So…What is it You’re Doing in Antarctica Anyway?

Mt Wellington – This morning at sunrise as I came back from my run…

I should probably have kept better track of the conversations and quizzing over the past three months but I think the order in which I usually got questioned about my upcoming trip runs as follows:

  • Q: Can you bring me back a penguin?
  • A: No
  • Q: You do realise it gets cold down there don’t you?
  • A: Yes
  • Q: You know you’re going to miss this job when you leave don’t you…
  • A: No
  • Q: What do Ellie and the boys think about you doing this?
  • A: You best ask them for a completely honest answer but they have told me that they’re behind my trip and to be honest are probably happy I’m not in the house being grumpy at having to do an office job….(I’ve never been a person for offices, they remove my ‘will to live’)
  • Q: What is it you’re doing down there?
  • A: Aha! I’ve finally got to the point at which I start writing about this posts actual topic….Yep, sorry, I get distracted easily…Ooh look, a squirrel….!

I’ll be overseeing the ‘communications’ systems whilst down South at Davis station, this means pretty much anything computer, telephone or radio related though there are other systems that we’ll support on site that are less generic.

The IT side of things are fairly simple, having worked in far bigger organisations with way bigger systems this is quite laid back, personally I would go as far as to say that the IT systems are not as important down there as the communications are…..OK I may get lynched if Facebook doesn’t work but that would likely come down to an issue with the Sat system rather than servers and switches.

Besides Facebook radio and sat systems provide our safety blanket whilst on the continent, you can’t just pick up a cell phone and dial triple zero or triple one down there, you can’t just sit and flag down a passing motorist to give you a lift back, you need specialist radio equipment, an understanding of how to use it and a planned schedule of communications back to the station that provides a ‘watch’ of your trips away – Likewise if you are in a life threatening situation you need a system where people understand the importance of your transmission and a format of comms that collects the information required to manage the emergency.

Having been a while since I really dealt with radio systems properly I asked to spend more time with them today, Shane, one of the guys training with me is in the same boat, mostly being IT people we need to hone our skills on the radio side of things. We are putting together some ‘boxes’ that will be used at remote outposts, these ‘boxes’ contain a number of different setups, VHF, HF, Iridium and Air band Radios – Just like in IT, we like to have resilience in ensuring that people have numerous options to get a call through in the event that there is a problem!

However, I should add that whilst comms is my primary role down there we all muck in and carry out other jobs, it’s not quite as straight forward in explaining what I’ll be doing down south but on the whole I will be doing the following: I will be fixing radios, replacing servers, updating routers, documenting systems, downloading TV shows, printing the daily newspapers, changing the printer cartridges, helping with cooking, assisting with science work, flying round in helicopters, sailing round on icebreaker ships, providing reports, scheduling workloads, ensuring there’s the correct staff are on site to cover all emergencies, being part of the fire response team, looking after the MP3 players, cleaning the toilets, upgrading anybody using windows Vista, being part of the search and rescue team, driving quad bikes to repair remote antennas, watching out for asbestos, not getting too close to upset penguins, building snowmen, taking photos, making videos, and generally mucking in with anything that I think I have the skillsets to provide a positive help to the small living community we have on base……In exactly the same way that the other staff down there will be doing the same.

I’ve no doubt this will be very varied from the description of my work down there should anyone ask me the same question in six months time!

4 thoughts on “So…What is it You’re Doing in Antarctica Anyway?

  1. bugger! you have a blog and didn’t let us know?!?!?!
    we’re watching you 🙂 and hope you’re gonna come out of this alright!!! (nothing frozen off …)

    • Don’t worry, you haven’t missed much, I only started it the other week, still in training anyway so the interesting stuff is still to come.

      For now I’ll just keep learning WordPress…We all know what I’m like with technology, this could take years 🙂

      • needs more pictures of you – that puzzled look on your face with the blue coat(?) on was priceless!

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