A partly cloudy sky greeted 16 visitors (15 students and 1 teacher) from École secondaire Gabriel-Dumont, for Exploring the Stars at Western University’s Cronyn Observatory, Tuesday, January 9th, 2018, 5:15—6:45 p.m. Graduate student Jeff Vankerkhove presented the digital slide presentation “Galaxies” and planned to follow this with the activity “Telescope Kits.”
This Exploring the Stars event was ended early, when RASC London Centre member Bob Duff—who arrived shortly after Jeff began his slide presentation—found that a frozen water pipe had broken in the darkroom, and was beginning to flood the observatory dome floor!
Jeff was well into his slide presentation when Bob informed him and the teacher and students, that there was a flood in the dome. The slide presentation was promptly ended and the “Telescope Kits” activity was cancelled. Jeff immediately contacted campus Facilities Management and Professor Jan Cami on his cell phone. The water soon poured from the dome down the stairs into the basement TA storeroom, bathroom and heating plant room.
The school teacher also noticed water pouring from the ceiling into the main floor bathroom beside the lecture room, from the dark room upstairs. The students and teacher departed around 6:30 p.m. to attend a lecture in the Physics and Astronomy Building by Professor Robert Cockcroft.
A campus police officer arrived and Facilities Management staff members came over and soon began wiping up the water in the dome and downstairs with squeegees and pumps. The basement heating room (connected to the campus steam plant) was flooded along with the bathroom and TA supplies storeroom. Jeff and Bob cleared out the telescope tripods and 2 telescope carrying cases from the darkroom floor, moving the tripods eventually downstairs into the “1940s Period Room.” Some boxes from the basement TA storeroom were also removed to the “Black Room.” This included the box containing the flour and chocolate powder for the “Crater Experiment,” which had become wet, with the contents being removed to a dry box.
Water came down through the gap beneath the big 25.4cm refractor telescope mount and into the large round light fixture in the ceiling of the lecture room, where it formed a large bubble in the paint, which made a big splash on the floor when punctured by one of the maintenance staff. Professor Jan Cami took pictures with his smartphone, as did Building and Physics and Astronomy Stores Manager Phin Perquin, with a digital single-lens reflex camera. Bob Duff and Jeff Vankerkhove left the Cronyn Observatory around 8:00 p.m. after consulting with Jan Cami.