Interview of Stephen Barnes by Brian Shoemaker

Alan Shapley, pp. 11-12, 31 Lawrence Gould, pp. 12-13 Charles Bentley, seismologist, pp. 13, 21-22, 29 Admiral George Dufek, p. 15 Tom Jones, ionospheric specialist, pp. 14-15, 31-32 Bert Crary, Station Scientific Leader at Little America, pp. 15-16, 52 Joel Campbell, inspector of geomagnetic instal...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Barnes, Stephen
Other Authors: Shoemaker, Brian
Format: Audio
Published: Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program 2005
Online Access:
Summary:Alan Shapley, pp. 11-12, 31 Lawrence Gould, pp. 12-13 Charles Bentley, seismologist, pp. 13, 21-22, 29 Admiral George Dufek, p. 15 Tom Jones, ionospheric specialist, pp. 14-15, 31-32 Bert Crary, Station Scientific Leader at Little America, pp. 15-16, 52 Joel Campbell, inspector of geomagnetic installations in Antarctica, pp. 15-16 Gus Shinn, pilot, p. 17 George Tony, pp. 17-18 Dr. Ruseski, Officer in charge of the Navy contingent, p. 21 “Mildred” Noble, the single woman at the Byrd Station for Operation Deepfreeze II, p. 21 Bill Long, glaciologist, pp. 21, 24, 28-30, 32 Jack Long, IGY mechanic, pp. 22, 24, 29 Len LeSchack, seismologist, pp. 25-26 Fred Darling, meteorological engineer, p. 26 Marion Todd, aurora physicist, pp. 27 Norman Peters, meteorologist, pp. 27-28 Marion Todd, auroral physicist, p. 27 Norman Peters, meteorologist, pp. 27-28 John Annexstad, glaciologist, pp. 29-30 Lloyd Berkner, ionospheric specialist, pp. 31-32 Harry Wexler, ionospheric specialist, pp. 13, 31-32 James Van Allen, p. 32 C. Gordon Little, pp. 37-40, 47, 49 Harry Sellery, ionospheric scientist, pp. 31, 40 Stephen Barnes, born in 1915 in Philadelphia, described himself as “a very simple type of person.” He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education at West Chester University, and played professional baseball for several years prior to serving in World War II as a navy radar man. After the war, his expertise in electronics brought him to the National Bureau of Standards, and he served in various overseas locations, including three years installing an ionosphere station on Palmyra Island. On one occasion he was severely burned when a midnight fire destroyed his residence; another time a tidal wave destroyed much of the island. His experience as a ham radio operator was essential in such a remote location. Later, he served two years on Maui, and on Guam from 1952 to 1954. In 1954, Barnes was transferred to the Elmendorf Station at Anchorage, Alaska to be Engineer in Charge of the North Pacific Warning Station, as well as an ionosphere station. Military communications depended on the use of short-wave frequencies, and the ionosphere recorder was needed to measure the density and height of the ionosphere so that the military would know which short-wave frequencies were best to use at any particular time. Forecasts were put out every fifteen minutes day and night. Ultraviolet energy emanating from solar flares could wreck communications for a day or two, especially in the auroral zones. The International Geophysical Year (IGY), 1957-58, represented a time of an unusually great solar cycle, perhaps the maximum cycle of solar energy ever seen in modern times. In 1957, Barnes was appointed Scientific Leader of the Byrd Station at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. He arrived November 7, 1957 as part of Operation Deepfreeze II. He was immediately inspired by the stark, frigid, and beautiful vistas, especially Mt. Erebus. He recalls visiting a small chapel atop Observation Hill where Dr. Tom Jones, later to be in charge of all Antarctic programs, beautifully played the organ. En route to Byrd Station, Barnes stopped for several days in Little America. Accompanied by Joel Campbell, who was inspecting the geomagnetic installations at Antarctic stations, Barnes walked over part of the Ross Ice Shelf, and into the deep blue shelf caves which had been hallowed out by the sea the summer before. The scenes were magnificent, and the experience unforgettable. Bert Crary, the Station Scientific Leader at Little America, was very helpful to Barnes. Once the weather permitted, Barnes and his party flew to Byrd Station in an R4D airplane. Barnes noted improvements in Deepfreeze II over Deepfreeze I. In the first operation traverse activity intended to bring in supplies to Byrd Station from Little America proved to be extremely difficult. One man fell into a crevasse and could not be rescued. Improved planes, such as the C-130, were not available for Deepfreeze I. Once at Byrd Station, Barnes called a general meeting of the twelve navy men and the twelve civilians to stress that all personnel were considered to be equal. This helped to create an atmosphere of friendly cooperation that would last for the entire operation. Barnes recalls with pleasure attending the non-denominational Christian church services. Another fond memory was the “kangaroo court,” held as a diversion in the middle of the winter, in which the one woman on the base, “Mildred” Noble, would accuse the men of “everything.” It provided a lot of laughs. Dr. Ruseski, the Officer in charge of the navy contingent, was consistently cooperative and friendly, and adept at keeping his crew occupied during the long winter months. Barnes, and his fellow pilot, Charlie Bentley, made reconnaissance flights to scout out the routes of overland traverses, two of which were 1,000 mile trips out over the ice. The first one went by Mr. Tahako to the Sentinel Mountains. Barnes flew supply flights, as needed, to deliver fuel, food, and personal messages from home. He also set up and operated a full ham radio station, the only means of communication with the outside world. The Navy maintained its own ham radio operation. The second traverse went out to the Horlick Mountains in the direction of the South Pole, and then triangled over toward the Sentinels. Both traverse expeditions made frequent stops to make glaciological and meteorological measurements. Explosives were used to profile the sub-surface. The typical crew consisted of six men. One re-supply plane made an emergency landing 300 miles from the Pole, and the crew had to be rescued. At the station, there were research programs in magnetic physics, seismology, glaciology, meteorology, and auroral and ionospheric studies. Barnes worked directly with “radio noise” as one of his responsibilities. The sun set at the research station on April 17th, and did not rise again until August 25, 1958. Once sunlight returned, the Globemasters resumed supply flights using airdrops. On one occasion, strong winds caused the parachutes not to open properly, and supplies were scattered for miles about. Barnes recalls that a heavy generator was retrieved from a distance of 94 miles. The first plane did not land at Byrd until November 6, a VIP flight of an RD4 that transported many of the top personnel in ionospheric research. Barnes left the Byrd Station on November 22, and returned home via McMurdo and New Zealand. He and his family moved to Colorado, and he continued to work for the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). He worked in Alaska from 1954 to 1957, and several times in later years he returned to Alaska for short trips to supervise installation of conjugate point stations or similar projects involving low frequency, incoming, cosmic noise measurements. He much preferred field work to office work. After 30 years of such work he retired in 1973, or so he thought, from NBS, but in 1977 he agreed to return to Maui, Hawaii, to be Engineer in Charge of the Maui Ionosphere Station. He stayed for 16 years, and retired a second time in 1994 at age 80 after 40 years of service with NSB. Barnes took pride in the substantial research accomplishments effected during his long tenure on Maui. The station was shut down for lack of funding in 1994. Barnes returned to Antarctica during 1961-62 to help set up the Sky High Station (also known as the Eight Station). This was part of a larger project involving conjugate, magnetic point stations in Quebec, Canada as well as the Sky High station in Antarctica. Barnes’ knowledge of geography, terrain, and weather conditions in Antarctica was invaluable to the Navy in setting up Sky High in 1961, although he noted that when the final report was written about that project the Navy failed to acknowledge the crucial role of the five civilians, including Barnes, who had helped set up the Station. Among their duties was setting up Janeway huts to house the scientific equipment, a daunting task of 30 straight hours accomplished in the face of howling winds and blizzards. The cosmic noise monitoring and conjugate point measurements done in that building were invaluable to ionospheric scientists. The ionosphere sounder used to measure the density and height of the ionosphere, in order to avoid interference from the constant winds, had to be placed in a big room dug out below the surface. Some of the radio equipment supplied by the military was inferior and had to be replaced. Siple was a second research Station, but it never became a conjugate point station. Barnes remained at Sky High from December 1961 to February 1962. In retirement, Barnes has returned to his home in Boulder, Colorado. Looking back on his long career, Barnes said that he would gladly go to Antarctica once again, as he had done in his youth, but he recognizes the tension created for a wife and children during the long absences from family. Major Topics Recollections of Operation Deep Freeze II, and the Sky High Station, in Antarctica; Research on ionospheric research in Antarctica, Maui, and elsewhere; Reflections on the personal contributions of various scientists in Antarctica; Challenges and dangers of living in Antarctica for an extended time; Personal life of Stephen Barnes since his retirement in 1994 Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.