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26 September, 2003

Mac Ops

Today we are unable to go on the sea ice training course because the winds are a bit too strong. We will try again next week. The weather has been gray, cold and windy. I am waiting for the sun to appear so that I can get a shadow.

I took the time today to visit Shelly over at McMurdo Operations or MacOps for short. This is the command center for most of the Antarctic. All operations that go out into the field are checked in and out through MacOps. Scientists who operate in a remote station are required to inform MacOps when and where they are going. They must call once a day through radio telephones that use repeating stations to transmit a signal. If there is an emergency or a request for supplies it is MacOps that handles the communications. Shelly was one of the contacts for the last Medivac plane, next week she will be very busy as all the field parties arrive on the first flight scheduled for Tuesday. The room where Shelly works has several computers, backup digital recorders and plenty of buttons to connect with the field through a variety of different signal frequencies. They use VHF (very high frequency) and HF (high frequency) to communicate. The HF allows them to bounce radio waves off the ionosphere so they can reach all the way to the South Pole. They even have received signals from Alaska, where Shelly lives.

There is also an Iridium satellite phone here. Many researchers take these into the field and they allow you to call directly anywhere in the world as long as an Iridium satellite is above you. By the way Iridium is element number 77, originally there was supposed to be this many satellites dedicated to this phone system. The satellites last for 5-8 years and must be replaced, I am not sure how many are working right now.

We have a balloon launch scheduled for the morning. Our data continues to show that ozone is depleted between12-20 km. Later in October we expect to see it recover a bit. We are thinking of driving to recover our last balloon, it is the one with Jason’s thermometer, it landed between Black and White islands only 20 miles away.

The entire continent can be reached from MacOps, the arrows point to the field sites where scientists are working.

Shelly at the command center, she works six days a week.

A new friend tests the radios.

An Iridium phone, a small antenna leads to the roof to signal a passing satellite.

Sometimes when the researchers come back from the field they bring a rock back for Shelly. This Penguin is a tree-hugger. Do you know why?

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