‘It would be the best Christmas present’: Plea to thieves for weather balloon memory cards after Herts Ad appeal

Robert Oxford-Pope with the weather balloon. Picture: Steve Pope

Robert Oxford-Pope with the weather balloon. Picture: Steve Pope - Credit: Archant

A young scientist is imploring the thieves who stole his weather balloon’s cameras to return the memory cards so he does not lose a year’s work.

It has been a roller coaster ride for Robert Oxford-Pope, who spent a year constructing a fully-functioning weather balloon which could record stable footage of the curvature of the earth.

After obtaining permission from the Civil Aviation Authority, Robert and his dad Steve Pope used helium and a parachute to launch the balloon 29,000m from Cambridge into the stratosphere last May.

Despite their best attempts to track it the duo lost its trajectory over Letchworth and sent out an appeal to anyone who finds its crash site - which they believed to be around Kimpton.

Hearing nothing for seven months, Robert and Steve had all but given up - until they received a phone call from someone who had seen the article and found the balloon’s remains draped over a bush in Whitwell.

Steve said: “It was wonderful because we had given up, we had carried on looking for it until about June but by that time the leaves on the trees were too thick to see anything so we thought we would come back over Christmas break to look - so it was a bolt out of the blue to receive this call.”

However all of the cameras from inside, along with memory cards containing the vital footage, have been stolen.

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Steve said: “We thought the one on the gimbal would have come off but we would have the one inside, so we were really disappointed to find that both had gone with all the footage - which was the whole point, to get some nice stable pictures.”

“It would have been tremendous to see the pictures, it would have been the best Christmas present you could get.”

The balloon works by expanding as the air pressure thins, enlarging about 5m per second, before eventually bursting and parachuting down to Earth.

Robert had conducted a similar experiment last year which yielded footage too jerky to use.

Steve added: “My son put a year’s work into that and the cameras are about £300, but at the end of the day the footage was really important.

“It seems someone took them and if they have one ounce of a conscience then maybe they could send us back the footage - no questions asked.”

He asked for the memory cards be sent to Steve at Solarflare Communications, Westbrook Centre Block 7, Milton Road, Cambridge, CB4 1YG.