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5 September, 2004

Keeping Connected

One of the more important aspects of this expedition - aside from getting core! - has been communication. Communication here on ACEX takes many forms: phone calls within the expedition, phone calls to and from the outside world, computer databases, and the all important e-mail. E-mail is important not only for relaying scientific data to each other aboard the three ships, but for keeping in touch with families and friends back home. Being this high in the Arctic presents some unique communication problems such as a limited bandwidth; things we take for granted back home, instantaneous e-mail and the internet, for instance, have become a thing of the past.

Our basic phone communication is by Ericsson mobile phone. Ericsson Response has provided the equipment for all members of ACEX to stay in 24 hour contact at no charge to the expedition. The mobile phones given out for use are water, dust and shock resistant. To emphasize the water resistant characteristic, one was immersed in a bowl of water with no adverse effects. I can personally attest that the phones are shock-resistant as I dropped my phone the other day and it bounced down 4 flights of stairs to come to rest 2 decks below - no problem!

Ingemar Pomlin is the Ericsson representative for the project and was kind enough to show the workings of the phone system to my fellow teacher, Erik, and me recently. We visited the Ericsson container outside on deck 4 that holds all of the electronics in a temperature-controlled environment. We then ventured up above the bridge deck to see the two mobile phone antennas, one for transmitting, one for receiving, and lastly located the 9 indoor antennas located throughout the 6 decks. The system has the capability to transmit 35 km in any direction, which is more than sufficient to cover the distance between the three ships at any time and the distance that the helicopters venture out from the ships. While on the outer uppermost deck we also popped into the satellite container to see the hook-up to the Iridium satellite network. The door to this container is a bit tough to open from the outside and requires some strength. We found out that it was a bit challenging to open from inside as well, and Erik, Ingemar and I almost got stuck in there. At least we all had our Ericsson phones should we need to call for help; fortunately we escaped on our own.

Iridium satellite phone is our other phone communication system and the primary phone is located on the bridge. This phone allows people to send and receive voice calls, and allows the Information Officers and scientists to speak to the press to relay our successes. Later this week I hope to use this hook-up to parcticipate in a teleconference with my class back at Narragansett Pier Middle School. Students will be able to ask questions of me, the scientists, any of the personnel aboard the ship. This will be my first experience with my new team of seventh-graders and I am looking forward to it greatly.

To send e-mail is quite a bit trickier than back home. All outgoing e-mails are sent to Per Frejvall, the Information Technology officer, and forwarded via Iridium to the ship owner's mail servers. From there they are sent on to the intended recipient. Incoming e-mail goes first to the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat Office in Stockholm, is then sent to the ship owner's mail server and IT picks it up there via Iridium. As of September 5th some 1730 outgoing and 2670 incoming e-mails had been processed on the Oden. To try to curtail some unnecessary e-mail use the people recently published a list of the top-20 e-mail users. I was very close to the top of the list, mainly due to sending journal entries and photos to this site. I wasn't surprised to see my name there, but I was disappointed that there was no prize for "making the list". Despite some light-hearted kidding about my e-mail use I will continue to send journals and photos to keep you up-to-date with happenings on the Oden.

Ingemar Pomlin outside the Ericsson Response container.

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