Terry's Field Journal: (c) Terry Trimingham March 28-April 2, 1995

Tuesday was another lovely day. I went to work at 0730, but only stayed long enough to check and see everything was OK I had been asked to monitor the radios for a traverse that was going to Black Island. Here is some interesting information I recently saw about Black Island:

"The Black Island Telecommunications Facility is a remote unattended site which provides the buildings, power, environment and communications equipment required to support communications within the Antarctic continent USAP sites and communications between McMurdo station and both the Continental United States and New Zealand. The site also provides a vantage point to receive HF aircraft and marine communications. Black Island is located approximately 23 miles southeast of McMurdo in the Ross Ice Shelf, with a site elevation of 157.769 meters. Black Island was so named for its color, which occurs due to the perpetual high winds blowing the snow off the island."

Even though it is only 23 miles away, to get there with supplies you have to take a road that goes around the back side of the island, and that totals up to 70 miles! It takes the big vehicles and bulldozers about 7 to 8 hours to make the trip. The traverse party calls in once an hour on VHF radio to say all is well. When they go around the back side they enter a "dead zone" where VHF doesn't work very well. If there is a problem they carry an HF radio to call South Pole on. I was asked to monitor the radios as I know how all the equipment works and there is both VHF and HF in the radio room where I worked last summer. (The radio room is referred to as the FOCC - Field Operation Communications Center.) The traverse took 7 hours to get to Black Island. They decided to stay overnight and return the next day.

After work I went to the beginner Spanish class. It was meeting in the coffee house. The coffee house used to be in a different building over the summer, but in winter they moved it to where we used to have the non- smoking bar. You can get coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or Irish coffee, coffee and Baileys, etc. People hadn't been going there much, and if business didn't improve the was a danger that it would be closed. So we decided to meet there. Quite a few people showed up. It is kind of hap-hazard in terms of organization...there is no lesson plan or textbooks. Everyone is keen to learn though, and there is a lot of good effort! I used to be very fluent in Spanish, but now I cannot explain many of the rules anymore. I know certain things sound wrong, but struggle to say WHY. I don't think I remember enough to be a teacher, and the class is VERY beginner, so perhaps this is not going to be something which will work out for me. It was a lot of fun though, and it seems that everyone learned something, including me!

The tricks of April Fools Day started out in the galley at breakfast. The staff had switched things all around: forks were where spoons normally are, the bowls were where the glasses usually go. The fry cook had a sign that said "due to the Antarctic Treaty he couldn't serve eggs that day". He received a lot of protests from disgruntled customers until he explained slowly about "every APRIL FIRST, due to the treaty..." and then folks caught on. They even had a bucket of water at the scullery and a sign saying "Wash Your Own Dishes". I hadn't noticed it, but all the doors coming into the dining area had arrows pointing other directions saying "Use Other Door". It was something to wake you up!

Fortunately I did not suffer through any other pranks as I went to the radios again to monitor the return of the Black Island traverse.

Saturday night I went to the coffee house to see "Scent of a Woman" for movie night. Every week the Chapel sponsors a movie on a big screen. It had been shown in the Chapel, but they secured the water in there, so it became better to use the coffee house where there are toilets, not to mention a great popcorn machine!

Sunday a friend walked with me to the ham shack and we turned on the radio there. I didn't transmit but instead dialed around, listened, and got familiar with the equipment. (I don't want to break anything!) I decided to read more about the amplifier before doing anything. It was fun though, and I am going to make it a point to go up there on Sundays if the weather is too marginal to go out hiking. My ham license has only been gathering dust recently, so this will be fun.

Copyright (c)1995 Terry Trimingham. This information may be redistributed online for education projects as long as this copyright notice is included. Permission to use this material in print or for commercial purposes must be obtained in writing prior to use from the author.