Thursday, June 18, 2015

More Personal mid-winter greetings for Antarctica (update)

The longest night is nearly upon us. No that is not a mistake, providing you live in Antarctica that is.

Not many people know that each year, on this longest day for us, the BBC World Service fires up four shortwave transmitters for a special 30 minute broadcast specifically for those on Halley VI, the British Antarctic Survey's movable base down there.

How many potential listeners to the broadcast? About 44 if we can trust Wikipedia and the British Antarctic own site.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Commissioner for the British Antarctic Territory, Dr Peter Hayes, have sent messages of support.

In her own message to staff BAS Director, Jane Francis, said:

“I’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to every one of you for all your hard work down south. You are all vital to the science that helps understand that amazing continent. You are part of an exceptional team of scientists and logistics people that make work in Antarctica a great adventure – and a safe one too.”

BAS has four stations which it operates over the winter months; Bird Island, Kind Edward Point, Rothera and Halley VI. There are currently 44 staff based at these stations. They include scientists, electricians, plumbers, chefs and doctors.  
The show consists of music requests and special messages to the team recorded in Cambridge by the RAS team back home. Reminds me of Two Way Family Favorites on Radio 2. My son would probably describe it as narrated spotify. 

If you still have a shortwave receiver that works, here are the details you are going to need.

From us to 44 of you, via BBC World Service
After a test on Friday 19th June, the frequencies have been finalised. The special broadcast goes out once on Sunday June 21st 2015 from 21:30-21:45 UTC on the following frequencies:
  • 5,905 kHz, from a transmitter site at Dhabayya, UAE, beam: 203 degrees
  • 5,985 kHz, from a transmitter site at Woofferton, UK beam: 184 degrees
  • 9,590 kHz, from a transmitter site at Woofferton, UK beam: 182 degrees
If you don't have a shortwave radio, you can access one on line which has been set up by the University of Twente in Enschede.

the shortwave radio in Twente

What to look for

This is what the broadcast sounded like in 2014 via Ascension Island, as recorded by Domenik for Note that the first couple of sentences were missing from the broadcast.

Halley VI Research Station is the first fully re-locatable research station in the world. It was commissioned in 2006 and its unique and innovative structure was the result of an international design competition in collaboration with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The state-of-the-art research facility is segmented into eight modules, each sitting atop ski-fitted, hydraulic legs. These can be individually raised to overcome snow accumulation and each module towed independently to a new location.

The station took four years to build and delivered its first scientific data in 2012. Its iconic design houses a cutting-edge science platform and modern, comfortable accommodation.

The central red module contains the communal areas for dining, relaxation etc., while the blue modules provide accommodation, laboratories, offices, generators, an observation platform and many other facilities. Remote scientific equipment, set up for long-term monitoring, is housed in a number of cabooses around the perimeter of the site, which also contains numerous aerials and arrays for studying atmospheric conditions and space weather (i.e. the ionosphere and plasma physics)

Approximately 1.2 m of snow accumulate each year on the Brunt Ice Shelf and buildings on the surface become covered and eventually crushed by snow. This part of the ice shelf is also moving westward by approximately 700m per year.

There have been six Halley bases built so far. The first four were all buried by snow accumulation and crushed until they were uninhabitable. Various construction methods were tried, from unprotected wooden huts to steel tunnels. Halley V had the main buildings built on steel platforms that were raised annually to keep them above the snow surface. However, as the station’s legs were fixed in the ice it could not be moved and its occupation became precarious, having flowed too far from the mainland to a position at risk of calving as in iceberg.

View from inside the Halley VI research station

One of the reasons for the location of Halley is that it is under the auroral oval, resulting in frequent displays of the Aurora Australis overhead. These are easiest to see during the 105 days when the sun does not rise above the horizon. Thanks to Thomas Witherspoon for the schedule details.
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