The last few weeks have been pretty busy. Last week I was in Cambridge training with the IT team to get up to speed on the computer systems that support the research stations both at HQ and on station.

This week I took a trip up to Aberdeen to do some satellite training. I went up on a Dash 8 turboprop plane, it's the first time I've been on a prop plane and I should probably get used to it as I'll be flying on Dash 7 planes while in the Antarctic.

It was in Aberdeen that I met James, a marine biologists that will be working on Bird Island for the next 18 months. Bird Island doesn't have a dedicated communications manager over the winter so it's James' responsibility to keep the VSAT link up. It was really good to meet with James not only to hear about his impressive research, but also to sample BrewDog beer at their original bar in Aberdeen.

The training started off with the theory behind satellite communications, an overview of the satellite dish components, and how you go about finding the satellite you want to use. The vast majority of the training was practical, just how I like it. We got out our spanners and spectrum analyser then got to work.

Working on large dishes and moving them manually, bolt turn by bolt turn was a pretty good workout. After quite a bit of exertion and “mowing the lawn” to find the satellite we were after, we finally came across a strong signal.

This training will be invaluable for when I have to move the dish at Halley. It's moved every year to keep it above the accumulating snow. Luckily aiming for the satellite should be easier with the motorised tracking system; needed as the Brunt ice shelf is moving at 700 meters a year.