractor. Light flooded the room as Tess pulled open the dome, throwing golden sunshine across the room and revealing the long journey that lay ahead of us. It being a wonderful day we were happy to get stuck in and with the sun pouring in we set to work. We decided to focus on the telescope body, dusting it with brand new cloths that quickly turned black as they soaked up decades of dirt. In parts the dust was so ingrained that our pace slowed considerably. (more…)
By Tess Tangney and Oscar O’Hara
Started by Tess
Oscar and I locked up our bikes in the carpark of the Eastwall ALDI as we waited for Peter to pick us up. It wasn’t as dodgy as it sounds, Peter had to go to Birr for the day and was kind enough to let us tag along as neither of us had seen I-LOFAR before. Standing in the carpark at 9 am our excitement was palpable. We hopped into the car and set off for Birr, making a quick pitstop in Dunsink which was beginning to feel more and more like our second home.
By Tess Tangney
Three weeks in and we were finally getting used to the cycle to Dunsink, Oscar even made it in a record 35 minutes from Tenernure! We started off the day with a cup of coffee and a chat about what we hoped to find when we started our exploration. We each had our hearts set on finding something, from telescopes to sextants, but we never could have dreamt what was coming our way later that day. (more…)
June 17th 2019
By Oscar O’Hara
With a mission in mind, and a cuppa in hand the three musketeers swung a left out the front door. Our sights firmly set on Trinity, we began the short walk, with the unusual feeling of sun on our faces. Walking along, our conversation drifted off topic and very quickly to food (as it often does). Tess made a very bold claim, she’d found the “best cookies in all of Dublin”, in the bakery “Hansel and Gretel!”. Met with two sceptical looks and a volley of questions, we demanded to try them for ourselves. The debate ended as we entered the Berkeley library and began looking for the admission desk. We filed the research forms out and were each given what felt like a golden ticket… We had access to the manuscript archives! (more…)
June 11th 2019
Intro by Tess Tangney
To make the most out of our time here in DIAS we decided to see if we could annoy a few of the researchers and students around the building to find out what life after college is all about. This afternoon we sat down with Mario and Eoin to find out what the mysterious noise in the basement is. We had many guesses of our own, from squeaking mice to dying birds but not surprisingly we were very wrong. (more…)
June 13th 2019
By Tess Tangney
After cycling in the rain for almost an hour we arrived at Dunsink wet and in need of a strong cup of tea. We dried ourselves off and couldn’t wait any longer to get searching through this magnificent building. Our first stop was the basement, after looking through a few rooms finding nothing more interesting than an old Dell computer our hopes were falling. Dunsink didn’t let us down though, the next door we tried swung open to reveal a treasure trove of artifacts. From beautiful long brass telescopes to a disassembled orrery we couldn’t believe our luck. We filled our hands with as much as we could carry and brought it upstairs to have a proper look. (more…)
Tess, Oscar and I (Gabriel) are the new DIAS Summer Students and we will be working on the restoration of Dunsink Observatory. We have decided to write a blog to document our journey this summer and to showcase the wonders of Dunsink observatory to a wider audience. We will also be posting to the Dunsink instagram so be sure to check it out. First though a little more info about us.