Q&A: Getting Greenland Ice Charts By Satellite Phone

Question: What can you tell me about receiving Greenland ice charts by satellite phone?  Is it a good solution and more reliable than weather fax?

Answer: We have had problems getting ice information reliably by weather fax too, but unfortunately satellite transfer does not completely solve the problem either: We have an Iridium and a computer aboard, but the problem is that the Danish Ice Office puts the charts up on its site in a high resolution Adobe Acrobat PDF format, resulting in a 60 to 100 Kbytes or larger file—very expensive to download over Iridium. It’s a pity since a simple change to the Acrobat parameters dropping resolution to 100 DPI (plenty for legibility) would result in a four-fold decrease in file size to 25 Kbytes, a practical size. (I have the same program they use and so was able to verify this by experiment.)

In 2003 I solved this problem by e-mailing the ice office in Greenland at lg.tenneerg@csi and asking them to send me the file as an e-mail attachment compacted to 72 DPI. This worked, but is dependent on the willingness of the operator to do this on a case-by-case basis.

Another option would be to have a friend on shore download the files on a regular basis, make them smaller in Adobe Acrobat and then e-mail them to you.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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