(this is my archived page from the CARA web site, not all of the links will work, and I've [bracketed] technical link adjustments--Bill)
CARA Home Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica

(1968 - 2000)

[Please email us with a story or other memories of Rodney and we will post it here.]

The AST/RO team
For the past year, Rodney was our colleague, working with us on the Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory. We observe regions of star formation in the Milky Way, our home galaxy. We study the structure of the Galaxy and the cycling of carbon-bearing atoms and molecules between stars and the interstellar medium. Rodney was the AST/RO winter-over scientist, the person responsible for all of our telescope operations at the South Pole. He was the sort of person we could depend on in this important role - dedicated, skilled, knowledgeable, enthusiastic. Until Rodney's tragic death, we were having our best year ever at the AST/RO telescope. During the past summer, the AST/RO team, Rodney included, got the telescope into exceptionally good working order, and Rodney was doing a superb job running the observatory, getting the data, and developing new ways to do difficult observations.

Rodney had a combination of wildness, imagination, and dedicated self-discipline that make for great science. Rodney made many significant contributions to the science of Antarctic Astronomy. He believed in the work he was doing and was always willing to make the extra effort to get a good result. Underneath that rock and roll exterior was a guy who got to work early, stayed late, and kept a tidy, organized laboratory notebook. His perserverence in obtaining site data was crucial in demonstrating the quality of the South Pole site. His imagination sometimes led him to do things differently than the rest of us, usually to great success. We are deeply saddened by Rodney's untimely passing and by the loss both personal and scientific which it brings.

We will always remember Rodney as a wonderful friend and colleague.

Michael Burton, Michael Ashley, and John Storey
Rodney does not seem to be in many pictures we have - he was always behind the camera! Rodney did have an extensive collection of South Pole pictures, and some especially nice ones of aurorae etc...[Here are] some pictures of the sunset [and blue flash] he took in March and sent back to us.

Gene Davidson
I'd like to have this photo of Rodney added to the webpage. It was taken just 6 days before his passing. Playing guitar and being in a band was one of the things Rodney loved best. This will be how I remember him. He was a good mate.

I first met him at a party in '96. He seemed a pretty cool character. Then I went and saw his band play in '97. Then I knew he was cool. He brought a lot of fun to the Pole. We are coping the best we can. Rodney was a good mate and I'll miss him.

All the CARA members and Polies [...] are all deeply saddened by his passing but will do our best to remember him with affection. Us CARA boys will endeavour to keep AST/RO going this season as a tribute to Rodney.

David Theil
Rodney came to Boulder for one week in the summer of 1996, to compare his micro-thermal turbulence results to our HDIMM work. We also spent an afternoon with Bill Neff of NOAA who performed complementary work to Rodney's using audiosondes. More than the technical interaction, I was able to put a face and a soul to this name that I frequently heard mentioned up at Yerkes.

I first met Rodney one morning in University Club campus hotel. He was tall. Also a bit soft spoken which meant when he had something to say it was worth listening.

We spent most of every day through the next week together. After work once we went picnicking with my wife, Robin, up Boulder canyon to some falls; he bought the beer. I had him over for a barbecue one evening after spending a full day in Rocky Mountain National Park, giving him what was probably the most thorough car tour I have ever been on there.

He snapped some pictures of my wife and I with his omnipresent camera and we took some of him. He considerately sent us some prints weeks after he had left.

He was a very thoughtful fellow. I enjoyed his company, and kept up with him rather sporadically via email after his visit. Now I miss him, and Robin does too.

Dr. Michael Ashley, University of New South Wales, Rodney's PhD supervisor.
I was privileged to be Rodney's PhD supervisor and I found him to be an extraordinarily talented individual in many ways. It is a great loss to humanity to have Rodney die at such a young age.

On 17 May 2000 I attended the memorial service in Australia. The location was the Great Ocean Rose function centre, which has a magnificent view of the dramatic coastline near Torquay in Victoria where Rodney grew up and enjoyed surfing.

Around 150 relatives and friends of Rodney and his family were present. The service was very moving, with particularly fine speeches from Rodney's family and a few close friends. I had the opportunity to speak as Rodney's PhD supervisor and to convey condolences from his professional colleagues. I read the letter from the AST/RO group. I am very glad I attended, since Rodney's family and friends were not fully aware of the importance of his astronomical work and the esteem with which he was regarded. Given Rodney's quietness and humble nature, this is not surprising.

The family were very grateful for the many messages they have received from the astronomical community and from Rodney's friends at South Pole.

Here is a brief description of how Rodney got into the Antarctic astronomy business.

He came to speak to me in 1993, asking if there were any interesting PhD projects on offer. After consulting with Michael Burton and John Storey, I suggested that we needed someone to work on microthermal measurements of the atmosphere at the South Pole. The project would be in collaboration with Jean Vernin at the University of Nice, would require the ability to speak French, and he would need to be ready to leave for Nice in 6 weeks. Rodney nonchalantly said ``ok, sounds interesting, I'll do it'', and he did. We paid for a language course, and Rodney was fluent in a new months. During his PhD he picked up skills in electronics and computing with equal ease.

The memorial service gave me a much better understanding of the sort of person Rodney was. To those of you have only briefly known him, he probably struck you as a quiet, unassuming, somewhat unusual fellow; to those who worked with him, it became quickly obvious that he was rather clever; to those who took the time to get to know Rodney, it was apparent that he was a remarkable human being with many fine qualities. It is to my eternal regret that I did not progress to this final stage.

To conclude, here is the first paragraph from Rodney's PhD thesis, from the first of 120 pages containing similarly elegant prose:

``One hundred years ago, the Antarctic was a mysterious, treacherous and unforgiving land; the last frontier, beyond the edge of the known world. It was a struggle for explorers just to survive in the stormy seas of the Roaring Forties, and on the ice-bound coast, let alone carry out any of the scientific research that was ostensibly the main goal of their expeditions. The story of the first expeditions to the geographic South Pole of Amundsen and Scott is one of the great dramas of modern times. Not as widely known, but no less worthy, were the journeys of such explorers as Shackleton and Mawson, who travelled deep into the icy interior of the continent on epic voyages of exploration and discovery. The history of this heroic age of exploration remains an inspiration to scientists working in Antarctica almost a century later.''

Professor John Storey, Head of the School of Physics, University of New South Wales.
On behalf of the School of Physics I want to express my sorrow at the untimely death of our friend and colleague, Rodney Marks. Rodney was a very talented experimental astrophysicist for whom the challenge of exploring the potential of Antarctica for astronomy was irresistible. He will be greatly missed not only by all of us who knew him here at the University, but also by the Australian astronomical community who have lost one of their rising stars.

Our heart-felt condolences go out to his family.

Dr. Michael Burton, University of New South Wales, Rodney's PhD co-supervisor.
To Rodney:

How do you remember a person who has contributed immeasurably to the causes we work for? If there can be such a person as an Antarctican then you certainly qualify to be one. My own first experience in Antarctica was putting together the experiment you had designed while in Nice, climbing up and down the Met Tower, deploying the sensors which were to give us our first real feel for what the atmosphere was doing to our observations. An insight that you gave to us and then developed further into a full PhD thesis. I knew you were truly committed to Antarctica in 1997, while in Chicago following a meeting there on Antarctic Astronomy. In the hotel bar one night you talked passionately about wanting to winter-over at the Pole, and the science you could accomplish if given the opportunity. It was a passion I knew immediately was what was needed not only to survive an Antarctic winter, but to flourish in it. In 1998 you then proved yourself, nursing our infrared telescope through the winter and in the most testing of conditions showing that astronomy from Antarctica could be a reality, not just a dream. The first scientific paper resulting from your work on this telescope has just been accepted by the Astrophysical Journal. It is a tragedy you have been lost to us, with so much more to give. We will miss you Rodney, and hope we can continue the journey you played such a part in starting.

Professor John Carlstrom, Head of the US Center for Astrophysics in Antarctica.
Rodney was winterovering for the CARA AST/RO project. He had also winterovered for the CARA/IR project in 1998. He has been a great help to both projects and to all of Antarctic Astrophysics. Rodney was a wonderful member of CARA and especially the winterover crew. His enthusiasm and friendship will be missed by all of us.

John Lynch, Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation:
As the program director for aeronomy and astrophysics in the US Antarctic Program at NSF, I would like to share some of my memories of Rodney Marks. I first remember meeting Rodney when, as a graduate student at UNSW, he was launching meteorological balloons at South Pole to study the stability of the atmosphere. It was apparent at that time that he was person of enormous energy and dedication. We talked many times after that, usually at the South Pole. My last clear recollection was in a much different setting. On a beautiful summer day in 1996, Tony Stark and I were punting on the River Cam in Cambridge, England. As we approached one of the many bridges on the University campus, we saw Rodney up above. We waved and exchanged a few words and Rodney clambered down the bank and jumped on our punt. We shared a very pleasant time that afternoon cruising on that beautiful river.

It was always pleasant to be around Rodney, and I shall remember my time with him. Additionally, he was an important contributor to the success of the US Antarctic Program because of the excellent work that he did for astronomy at South Pole.

Dr. Katrina Sealey, Anglo-Australian Observatory.
Firstly, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to you and your family. I have known Rodney since he started his PhD at UNSW. The then 5 PhD students shared an office and Rodney and I had desks facing each other. As you can imagine 5 students in one room often led to some interesting times. As the other end of the room would have some heated events, Rod and I would look at each other and laugh/smirk. We shared these little laughs together for many years. Just thinking about them makes me smile.

The one thing that I will never forget about Rodney was his unflappable, relaxed, serene personality. He took everything in his stride and enjoyed everything that came his way. I hope that a little of this rubbed off on me.

I passed the news around the Anglo-Australian Observatory. Many astronomers here had met Rodney over the years. They all wanted me to tell you that Rodney will be greatly missed in the astronomical community as both a scientist and as a person. His commitment to science and his attitude to life made him perfect for facing the challenges of researching at the pole.

I will miss Rodney and I will never forget him.

Saskia Besier, University of New South Wales:
Rodney was part of the core group of Astro students who worked in room 125 that were my introduction to astronomy. There were five of us and we made it our point in PhD life to have fun together. One of the things this resulted in was us joining the regular pool competition at the uni bar. Rodney and Andrew were dedicated enough to this serious business that they bought a pool cue between them, and every Thursday night we would traipse down campus to try our luck. We must have been an odd group: Rodney looking as seriously nonchalant as he was, Andrew with dredlocks everywhere, Sally dressed more like an MBA student, and myself looking like a lost kid. I hate to say it but the bar was a favourite place of ours to go for lunch, mostly because of the company and the beer--when Rodney headed south the first time, we stopped going.

The ASA General meeting that year was a blast. Rodney was the only one of us who spoke French so it was his duty to translate the drinking songs taught to us by a visiting student. I believe anyone on that particular meeting can still sing it word for word.

We were a great team. Among all the pubs, parties, trips, and pool games were the 8 and more hours a day we spent in each others company. Those guys taught me many of the important things I had to learn and they are still my best friends. I can't believe Rodney is no longer a part of that. It has been a few years since we last shared an office but I still feel as if one of the team has been unfairly taken away.

Paolo Calisse, University of New South Wales (translated from the Italian):
This is just the truth about my short and light knowledge of Rodney. Is extraordinary difficult for me to speak in English about such an issue. I hope you understand what I mean.

When I first met Rodney at UNSW, I did not take much notice and did not interact with him since he was fairly quiet. Then, at the end of this summer's antarctic campaign, I met him again, and I started to talk with him: I realized immediately he was a nice, clever and competent person.

Let me say that to die while doing what we like and wish ourselves is better than to die, even older, disappointed from the life.

Max Boccas, Cerro-Tololo Inter-American Observatory (ex-University of New South Wales) (translated from the French):
I have known Rodney only a little during my 2-year stay at UNSW. But he would always make me feel like an old friend when chatting with him because of his special kindness. Rodney loved to talk about his living in Nice and I was always amazed at his good French speaking and how he had managed to catch a lovely local accent ``nicois''! Rodney, I am among all the ones who admire your achievements, and I will keep your example in my mind.

Repose en paix.

Mark Jarnyk, Mt. Stromlo Observatory:
Even in the large summer population Rodney stood out from the others and not only because he had an Australian accent. His wit and his intelligence were evident at every CARA meeting. He was obviously the leader of the CARA winter-over crew, and that leadership will be missed. I feel for all the winter-over people--it must be devastating.

Dr. Russell Cannon, Anglo-Australian Observatory:
I was very upset to receive the news about Rodney when I came into work on Saturday. I know nothing of his family or personal circumstances, but I would be grateful if you could convey my sympathy to his relatives, and to the surviving team at the South Pole, if you are sending any messages on behalf of the community. Rodney's death is a great loss to the Australian astronomical community: we have few enough dedicated young astronomers, especially ones who can combine technical and scientific skills as he did, and who enjoy the challenge of setting up ground-breaking new experiments or developing innovative techniques in remote places.

James, Jodi, Christopher and Emily Tol
What can I say, Rodney had a brilliant mind, and was loved and respected by all his family. I guess I didn't realise just what a reputation he had until until I was talking with one of my lecturers a few years back, just chit chat, anyway he mentioned he was reading a great paper he had downloaded, I don't remember what the paper was about, what I do remember is that he said it was written by a guy doing some great work, so I asked what this guy's name was, "Rodney Marks."

Rod, I never told you so, but I always looked up to your achievements. You set the standard that I tried to follow through my own studies. I am sure you have touched others in a similar way. Above all else you were a decent bloke, and a true individual.

We will all miss you Rod.

Dr. Andrew Walsh
I first met Rodney in 1993. We started our PhD's at the same time. I didn't get to know him initially as we were both pretty quiet people. However, after a year we were living in the same house. We lived together for 2 wonderful years. Probably the best years of my life. We did many things together (not only on the astro side), and I learned so much from him. I probably didn't realise then how close he was to me then, but I do now. Rodney was like a big brother to me.

During those two years, I met my wife, Rikki. We all became very close. The day following Rod's death we dropped some flowers into the Rhine river, in the hope that they will take his spirit to Amsterdam. I know he would have felt very comfortable there.

I will miss him, as I am sure a lot of other people who were touched by him will as well. One thing that I remember he always said, was that the solution to any problem is to go down the pub and have a few drinks.

Later. Andrew xxxxx

Eric Riley
I was part of the winterover crew with Rodney in '98. He was a great guy. I remember spending a lot of time with him on station, but after I returned to the US, I didn't keep in touch with him. I regret that. He was quick with a smile and would happily share his smokes or his beer or just his company. My life is richer for having known him, and I will miss him.

Joy and Paul Tol
Rodney, our beloved nephew, taken from us too soon. A modest, humble man who achieved great things, became a world renowned astrophyicist and friend to many around the world. Loved by his family and relatives, but to these he spoke little about his work preferring to become "one of the boys". Joy and I had the privilege of being a part of his Memorial Service and in taking part in the preparations for it. We remembered his life and recounted many memories. We shared these special days with his mother and father, Rae and Paul, and sisters, Julie and Lonnie. Rodney lived with us when we lived in Sydney when he was between "digs" and he was a delight to have around. He was always very much part of our family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his friends, especially those still at the Pole, and ask God to hold out his hands to comfort them.

Rod, you were taken from us too soon, and we could not say goodbye. May you rest in peace.

Always in our hearts, Joy and Paul Tol, Adelaide, South Australia.

Dr. Michael M. Boyce, AMANDA Winter-Over 2000, South Pole Station
When I first saw Rodney, it was in Sky Lab, just before New Years. I was busy napping, when a motley looking crew came up to do band practice. They were quite good actually, and I would often go up an listen to them. At the time, I did not really know Rodney, but he impressed upon me not as a physicist, but as an x-band player, of some sorts...

It was only later, after station closing, that I started to see more. He had started teaching an astronomy class, once a week, which was packed full of station members from all walks of life; scientists, cooks, electricians, etc. I quite enjoyed his lectures, and also started to see the astronomer side of him. He obviously loved his work, knew it well, and was willing to share his knowledge with others.

I work in the back of science and would often seem him as he dropped by, to play with his computer. We would exchange the odd jovial comment, and that was about it. I would also often see him and his girl friend Sonja, in the galley. They would occasionally come and sit down at my table. I hardly knew them and they hardly knew me, but it felt good to chat with them --- they made me feel right at home. I have never seen a more perfect couple.

The more I got to know Rodney, the more curious about his general nature I became. Rodney was a very talented man about station. His knowledge spanned areas of music, chess, astronomy, and poker. He also had quite a unique sense of humor, and he never looked down at anyone.

The day of his death was quite a sad occasion for me; I wept. I did not know him well, but he certainly left a mark on my journey through life. I just wish I had the time to know him more.

Now, every time I look up at the stars, I will see Rodney...

Hilary Wright, Sydney
Just a quick note from someone in Rodney's homecountry who read of his untimely loss of life at such a young age. I of course did not know him at all but was very moved and took time to find this site to learn more about his short but wonderful life and the achievements he had made.

I have always had a fascination for Antartica as I'm orginally from Dunedin NZ from where the NZ bases are serviced. My University (Otago) had many programs and associates there.

May I send to you all down there my sincere sadness and to Rodney's parents for your collective loss. Rodney would want you to continue with the same passion that drove him and for you all to move forward.

Cheers and sincere thanks for sharing his life with mere mortals like me.

Robert Schwarz, Winter-Over 96/97, 97/98
Rodney, I will miss you, I can still see you in your blue Gromit shirt you loved so much. There were all those activities together at the Pole and our shared passion for astronomy, the aurorae and photography that lead to many interesting conversations. And I still remember the moment you got by accident a new nickname from me, because of a German-Australian misunderstanding - I called you "road block" instead of "Rod bloke".... There are many of these things that will keep you alive in my memory of you, of the Pole and our great time we all had down there.

Pennie Hayes, Melbourne, Australia
Well, what can I say but what a tragedy that life is so cruel to take such a lovely man from us. Rodney will always hold a special place in my heart, I first met him back in 1984, a surfing fanatic. He was so kind and thoughtful. He loved his work and his life including the Geelong Football club and his music and always lived life to the fullest. Why is it that the good die young?

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Last modified Tuesday, 20-Jun-2000 15:20:51 CDT
(this is my archived page from the CARA web site, not all of the links will work, and I've [bracketed] technical link adjustments--Bill)