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12 November, 2003

South Pole, South Pole, South Pole...

Temperature: 20*F

Location: Ice Shelf off McMurdo Sound

Everyone "survived" the night on the ice shelf quite comfortably! I enjoyed my stay in the snow trench. I had left one end of it uncovered so I could look out at the fantastic Antarctic scenery. It was odd to have the sun shining every time I looked around! My favorite part was noticing the silence when the wind stopped blowing. It was the quietest time I have ever experienced. Yet, when I looked out of my shelter, there was Mount Erebus chugging away! It was baffling to be in silence with a volcano churning away right beside me. An eeriness was also added by the extinct volcano's Mt. Terror and Mt. Terra Nova; I wondered for how long they had been silent.

Once everyone had breakfast, we broke down the camp and our instructors taught us how to use the communications systems in Antarctica. Each team is issued several radios, and everyone needs to know how to use them.

The VHF radios function on "very high frequency". These are hand held radios that operate on a "line of sight" basis. If each person is within visual contact of each other (and are on the same frequency), the team can communicate freely. Once out of sight however, the signal is lost - unless there is a "repeater" in sight. A repeater is a devise that transmits the signal to another location. There are several "repeaters" located on mountain tops throughout the region to help relay communications from one place to another. We learned which mountains have the repeaters so that we could point our radios towards them if needed.

The HF radios are bigger, bulkier radios that operate on "high frequency". These are not hand held radios. These radios bounce signals off the ionosphere to transmit them from one place to another. The recent solar flares have caused some serious distortion and interruptions of the signals. This makes communications here difficult, and life just a bit more dangerous! We each practiced calling on both types of radios. I called South Pole station to test my skills at the HF radio. So, today I talked to South Pole!

When we returned to McMurdo, I had to hurry and pack all my bags and deliver them to the helicopter landing pad. I am scheduled for a 9:00 am flight to the Dry Valleys! Having the time of my life!

1) The mountaineering tents set up at "happy camper school."

2) The Scott tent, snow wall, and ice axes at "happy camper school."

3) Calling South Pole Station.

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