Imagine life without email or a phone. For someone like me, who is connected all the time, the mere thought makes me nervous. For researchers and lodge operators that don't have phones, the isolation of the bush can make doing business challenging at best. An enterprising company in Africa, Bushmail, is bridging the divide by offering email services to those equipped with shortwave radios.
Shortwave radios? Commonly used by hobbyists in the United States, shortwave radios are used around the world by those interested in keeping abreast of news and world events. Shortwave radio waves travel through the Earth's ionosphere, the upper-most layer of the atmosphere, where the energy from the sun basically bounces the waves back to Earth at an angle. In fact, the sun is such an important ingredient that shortwave signals are stronger during the day and even stronger when the Earth is closest to the sun.
||"It's nice to know that when I land my dream job in Botswana, I can still satisfy my need to communicate online."|
The AM and FM stations that we typically listen to use medium length waves that travel much closer to the ground, which is why you experience signal loss. Since they travel shorter distances, medium length waves are ideal for broadcasters trying to reach a local audience.
But stations that broadcast over shortwave can be heard around the world. The United States government operates a station for Americans living abroad called Voice of America that features news and entertainment. The BBC also has shortwave broadcasts.
But the cool thing about shortwave radios is that you can buy your own transceiver (a combination transmitter and receiver) - basically turning your radio into a phone. A point-to-point transceiver de-amplifies the signal of typical shortwave transmitters with the aim of keeping the transmissions local. Similar to the way you might use a CB radio in your car, individuals can dial a specific frequency and talk to anyone who might also be dialed in. It isn't hard to see why this form of communication would be useful in the bush.
Because they are in a remote location without a phone, the Gudigwa staff use a shortwave transceiver to communicate with other lodges. In addition, they are able to "call" the charter companies that fly guests in and out of the camp, and if needed, they could even talk to pilots.
Bushmail takes the technology one step further by adding a special modem to a shortwave radio. By dialing a specific frequency used by Bushmail, subscribers can send email anywhere in the world. The text is transmitted over short waves to a server that forwards the messages to the intended recipients. Email sent through Bushmail isn't instantaneous (it takes about an hour), but Bushmail brings worldwide communication to the middle of nowhere.
In fact I was able to email Liza, the camp manager, to check the facts for articles posted in this expedition. For the business side of things, she typically uses Bushmail to obtain the guest list from the agency that handles the reservations for the camp.
It's nice to know that when I land my dream job in Botswana, I can still satisfy my need to communicate online.
<< Prev | Next >>