Monthly Archives: February 2014

Satellite camera deployed!

Wooo hoo!

The camera is live – here is some video of us half way through the set up. The battery was a huge lump to trek up the hill, but we got everything working well.

This camera is the first remote sat camera of the Instant Wild/Cambridge Consultant collaboration (www.edgeofexistence.org/instantwild/). It’s an advanced prototype and it’s taken a long time to get it here, so thanks to everyone who have worked so hard and then let me steal it. It’s not even like I’m going to look after it!

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Al Davies from ZSL is on board to set it up – there’s a lot of troubleshooting to get the first working. This has involved setting up cameras on the ship’s rail, then scurrying down to his cabin to check email for a photo.

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Setting up the camera rig

Al checks the satphone to Cambridge Consultants - the people who built the sat camera with him. It's best to check that it's sending before we leave it for a year...

Al checks the satphone to Cambridge Consultants – the people who built the sat camera with him. It’s best to check that it’s sending before we leave it for a year…

So, after an attempt to get to Detaille was rebutted by ice, we headed to the Yalours. We hiked a lot of equipment up a small hill, but it did reveal to us that there’s a little way to go yet on the power supply to make it really portable. We massively over-specked the power requirements to make sure it won’t die even if the solar cell fails. We had a bit of a scramble, but managed to set up two cameras looking at the penguins and one looking at the installation. It was a race, but we walked away relatively confident that it might survive! Special thanks to Woody the Expedition Leader for giving us some extra time ashore to guarantee the installation. Also, thanks to Wolfgang who came to pick us up when he should have been having dinner.

The important photo – this photo went to space and back…twice! We routed it back to the ship to test everything. Now it’s clearly working- the only question is how well it will survive the winter. Let’s hope all of those holes and connectors work.

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...and this is the one that Al watches.

…and this is the one that Al watches.

Relief and happy days!

Hope all is well in the real world…

Getting over-excited about satellites.

January 19th – Crystal Sound

Al from ZSL is on board – one of the most important aspects of this whole season is to get a satellite camera out. It’s by no means the first concept of a satellite webcam, but one that is cheap and can survive the Antarctic winter unassisted? That’s revolutionary. Now we just have to achieve that.

Al is the tech god who designed the new camera. He’s then been working with Cambridge Consultants to come up with a way to link it to a satellite modem on the cheap and with a small unreliable power supply. This is a really important addition to the toolkit; it will allow us to monitor some incredibly remote, seldom-visited sites and fill the data gap that currently plagues a lot of Antarctic policy-making. Then, don’t forget all the remote areas around the world which suffer from poaching and other threats. Al and co built this as a camera trap (a camera triggered by motion). I’ve been nagging him for about two years to make it robust enough for Antarctica. I think I’ve succeeded in getting through how harsh the freeze-thaw process is. He’s been in his cabin almost non-stop for the last three days testing and re-testing everything before we deploy.

Al Davies, pet geek and tech god. Looks good in orange.

Al Davies, pet geek and tech god. Looks good in orange.

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Throughout the night, we were pushing through sea ice south of the Antarctic Circle, looking for a way into some of the islands down there with Adelies. I was hoping to get the satellite camera out there, but it’s not to be. The sea ice that stopped us in this case is the life blood of Antarctica; a substrate for algae and therefore what krill forage on. Krill are small shrimp and everything in Antarctica eats them or knows someone that does.

Well, at least the thing that stopped us is good for penguins. Plus, we got a zodiac cruise in spectacular scenery with brilliant wildlife- it was stunning seeing Wilson’s storm petrels foraging doing their dance on the surface of the water.

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So, no sat cam yet, but soon!