17 November, 1998

Tuesday, November 17th, 1998

Hi! I was lucky enough to get an interesting roommate for a couple of nights. Sally showed up last night from the Black Island Telecommunications Facility. She was great to talk with and I've sort of missed not having a roommate…even though I'm never in my room until late at night anyway. Sally and I got to talking about what goes on at her facility and she suggested that I visit the "Mac Ops" (McMurdo Operations) office to get more information. That's how I started my day today.

The Mac Ops office is located in a building between my dorm and Crary Lab, so it made sense to walk by on my way to work. What an interesting place. I visited with Mary Rubarsky who gave me lots of information to share with you.

Where Sally lives, Black Island, is a main hub of telecommunications equipment. In fact, the satellite dish there is enclosed in a huge dome, as are all satellite dishes in Antarctica. These domes protect the satellite dishes from the bad weather. I have included some photos today to show you what some small domes around McMurdo look like. The satellite at Black Island provides the link we need for e-mail, television, phones, and radio communication between various remote camps and stations in Antarctica.

Sally lives in a building with one other person…they share a work and living space that isn't very large. They have to cooperate and work together…they are on call 24 hours a day. Sally cooks, and they house other workers who come to repair and check on equipment at this facility. Their facility is powered by wind power…this is a very windy location and they can store this power to be used later if necessary. Solar power is also used, and they have back-up generators that use fuel.

Black Island Telecommunications Facility is a 20 minute helicopter ride from McMurdo Station, but takes 8 hours to get to by Delta. Deltas are often used to resupply the facility, although supplies can be brought in by helicopter as well. No one lives out there in the winter, but sometimes people need to travel out there to solve problems with equipment. This is the most important communications center, I think, because it provides us with so many important links to the outside world. Just think, when you send me an e-mail message, I am able to get it immediately. Think of how far away I am..isn't that incredible!? I think so!

Mary also told me about communications between Mac Ops and the deep field camps and camps in the Dry Valleys. For the deep field camps, the only source of communication is HF radio. There is a minimum of one radio contact per day. Mac Ops needs to know if everyone's okay, how many people are in the remote camp, and they also deliver messages. Some of the remote camps are named Siple Dome, Downstream Bravo, AGO (automated geophysical observatory) sites, Icestream Echo, and CWA (Central West Antarctica). There are a couple of sites close to McMurdo called Weddell World (you guessed it, they study seals there), and Big Razorback, where they also study seals.

The sites in the Dry Valley area include Lake Bonney, Lake Hoare, and Lake Frixell…to name a few. These are helicopter supported camps. They can use VHF and HF radios and phones. Mac Ops also provides telephone patches from South Pole Station to other locations….whether it be another place in Antarctica or a phone call off the continent. While I was in Mary's office, a radio operator was nearby….she received a call from the South Pole Station…they were calling in today's weather. AWESOME!

After the interview, I walked over to Crary Lab and started another busy day there! Our 10:00 AM meeting was the same as usual. We heard the latest report on the drill hole…it's down to 385 meters. The core for today was 280.56 through 307.32. Chris Fielding was talking about the fact that for today's core, about 92% was recovered, which is down a bit from the usual 98%. This has to do with what the sediments are composed of and the condition of the core.

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon labeling and measuring the susceptibility for the 54 samples we drilled yesterday. Fabio and I finished off the afternoon drilling about 24 new samples. Some of today's samples were also taken in the small plastic boxes because the sediments were too sandy to drill. We stopped drilling just before dinner. The remainder of my day was spent on the computer…answering mail and writing letters and journals.

Many of you have asked about whether or not I'm homesick. I do miss my husband, Chris, and my children Matt, Scott, Patrick, Ryan, Julie, and Linda A LOT! I also miss my students and friends. I communicate with everyone by e- mail, though, and this is a quick way to keep in touch. I also call home every few days and talk with my family. I've called a few other people as well, and this really helps. I know my time here is flying by very fast, and before I know it I will be on a cargo plane back to New Zealand and then on to the United States. I appreciate the fact that so many of you have taken the time to write to me here in Antarctica and ask me questions or just say hello. Talk to you tomorrow. Stay in touch.

Smiles and miles away,

Betty :)

The dome covers the satellite dish to protect it from the harsh weather. These come in all sizes.

This is the top of the Mac Ops building. There are several satellite dishes up on top of the building. Others are located on higher ground just outside of town.

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