Antarctica
Black Island



I made three trips to the Black Island Telecommunications Facility during the season, staying between 4 to 6 days on each trip.


Black Island or BI is about 25 miles from McMurdo across the sound. It serves several purposes, all of them communications related. It's about 15 minutes by helicopter. (Great way to commute).

Most all of our connection to the outside world runs through Black Island. It is designed to be an unmanned station, but during the summer, there is enough activity going on, that there is a camp manager and a cook there.

As you can see in the photo above, the site is wind powered (and solar in the summer). It's a windy place, commonly the winds blow 67-80 miles per hour, with the maximum sustained winds of 125mph, and a maximum gust recorded at 165mph. The roof of the building is covered in solar pannels for those periods in the summer when the wind isn't blowing, and there are also 3 diesel generators for backup if all else fails.


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Technical Stuff

Black Island is the site for the 11 meter ground station for Intelsat 177, which connects us to an Alaskacom ground station in Brewster, Washington. The program buys a full T1 digital carrier from them, for about $800,000/year. That bandwidth is split up into several different uses. It provides about 12 voice circuits for phone lines (8 real trunks, 4 DID), a couple of dedicated 9600 baud data circuits, and about 600kbps of Internet connection, that is routed through NASA in California. There is also another 300kbps that is available for Internet connection when the video conferencing system is not in use. It uses a 6Ghz Uplink, and a 4Ghz Downlink.

The same satellite also happens to carry the Armed Forces Network, on the opposite polarization from the data circuit. They are able to use that to provide the three channels of TV to the station. They are fed back on 900Mhz STL's to McMurdo, and then put on the cable TV system.

Black Island is connected to McMurdo via, a 2 Ghz wide band Microwave link, with 4 T1's available. The first T1, is passed through to the satellite, two of the others provide local audio circuits (see below), and the last is a data connection for the equipment at Black Island to the station network.

One of the purposes of Black Island is to act as the primary HF receiver site.


In addition to the 8 receivers pictured here, there are 4 additional 'Cubic' receivers that were added for the Air Traffic Control. All of these HF Receivers are feed back on one of the T1's on the Microwave to the McMurdo Telephone Office and then distributed from there.


This is the first rack of ground station equipment. The left most cabinet is the control and monioring system. The second rack is ground station equipment of NASA's for the McMurdo Ground Station. They have a 7m dish, that communicates with TDRSS to relay the information from the ground station in town. The third and fourth racks are the actual ground station equipment for the T1. And the rightmost rack is mostly vacant, with some remote monitoring equipment inside.


Oposite the first row is this, which contains: Another NASA rack at the far left - microwave to McMurdo. Next is the 2 Ghz Microwave Radio for the USAP Microwave to McMurdo. Above the radio is a multiplex shelf. Below the radio is a jackfield, digital test set, and a remote weather monitoring system that reports back to town. Next rack to the right contains the ATT Paradyne Digital Muliplexes, with a jackfield, and E&M relays in between the two units. The leftmost rack contains the Television equipment. At the top are the three STL transmitters (905Mhz, 930Mhz, 955 Mhz). (Gold boxes mounted side by side). Below those are the four Satellite Receivers (3 TV channels, and one extra audio channel). There are a total of 3 audio only services that provide feeds to the two FM stations in town. At the bottom of the equipment are the 4 TV monitors for monitoring the Video feed.

Behind this rack is the HF Rack, and just to the left of the HF Receivers is a Marisat Ship telephone that was used before the T1 to the states existed, and currently provides a backup voice and teletype channel.

The facility has a very extensive PLC (Programable Logic Controller) that monitors all the conditions and opens vents, monitors batteries, monitors for battery gases, starts generators when needed, and any other housekeeping needed. All of it's functions are monitored and controllable from in town.


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2/5/99