New Zealand has conducted science at Arrival Heights since 1959/60 when an Auroral Radar Station was installed.
Arrival Heights is located in Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA 122) overlooking McMurdo Station. It is protected to prevent disturbance to an electromagnetically quiet and atmospherically clean area containing highly sensitive upper atmospheric equipment.
In February 1960, 15 tonnes of radar, aerial and building materials were moved to the site. Within two days the buildings were completed, one aerial completed and foundations drilled for a second. A telephone line and power supply, connected to generators at McMurdo, were also established.
The original radar recorded auroral phenomena 500 – 1000 miles to the North. This formed part of a North/South multi-site auroral recording chain extending from the South Pole station to Christchurch. This research aimed to explain the nature of aurora and its effect on radio communications.
Research broadened in 1963 once it was recognised that projects could be carried out without electrical, mechanical and light interference from nearby bases. By December a new Radar Hut and stores facility was established. In 1974 the programme expanded further with equipment for studying the D-region of the ionosphere. New facilities in 1984 included upper atmosphere recording equipment and an emergency accommodation hut.
In January 1991, Telecom commissioned a new satellite earth station near Arrival Heights. A 15m Radome, containing the equipment, was built at First Crater. The opening of this new facility had a major effect on communication to and from Scott Base.
Currently scientists at Arrival Heights examine natural phenomena occurring in the earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere. The Dobson Ozone Spectrophotometer (Dobson) operated by the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) is part of a worldwide investigation to understand global change in the atmosphere. There are five Dobsons in Antarctica, which measure the total amount of ozone from the ground to the top of the atmosphere. The Dobson network checks satellite ozone measurements for accuracy.