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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 15. August 4, 1971

The Canterbury Project

The Canterbury Project

Radars operating during World War II were sometimes plagued by abnormal propagation conditions. Superconductivity ducts, caused by particular combination of humidity and temperature lapse rates in the atmosphere, would occasionally render radars incapable of covering all segments of the sky and thus protect enemy aircraft from detection. Conversely things below the radio horizon occasionally appeared on the scopes to add further confusion. In 1944 U.S. and U.K. officials decided to investigate the phenomenon and the Canterbury Rains were chosen because it was far removed from hostile territory and because the frequent 'Nor'westers' provided ideal steady conditions for examining ducts. The N.Z, Government undertook to initiate the program but hostilities ceased before anything was undertaken, and it was then decided to proceed with the project on a civilian basis. The U.K. provided staff, equipment and half the finance. New Zealand provided staff, finance and sea and air facilities. The U.S. provided meteorological sounding equipment. Headquarters was at Ashburton aerodrome while radar equipment was deployed at various points on the Canterbury plains, a trawler carried recording equipment off shore and R.N.Z.A.F. Ansons from Wigram investigated the duct itself.

Although U.S. participation was minimal and there appears to have been nothing secret in the project, it has given rise to rumours that "secret U.S. Air Force research" was being carried out at Ashburton Airport. Results have been published by the New Zealand D.S.I.R.