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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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Adrian Porter Pulls No Punches (continued)

On a previous trip to Giles I fell ill to a stomach virus. Imagine lying in bed with the Observers arguing outside your donga about who was going to give you an injection to stop the vomiting. In the end the mechanic of the time, Kevin Gourley, prevailed, convincing the others that the Docker River nurses should administer the drugs, and that's where my nightmare began. At 10 pm being driven to Docker River 100 kilometres away, vomiting every 20 minutes into a bucket between my knees, and with bushfires burning on either side of the road; that was my lot that night. The fires had been started the previous day from spectacular lightning strikes. The nurses at Docker River were great; they gave me a jab that started my recovery. My two companions were up all night playing cards with the nurses and were sicker than me the next day.

The heat at Giles was the first I had encountered of that intensity. It was hot enough to heat a spanner to be untouchable if left out in the sun when working on the radar. The myth was that you could cook an egg on the WF2 radar distribution console; I never tried it, but I saw burns on the arm of an Observer who had come into contact with the panel. That visit we bolted a weather wall to the back. That fixed it for the Observers; thereafter they were wearing jumpers in the radar.

Then and now my handicap as a 'tech' has been air-sickness, and later sea-sickness. I lost too many breakfasts and lunches to ever remember, much to the disgust of light aircraft operators. Later in life this problem has not been as demonstrative as in the past; there is less vomiting, but the sick feeling and fuzziness is still there.

I found how to cure this in a later stay at Giles. While travelling home I was asked to fly the plane. This was a thrill as it meant for the first time I had control of the speed bumps in the sky-way. I flew the plane all the way back to Alice and had to shake the pilot over Pine Gap. She said she had flown her maximum hours and had proceeded to fall asleep after handing me the controls as we left Giles, following a five minute 'crash' course on flying and navigation.

Removing the mercury barometer and Synchrotac anemometer from the Kingston, South Australia, lighthouse took great personal willpower in the sea-sickness stakes, as the cray fishing vessel we used stopped all stations pulling up pots. Wallowing about it the bay was not my idea of technical work. Tony Robertson, an experienced sailor who accompanied me, passed on the trick of looking at the horizon as a way of overcoming sea-sickness. Needless to say I did not see much of the crays being pulled up. However, I did see the conger eel that was waved in front of my face by the excited fisherman as he chucked it back.

Life in all Regions and also in Head Office has its internal politics and personal intrigues. South Australia was no less a place when I arrived. Mike Rowell, however, would never get into politics and was the oil that could smooth the troubled waters of discontent with his dry sense of humour. I guess for me during that time he kept my head focussed on the lighter side of work aspects. We crossed paths again later in life, at Davis in Antarctica and at remote trotting tracks across Australia when I least expected it.

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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

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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