British IGY stations

Indications of institutional legacy in former British colonies

See the following map for IGY measuring stations sponsored by the U.K. worldwide. See below for a list of the countries, in which the stations were located.

IGY stations sponsored by the U.K.

U.K.-sponsored stations in former British colonies with dates of independence, if before the IGY 1957-58:

  • Habbaniya, Iraq, meteorology; independence 1932
  • Karachi (Manora), Pakistan, oceanography (co-sponsored with Pakistan); independence 1947
  • Colombo, Ceylon (today: Sri Lanka), ionosphere (co-sponsored with Ceylon); independence 1948
  • Delhi, India, ionosphere (co-sponsored with India); independence 1947
  • Woomera, Australia, rockets and satellites (co-sponsored with Australia); independence 1901
  • Ohakea, New Zealand, nuclear radiation (co-sponsored with New Zealand); constitution act 1852, Dominion 1907
  • Accra and Takoradi, Ghana, oceanography and ionosphere (both co-sponsored with Ghana); independence declared 6 March 1957
  • Benina, Libya, meteorology; independence from Italy 1947, from British and French oversight 1953
  • Johannesburg, Union of South Africa (today's Republic of South Africa), meteorology (with U.S.A. and Union of South Africa); independece 1910
  • Capetown, Union of South Africa (today's Republic of South Africa), longitudes and latitudes (with Union of South Africa) and solar activity; independece 1910

U.K.-sponsored stations in former British colonies, which gained independence after the IGY 1957-58 or which are still British overseas territory today: 

  • Aden, Aden Territory (today's Yemen), meteorology (two stations)
  • Bahrain, Bahrain, meteorology and gravimetry (co-sponsored with U.S.A.)
  • Hong Kong, seismology (co-sponsored with U.S.A.)
  • Singapore, meteorology (co-sponsored with Malaya), nuclear radiation and two ionosphere (one co-sponsored with U.S.A.)
  • Suva, Fiji, nuclear radiation
  • Funafuti, today's Tuvalu, meteorology (co-sponsored with New Zealand)
  • eight stations in today's Kiribati
  • Bermuda, ionosphere and gravimetry, both co-sponsored with U.S.A.
  • Bahamas, two meteorology and ionosphere, both co-sponsored with U.S.A.
  • Cayman Isl., meteorology, co-sponsored with U.S.A.
  • eleven stations in former British West Indies: today's Jamaica, Antigua, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago
  • two stations at South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • four stations on Falkland Isl.
  • South Orkney Isl., also claimed by Argentine
  • Malta
  • Gibraltar
  • Cyprus
  • Sierra Leone
  • eight stations in Nigeria
  • Kilimanjaro, in today's Tanzania
  • Kenya
  • Maun, Bechuanaland, today's Botswana


India and Pakistan

After 1945, British Empire is almost completely dismantled, most importantly in India, which is partitioned into secular India and Muslim Pakistan, the eastern half of which becomes Bangladesh. Gandhian Nationalism provides inspiration for liberation movements around the world.

Yet, the colonial legacies are prominent in the geographical distribution of the IGY stations. The visualization of British IGY geography poses the question of the continutity of the "old" colonial order and the alliances it created and sustained. Thus, the British withdrew from India in 1947, and the area was partitioned into two independent countries - India (mostly Hindu) and Pakistan (mostly Muslim). Violence continued for some time after final partition, and there were disputes over territory between the two newly created countries. Yet, in 1957, the UK had still a strong presence in its former colony, sponsoring three IGY stations in formerly British India: one in New Delhi, one on Ceylon, and one in Pakistan.


UK-sponsored IGY stations between Great Britain and India

This visualization further reveals similarities to the British empire's 19th century telegraphy network with numerous relay stations between Great Britain and India. Perfect matches with the 1874 map below include Gibraltar (stations for meteorology and nuclear radiation, Malta (meteorology station), Aden (meteorology station) and Karachi (oceanography station). A meteorology station in Habbaniya, Iraq is only 89 kilometers west of Baghdad. In Habbaniya the Royal Air Force operated an active air field from 1936 until the 14 July Revolution of 1958.

Telegraph lines from Great Britain to India, 1874. From Deep Kanta Lahiri Choudhury, Telegraphic Imperialism: Crisis and Panic in the Indian Empire, c. 1830-1920, Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, p. 78.

Following are some details and historical background on the U.K.-sponsored stations in India and Pakistan:

Karachi (Manora), Pakistan, oceanography station sponsored by Pakistan-U.K.; sent data only to WDC-A (U.S.A.): Manora is an island protecting the Karachi natural harbour. The British captured it in 1839. Karachi was turned into a British army headquarter. On Manora, the British constructed a fort and a cantonment with its own infrastructure. After being turned over to Pakistan in 1947, it has served as a naval base and training facility since then.1

Delhi, India, ionosphere station, sponsored by India-U.K.; data of vertical incidence soundings, absorption and drift sent to WDC-C2 (Tokyo), data of atmospheric noise sent to WDC-A (Washington) and WDC-C1 (Slough, U.K.): Delhi was under British rule from 1857 until 1947 and has been capital since 1911. The British Indian Army established Delhi Cantonment, which is now the site of the Indian Air Force Headquarters. The Indian National Physics Laboratory (NPL) was established in Delhi in 1947 (first conceptualised in 1943). It has a division on ionospheric research.2

Colombo, Ceylon, today's Sri Lanka, ionosphere station, sponsored by Ceylon-U.K.; sent data of atmospheric noise to WDC-B (Moscow) and WDC-C1 (Slough, U.K.): Colombo was the capital of British Ceylon, a crown colony from 1815 to 1948. It has been a British military outpost since 1796. Sri Lanka Navy (established as Royal Ceylon Navy in 1950) has its headquarters in Colombo. The IGY station is near Bandaranaike Airport, which was set up as a Royal Air Force field in World War II and used by British forces until 1957.3



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