Casey Station amateur radio
Amateur Radio is not used for anything these days. The hobby passed its peak in the late 1970s. It’s now a pastime that honours the pioneers of wireless communication. It is akin to vintage car collecting. There are some areas where interesting work carries on as in ionospheric studies, or using light as a transmitting medium, satellite projects and in communicating with extreme altitude amateur balloons.
In the United Kingdom I have the callsign G3WIP. In Australia I am VK4BGL, the last letters of the callsign I chose in honour of my school teacher Dom Wilfrid Solomm G3BGL. The Australian Communication and Media Authority licensed me as VK0GB for use in Antarctica.
Walking over to the remote receiver huts is a good and useful recreational trip for me, although a few days it has been pretty breezy. I prefer a 30 knot wind to mushy snow.
I thank Allan Cooney, our esteemed station leader, for enabling this exercise and thanks to Dave Davies, our communications officer, for showing me around the communications area and for taking me to the remote receiver hut in the first place. We worked out what I could do without compromising any of the high frequency (HF) kit that is still monitoring HF marine frequencies.
HF communication, let alone ham radio (amateur radio), is becoming increasingly redundant. Even ships use satellite kit for most of their communication, but they will still use VHF (Very High Frequency) for line of sight working and near ports. Similarly VHF is utilised here at Casey, using the marine bands. I suspect even that use will decline. Expeditioners will end up using use a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) application on their mobile phones connecting to a local WIFI network, or stations may even get their own cellular phone nodes one day.
I doubt that those scattered tall Vee antenna arrays that greet you on coming into stations will be standing there for very much longer, or their scale may be reduced to say one transmit/receiver hut and two antennas; all kept running as final backup should a solar flare rip out all the satellites. I am glad I was able to use the spare capacity of the large aerial farm that Casey still has.
HF communication is not reliable and the data rates are simply too slow for anything other than teletype. Choosing the right frequency to get signals to bounce around the world is complex and sometimes receiving is not possible. Prediction is made easier by radio and space weather prediction services, the best being http://www.ips.gov.au.
So far I have made contact with South African and Australian stations with my small Yeasu HF rig plugged into spare line fed Vee antenna. I heard UK stations and should make contact with them next week. The contacts made could hear the wind rattle my cage. On the calm days I hear the chatter of the penguins from Shirley Island, but at too low a level to be heard over the radio.
We are trying to set up an Antarctic amateur sked, an idea initiated by Lars DP06VN DL1LLL at Neumayer station. Not happened as yet. How are we communicating in the meantime? By email of course.
Gerry Bulger, VK0GB
Dr Gerard Bulger MBBS FRCGP FRACGP AMP Casey