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A Holiday to Remember

A Holiday to Remember

My father, Wesley B. Harding, came to Antarctica a little more than 50 years ago to install an early experiment to study cosmic rays from the sun.

On Christmas Day 2014, sitting at a computer in the McMurdo Dry Valleys working on altogether different research project, I called my sister on a satellite phone. We reminisced about talking to Dad over a shortwave radio, and once over a phone patch to a shortwave radio connection, during that 1963-64 field season.

Over a two-month period, he supervised the construction of antennas and installed electronic and radio equipment he had designed and built, all to be used as part of the Antarctic Forward Scatter Radio Propagation Network.

Person sits on a bed.

Photo Credit: Wesley B. Harding
Wesley B. Harding, presumably at McMurdo Station.
Two ships push through ice.

Photo Credit: Wesley B. Harding
Two naval icebreakers in McMurdo Sound near McMurdo Station in 1963-64.
Two tall towers in middle of camp.

Photo Credit: Wesley B. Harding
One of the field sites for the Antarctic Forward Scatter Radio Propagation Network.

Dad was rated as an electronic engineer at the Central Radio Propagation Lab (CRPL) of the National Bureau of Standards at its laboratory in Boulder, Colo., where we lived. He had never graduated high school, dropping out to join the Marines, sometime around 1930 when his father, my grandfather and namesake, died.

Dad got his GED when he volunteered for service during World War II. He was trained to be a radio operator on B-25 light bombers, first doing anti-submarine patrols off the U.S. East Coast, and later flying missions with Claire Chennault’s 14th Air Force, the Flying Tigers, in Kunming, China.

In the Army Air Corps, Dad turned a hobby of building radios, something he had pursued from childhood, into a profession. Following the war, he worked first at the Naval Gun Factory in Washington D.C., and then transferred to the Bureau of Standards in Boulder. At the Bureau, he earned the profound respect of his colleagues, who all had college educations, and many with advanced degrees, for his knowledge, creativity, technical skills and work ethic.

The Antarctic Forward Scatter Radio Propagation Network consisted of four transmission paths in an odd, zigzag pattern across the Antarctic continent. One path led from McMurdo Station to the Russian base at Vostok. The American Byrd Station was the origin for two paths, one to McMurdo and one to the South Pole Station. From the South Pole Station, a path led to the British Station at Halley Bay.

Forward scatter of radio waves occurs when the signal passes through a large number of small irregularities in the ionization of the atmosphere, much like how light is scattered by many small water droplets in a fog. One can make inferences and estimates about the number and energies of cosmic rays from the nature of the forward scatter.

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Source:: Antarctic Sun Featured Articles

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