Letter to the HAMsters, February 18, 2005
I see by the news on the internet that the expedition to Peter One Island will not happen this year. I am very sorry for the Hams who traveled all the way to the southern tip of South America. The boats and helicopters that were supposed to take them to the island didn't show up on time and now they can't go because it is too late.
I am also sorry for you HAMsters, who wanted to have your first contact with the South Pole. But as you can tell from my pictures, in order to get there you need a really good ship.
When we sailed from New Zealand to Antarctica it took more than a week with the ship traveling at about 15 miles an hour. (You can probably get your dad or mom to drive the car at 15 miles an hour so you can see how slowly ships move.) Of course a ship moves all day and all night, with different officers (called "mates") steering and checking the maps (called "charts" when they are of the ocean.) From breakfast one day until breakfast the next we would go about 360 miles. From New Zealand to Antarctica is about the same as from Boston to Denver.
During the whole time, crossing the Southern Ocean and through several hundred miles of ice, we never once saw another ship. Around Boston there are many, many ships but around Antarctica very, very few. If our ship had broken its motor or gotten stuck in the ice it would have taken many weeks for another ship to come all the way down to help us.
It was not easy for the Ham expedition to find a good ship to go to Peter One Island. And when you go to the Antarctic everything has to go just right or it is too dangerous for people to be there. When the ship came too late, they just didn't have the time to go.
Well, that's very sad, but I do have some good news. It can be very exciting to talk to people on the ham radio even when they are not at the South Pole. I have a big book of maps and a globe next to my radios, and whenever I talk to anyone I look on the map or the globe to see where they are. I have learned a lot of geography by talking to people all over the world on my ham radio, and I am sure many of you will do the same. One of these days you will talk to a ham who tells you he is in Antarctica. There are more than 20 hams who work at a dozen science camps. In the huts of those camps, called "research stations", there are groups of people live and study the ice, the weather, the Southern Lights (called the Aurora Australis) and many other interesting things.
Not long ago when I got a new ham radio I gave my old one to my granddaughter's school in San Diego. I am pretty sure that before long you will have a ham radio station in your school so that you can begin listening to signals from all over the world.
73 and 88