Remember Sisyphus? Sneaky Greek king, whose chicanery earned him a spot in the afterlife rolling a boulder up a hill. As soon as he pushed it to the top, it would get away from him and roll back down and he had to start over. My lot hasn't been much different. I don't know who I may have chicaned (I don't even follow Formula One) and I don't remember being inhospitable to travelers, but I keep getting rock-rolled nevertheless.
I worked an overnight shift last night with a couple of the best tower guys I've met. We were changing a flashing top beacon light on a 1000' tower, replacing a very old (possibly 1957 vintage) incandescent fixture with a modern LED version, which takes less electricity and supposedly lasts longer. And when I say "we," I'm the ground crew; 1000' up in the dark on something smaller across than the average apartment washroom is not something I do.
Attempted the project with a different crew (good me) two weeks earlier and got stopped by weather: 40 mph winds aloft and gusting higher. Last night was cool and calm, so hopes were high.
Plenty of spare parts were on hand, extra wire -- nothing could go wrong! Nothing!
Well, except for something. After some false starts, they changed out the fixture, wired it up, I threw the breaker and the light began to flash: once, twice--
"It's making a weird sizzling noise," they reported over the two-way. "It stopped flashing."
I knew that already. The circuit breaker had tripped, a sad little tick of sound.
"What'll we do next?" from up top.
I had them disconnect the wires. If it was the new light, we'd know about as soon as I turned the power back on.
Several minutes later, they were all unhooked, and I flipped the breaker again. On, on....tick.
"It made that sizzling sound again."
They'd only replaced a little of the wire, a kind of heavy-duty extension cord. Because of the way things are put together at the very top, there was nearly a hundred feet more running down to the conduit that carries power from the ground all the way up. We had wire and (barely) time; they replaced it. It took awhile.
Over to hours later, I threw the breaker again and the light began to flash: once, twice-- You know the story. Sizzle. Tick.
Tick and tock: there was no more time to experiment. There was barely time for them to batten down what wanted battened and get clear of the danger-when-transmitting area before it was time to resume transmitting.
Theories abound. Maybe the breaker is old? It wasn't tripped when the old, high-current lights burned out. Maybe the flasher is bad? It ran for a couple of weeks with no working lights on the far end. Couldn't I try jumpering power over from one of the other lights? Maybe, maybe-- But there's a wire up at the very top that goes sizzle when power is applied. This is not the one-hand-clapping sound such wires are supposed to make. It's three feet long. I've got plenty more.
And some night soon, I've got to to try rolling that boulder uphill again.
4 weeks ago