Antarctica

Week 30 Rodney Marks

7th May - 14th May 2000

On Friday afternoon a great bloke, everyones friend, and Sonja's soul mate, Rodney Marks died. It has been an unbelievable shock.

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to let people know what has happened. Thank you for all your messages. They have been a great help. I had written but not sent out my weeks 28 and 29 emails. I have decided to send them out now with this weeks, or I will never send them. It has been very hard writing about Rodney. But I want to tell my friends that never got to meet him something of what he was like.

Rodney was a scientist working on an experiment called ASTRO. It's a sub-millimeter wavelength telescope. He had wintered at the pole before, with many people here now. He gained his PhD with a thesis on viewing conditions for astrophysics at pole. It is a highly regarded piece of work.

But Rodney was far from a typical beaker - far from a typical anyone. At first he seemed like a true Aussie bloke, with a broad accent, a dry sense of humor and wit. When I first met him last September we got along very well. Being the 2 Aussies at an American base, with a winter crew of 50, and only 2 other non-Americans, it is not surprising we got along well.

His dry wit was sometimes miss-interpreted here by the people not used to it. This is were his considerate nature, and his kindness would come out. I saw him numerous times make amends in a very nice way for these misunderstandings. He would also say or do something kind for someone having a hard time in general.

Rodney was a very good Physicist. He also had the knack of being able to explain science to everyone at all levels. Once a week he held an Astronomy class that was extremely popular. Last Tuesday night he held a class on Aurora, and took everyone outside to see the beautiful night sky here first hand. I'm sure he is responsible for so many people making an effort to go outside to look at the amazing sky.

Rodney had so many talents, more than I'm sure I even knew. Early in the summer I used to go to Sky Lab lounge to listen to people playing music. He was to be the lead guitar of the band, "Fanny Pack and the Big Nancy Boys". I would go there in the evenings and find Rodney working out new songs to play, with Sonja playing the bass guitar. They seemed to be practicing an awful lot. It was soon clear to the group that they had become a couple.

The band was hugely popular over the summer, playing quite a few gigs. As well as playing the guitar, Rodney would do some singing - of songs he wrote. The highlight for them would have to have been playing New Years Eve. With all the TV crews here they probably had a world wide audience most musicians could only dream about. In Oz, clips of them playing The Angels classic "Am I Ever Going to See Your Face Again", were aired.

Sonja and Rodney were a great couple. It is so rare to see people that seem so perfectly matched. And they were extremely happy together. There was one small problem - Sonja only had a summer job. She started applying for the few positions still open for the winter, and had a number of disappointments. Finally at the very last moment she was offered a position. It was a great thing. She got to fly to CHC for a few days to get stuff for the winter.

Just before station close they made a striking couple, with Rodney having come back from R\&R with his long hair dyed bright purple, and Sonja dying her hair green. Even in the last few days of summer their lives had not become simple. Rodney needed liquid helium to run his telescope, and with a sudden drop in temperature, ANG were not willing to fly it in because of unloading difficulties. If it didn't come in Rodney would not be able to run his experiment and would have leave. It seemed incredible after all that Sonja had gone through getting her winter job. But many people were sent some very direct messages, and ANG was made an offer they couldn't refuse. The last liquid helium came in on the very last flight.

They had had a very good winter so far together. Rodney's work was going extremely well, with more data collected than ever before. Rodney had revealed more hidden talent by taking over the drums in the band, the drummer having left, and a new lead guitar was recruited. Their last gig was for Cinco de Mayo, just over a week ago. It was a great evening.

Rodney had not felt great for a few days. I last talked to him Wednesday evening and he seemed fine. On Friday he was worse and Sonja took the day off to make sure he was okay. On Friday afternoon he was in Biomed and the Doc was looking after him. Late in the afternoon Sonja was with him; Rodney unexpectedly took his last breath. The trauma team was called immediately. We did everything we could. But Rodney did not come back. He had friends around him at the end.

We have no idea what happened.

A memorial was held at pole on Saturday morning, and Rodney's Family will hold a memorial in Australia on Wednesday afternoon.

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