Shackleton Centenary Expedition

Electronica July 15 2007

The Antarctic is the most remote and coldest place on Earth. These two facts make it critical and yet very difficult to maintain contact with the outside world.


First and foremost, we need to keep our logistics provider abreast of our progress and location. We may also need a means of contacting the resident Patriot Hills doctor, for diagnosis and treatment. Next, we want to send daily updates, containing written entries, photos and video footage, to this website. Finally, it will be incredibly valuable for us and our families to be able to communicate whilst we're on the ice.


Severe cold devours batteries and electronics. We'll need to ensure that all batteries are warmed before drawing on their power, otherwise they will go flat in a flash. The best way of warming batteries and electronic devices is to carry them deep within our clothing, so they pick up our radiant body heat. We'll sew additional pockets into our inner layers for this purpose.


Well be using lithium batteries, which are lighter and more resistant to cold than standard alkaline batteries. We'll also limit our use of batteries to an absolute bare minimum. For example, we'll only use our GPS once a day, to record our log and to help set our bearing for the following day. We will also use rechargeable batteries wherever possible, harnessing the 24 hour daylight in solar panels for recharging.


So, what electronic gadgets are we taking? Basically, the bare minimum to keep the weight down.


Firstly, we'll take two (lest one fails for any reason or is accidentally broken) Garmin Geko 201 GPS units with us. They're very light, simple to use, waterproof and robust. No frills - none needed. In days of old, expeditioners used wheels on the back of their pulks to log distance covered. A GPS dispenses with this.

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Next come our communications. We'll be taking two Iridium 9505A Satellite Phones. They work wherever satellites are overhead, i.e. pretty much anywhere. We've been using these throughout our training and they provide remarkably clear contact with the outside world from the wilderness.


We'll use the satphones to provide live updates, in conjunction with two (again in case one loses the will to live) Ipaq HX2400 expedition PDAs. These have been well tested on polar expeditions and are smaller, lighter and tougher than laptops. Each PDA will have Contact 4.0 software downloaded onto it, provided by Human Edge Tech. The software will enable us to upload pictures, videos and dispatches straight away onto this site. The PDAs will also need to be kept warm, which means they will get to luxuriate in our sleeping bags each night. Lucky them.

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On the photography side, we'll each be taking a digital camera, which again we'll keep close to our bodies to keep them warm, plus one digital videocam between us.


All this will be powered by a Survivor 10 solar panel, made by Solar Blazt. It's tough, flexible, waterproof and folds up neatly. It's our lifeline with the outside world so we will care for it lovingly.

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Finally, we'll each take an ipod. In theory, they'll add non-essential weight. In practice, one of the hardest parts of Antarctic travel is maintaining high spirits when there is nothing to take your mind of the hardship and drudgery of your daily grind. To give an indication of the feeling of endlessness brought on by travelling across the polar landscape, Ranulph Fiennes and Mike Stroud came back for their transantarctic expedition short-sighted because the only thing they could focus on for weeks on end, was the tips of their skis. When all around you is never-ending white, the stimulation and escapism provided by an ipod will quite literally be music to our ears.

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