Heard Island Expedition 1997 (Scoping Document)


It will take all of 1996 to plan and prepare for this Expedition. The initial tasks are to assemble the team, locate appropriate transportation, and identify major financial resources. Once these are in place, we will concentrate on preparing the technical aspects, including Internet operations, onsite computer network, testing and tuning equipment, acquiring the remaining resources, and arranging travel schedules.

Training/Checkout session

We will assemble the team 28-29 September 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area for training and checkout. The purpose is to develop personal relationships, become familiar with the specialized equipment, test electronics and instruments, assemble and mark antennas, rehearse procedures, and generate publicity. Arrangments have been made through the Mountain Medicine Group and the Wilderness Medicine Society to provide the team with training on harsh weather operations and safety. The equipment will be packed in crates and shipped.

Transportation to Heard Island

Participants will arrange their own transportation to the point of disembarkation, currently planned to be Reunion Island. Reunion is served by air daily from Paris. As members of a scientific team, we will have access to a special fare of approximately $800 US roundtrip.

The trip from Reunion to Heard Island will take 9 days, and will provide accommodations, gear stowage, time for preparations, and extraordinary sights. There will be a short stop at Crozet on the way down, and one at Kerguelen Island on the way back. As currently scheduled, the vessel will make a side trip to Amsterdam/St. Paul during the time we are on Heard Island.


The tentative schedule is as follows:

Jan 3 Leave Reunion
Jan 8-9 Crozet
Jan 12 Arrive Heard Island
Jan. 13-27 Operations on Heard Island
Jan 28 Leave Heard Island
Jan 30 Kerguelen
Feb. 5 Return Reunion Island

The Vessel

[Image from the IFRTP]

The Marion Dufresne was especially built to supply and service the French subAntarctic islands (Crozet, Amsterdam and Kerguelen). It is a no-compromise vessel that can sail and work under any weather conditions in polar seas. It has the most sophisticated safety features, including polar life crafts, helicopters, and complete electronics. It is used to transport mission personnel, tourist passengers, and all types of cargo including food and motor-fuel supplies. The ship was put into service on 23 June 1995, and has visited Heard Island, 200 miles from Kerguelen, several times.

Specifications of the Marion Dufresne are as follows:

  • General

    Length: 120.5 m
    Beam: 20.6 m
    Depth at upper deck: 12.8 m
    Draft: 6.95 m
    Displacement: 10,380 tons
    Deadweight: 4,900 tons
    Cruising speed: 15.7 knots

  • Crew and Passengers

    Crew: 25
    Passengers: 110 in 59 cabins equipped for tourists, mission personnel, scientists
    Dining rooms: 2, capacity 62 and 16 places
    Theater: 130 people
    Video/conference rooms
    Library: email capacity
    Hospital: fully equipped, including operating room

  • Freight

    Capacity: 2,500 tons (5,600 cubic meters appr)
    Space for 110 TEU (20 ft) containers
    Cold stores both fixed and in containers
    Fuel cargo capacity (for the bases): 1,170 tons
    Refueling pumping system
    Fresh water: 550 tons capacity, with 3 boilers (generation up to 44 tons/day)
    Kerosine for helicopters: 30 tons
    Oil: 100 tons
    Fuel for landing craft: 140 tons
    Special cargo areas for flammable goods

  • Handling Gear

    2 general purpose craft for transfer and landing of passengers, towing and hydrography
    2 barges for beach landings (capacity: one 20 ft container or 23 people)
    Inflatable boats: several
    Semi rigid inflatable
    Flexible pipes for loading/unloading of liquids with 200 cu-m/hour capacity
    Helicopters: 2 in hangers (one Alouette with a cargo net lifting capacity of 300 kgs)
    Several floating towable docks, to land bulk equipment.
    2 high speed 25 ton cranes (45 tons if used as twin cranes)
    Logistical/oceanographic crane: 18 ton
    2 serice cranes: 12 ton

  • Propulsion:

    3 diesel-generating sets, total 8,250 kW (2x 8 cylinder Wartsila and 2x 6 cylinder Wartsila)
    2 AC synchronous electric propulsion motors: 2,650 KW ea
    2 propeller shafts
    2 flap rudders
    1 bow thruster of 750 KW

  • Electricity:

    3 diesel alternators + emergency generator of 300 KW
    220/380V standard EU current, distortion +- 6%
    220V stabilised of 2x 40 KW for scientific equipment

  • Equipment

    Integrated navigation system: GPS, gyro, log, underwater acoustic equipment, multilevel current meters
    Dynamic positioning (also called autopositioning, capable of holding the ship fixed in place even at 65 knot winds)
    Bathymetric multibeam sounder
    Seismic: 2 air onboard compressors
    Physical oceanography: double seawater pumping system, 2 complete bathysounders
    Data processing: 3 networks, workstations, storage system and video studio
    Labs: 31 labs of 650 square meters total surface + additional lab containers
    Meteorology: receipt of fax and satellite images
    Telecom: Inmarsat M, Inmarsat C, HF, VHF
    Network: music, video network, internet, e-mail , remote surveillance equipment, telephone, intercom
    Computers: Macintosh and PC compatibles with servers

  • Handling and lifting gear for scientific tests

    30 ton winch
    3 storing drums for 7,500 m of cable of 30 mm diameter
    2 10-ton A frames
    3 manoeuvering winches, 18T and 3 T cranes
    2 mobile 20-ft platforms including trawl fishing equipment
    Handling system of calypso high length core sampling
    Ilot system for lightweight sampling
  • The Marion Dufresne was built by Ateliers et Chantiers du Havre in France. It is owned by Compagnie Generale Maritime and chartered by TAAF (Terres Australes et Antarctiques Francaises) and IFRTP (Institut Francais pour la Recherche et la Technologie Polaires). It is certified by the 'Bureau Veritas' under the following mark: I 3/3 E *Special purpose ship - supply and oceanographic research vessel High Sea - ACA - AUT PORT - F - RMC V - ALM - ALS

    General operations on Heard Island

    Expedition personnel will assume personal responsibilities for camp management, service and maintenance, environment, and safety. Daily meetings will be held to discuss scientific results, operations, and plans.Team members will have opportunity to explore the island and carry out individual projects if desired.

    The shelters are of the same type as used on the Peter I expedition (see the book 3YØPI Peter I 1994 DXpedition, by R. W. Schmieder). We will have two shelters 12x24 ft, one 12x12, and two 8x8 ft., plus a variety of additional smaller wood shelters from storage and operations. These shelters are made by Exploration Products.

    Radio equipment

    We have assembled a large amount of equipment for the expedition. The radio amateur setup consists of five full legal power HF stations, one barefoot HF station, one HF beacon on the ship, a full power VHF/UHF autotracking satellite station and an Inmarsat satellite telephone.
    The antennas include: ·

    The radios include:

    Linear amplifiers include:

    Supporting equipment includes:

    Communications operations

    We will adopt many of the innovations from the 1995 Easter Island/Salas y Gómez expedition (XRØY/Z), and extend them. These include:

    John Devoldere, ON4UN, designed two new monoband antennas for 80 and 160m. Each of these 17m high verticals has two toploading wires and two (only two) elevated radials. We aim to test these antennas against the more conventional and proven technology of the inverted-L designed Battlecreek Special.

    A switchable automatic beacon will run 24h/day, switching over 20-17-15-12- 10m continuously, each time giving its full call, and a series of tones at 100W, 10W, 1W and 0.1W. This beacon will run from the ship, with an R7 vertical antenna. As the beacon will be started from the moment we land (i.e., before the radio operation starts), our pilot stations will be able to give us feedback on the existing radio propagation to all parts of the world, and compare the observed openings to the predictions. One other high powered beacon will run on 160m during the night and 10m during the day. This beacon will transmit its callsign in CW at short intervals. Using a beacon on these edge bands will reduce the time spent calling in vain on 10/160 when there is no propagation. The radio operators will be informed on higher/lower bands of openings by the amateur audience. ·

    Though computer logging nor networking is not new to amateur stations, it is the first time such technology would be fully used in a DXpedition. Each stations would have the computer linked to the radio so it can read/change the band/mode information. These data, together with the log data, are transmitted over a RS232C line with level converters and RFI filters to the other computers. Thus each computer can see the activity (stations logged, frequency) of all other stations. As the radio stations will be spread in pairs of twoover a vast area, the communications network between them is important to exchange band/station information, and even allow limited conversations (Gabs) between the different operating sites. ·

    The communication with the pilot stations spread over the world, the transmission of digital audio, images and video, the radio log data and mail to/from the pilot stations goes over 9600 baud packet radio links via Pacsat radio amateur satellites. The data are automatically uploaded during one pass, and downloaded in Belgium during the next, after which it is forwarded to Internet. ·

    As backup for the Pacsat link, full function internet connections will be established via Inmarsat.

    A vast number of radio amateurs have Internet e-mail addresses. 14,000 e- mail addresses are stored in a database which is used to send off a confirmation of a radio contact over e-mail.

    We will make two DXpedition logs accessible both via Internet e-mail and via Packet Radio Mail. Sending a simple mail with a callsign in the body text, to specified addresses will return the details of all radio contacts for that callsign. The DXpedition radiologs databases will be updated every day, during the operation.

    A WWW homage will be updated every day with information on the expedition and with digitized pictures from the expedition site.

    We plan to make audio recordings of at least some of the on-air radio operations.

    Amateur pilot stations in Japan, Europe, and USA will monitor our transmissions. They will give us daily feedback on our performance and we will update them with information from the island. This information will be distributed by the pilots over Internet, HF infonets and the vast PBBS mail system all over the world, which at the same time is also used to gather information on our performance from our audience. ·

    We have DSP enabled radios and use external DSP filters to enhance received signals in Morse and digital modes.

    Every day, the computer logs will be analyzed both on the expedition site and by the main pilot station to assess the performance of the radio operation, and to compare the acquired information on HF propagation vs the propagation predictions.

    Scientific operations

    Elsewhere we have described the operations regarding collection of cryptobiological specimens. These may be modified if we become associated with another group.

    Medical and safety

    We will have at least one GP physician and one EMT in the team. We are working with the MARCO group to develop a first-aid kit for expeditions, and will use it if it is available. We will have training on first aid, CPR, and harsh-weather survival. We will implement a set of procedures for preventing and dealing with emergencies.


    In case of emergency or threat of emergency, the Expedition Leaders have the authority to terminate or modify any operation, participation in the expedition by any person, and to require procedures necessary for safety of persons and property. All participants must provide to the Expedition any information that may be necessary in the event of an emergency, such as medications, medical history, and preferred physicians.

    Departure and return

    We will remove every trace of our occupation when we break camp. The operations will be staged to prevent leaving anyone in a vulnerable position. We will complete documentation and logs during the return voyage.

    Post expedition activities

    All scientific records from the expedition, including specimens, photographs, logs, and other data, will be secured by the Expedition Leader. Personal photographs, video, sound recordings, and other personal records will remain in possession of the participant who creates them. Specimens and other data that may be desired or required by Australian institutions will be transferred to appropriate custody by the Expedition Leader(s). All laws and regulations regarding international transport of plants, animals, or other sensitive objects, will be respected.

    Backup plan

    We will be developing alternative plans for a major event that prevents operations from Heard Island. It is likely that we will have authorization to operate radio on the other islands (Crozet, Kerguelen) that we will visit.

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