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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 antenna system was of European manufacture, and a bit of a headache at times. One of the main faults was the overload trip in the azimuth drive which activated if several large error steps were fed in via the remote control unit. The only way to determine if the steering system was actually operating was to see if data was being received ok, or to watch the antenna movement with a telescope. I was at the remote site one afternoon to reset the overload when the antenna received a direct lightning strike; it then needed more than a reset. Stopped all operations for a week or so. I thought of giving away operations for awhile too.

Another Darwin first was my introduction to AWSs. There were four in the Northern Territory; three on islands and one at Port Keats, which may have been on an island as far as accessibility goes. The method of doing normal maintenance, six monthly, was to pack every possible part for a complete AWS, plus spares for any known faults, replacement batteries and tools in the green transit bags. This lot could usually just fit in the Hi Ace van to go to the ship. All this, too, coincided with the arrival of one of the lighthouse maintenance Cape ships. Then two of us would hitch a ride as passengers/workers for up to two weeks, depending on the ships itinerary. Fortunately, most of our AWS sites were close to the shipping lights, but it was usually a hassle getting our work completed by the time the LARC returned to pick us up to return to the ship.

Maintenance at Port Keats was by road in the dry season and by air in the wet. The road trip would be in a fully loaded Toyota 4x4 ute, part of the load being 200 litres of extra petrol. The first 200 kilometres, to the Daly River crossing, would take about three hours. The next 200 kilometres would take at least eight hours; there was possibly 30 kilometres of graded road, the rest bush track. Some dry swamps would have six tracks branching off in a 45 degree arc at the start but would all join up again five kilometres later; a bit of a worry 'til one got used to it as there were no maps of the area. This country was completely impassible during the wet, and not too good in the dry. I have had bulldust over the bonnet of the Toyota.

The AWS was about 15 kilometres past Port Keats township, at a place called Injun Beach. Here we would set up a camp next to the AWS building after clearing away bush which had grown up since the last visit, often 12 months before. The hut was substantial but, with no ventilation, was too hot and dark to camp in. One could not sleep on the ground either; there were ten million hermit crabs to walk past when the tide changed which would then try to walk up the tin walls of the shed. This didn't contribute much to a good night's sleep. A Port Keats maintenance visit would usually take the whole week.

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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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