First satellite antenna at Union Glacier Camp | Polarjournal
A halo to welcome Union Glacier Camp’s new and first antenna. Installed during the 2023/2024 season, it will be managed by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions. Image: Darren Trapp / ALE

ALE has just installed its first satellite antenna at its Union Glacier camp in West Antarctica. The antenna will be used primarily to collect meteorological data to provide more accurate and reliable weather forecasts for Antarctic expeditions and programs.

Weighing more than half a ton (565 kg) and measuring 2.4 meters in circumference, the 2.4AEBP-2.4m Elevation-Over-Azimuth Antenna Positioner (that is its name) was installed by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) at the Union Glacier camp. This is the first time a satellite antenna has been installed on Union Glacier. Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions announced this in a press release on January 29. “The capability of this antenna is more sophisticated than anything else in this region of Antarctica, and will have a profound impact on ALE’s ability to delivery safe and efficient expedition logistics,” mentions Tim Hewette, ALE Field Operations Manager.

Developed by Orbital Systems in Texas, the new antenna will be able to download a wide range of X-band and below-satellite weather imagery. A technology that can penetrate atmospheric rain, snow and ice, providing more accurate data for meteorologists’ forecasts. In a region where fog and low clouds can compromise the safety of flights landing inland, having such a system is crucial. “The new system will allow us to get satellite imagery from 8 to 12 polar orbiting satellites.”, notes ALE meteorologist Marc De Keyser in the press release. “This will provide us with constant new images in order to re-evaluate the weather situation and to make quicker and more accurate decisions.”

Crucial information for ALE, which organizes and manages Antarctic expeditions. Whether for national programs or individual or group expeditions to conquer the South Pole or the continent’s peaks, the logistics supplier provides flights to Union Glacier Camp, where the antenna has been installed.

Because Antarctic terrain conditions are so uneven, ALE’s mechanical services team had to design and manufacture an in-house support platform. Image: Darren Trapp / ALE

But the data collected will not be used solely for the ALE. They will also be transmitted to the scientific community, including the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which notably coordinates international cooperation in the fields of climate and meteorology.

Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions is a private American company that has been active for over thirty years, organizing and managing the logistics of individual and group expeditions to Antarctica, as well as national program missions. ALE has two camps on the mainland, Union Glacier Camp and Patriot Hills.

Nestled in the heart of the Ellsworth Mountains on Union Glacier in West Antarctica, Union Glacier Camp is a private camp set up by ALE. Operated between November and January, before being dismantled at the end of the season, it serves as a logistical base for expeditions to the Antarctic inland, as well as for national programs.

The camp has an airstrip for aircraft, the Union Glacier Blue-Ice Runway, used to transport personnel and equipment, usually from Punta Arenas in Chile.

ALE also manages Patriot Hills, a base in the Ellsworth Mountains that serves as a camp for expeditions to the South Pole and Mount Vinson.

Mirjana Binggeli, PolarJournal

Featured image : Heather Bowers / ALE

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