World-first radio broadcast from the ice

Dr Karl (second left) broadcasting from Casey, with station chef Justin Chambers, Dr Cath King, and Sharon Labudda.
Dr Karl (second left) broadcasting from Casey, with station chef Justin Chambers, Dr Cath King, and Sharon Labudda. (Photo: Nisha Harris)
Behind the News team, Peter Curtis and Emma Davis standing on a rock overlooking a bay at Casey.

The world’s first ever talkback radio from Antarctica was hosted at Casey research station this summer, with science communicator Dr Karl Kruszelnicki heading south as part of the Australian Antarctic Division’s media program.

Dr Karl spent 11 days on the ice and hosted 13 half-hour live radio programs, crossing to ABC Cairns, Perth, Brisbane, Hobart, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sunshine Coast, regional Victoria, Triple J and the BBC.

Dr Karl said the marvel of modern technology ensured there was only a split-second delay in the broadcast.

“The sound goes from my microphone at Casey station into the internet, 36,000 kilometres up to the satellite, down from the satellite into Perth, but it doesn’t stop there,” Dr Karl said.

“It then goes through a specially encrypted tunnel across to Hobart, where it’s decrypted and then shot across to ABC master control in Sydney. From there it’s sent to the broadcast station we are talking to; how incredible is that?”

During his broadcasts Dr Karl fielded listener questions on all aspects of Antarctic science, with a little help from guest scientists Dr Ben Galton-Fenzi, Dr Cath King, Dr Dan Wilkins and Phoebe Lewis.

He also had some curly questions about the more mundane aspects of life on the ice, such as “do farts freeze?” He was able to answer these with some confidence, thanks to the assistance of Station Leader Chris MacMillian, Field Leader Sharon Labudda and Chef Justin Chambers.

Dr Karl’s enthusiasm for Antarctica and the expeditioners at Casey knew no bounds.

“Everyone working there for the Australian Antarctic Program, whether they were a dieso, plumber or doctor, seemed to have so many levels to them,” he said.

“Yes, they all are leaders in their specific field of work, but they also had a depth to their life experience and personality, which was quite profound.”

At the same time as Dr Karl’s visit, ABC TV’s Behind the News (BTN) Program was also at Casey, with journalist Emma Davis and cameraman Peter Curtis.

The BTN crew gathered a large number of television, print and digital stories, which have been broadcast to more than one million primary school children across Australia. They also filed several stories for ABC News.

Emma said it was the trip of a lifetime, with visits to the Shirley Island Adélie penguin colony, Vandeford Glacier and Robbo’s field hut.

“The Casey crew warmly welcomed us into their lives and made us feel part of the community, sharing their insights and love of Antarctica,” Emma said.

Nisha Harris
Media Manager, Australian Antarctic Division