Iridium To Supply Satellite Communications For Ham Radio Expedition To Antarctica

By | January 30, 2006 | Feature, Government

Iridium Satellite is supplying mobile satellite phone systems for a group of amateur ham radio operators preparing for an Antarctic expedition in February.

The two-week DXpedition is intended to establish up to nine temporary radio stations on a remote uninhabited ice-bound island near Antarctica. The radio site will be operational on Peter I Island, and during that time, ham radio operators all over the world will have an opportunity to log calls to the station.

"In amateur radio parlance, DX is an abbreviation for distance, and ‘Xing refers to the pursuit of radio contacts, often under extremely difficult conditions, with distant stations across the globe," Bob Allphin, the expedition’s co-leader, said in a statement. "The enthusiasm of DXers is exemplified by the frequent DXpeditions mounted by hams to remote locations to provide the worldwide ham community with an opportunity to log calls to that spot."

The island, discovered by a Russian explorer in 1821 and named for Peter the Great, is located more than 450 kilometers from the nearest land in West Antarctica. The island lies below the Antarctic Circle in the Bellinghausen Sea and is surrounded by dense pack ice almost year round.

The DXpedition team will travel to the island from Punta Arenas, Chile, by icebreaker and will be transported ashore by helicopter. Qualifications for the trip, according to the expedition’s Web site, "include the ability to be gone from home for up to five weeks and physical conditioning suitable to building a ‘city’ on a glacier and living and working in tents in below freezing temperatures."

While the operation of ham radios is driving the expedition, such communications are not reliable enough or capable enough to provide all the services the expedition will need. Iridium was not available for previous expecitions to the island, but for the latest expedition, the 22 members will carry Iridium satellite phones that will allow them to stay in touch with home, obtain weather forecasts and provide daily uploads of log information and updates from the island. The updates will include photos and possibly video clips, which the DXpedition group will post to their website at

"The Iridium satellite phones will provide an important margin of safety for the team during their expedition to one of the most remote and inaccessible islands in the world," Greg Ewert, Iridium’s executive vice president, said in a statement. "

–Jason Bates

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