We have three team members here — Ali, Marty and George — all working for the Bureau of Meteorology, who have been running science and weather observations on Macquarie Island since ANARE began.
Part of their daily routine is regular balloon launches. Twice a day they release a balloon with a sonde (electronic measuring instrument) underneath it that sends data back to them with constant details of atmospheric temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction, until the balloon finally bursts somewhere around 30 km up in the atmosphere.
Once a week they release an ozone balloon which does all of the above and also measures O3 (ozone) to track how the ‘hole’ in the ozone layer is increasing and/or decreasing. This balloon is bigger as it needs to carry more weight and go higher — it burst around 34 km up. The sonde is also bigger and heavier, and continues to send data as it falls back to earth after the balloon has exploded. And yes, it is polystyrene as a material is yet to be found with the equivalent weight, strength and insulating properties — the search for a replacement is ongoing.