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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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Seventy-Five Years at Willis Island


The establishment of a storm-warning wireless station on Willis Island was largely the result of the determination and persistence of a remarkable man—John King Davis. In 1921, Davis, Commonwealth Director of Navigation, was a member of a committee established by the Minister for Home and Territories (later Interior) to consider the establishment of the station. Other members of the committee were MacLaren, Secretary of the Department for Home and Territories, Hunt, the Commonwealth Meteorologist, and Malone, the Director of Radio Services, Postmaster-General's Department. The project was in danger of being shelved when Davis volunteered to man the station to demonstrate that there was no danger of the island being engulfed by high seas during a tropical cyclone.

Davis wrote the story of his manning of the island in his book Willis Island: a storm-warning station in the Coral Sea. However, his main claim to fame rests with his remarkable history as the captain of vessels involved in Antarctic exploration with the expeditions of Ernest Shackleton and Douglas Mawson. Among other remarkable exploits, he established a meteorological station at Macquarie Island.

In assembling the collection of reminiscences of Willis Island which appear in this issue of Metarch Papers, Peter Fletcher has made a valuable contribution to the history of Willis Island.

Peter was born in Kent, England, in 1943, educated at Grammar Schools at Dewsbury and High Wycombe and joined the UK Meteorological Office in 1962. He worked as an Assistant at RAF Bomber Command in High Wycombe, as Officer-in-Charge (meteorology) on weather ships in the North Atlantic for two years and later as a forecaster at RAF stations in the UK and the Middle East.

People in Bright Sparcs - Davis, John King; Fletcher, Peter; Gibbs, William James (Bill); Hunt, Henry Ambrose ; Mawson, Douglas

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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
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