During 1986, a series of special VLF transmissions at ∼3 kHz and ∼5 kHz were made from the crossed dipole antenna at Siple Station, Antarctica, which simulated transmissions from a single horizontal dipole at a number of different orientations. The subionospheric signals thus excited were recorded at four Antarctic stations: Faraday, Halley, South Pole and Arrival Heights (McMurdo Sound). The signals excited broadside to the dipole were seen to exhibit characteristics notably different from those of signals excited along the axis of the antenna, showing a minimum in received power (the depth of the minimum decreasing for the more highly attenuating paths) and increases in apparent arrival azimuth error and elevation angle. A simple computer model for mode propagation close to 5 kHz in the Antarctic Earth-ionosphere waveguide showed that these variations were the consequence of two effects: the preferential excitation of quasi-transverse magnetic (QTM) modes along the axis of the antenna and the lower attenuation of quasi-transverse electric (QTE) modes (with respect to QTM modes) over the Antarctic ice sheet. These results have important implications for studies involving the subionospheric propagation of signals with frequencies at the lower end of the VLF band and over highly attenuating surfaces, showing that QTE modes play a significant and sometimes dominant role. The propagation characteristics derived from the model may be applied to studies of the effect of burst energetic electron precipitation on subionospheric VLF signals (the Trimpi effect). Furthermore, the mode structure of subionospheric VLF signals radiated from the Siple transmitter, or a similar facility in Antarctica, may be controlled through the appropriate choice of signal frequency and antenna arrangement.