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Table of Contents

Seventy-Five Years at Willis Island



Chapter 1: Willis Island Today

Chapter 2: Willis Island is Conceived

Chapter 3: Willis Island is Born

Chapter 4: The Early Years

Chapter 5: Life in the 1930s

Chapter 6: Willis Island at War (1941–42)

Chapter 7: After the War

Chapter 8: Willis Island—1960s Style

Chapter 9: The Value of Willis Island

Chapter 10: The Original Inhabitants

Appendix 1: Willis Island Milestones

Appendix 2: Willis Island Officers

Appendix 3: Log of Willis Island Observations, December 1922

Appendix 4: References


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Chapter 1: Willis Island Today

The Bureau of Meteorology Station, WMO Number 94299, known as Willis Island is situated at 16 17' 45" South 149 58' 30" East. It is on the southernmost of a group of three islands, which with their associated sandy cays stretch in a NNE to SSW line for about 12 kilometres. Willis Island itself lies roughly NW to SE and is about 500 metres long and 150 metres wide, and rises to just under 10 metres above sea level. It is in the Coral Sea some 245 nautical miles northeast of Townsville and a similar distance east of Cairns.

Willis Island


The current staffing at the station is normally four, being three Technical Officers (Observer), one of whom is Officer-in-Charge, and one Technical Officer (Electronic Engineering).

The three observing staff maintain an almost 24 hour observations coverage. A Micromac Automatic Weather Station (AWS) sends out hourly observations of wind speed and direction, temperature, dewpoint, pressure and rainfall. Every three hours the observers add cloud, visibility and weather details to make up a full synoptic report.

Rainfall is measured by a standard rain gauge, a Dines tilting syphon pluviograph and tipping bucket rain gauge linked to the AWS. Wind observations use a Dines pressure tube anemograph, which provides a record of winds up to 200 knots (370 km/h).

Upper air radar wind flights are performed four times each day using a hydrogen filled balloon and an attached radar target of foil covered foam. These are followed to heights of over 20 000 metres using a WF100 radar and a computer based console (PC RADWIN). At 9am, the normal 100 g balloon is replaced by a 350 g balloon and a radiosonde is attached to the train. Besides the winds, this flight provides details of pressure, temperature and humidity through the atmosphere. As the balloon ascends the data is transmitted to a separate ground based computer (PC CORA) which receives and stores the data.

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Fletcher, P. 1996 'Seventy-Five Years at Willis Island', Metarch Papers, No. 9 December 1996, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher