Satellite operator Iridium helped in a difficult expedition
At the end of 2018, National Geographic journalist Mateusz Veligora ventured to conquer the elements and try to become the first person in the world to go alone through the Mongolian part of the Gobi Desert. After successfully completing his mission, Mateusz shared his story about the path and how he used Iridium to keep in touch.
“In 2018, I went to Mongolia to become the first person in the world who single-handedly crossed the Mongolian part of the Gobi Desert. I left Bulgan Gol in the Khovd province on the western border with China to get to the Sainshand village in the Dornogovi province on the eastern border with China after 58 days and 1785 kilometers of hiking.
Due to its complete isolation (the Gobi Desert is one of the most sparsely populated places on Earth), the only way to communicate with civilization was the Iridium satellite connection. In small towns along the way. You can use local cellular coverage, but their signal is very weak and you can not rely on it.
The tasks that Iridium allowed to solve:
Iridium expedition Immediate call for help if necessary
Liaison with the press secretary and media representatives (radio and television)
Sending photos documenting the trip
In addition, the communications equipment had to be fully powered by two solar panels (Goal Zero Nomad 28 Plus) and two power supplies (Goal Zero Sherpa 50 and Sherpa 100). I decided to bring the following set of satellite equipment with me:
Iridium 9505 satellite phone with extra battery and charger
Satellite modem Iridium GO! with spare battery
2 Iridium SIM cards, one of which is active, and the other had an emergency call function
Using Iridium Satellite Phone
I used the Iridium satellite phone for conversations (I refused text messages, it was much easier to send them via the Iridium GO satellite modem!). The expedition aroused great interest among the media, so during the trip I gave more than twenty interviews through a press secretary, aired more than ten times on the largest Polish radio station Radio Zet, which was the media partner of the expedition, spent three conversations with reporters of the largest Polish television company TVN . At the same time, the battery of the Iridium satellite phone turned out to be very capacious and it was enough to charge it regularly with the Power bank – I never had to use a spare battery. The signal of the Iridium satellite network was very strong throughout the transition, the connection was interrupted only occasionally. When I tried to install it from inside the tent.
Using the satellite modem Iridium GO!
Iridium in the Gobi Desert
Satellite modem Iridium GO! I used it in conjunction with the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. His main task was to send photos and longer text messages by e-mail using the Iridum Mail application. In the event of damage to the Iridium satellite phone, Iridium GO! help send emergency information.
Initial home tests of modems left much to be desired – graphic files took a very long time to load, and their quality was very poor. However, in the Gobi desert, everything worked perfectly, photos with a resolution of 900×600 pixels were sent without problems, and their quality was sufficient for publication on social networks (Facebook and Instagram) and on websites. I think that the initial failure in sending photos was due to a little experience with the Iridium Mail application and numerous reflections of the satellite signal in urban areas. Sending e-mails through the use of a convenient smartphone almost completely eliminates the need to send SMS-messages using the Iridium satellite phone.
iridium GO! in the Gobi Desert In addition, Iridium GO!, which allows you to make calls that were originally intended for emergency communications, confirmed its importance when the Iridium satellite phone lost its range within the tent. The connection took place mainly in the evenings, when the temperature in the Gobi desert can drop to minus fifteen degrees Celsius, in this situation I connected the modem with a tripod, putting it outside the tent, and thanks to the smartphone I could comfortably stay in a warm sleeping bag. As with the Iridium satellite phone, the battery of the Iridium GO satellite modem! Very capacious and fast charging, so I never used a backup battery.
As a result:
In conclusion: thanks to both the Iridium GO! Satellite modem and the Iridium satellite phone, I could immediately seek help in an emergency. Both devices allowed me to communicate with my relatives, send current reports to the Internet, which is very important for expeditions of this format. Having two Iridium satellite devices at the same time protected me in case of failure of one of them.