Blogging with Marie in Miller Range. (Jani photo)
Equipment for composing and uploading weblogs. (Jani photo)
Blogging from Beardmore.
Blogging from the field: How did we do that?
January 24, 2006
I havenít yet explained how we managed to produce this weblog from one of the most remote places on Earth, where there was no central electricity and the temperature never even got UP TO freezing temperature. Not only is it a harsh environment for humans, but Antarctica is tough on electronic equipment. Take our walkie-talkies. Please, take them! Okay, thatís not entirely fair. The walkie-talkies we were issued in McMurdo were made as a side project in Marconiís garage using stone tools and bear skins. So one might expect them to be a bit worn out by now. But I digressÖ
I composed most of the weblog text using MS-Word on either an HP iPAQ hx4700 pocket PC with a Stowaway Universal Bluetooth (wireless) Keyboard, or a Sony Vaio VGN-TX670P notebook computer. I typed a few entries from handwritten submissions by other team members, and loaned the pocket PC and keyboard to others a few times. Ben, Oz, and Mike R. used their own notebook computers to compose their entries, and Mary Sue used a facility computer in McMurdo. Files and images were transferred between machines and cameras using a variety of media including SD, xD, and compact flash cards, USB connections, and flash memory drives.
My images were obtained with an Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom digital camera. All images posted on the weblog are mine, unless otherwise noted in the photo captions. Images contributed by other team members were captured using a variety of digital cameras.
Weblog entries were uploaded from the HP pocket PC connected to a Motorola 9500 Iridium satellite phone. The pocket PC was equipped with Contact 3 software from HumanEdgeTech.com, which facilitated communication between the PC, the Iridium satellite network, and the website on which the weblog resides. Human Edge Tech stores the weblog on their system. The official ANSMET website, maintained by Ralph at Case Western Reserve University, has a link to the weblog. At Georgia Southern University we actually capture the text and images from the Human Edge Tech site. This provides a backup of the weblog and allows us to preserve the material for as long we like.
My camera batteries, the HP pocket PC, and the Iridium phone were recharged using a 20-watt PowerFilm rollable solar panel hung on the outside of our tent. The camp had power system consisting of rigid solar panels, a wind generator, high-capacity batteries, and a DC to AC transformer. This system was used primarily to power the teamís high-frequency radio (used to communicate a daily safety check and occasional flight operations with McMurdo), and to recharge GPS units and computers to manage GPS data. Fortunately, there was an excess of power generated by the solar panels and the wind generator. So we were able to run a spare extension cord from Ralph/Mike R./Benís tent to our tent. We mainly used the 110-volt AC power to charge our computers and MP3 players, but it was a handy backup for other devices on cloudy days.
The time it took to upload weblog entries over the Iridium satellite phone varied quite a bit. If the weblog entry was text only, it usually took less than 2 minutes to upload the file. Adding images increased the upload time considerably. A weblog entry with just two 50-70 kilobyte images could take as long as 15 minutes. Using an administrator account, I can update the weblog directly over the internet. At McMurdo Station, where there are high-speed internet connections I was able to upload larger images straight from my Sony notebook.
The Iridium network allows a customer to receive text messages from senders at no cost. A sender has to login to the Iridium website and enter the customerís phone number to send a text message. Each message is limited to 160 characters, and special symbols are not allowed. This is how student and teacher questions were sent to me in the field. Due to the character limit, some questions had to be rephrased, and duplicate or similar questions were often combined into one submission before being sent.
1. Showing Marie how to transmit a weblog entry she and Jani composed.
2. A close-up of some equipment used to produce the weblog. On the left is the Iridium phone on its tripod stand. The phone is connected to the HP pocket PC while the weblog entry is transmitted to the website. In the background is the Sony VAIO notebook being used for image processing.
3. Blogging from Beardmore while waiting for the C-130 Hercules to arrive. There was time after striking camp and securing cargo to edit photos and submit a weblog entry. My snowmobile provided a comfortable seat and a little desk space from which to transmit.