Each of us in the Communication team works 2 shifts a day in the tower. Today for example I worked the morning shift with Pete and the afternoon shift with Crispin then Callum and Crispin took over for the evening shift and Pete had “second night gash” in the evening.
A typical shift in the tower will involve flight following and base radio communications.
The computer on the left is used for AFTN flight planning. This is where we submit the AFTN flight plan intentions and update departure and arrival times for each flight. Next week we will be changing to the AFPEX web-based flight planning application https://ts1.flightplanningonline.co.uk/ instead of the UDP based installed Copperchase AFTN client software. This will make the client PC easier to administer and eliminate the need for a dedicated established network link through to Swanick NATS centre.
Also on the left side of the desk are our antenna choosers and rotator.
We have 4 HF antennas. A North-South, an East-West, a Rotatable log periodic and an emergency HF. The emergency antenna is connected directly to our batter powered iCOM ic- 78 which we only use during power downs. The other 3 antenna we can switch between our 3 HF transmitters.
The main console of the desk has our 2 skanti HF sets and the marine and aero VHF units.
The right hand side PC we use to pickup weather observations from the internet and
On the right corner of the desk we have our Iridium and Cisco VOIP phones.
A few weeks ago Karen gave me a tour of the communications bench in the electronics workshop, so I got to see some of the HF radio equipment that I will be working with in the tower at Rothera. This week I have been reading the operation manuals for some of HF radios used at Rothera. I will receive further specific training on using the tower radios with the programmed channels when I arrive at the base. This week I am just learning the basic generic operations of the radios.
I am expecting the HF radios in the tower at Rothera to be busy this summer. They are used for flight-following operations, contacting SkyBlu (SBR) and Fossil Bluff (KG) for meteorology reports, contacting field parties, tractor traverse teams and providing a SAR watch.
Meet the HF Skanti TRP 8250-S
The main HF radios in the tower are Skanti TRP 8250-S radios. I really like the look of these radios. The control panel layout is uncluttered, spacious and generous and both the TX and RX frequencies are always displayed. Modern radio interface designers could look and learn.
I have been reading the 02_OPERATION. I have found this video of the radio in operation useful and the guy is actual a bit of a comedian.
These radios will be used for flight following. The approach sheet for pilots using Rothera airfield provides the HF contact frequencies which are 5080KHz USB, 7775KHz USB and 9106KHz USB. No doubt these frequencies will have been assigned fast recall numbers.
Meet the ICOM IC-78
This radio is used by SkyBlu and Fossil Bluff stations. It is probably too high powered for field party use. The ICOM IC-78 Instruction Manual, is an easy read, the manual is delightfully well written and concise.
This radio has 99 channels to which commonly used frequencies can be assigned. So the first thing I will want to do when I meet this radio is look through the channels to see what frequencies have been assigned to the channels on my new friend.
There a three ways to scroll through the channels, rotating that large dial, pressing the up or down arrow keys or typing channel numbers into the keypad. But this won’t show me the assigned frequency as I scroll through I will only see the descriptive name assigned when the channel was programmed. To see the frequency is assigned to each channel as I scroll through I can press the FC button to see the frequency and if it is duplex number pressing TXF will display the transmission frequency.
To get even better acquainted with the IC-78 in Rothera I will then probably want to look through the setup options that have been configured on my friend. To enter setup mode I will need to press setup, then use the arrow keys to scroll through options, then within an option the large dial could be used to change a setting. So if I only touch the set button and arrow keys and be sure not to touch the dial then I can look through the setup configuration.
Meet the CODAN 2110
This radio is used by science field parties. It is a 25 watt field radio that can be carried in a manpack.
September has been a rather extravagant month long pre-deployment shopping spree. This week I have been looking for a watch and this got me thinking about time zones and how many I may need to keep track of.
Most of the communications will be scheduled and conducted on UTC. Rothera station local time is UTC-3 and there is no daylight savings changes. Punta Arenas will be on Chile Standard Time CLT (UTC-4) during winter and change to Chile Summer Time CLST ( UTC-3) for the summer. Faulkland Islands time is as clear as mud. And the local time zones will be many and varies for the field parties and other Antarctic stations that I will talk to on the HF and satellite links.
As the diameter of the earth decreases towards the poles, local time-zones boundaries become increasingly compressed and meaningless. Field parties will report their local time using the military names based on the phonetic alphabet Alpha to Zulu. Every letter of the alphabet is used except Juliet(poor Juliet), so this conveniently makes 24 time zone names. Zulu is UTC/GMT, Alpha is UTC+1, Bravo is UTC+2 ….and so on except Juliet is skipped so Kilo is UTC+10, November is UTC-1 , Oscar is UTC-2, Yankee is UTC-12.
Rothera station local time is Papa time (UTC-3). Halley station local time is Zulu time (GMT). All flying operations will operate on Zulu time (UTC). The UK of course will be Zulu time in winter and Alpha time in summer.
The field parties kit will include a printed schedule of SW broadcast radio stations to listen to news and music. Because of the mulitplicity of time zones in Antarctica the schedule lists the broadcast times Zulu (UTC) times. Usefully their are a number of Time Signal Station that broadcast the current UTC time and helpful information about atmospheric and propagation conditions to help find available broadcast frequencies. These time signal broadcast are made on 2500, 5000, 10000, 15000 & 20000kHz so they are easy to remember.
So my impossible requirements list for a watch are:
– Ideally will be orange in colour and not too macho or big and bulky
– It should be waterproof, reliable and have a long battery life
– It should show UTC in a large digital display in a 24h format
– It should also show the local Papa time ideally on a traditional 2-hand 12h format
– I like to wear a clip-on Suunto compass on my watch band so I would like this to fit on the band
– Some kind of bevel swivel ring to translate from military time zone names to UTC would be a nice to have.
I am looking for recommendations, so please do let me know if you have a watch that you are happy with that does these sorts of things .