January 24th, 2010
New Zealand, McMurdo and South Pole - Current Time
For those non geeks, you might want to skip ahead to the next page.
Ham Radio has been a part of the South Pole station for many years. For many years a ham radio phone patch was the only way to make a personal phone call home. Over the past 10 years or so, it's been more of a recreational pursuit.
When the new station was built the Ham Station was included in the emergency communications room. The space is very limited.
The ham rig is actually located in the Remote Facility (RF) building a kilometer (.6 mile) from station and is remotely controlled via a computer interface, and a tone remote control.
The operating screen. The primary item is the remote control of the Kenwood TS-480 radio. Below that is the remote control for the Alpha 87 amplifier, and below that is the remote antenna switch.
The actual equipment is located in the 'Remote Facility' (RF) Building, which also contains most of the satellite equipment, program HF gear, and networking equipment. It's a kilometer from station, and connected back via copper and fiber optic cables. A serial to Ethernet interface connects all of the remote control ports of the equipment to a dedicated sub network for the HF Radio control. The Amplifier, the Kenwood TS-480 radio, and a remote control antenna switch are all controlled from the computer in the Emergency Communications/Ham Shack.
A couple of hundred yards away, is the Ham Antenna Field. The current configuration consists of a 20 meter 6 element beam pointed towards the United States, a 40 meter 3 element beam also pointed towards the U.S., and a Tri-Band (10m - 15m- 20m) pointed towards Europe. There is a fourth antenna, but it's currently not working (17 meter towards the U.S.).
The ham station was used only intermittently during the summer. We'd have a occasional Ham Grantee pass through, but most are very busy trying to complete their science work and they have very little time to operate. The best opportunity was when they were stuck due to weather and/or aircraft delays had time. For those of us that are support staff, we work 6 days a week, 9 hours a day. Our day off on Sunday is Saturday in the US, and being 20 hours ahead of Colorado, my evenings equate to 10pm to 2am in Colorado. The evenings I checked the bands were usually pretty quiet. With 24 hours of daylight in the summer, it appears the best working conditions were gray line in the United States, which put it mid day for us (that did provide a window during our lunch hour). With the return of sun spots this season (2009-2010), things are slowly improving. I was lucky to have caught several of the members of my club on the air in late December / early January.
Many Thanks to K1IED - Larry, who has operated as the QSL manager for the program for many years.