Oral history of British science
Evans, Stan (Part 5 of 12). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee's home, Suffolk
Evans, Stanley, 1929- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 5: [Note: RSAE base named Halley Bay, 1956] Story of RSAE, including situation of provisions, living arrangements in tents, eating of sledging rations. Description of expedition hut, including details of construction methods/materials. [6:26] Mentions moving from tents to first part of hut, May 1956. Comments on framework of hut, including planned rooms; completion of whole framework before Antarctic winter; continued interior construction during 1956. [8:01] Comments on own role, as labourer/assistant to carpenters/GL; attitude of carpenter on TAE; beginnings of use of ASAC, summer 1956; beginnings of use of DS, June/July 1956. Mentions improvised installation of DS in hut’s loft space; collective decision making concerning details of instrument installation. [10:26] Description of interior of finished hut, including kitchen, lounge with bar/fake fireplace, details of cooking/heating water. Detailed comments on job of cook, shared by rota. [16:39] Detailed description of lounge. Comments on storage of provisions; RD’s role as Quartermaster; cooking of meals. [20:47] Stories of nicknames. Comments on pastimes; occasional reception of BBC World Service; limited interest in world events; extent of coverage of Suez crisis. Mentions playing of games/sledge trips. [28:28] Description of Emperor Penguin life cycle, including observations made on RSAE. [33:03] Stories/description of use of ASAC, including development of film. Comments on development of own photographs, taken on Ferrania colour film. [38:03] Comments on communication with JP via RS concerning operation of ASAC; sending of ozone results obtained by DS. [38:43] Comments on use of DS, from beginnings of Antarctic Spring, 1956, including communication of results via RS to GD. Mentions GD’s surprise at low ozone levels. [40:54] Comments on morse code communication with mother. Mentions code book for sensitive messages, not used personally. [42:43] Comments on communication with TAE. [43:38] Comments on relations between members of RSAE, including further comments on conduct of GW, atmosphere of friendly teasing. [46:58] Comments on visits of US IGY expedition party, late 1956/early 1957. Mentions ships ‘Tottan’/ ‘Magga Dan’. Story of journey home from Antarctica, to London [Butlers Wharf]. [52:26] Comments on dispersal of RSAE party, including own return to JB; papers written at JB using ASAC findings. [54:25] Mentions invitation by Gordon Robin [GR] to take up post at Scott Polar Research Institute [SPRI], in relation to IGY results. [55:20] Mentions RS meeting/reception following RSAE. [56:08] Comments on JB’s interest in RSAE experience; own interest in working on Moon echoes [ME] experiment at JB, 1957. Mentions SM’s development of ME aerials. Description of applied value of ME experiment, regarding refinement of the Astronomical Unit. Comments on measurement of rotation (caused by ionized atmosphere) of plane radio waves between Earth and Moon; discovery of use of moon as radio wave reflector, leading to speculation (before S1) on potential for artificial satellites for international communication. [1:01:29] Comments on US surprise at S1 launch; contemporary US plans for launch of ‘Grapefruit’ satellite. [1:02:18] Stories of US military links with JB in observation of S1. Comments on effect of S1 on status/image of JB. Mentions clearance of JB debt by Nuffield Foundation. [1:04:22] Comments on use of ME equipment to detect S1, including surprise at strength of echo (due to large carrier rocket). Story of SG taking over S1 observation/detection using lower frequency/wider beam equipment. Mentions US interest in JB equipment for detection of ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles). [1:07:07] Comments on reaction at JB to S1. Description of ME equipment. [1:09:43] Description of process of tracking S1, led by JG Davies, assisted by Desmond King-Hele, RAE. [1:11:43] Story of reasons for moving from JB to SPRI, 1959, including role of GR, positive view of Antarctic community, experienced through RSAE and Antarctic Club [AC] meetings. [1:17:04] Comments on timing of own reading of various Antarctic expedition accounts. [1:21:03] Comments on own SPRI post of Senior Assistant in Research, including brief to analyse IGY data. [1:22:24] Story of chance discovery in ionospheric records from Antarctic stations on ice shelves of potential for radio-echo sounding [RES] of ice, including role of Roy Piggott [RP], Radio Research Station, Slough. [83:23] Brief description of SPRI, 1959. Story of establishment of SPRI by geographer/explorer Frank Debenham [FD] (first Director)/Raymond Priestly, using Mansion House fund. Comments on involvement of JW; subsequent SPRI Directors. Mentions personal assistant to former SPRI part-time Director, Lancelot Fleming. [1:31:47] Comments on SPRI colleagues, 1959: Terence Armstrong [TA] (Assistant Director of Research); Harry King [HK] (Librarian), administrative and library assistants; temporary academic posts, SPRI/UOC. Detailed comments on character/contribution to cataloguing/archiving of part-time SPRI employee, Brian Roberts, of Foreign Office [FO]. Mentions Max Forbes, editor of ‘Polar Record’ [PR]. [1:36:05] Comments on Glaciological Society [GS] (the GS met in SPRI), including Secretary Hilda Richardson [HR]. Comments on presence/work of Charles Swithinbank [CS], British Antarctic Survey [BAS]. Story of whole SPRI staff preparing PR for posting. [1:38:55] Comments on status of SPRI as Sub-Department of Department of Geography, UOC; JW’s encouragement of GR’s employment of a physicist, SPRI; appointment of Martin Holdgate as SPRI zoologist. [1:41:07] Story of beginnings of work on RES, including role of Bud Waite [BW], US Army Signal Corps [ASC] in relation to false readings of US military aircraft ground-clearance radar SCR718, over Greenland ice sheet [GIS]. Description of SCR718 display. Comments on BW’s measurements of ice depth, Little America, Ross Ice Shelf [RIS], Antarctica, including lack of scientific/glaciological motivation. Mentions seismic depth sounding [SDS] of ice, developed by GR. [1:46:11] Story of 1963 RES fieldwork near Thule, GIS, using US Army logistics, organised by BW, including some SDS. Comments on involvement of electronics engineer Terry Randall [TR]. Mentions research student Jeremy Bailey [JB], recommended by Bristol physicist John Nye [JN]. Comments on encouraging results from GIS fieldwork. Story of RS (Paul Instrument Fund) funding of SPRI development of RES on GIS. Mentions later NERC funding of RES work, Antarctica. [1:55:19] Description of RES fieldwork, 1963, GIS. Comments on importance of continuing RES record from moving vehicle, in identifying ice bottom; continuous recording cameras manufactured by Shackman company, Aylesbury. [2:00:19] Story of examining ionospheric records from ice shelves, held in IGY World Data Centre, Cambridge, following visit from RP. Detailed comments on/discussion of gaps in these records, caused by interference (cancelling) of radio waves returning from atmosphere and from ice. [2:03:30] Mentions building with JB improved RES (transistor operated) apparatus, assisted by TR. Story of JB’s death, Antarctica while testing this equipment. [2:04:51] Detailed comments on establishment of national memorial to those killed in Antarctica since 1940s. [2:09:55] Detailed description of RES equipment used 1963, GIS, including method of operation/use of battery powered oscilloscopes, manufactured by US company/use of Shackman recording camera. [2:15:26] Comments on positive results, GIS, 1963; method followed by JB to measure absolute depth of ice by finding velocity of radio waves through ice.
Life story interview with Physicist Dr Stan Evans.