The compact hardware solution for emails and dispatches.
The interface for Contact software is very simple.
How do I communicate?
October 15, 2007 - Day 98 9.3262N,152.0514W
I make phone calls, I write emails and I post dispatches with images. I could even post video and sound recordings if I had the bandwidth. How does it all work?
When I was looking for an expedition solution early on, I thought that I would have to use a laptop with a satellite phone. I can't use my new laptop out here anyway, since the its Vista operating system on it doesn't recognize my Iridium satellite phone... I instead have a very compact, light weight solution for my communication needs.
What I found after some research was a one stop online shop called HumanEdgeTech, where expedition hardware and software were readily available. I could buy these as a kit, I could mix and match, I could buy spare cables and batteries, just in case. They had kits for polar expeditions, mountaineers, oceans. Depending on the coverage area, one could choose between satellite phones or modems, pay by the minute, or by the megabyte. You get the idea.
The helpful staff was a bonus when I had technology questions. This was important because I was going to rely on their support in remote corners of the world. I was especially attracted to their Contact software which streamlined the dispatch process, essentially turning an expedition journal into a blog.
In my travels before the summer of 2005, I always had to find a computer with internet access to format and code the new dispatches myself. This was inconvenient to say the least. When I could not find a computer, there would be no new dispatches. For example when we were on Denali in May 2003, no one heard from us until I was off the mountain!
In the summer of 2005, we worked together with the HumanEdgeTech staff to revamp our dispatch mechanism, to take advantage of the Contact software. Once the template was done, all I had to do was to start submitting the dispatches on a PDA linked by a satellite phone.
The Contact software requires me to enter a dispatch title, its content, the date, my position, up to three pictures and one video and one voice file each with their respective captions. I reduce the pictures to 300 pixel width and 70% quality ahead of time to make the file size smaller. Then I click SUBMIT. That's it!
The dispatch is posted, always properly formatted in the way that you have enjoyed until now. I do no coding except to enter occasional URL's. The position information I provide is plotted under the MAP button on the top corner of this page. Note that the ORS MAP button will take you to a daily plot of ARGOS beacon data, transmitted without my intervention from my boat.
The hardware consists of a PDA with the image editing and Contact software, its connection cable for an Iridium satellite phone, the phone itself, and the charging adapters for a 12-Volt cigarette lighter jack. My camera uses an SD card card for storage, so I can plug that in the PDA to easily process the images. My boat has rigid solar panels on top of the cabin which trickle charge two marine gel batteries, which in turn power the 12-Volt electrical system on the boat. On cloudy days, I can roll out additional flexible panels to increase the surface area.
I might as well be an astronaut for I have not seen a ship since my encounter with Varamo from Limassol. Yet as if it were magic, from the middle of an ocean, almost 100 days out, at least that many more to go, I can remain connected. I can call family and sponsors, hold a conference for students in schools supported by the İLKYAR Foundation in Turkey, and participate in the educational program that our partners listed in the left margin are spearheading.
When you get a chance, please visit National Museum of Education (NMoE), WhaleNet and Northwest Invention Center to learn about these fine educational institutions. Contacting NMoE directly will unlock many possibilities to support our collaborative educational efforts.