This week at Macquarie Island: 12 July 2019

The joy of monitoring modern technology

Macca's link to the world

There is a single Communications Technical Officer here on Macquarie Island, and I (in this case) make sure all the communications systems on the station are working correctly. I have eyes and ears everywhere, and if the telephone, internet, any of the many other related apps on mobile phones, computer or devices. are not working correctly, others will let me know fairly quickly.

I get off station and during these times (and on other occasions when I require assistance), I have a very capable assistant (Kat, our station leader), who does a brilliant job in my absence. I think she wants my job.

Generally, first up in the morning, I do the rounds of the different areas around the station and check lots of different monitoring screens to verify if everything is operating correctly. If there are any issues, I try to get these sorted out before it impacts others on the station or those at a remote destination.

One of the beauties about the job is that every day is different, and one never knows what the priority for the day may be. There are daily routines like the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency radiation monitoring filter change, which is a shared activity between the station leader and myself, where we process the collection of airborne particles in the atmosphere. These collections occur every 24 hours.

Magnetic observations are carried out every week, and the readings we measure are used to calibrate the automated equipment on the station. At present these absolute magnetic readings are carried out in two different locations. The second location is around Razorback Ridge, located further down the Island, but still within the station limits area. This system was set up last summer an is in preparation for when the work on the new station commences, as at that time the existing magnet measurement and observation area will be decommissioned.

Most of the other monitoring around station operates automatically (i.e., seismic, tide gauges, ARPANSA UV monitoring, GPS, etc.), and if there is an issue with any of these systems, we generally hear about it from the relevant department via an e-mail and phone call. From there, we investigate the issue.

The variety of communication equipment around the station varies from the satellite system, mobile phone system, VOIP and analog phone system, IT system, radio systems, and all the fibre and cable interconnect systems and the associated equipment which links everything together. Further down the Island we have radios and satellite phones at all the field huts, and there are also radio repeaters located at specific locations, on high points around the island, so that we have coverage into all areas while walking around the island.

Preventative and corrective maintenance and fault repair as required is regularly carried out on all equipment falling under the comms umbrella.

It is not all work, as we have the advantage of being able to go to some of the higher points around the island, and observe some stunning landscapes (providing we have good weather at the time).

Recently I went for a day walk to Mt Elder to carry out the normal maintenance, routine checks, and repairs at this site. Generally, this area is in the cloud, but I happened to pick a good clear day for the outing, so had good views back over the plateau and along a small section of the east coast.

I have now visited all of the repeater sites on the island, and hopefully, when I re-visit the other sites, I will be blessed with similar weather conditions.

Doug, Station Communications Technical Officer

A man crouches next to a computer server housed in a small hut
Doug checking the repeater hut equipment
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
A man stands next to a small green circular hut with solar panels on the outside. The hut is on a snow covered plateau
Doug checking the solar panels on the outside of the repeater hut…
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
A vast plateau with a dusting of snow, blue sky and clouds
Looking west from Mt Elder over the snow dusted plateau
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
a small green tubular hut stands next to a satellite tower on top of a snow dusted plateau
The Mt Elder repeater site
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
a snow dusted ridge with a view of the southern ocean in the distance
View from Mt Elder looking back towards station
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
a rocky outcrop called the Nuggets is viewed from the top of a dust covered ridge with the Southern ocean to the horizon
The Nuggets as seen from Mt Elder
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
a view of a snow dusted plateau with a narrow view of an Isthmus and a research station with a headland and Southern ocean in the distance
On the way home...can you spot the station?
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)