KC4/WB9YSD Antarctic DXpedition at WAIS Divide
Hello, I'm Steve Polishinski, WB9YSD, and I work at the University of
Madison, Space Science
and Engineering Center (SSEC). This year (2010) and last year I was
fortunate enough to get a chance to go to Antarctica with the ice core drilling
equipment I've been working on and shipping off to the ice for the past
several years. You can read a summary and see some pictures of
the equipment on the SSEC
I hope to
be able update this web page from Antarctica, so it is very simple. The
Internet connection is slow (38 KBaud) via GOES 3 and is only present
for about 4
hours a day. It is also shared with about three dozen other
people. Last year I was only able to get this web page updated by
sending email to my wife Barbara, N9JAR. This year, I configured
my server to update this web page automagically using only email.
This web page caters to family, Amateur Radio (Ham) operators, friends,
and students, so please understand as I try to address all audience
levels at once.
WAIS Divide Site
The site where we are drilling at is on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
Divide, or WAIS for short. It is pronounced like "waist" without
the "t." It is located at longitude 112.085 W and latitude 79.467
S. The WAIS
Divide Wikipedia page gives more details and explains why this site
was selected for our drilling.
The purpose of drilling ice cores at WAIS is to study the earth's past
climate records going back nearly 100,000 years. In very
elementary terms, the ice cores contain layers, trapped gases, and
trace elements which very accurately reveal the past climate.
IANACS (I am not a climate scientist), so please visit the web site at University of New
Hampshire for more details.
The Antarctic Sun is a
wonderful daily site to watch for all things happening with the US
It is impossible for me to go to Antarctica without taking my
Amateur Radio equipment! In theory, I have about an hour a day
for ham radio, if I'm lucky. That doesn't mean I'll be on the
ham radio everyday. Emailing home, washing
clothes, or shoveling about my tent all take up my "free"
time. The work week on the ice is 54 hours long; 9 hour days, 6
week. We get off on Sunday, though we are expected to do some
cleaning or maintaining equipment.
Ham Radio has a long tradition in Antarctica. Here is Charles
Bentley, our PI operating
station in the late 1950's. He is visited
WAIS in 2009! Before satellites, Ham Radio and phone patches were
the only way
people could communicate back home to family. Today we have
satellite cell phones.
My radio is an ICOM
IC-7000 with an IT-100 auto antenna tuner. A Dentron
Monitor (manual) antenna tuner is my backup.
My ham shack at WAIS is my tent!
is from two 12 Volt, 17 Amp/Hr gel cell batteries. Though we have
120VAC electric and
heated tent "buildings" at WAIS, the practical aspect of trying to
from these "buildings" is a 20 over S9 noise level! My tent has
incredibly LOW noise floor for reception. It is not uncommon for
me to comfortably be able to receive state-side 40 meter SSB round
tables. No signal level on the meter, even with the pre-amp on,
but 100% copy. The other issue with operation in the "buildings"
is simply antenna placement. There isn't a good place to put an
antenna near these buildings, as snow removal equipment requires 360
access. The power lines are on over head poles.
My antenna is an 80 meter dipole fed with ~ 95 feet of 450 ohm ladder
line. A 4:1 balun and 3 foot piece of coax completes the path to
the IT-100 tuner. For antenna supports, bamboo flag poles
keep the antenna off and out of the snow. Sitting on
top of an ice sheet
is almost like being on top of a tower to begin with, as earth ground
doesn't exist. Ice is an electrical dielectric,
see would be a 1/4 wavelength counter poise wire. So far, I
haven't noticed "RF" in the shack, so I have no counter poise yet.
wire several feet above the
ice & snow simply avoids issues with having to dig up the antenna
at the end of the season. The snow here packs like very hard
brown sugar! The wire cannot
be left since that would violate international treaties about leaving
the environment in Antarctica as you found it. There's also some
detuning effects as the snow drifts in about the wire that go away when
mounted only a few feet above the snow, but that wouldn't matter this
year with my auto antenna tuner. The ice will effect the angle of
radiation of the
antenna negatively, as I believe it will raise it which is not
working off the continent.
My Ham Radio Schedule
Subject to change, my work schedule is 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM, or 18:00 Z
to 2:30 Z, Monday through Saturday. The US Antarctic Program
operates on NZ time (Christchurch). The weird polar propagation
also effects my time of operation as well. In 2009, and so far
this year, it seems the best propagation occurs when the grey-line gets
closest to me. Again, following last year, 40 meters is the best
band to use. 20 meters is very much in second place as a viable
band. Remember, WAIS has 24 hour sun light. So 80 meters
has too much D-layer to penetrate just to get off the continent.
PLEASE DO NOT ASK FOR A SKED --
all requests will be ignored. Emails to my ARRL address will NOT
be checked from the ice! Ham radio is NOT my primary mission, it
is a hobby. I'll operate as I can. No promises.
At McMurdo, Nov 20th to Dec 2nd, I operated KC4USV. I was on during
the CQ WW CW contest and made a whole whopping 85 contacts. This
was while using a TH-7 beam antenna and about 700 watts from an
amp. Called CQ for hours.
Remaining Calendar Schedule for 2010
Again, schedules in Antarctica are always subject to change.
* Arrived WAIS Divide Dec 02 -- TWO WEEKS LATE, and
flight delayed over 6 hours!
* Dec 19th - KC4/WB9YSD active at WAIS
* ... future guesses
* Jan 24th, 2011 - KC4/WB9YSD last day of operation??
* Jan 26th, 2011 Arrive McMurdo, possible KC4USV
* Arrive Christchurch, New Zealand, Jan 29, 2011
Pictures and Stuff
2010-2011 Pictures are being posted here
captions, however I'll try to be adding pages with captions here from
WAIS. All of the 2009-2010 pictures (those pictures not in the
"2010" directory) are reachable with the link just given, but if you
use the links below, you'll see the same pictures with captions.
below this point is from 2009-2010 season, but mostly applies to
2010-2011 as well.....
Here's some "sights" of McMurdo Station.
Here's pictures of KC4USV, the
ham station at McMurdo.
(From 2009) We are FINALLY getting some of our people
into WAIS! Today the first crew left for there. I'm
waiting until probably Monday, the 30th, but who knows!
2nd, 2010, Saturday
from WAIS (last season).
Well, I've been at WAIS for near a month. Internet is very poor,
with email about all I can count on. Getting this web site updated
meant sending pictures out with people leaving WAIS.
I've managed to get my ham station up and running with a 40 and 20
meter dipole FROM MY TENT WITH BATTERY POWER. Operation
from the a building at WAIS was tried, but quickly determined to be
very difficult. First, there's no place
to put my antenna about any of the heated buildings, as for the most
part 360 access for heavy machinery about all the buildings is
required. The batteries came from 3 computer UPSs that one
of the professors used down here last year. The UPSs were used
for a few months, then stored in heated facilities in McMurdo. He
had the battteries replaced because it
was unclear if they'd be good. They are fine. So I have SIX
Ampere hour batteries that I've been running in pairs. After
using one pair for a day or two, I bring it in to be charged. My
"solar oven" tent keeps temps above about 20F, and during the warmest
part of the day it can reach into the 50s,
mostly keeping the batteries in OK shape. So far, my
contact total is at a screaming 10 or so. KC4/WB9YSD? That
must be someone from Florida.
Here a bunch of pictures with captions detailing what we've been doing
for the last month at McMurdo and then WAIS Divide.
A hike about McMurdo.
My flight to WAIS, and some other ski plane flights into and out of WAIS.
Here we are getting ready to
The first ice core this season.
My tent. (Sorry, this was before
I got the ham radio setup there so no pictures of it yet.)
A bunch of pictures describing the DISC Drill.
People I'm working with at WAIS.
The Ram Drill, which deployed out of WAIS.