Heard Island Expedition 1997 (Scoping Document)


The primary motive for the Cordell Expeditions is to foster international goodwill and cooperation in documenting remote sites and preserving their natural history and cultural resources. To that end, the 1997 Heard Island Project will be international in scope and participation.

The primary goal for the Heard Island Expedition will be to complete the scientific activities safely, without loss or damage to persons or property. To that end, the Project will be a model of careful planning, safe operations, and appropriate stewardship.

Another goal is to enable as many people as possible to participate in some aspect of the Project and the Expedition. To that end, we will welcome support and participation from any source, and we will carry out the Project with the highest regard for the interests and needs of our public.

Radio science

The primary goal for the radio operations will be to extend technology and techniques for radio operations on remote sites. To that end, we will implement a large number of innovations and experiments associated with radio communications, primarily on the amateur bands.

A very general goal is to enable remote participation in the Expedition by large numbers of people by providing interactive communications in nearly real time. The technical challenge is to establish a temporary structure that will enable the Expedition to send and receive messages about the Expedition by means other than amateur radio. For instance, a person with a computer could log into a local database and receive data and information about the Expedition in nearly real time. We want the Expedition to be a participatory, as opposed to spectator, event.

A specific goal for the amateur radio operations is:

We think of a DXpedition as a group that carries its own full life-support and radio equipment (shelters, food, power, radios, etc). The current record is 60,000 contacts, set by the 3YØPI team. Achieving more than this will require the best equipment, planning, operations, cooperation of the amateur radio community, and reasonable good luck. This goal is not a stunt; it is a driver for developing new technology and techniques.

We have many more specific goals for the radio science, including:

During this period, the solar flux is low, and current models and codes are incapable of predicting radio propagation. The body of data we will obtain will enable testing and improvement of those models.

The most difficult band for amateur radio is 160 meters, followed by 80 and 40 meters. A colleague, ON4UN, has developed new designs for lowband antennas, and the HI Expedition will provide a critical test of these antennas.

In order to be most efficient in the use of the operating time, we will develop links between the computers used for logging contacts. The challenge is to prevent these links from suffering interference due to the very strong radio-frequency fields. We will use several techniques, including filtering, fiber optics, and error checking, to obtain error-free communications onsite.

We are interested in improving the software available for operators on a DXpedition. The operator needs to have monitors, alerts, alarms, and other automatic features that give him information about propagation, weather, time, what the other operators are doing, etc. For example, the computer could use the current solar indices to predict that propagation to a certain region is just opening. It could then generate an alert to the operator, suggesting switching bands.

Pilot stations have been used to good advantage on the AH1A, 3YØPI, and other major operations. The pilots interact with the Expedition off-line, providing feedback on the operations. We will use a system of pilots for the HI Expedition, but we intend to extend the pilot capability using the resources of Internet. ·

We want to automatically track radio amateur satellites in high speed orbits. · Experiment with high speed datalinks over radio using packet radio over radio amateur satellite, including automatic uploading and downloading of data.

We have implemented a variety of amateur_radio-Internet-packet_radio gateways which allow passing data between these different systems. ·

In order to decrease transmission time, we have developed a new data compression scheme, and will use it for uploading the logs and other data to the Pacsat satellite.

The beacon is identical to those developed by N6EK and W6ISQ for the IARU/NCDXF. It operates on 20, 17, 15, 12, and 10 meters. It was used successfully for the first time on an expedition by the Easter Island (XRØY) group. By providing a calibrated signal over the full duration of the stay at Heard Island, we will be able to perform quantitative analysis of the radio wave propagation. ·

These will be used primarily for guiding radio amateurs for making contacts on these difficult bands.

Natural Science

Heard Island provides both an excellent opportunity to extend our understanding of the subpolar environment and its ecosystems, and a challenge to prevent any unwanted intrusion and alteration of the site. Foremost in our mind is the fact that there are no recognized human- introduced species. This provides a rather stringent requirement for control of any proposed operation. By the same token, it provides excellent motivation for intermittent monitoring. We believe that with proper care, a brief visit can be made that will provide useful data while keeping the risks negligibly low.

In the absence of more detailed information, and based on similarities of latitude, we might expect the ecosystem at Heard Island to have much in common with South Georgia, for which we have some guidance [Headland, 1984]. However, South Georgia supports several hundred plants, including 26 native vasculars, 125 mosses, and 150 lichens, far more than the reported 11 plant species at Heard. Therefore, one would naturally expect the entire ecosystem to be correspondingly impoverished. It appears to be more similar to that of the Antarctic Peninsula [Moss, 1988], which lists only 18 plant species, mostly cryptogamous. The corresponding fauna is likewise impoverished: a few protists, rotifers, nematodes, tardigrades, mites, springtails, and midges.

We plan to study the cryptofauna of Heard Island. The Management Plan (1995) lists the following terrestrial invertebrate taxa identified in the Heard Island Territory (there may be a few species on this list not from HI):

1 gastrotrich
4 nematodes
21 rotifers
6 annelids
5 tardigrades
4 cladoceres
3 copepods
10 springtails
1 thrip
5 beetles
3 flies
1 louse
2 bird fleas
18 bird lice
1 moth
34 mites
1 spider
1 snail

This distribution is clearly skewed, compared with distributions from more temperate zones. It is likely that some of this skewness is due to incomplete sampling, rather than the community structure. Thus, we might reasonably expect to find significant numbers of unrecorded species by examining communities that are not already documented. We therefore plan to conduct searches for fauna in communities that have not heretofore been extensively sampled.

There are at least three distinct communities that we want to examine:

These collections in areas of former occupation are directed at testing the hypothesis that there are no human-introduced species. We will pay particular attention to sampling in and around the ruined ANARE buildings, in dumps, trash heaps, at chemical spill sites, and in previous excavations, under the hypothesis that the structures or substances could provide niches for foreign organisms.

These collections in avian and mammal scat are motivated by interest in identifying commensals, parasites, and other obligates. We assume that these collections will have to be approved by the permitting agency (AAD), and will be limited to times and locations that cause minimal disturbance to the wildlife.

These collections in lava tubes (and other caves if they are found) is motivated toward discovering cave-adapted and relictual species that would give insight into the response to environmental stress. We know that there are lava tubes and karstic areas on Heard Island.

This list omits the fauna in the moss, nearshore marine, glacial, and hyperthermal communities.
The general procedure will be to make representative collections of deposits (soil, scat, etc.), with some onsite processing. We will carry with us sterilized containers (e.g., plastic bags and glass vials) for the samples. Extraction of the cryptofauna could be partially done during the stay on the island. Some of the sample will be extracted on shipboard during the return, and some samples will be returned intact. We expect that an extractor such as a large Berlese funnel (for dry extraction), a Baermann funnel or sand extractor (for wet extraction), and perhaps light traps will be taken. We will attempt to assess the effectiveness of the sampling onsite, and to concentrate the effort on the most useful location and procedures {Southwood, 1978].

Cordell Expeditions has a standard label format. We will attach completed labels to all samples and derivatives.

Other potential activities

We have outlined an ambitious program for the Expedition to Heard Island. The projected team of 20 persons will be just adequate for the activities. We are, however, interested in teaming with another group with a parallel interest. Some possible activities are:

We are especially interested in pairing with a caving group. According the Management Plan, there are lava tubes and limestone karst features. It is certain that many caves and similar features are undiscovered. Discovery and exploration of these features would provide opportunity to search for cryptofauna, as well as speleotherms.

It is known that lava tubes exist on the Azorella Peninsula, at least near Rogers Head, and probably over the whole northern portion of the peninsula, especially near Dovers Crater. This area is less than 2 km from the campsite, and therefore accessible without additional transportation.

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Last update: 3 Oct. 1996 Robert W. Schmieder cordell@ccnet.com