Communications

The round panelled dome of the ANARESAT at Casey tethered to the ground
Casey ANARESAT dome
A communications officer operates the radio at Macquarie Island in 1948

Keeping in contact with family and friends back home is as easy as picking up the phone or sending an email.

For expeditioners, being able to maintain contact with family and friends is one of the most important aids to maintaining morale.

But it is not just family and friends with whom expeditioners maintain contact. The same communications services allow scientists to remain in contact with their research institutions to transfer data or to swap ideas.

Expeditioners can use the web to obtain information, catch up on the latest news or sporting results, or study using distance education.

It wasn't always this easy. Until the early 1990s, each Antarctic expeditioner was allowed only one 40 word telex message home free of charge each month. After that they had to pay for them. An Antarctic code was designed to save on the number of words.

Some of these code words were:

YASKA
It has been very cold
YIGUM
Have grown a beard which is awful
YIGLO
Apart from what I've said, things are going quietly and there's not much news
YAIKD
Expect to be home by …
YINAP
The food is first rate and I've put on some weight
YIVUC
Days are short in the Antarctic at present, the sun appearing above the horizon for no more than three hours
YORUD
I have been very busy
YIOCH
Glad to hear you are happy and well
YIKAL
Rather fed up at having to stick around the station and field camp
YODEL
Going on holidays
  • Provide the students with the examples above and ask them to make up their own forty-word message about life at the station, including some code words, and the forty-word message they receive from home. Some expeditioners, conscious that their messages could possibly be intercepted and deciphered, designed their own way of secretly communicating with their partner (e.g. codes, using page number references to a particular book etc.). Ask the students to design their own codes.
This page was last modified on July 2, 2014.