Hello from Antarctica. Are you there, over?

Who still doesn’t need to talk to Mom when across the roughest seas on earth living on an ice continent?

The International Geophysical Year 1957-58 marked a turning point for Antarctic geopolitics, driving more international scientific cooperation vs. a race for territorial claims. Those early Antarctic visitors: scientists and support staff communicated with family by ham radios. “Ham radio was the only means of talking to loved ones back home in the era preceding satellite-enabled telephony.”

Two teenage brothers in New Jersey, Jules and John Madey from 1956 onwards played a part in connecting Antarctic with the world from their basements: both were radio-control-airplane enthusiasts who “learned they could increase flying capabilities by operating on the ham radio frequencies.”

They learned Morse code, got their ham licenses and got into ham ratio patch ups, including talking to Monty, a Navy radioman and eventually U.S. McMurdo and Byrd Stations. Monty had people lined up for calls home to loved ones.

“Monty would give me the phone number and I’d place the collect call. The first time I placed the call, no one knew who this Jules kid was, but after the first time they eagerly would accept the collect call being placed by him.”

quotes from The Antarctic Sun: Past connections, Young ham radio operators kept IGY crew in touch with friends, family by Elaine Hood, January 30, 2009

U.S. Navy Antarctic Photo Library, radio operator

Different international scientific bases created beautiful radio call sign postcards and *QSL cards over the years, some featured here. Hurray for telecommunications innovations.

In The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning, Wendy muses about telecommunications wonders and difficulties from her time at Bellingshausen, the Russian Antarctic station where we did the volunteer environmental cleanup. The communication-home situation wasn’t significantly better in 1995-1996 despite the fax machine and the expensive sat phone next door at the Chilean base Frei, but the Russian satellite operator Sasha did some clever moves.

Bellingshausen 'motherboard' 1996. image Wendy Trusler

*”A QSL card is a written confirmation of either a two-way radiocommunication between two amateur radio stations or a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, television or shortwave broadcasting station. It can also confirm the reception of a two-way radiocommunication by a third party listener. A typical QSL card is the same size and made from the same material as a typical postcard, and most are sent through the mail.

QSL card derived its name from the Q code “QSL”. A Q code message can stand for a statement or a question (when the code is followed by a question mark). In this case, QSL? means “do you confirm receipt of my transmission?” while QSL means “I confirm receipt of your transmission”.” from Wiki

images below from USSR Exchange Scientist PD Astapenko, 1958-59 at Little America collection.

Over and out.

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