Australian astrophysicist murdered at the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

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Australian astrophysicist murdered at the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Postby admin » Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:13 am


In May 2000, Australian astrophysicist Dr Rodney David Marks died from acute methanol poisoning whilst stationed at the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. He was a 32 year old “brilliant and witty” scientist, whose death shocked his family and friends. The media jumped on this story, citing the tragedy as the “first South Pole murder,” but there was little evidence to suggest anyone else was involved. Unfortunately it appears that New Zealand investigators have been hampered by a lack of co-operation by the organizations that run the facility, so it remains unclear whether Marks’ death was the result of foul play or tragic accident…

Dr Marks was employed by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, working on the Antarctic Submillimetre Telescope and Remote Observatory project. The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (pictured below) is maintained by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and US contractor Raytheon Polar Services, and is the southernmost continually inhabited settlement on Earth. With this exotic location comes a high degree of risk; after all, if there’s an accident or emergency, you can’t just find the nearest hospital. Although the facility has good medical support, should something unexpected happen, the scientists living right on top of the South Pole are at the mercy of the extreme weather and isolated location.

In the month of May 2000, medical staff at Amundsen-Scott were confronted with a baffling problem when a distressed Rodney Marks came to them three times during a 36 hour period. On May 11th, he had felt sick and vomited blood when travelling back from the remote observatory to base. On returning, his condition took a rapid turn for the worse. Baffled by the situation, medical staff sought advice via satellite, but they were too late. On May 12th, the astrophysicist had died.

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