Testing, testing, testing!
I have never quite come to terms with some stories of expeditions in the old days. They tried to use ponies to reach the South Pole, or they attempted to traverse the North Pole in a balloon. What were they thinking? Why didn’t they do some test-flying before leaving for the open sea? Setting sail on an expedition is a combination of a daring leap into the uncertain and reasonable preparation for the conditions ahead. With thoughts like that in mind, the first members to embark on the expedition are currently trying to get all of the logistics together, so that we can journey across the ice as prepared as we can. One part of that is setting up and testing the communication.
The Iridium satellite network will be our primary link. Its upside is world-wide coverage, and the phones are small and handy. The downside is that capacity is very limited and voice-calls are distorted and latent. Data transfer is limited to text and very small images, but hey, it works! Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) is another satellite communications system we are testing. Its satellites are stationed over the equator, so we will be outside the official area of coverage. However, we might get lucky and pick up a connection from time to time. If so, the data transfer rate is a bit higher. In the old days, HF-radio was the only means of communication in Antarctica. Radio enthusiasts still keep the tradition alive, and there is a set at Wasa for communication with the surrounding stations, like the German station Neumayer.
To send data, the satellite phones need to be hooked up to some sort of computer. Recent advances in smartphones and tablets have given us an array of options, but also a bit of a mess with different software versions, drivers, wifi-links, cables, and chargers. Every little box or unit has its own battery and chargers. We like to be able to use both wall-socket power and 12-volt charging from vehicles or solar panels. In other words, we have plenty of gadgets to test, test, test!
Packing is another huge part of expeditions. The last pieces of cargo shipped from Stockholm weighed a total of 2,951 kg. In addition, we have 1,248 kg of food ordered in Cape Town and 36,200 liter barrels of Jet A-1 fuel. The fuel is now onboard the ship Agulhas II, which left Cape Town on November 30th. The ship is scheduled to arrive at Atka Bay, Antarctica, on Christmas Eve, where it will be unloaded by the German crew at Neumayer station. The team arriving at Neumayer station from our expedition will be picking it up soon! The team includes Carl, Pär, Stefan, Karin and Ola.