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Table of Contents

Radio Technical Officers





Chapter 1: The Early Years

Chapter 2: The Training School

Chapter 3: Equipment Installation Records

Chapter 4: The 'Techs' in Antarctica

Chapter 5: The 'Techs' Tell Their Stories
Trevor Donald Tells It All; Life in the Bureau from 1947 to 1989
Ray Clarke Looks Back
Some Memories from Ralph Bulloch
Peter Copland Works in Meteorological Electronics
Some Titbits from Dave Grainger
A Very Modest Tale from Alf Svensson
Adrian Porter Pulls No Punches
Jack Tait Recalls
Some Stories by Colourful Freddie Soutter
Some Snippets from Noel Barrett
Stephen CourbÍt Has His Penny Wworth
And a Flyspeck or Two from Lenny Dawson
Some Interesting Reminiscences from Jannes Keuken
Brief Stories from Phil Black
From Gloria West, Wife of the Late Bob West
The Life and Bureau Times of Graham Linnett
Tales Out of School from Bill Hite
Peter Copland on Cyclone Tracy
Peter Broughton Tells the Story of Maralinga

Appendix 1: 'Techs' Roll Call

Appendix 2: Trainee Intakes

Appendix 3: 'Techs' Who Have Served in the Antarctic Region

Appendix 4: Summary of Major Installation Projects

Appendix 5: Summary of Major Equipment Variously Installed at Sites and Maintained by Radio Technical Officers


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Peter Copland Works in Meteorological Electronics (continued)

The Bureau's Northern Territory radar equipment comprised a WF44 and a miserable little WF3 at Darwin airport, and the original 277F still at Alice Springs. A WF44 radar was installed at Alice Springs, I think, in 1974. The Darwin airport WF44 radar was ok, but not so the WF3, which was primarily a stand-by for the WF44 and which was used during RAAF exercises in a transportable mode. It was too high to fit in a Hercules without being dismantled. I think it was in 1972 that we took the WF3 radar to Tindal RAAF base near Katherine, mounted in a frame in the back of a hired truck, for an exercise. Jack and Keith had to get truck licences. Weeks of work in preparation and the thing blew up after a couple of hours running. Sitting out in one's little tent in the Darwin wet was a good way to grow mushrooms, but not ideal for electronic equipment.

Another problem with the WF3 radar was, I think, the fact that we were trying to run it on our little 2.5 kW generators; solid, but not stable enough. Later, the power supply regulator units in the radar were replaced with improved results. However, the construction of the radar control unit was such that it was almost impossible to remove some of these power supply units.

I think it was in 1973 that we installed the ex-Darwin WF3 radar at its present resting place, in 1998, at Tennant Creek airport which, in those days, was probably the 'ultimate' in Bureau offices. The office itself was in a small closed-in verandah on the side of the 50 year old timber DCA Flight Service Unit (FSU) building. It was so narrow that all the instruments and the table had to be all on one side, or no way past. The balloon filling shed was a steel frame, one car kit-garage with the bolts holding the roof sheeting protruding 30 mm inwards from the frame. It was only about two metres high, and had no sprinkler system. Gas storage was in the open sun next to the filling shed, and later, in a trailer. There was a similar shed for targets and stores two metres away.

The WF3 radar sat on a concrete slab perhaps forty metres from the sheds, with the instrument enclosure in between, but to one side. With now permanent installation, the tent was replaced with white fibre glass panels and an air-conditioner. The air-conditioner was external and did not work well at first. There was an adaptor on the front of the air-conditioner to the flexible ducts connecting with the radar hut, but there was no baffle between the cold and hot return air inside the adaptor. It worked ok; kept itself quite cool. When this was fixed and the inside of the fibre glass panels were insulated with Coolite the radar was just habitable on a summer afternoon, or a winter night.

The original method for the servo alignment did not work too well; after a fair bit of experiment Jack and I had to rewrite the procedure to get some sense out of it. Another problem with Tennant Creek was that there were no good permanent echoes. Heaps of echoes from the hills around, but nothing that the radar liked that would stop it wandering off to find something better. Some years later an old timber mines site office was moved to next to the DCA office. The meteorological office there was a vast improvement. The Observers refused to use hydrogen in the unsuitable filling shed so for the next ten years or so balloons were helium filled. The extra cost of the gas would probably have paid for the filling shed that was eventually built.

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Clarke, R. 1999 'Stories of the Bureau's Radio Technical Officers from 1948', Metarch Papers No. 14 February 1999, Bureau of Meteorology

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