A typical Macquarie Island day at Comms, or Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as it is now known, begins with the 8 am scheduled radio situation reports (aka sitreps, or scheds). All field parties on Macquarie Island are contacted by VHF radio and given the latest weather forecast. Then the health and intentions of the field parties are recorded in the radio log and any messages to or from the field parties passed along. The responsibility for radio scheds is shared with the station leader on a week by week roster. There is also a 1 pm radio sitrep specifically for people working alone in the field.
After the morning sitreps are complete a check is made of the software monitoring the ANARESAT satellite link to Australia, the Antarctic messaging and data system (AMDS) and the previous 24 hours network traffic. All being well, a quick visual and audio (listening for bad cooling fan bearings) check of the physical equipment is conducted.
The daily newspapers are printed, overnight emails actioned, and any other administrative task completed.
About 9 am the daily ARPANSA filter change is performed. This is part of the international nuclear test ban treaty monitoring network. An air sample from the previous 24 hours is analysed for specific radio nucleotides that could indicate a nuclear weapon test has been conducted. The ARPANSA filter change is also shared with the station leader on a week by week roster.
Once a week a walk into the ‘magnetic quiet zone’ is made to take absolute magnetic field measurements. These results are emailed to Geoscience Australia and are used to calibrate the automated magnetic field monitoring instruments on the island. Care has to be made to ensure no ferrous metallic objects are carried into the Absolute Magnetic Hut. Even the tiny spring in a neck warmer cord toggle can affect the measurements.
The remainder of the day is spent on project work. This could be equipment installation, upgrades, corrective or routine maintenance. The type of equipment includes: satellite links (ANARESAT, BGAN, Iridium), VHF or HF radios (on station or in the field, mobile, handheld), antennas, coaxial feeders and masts, a GSM mobile phone system, computer servers, personal computers, photocopiers, printers, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), network switches, routers, WiFi access points, cabling (twisted pair or fibre optic), phones, network cameras, GPS, SPOT trackers, cinema projectors and amplifiers, video conferencing units, automated science equipment or just about anything else electronic that is not operating as it should.
The last official task for the day is the 6 pm radio sched to field parties. It follows a similar format to the morning sched with all field parties being contacted to ensure they are safe and sound for the evening.
'Last official’ because of course Comms never sleeps and there is often someone after dinner who asks, ‘Can you help me with my [insert electronic gadget name here]?'
Tom Luttrell — Station Communications Technical Officer