Department of Physics

In the footsteps of Scott

In November 2010 an international two-man team will be travelling to Antarctica to visit the Otago Space Physics Group's experiment. The team is scheduled to travel to Scott Base on Wednesday 24 November 2010 for a brief seven-day visit to the ice. Dr Craig Rodger, the event leader, will accompany British Antarctic Survey scientist Dr Mark Clilverd. The logistics support, comprising air transport, accommodation, and all other on-ice support is provided through Antarctica New Zealand Event K060.

The researchers are travelling to Antarctica to undertake maintenance on Otago's AARDDVARK radio receiver which is located at Arrival Heights, not far from Scott Base. The Space Physics group deployed this radio receiver in December 2008. Feedback from the Antarctica New Zealand Scott Base technicians have identified damage to our antenna cables, likely caused by the strong winds at Arrival Heights. Mark and Craig will be replacing these cables, checking for other damage, gathering up the data for the last year, and undertaking calibration of the gear.

Otago's AARDDVARK radio receiver provides continuous long-range observations of the upper atmosphere, particularly focusing on hot particles impacting the atmosphere from outer space. The receiver also continuously sends observations to the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN), sending lightning observations back across the internet to central processing computers in Seattle, USA (University of Washington) and Dunedin, NZ (University of Otago).

The Ross Sea region, in which Scott Base is located, was the focus of much activity during the heroic age of Antarctic Exploration. Captain Robert F. Scott undertook two expeditions to this area, and the huts that his team built to house themselves remain to this day. The Antarctica New Zealand base, founded in 1957 as part of the International Geophysical Year, was named after Scott to reflect this history. The British Antarctic Survey is the modern representation of the British Antarctic explorers. This is Dr Clilverd's first visit to the Ross Sea region, although he has spent several years of his life in the Antarctic.


The AARDDVARK antenna hosted at the Antarctica New Zealand facility, Scott Base. The antenna itself is located at Arrival Heights, near Scott Base. The active volcano, Mt. Erebus, can be seen in the backdrop of this image which was taken in March 2010 by Scott Base summer technician Steven Sun.