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Dominic Jaques
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Balloon tribute by Fitz alumnus in Antarctica

One alumnus sent the name of Fitzwilliam College high above Antarctica when launching a weather balloon while on field duty.

Dominic Jaques (NatSci Physics 2014), who is an Engineer for the British Antarctic Survey, used the daily balloon launch to recall his time at Fitzwilliam. Often researchers write on the balloon, and Dominic decided to pen the name of Fitzwilliam on it earlier this year.

“I wanted to nod to Fitz by flying the name high above Antarctica, as I owe much of my success to the College,” he told fitz.cam.ac.uk.

An Antarctica weather balloon

 

Dominic Jaques releases the weather balloon

 

Dominic was appointed late last year and was swiftly sent ‘Down South’. 

His role in Antarctica is to prepare Halley VI Research Station for its winter operations which are unmanned. 

“My job is in the automation of the experiments, how we can winter-ise them, so they can automatically collect the data,” says Dominic, who spends the majority of his time based half a mile from Fitzwilliam College, along Madingley Road, at BAS headquarters.

“It’s done so if a storm were to knock out the network, the experiment would still run as if it were manually checked.”

This automated data capture allows scientists globally – for many agencies partner with BAS – to continue their important work.

Multi-skilling is imperative when at the remote research station, on the Brunt Ice Shelf, hence the weather balloon. Recording conditions there allows forecasters to track and predict the weather.

“Part of the role, as a member of the science team, is being trained in meteorological work,” Dominic adds. 

“You learn to spot and code clouds for the Met Office. Every hour an observation is made and emailed to the Met Office. That’s included in the global climate model.

“We launched the weather balloon every day, and take observations which are codified and sent to the Met Office.

“We also take a measurement on the Dobson spectrophotometer. It’s the device which found the hole in the Ozone layer.”

Dominic Jaques using a Dobson Spectrophotometer in Antarctica

 

Dominic recalls fondly his time at Fitzwilliam, when he was a keen member of the University of Cambridge Athletics and Hare and Hounds clubs. He is also a keen swimmer and cyclist.

However, one of the challenges with Antarctica became clear when Dominic’s luggage was lost on his journey there. He had his standard issue outdoor wear, but not his personal possessions, which included his running shoes.

Instead, Dominic had to find an alternative outlet for his athletic fix. Hill walking was not an option for the keen mountaineer, who says the region is flatter than Cambridge.

He adds: “I took up cross-country skiing, which was good fun. Every evening after work was done, it was nice to get out by myself for a couple of hours.”
 

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