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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 4. 21st March 1973

Military Cover Denied

Military Cover Denied

Dear Sir,

I've spent six summers now looking at the rocks of the Transantarctic Mountains and so was rather distressed to learn [Wilkes writes to P.M., "Salient", March 14] that I, and a number of students at this university, have been participating in "basically a military exercise in polar warfare operations using "scientific support" as an excuse for cover". I don't know what goes on at Harewood, but I've spent a lot of time at McMurdo and Byrd Stations, wandered around the radio rooms there, been at flight scheduling sessions of VXE-6 squadron (which does the flying for the U.S. and N.Z. programmes there), and I have yet to see any activity that I could not relate to the scientific programme. True, the flight crews get experience in polar flying, but the Antarctic Treaty allows the use of military personnel for logistic support, as Mr Wilkes notes.

"Salient" and Mr Wilkes do not mention that the U.S. government has reduced the level of military support anyway, and that the U.S. Navy now operates under contract to the U.S. National Science Foundation. N.S.F. have looked into the feasibility of total civilian logistics, but, despite Mr Wilkes' casual comment, it is not easy to find a civilian organisation that can operate and maintain 4 ski-equipped Hercules aircraft and 6 helicopters on a regular schedule for 5 months of the year in Antarctica; each season build and maintain snow runways at McMurdo and two inland stations, and provide landing and navigational aids to international airport standards — and provide two ice-breakers and three transport ships, including a tanker, for three months in the summer all for $20,000,000.

As long as there is a military around this seems like one of the better ways of using it. It even gives us a chance to raise their level of consciousness.

Peter Barrett

Antarctic Research Unit Victoria University.

(We are grateful to Mr Barrett for his comments, but maintain that there is a solid body of evidence to indicate that the Americans are using 'Operation Deep-freeze' scientific research to cover up military activity.

We have fuller documentation in the Salient office to bear this out and we urge anyone interested to come in and see it. We regret that the length of the article is such that we cannot print it in full. —Eds)