Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our link to the world

Another field trip!

Walking towards the berms and the Radome in the distance.

This morning, a few of us took another field trip, this time out to the RF building and Radome to see the facilities and get familiar with the hazards (lots of high voltage wires, microwave radiation) and what emergency supplies are kept there.

For me, it was more of an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the gorgeous morning and the last rays of the soon to be setting sun.

The giant golf ball is the Radome, a domed covering for the Marisat satellite dish. We are connected to the outside world through three old satellites, ranging from 23 to 31 years old, older than some of the people here. These satellites were formerly weather or communications satellites that have fallen out of their original orbits and brought closer to polar orbits and now we use them for internet, phone (VOIP) and up and downlinking data.

Sat Comm tech Robert explaining the systems to Lynette, Jason and Jack in the RF (radio frequency) building

Between the three satellites, they overlap to give us about an eleven hour window of connectivity to the outside world. Currently the window goes from about 5:20 pm to 5:55 am (now that we just ended New Zealand daylight saving time) and it gradually shifts forward 4 minutes a day. During this time, we can surf the internet, make phone calls to home and post to blogs. In 2005, we gained the ability to send and receive small emails over an Iridium satellite so outside of the regular satellite pass, we can still get mail. Before that, we had to wait until the pass started, then your inbox would suddenly flood with messages and you knew the satellite was up.

Neal having his "I'm King of the world!" moment.

Everyone was taking photos this morning.

Tomorrow is equinox, when the sun crosses the equator. And down here at the south pole of the earth, it is roughly around March 21 when the sun will start to go below our horizon. It may not actually start to dip below the horizon for a few more days and if it's clear out, we can watch it as it slowly sinks lower and lower. Stay tuned for some sunset pictures...it will be the only sunset we see down here for 2007.


At 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been following your travel for about a year now, you have given me and I am sure your family and friends a instie to the world around you.
Thanks for your post keep up the good work and info on the life down under.

ed b

At 5:05 PM, Blogger Kathleen said...

Heidi! Great to find your blog and I look forward to living vicariously through your writing over the next several months. When you left McMurdo for the Pole I wish I could have stowed away with you... instead I'm back in the US trying to adjust to 'normal' life -- boy, what a misnomer... Have a blast and I hope you see you in McM when you come out in the spring.


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