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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


Contact us

This Metarch Paper has been prepared to commemorate 75 years of continuous observations from Willis Island. The station's establishment is probably due to the visionary persistence of the Hon A. Poynton (Minister for Home and Territories) and Captain J. K. Davis (Commonwealth Navigator) in the early 1920s. Home and Territories was the Department responsible for the Bureau of Meteorology at that time.

An attempt has been made to collect a series of reminiscences of life on the Island at various stages of its development. Chapters 3 to 8 present these in chronological order. They have been reproduced as received, with only minor changes to correct major grammatical and spelling errors.

It should be remembered that the Postmaster-General's Department (PMG), Coastal Radio Section, managed the Island at the beginning. Reading the early documentation suggests that the Island was seen as a radio station which provided observations rather than an observing site which used radio to deliver its product. Following this, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) (AWA), and later the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC), managed the Island until 1966 when the Bureau took over. As a result, most of the staff on Willis Island in the early years were radio operators who presumably were given a brief training in taking observations.

The years of change from PMG to AWA to OTC control are unclear, and are probably held in Telstra records if anywhere.

Beside the visible changes in the observations and communications over the 75 years, there have been many less obvious to an outsider. The accommodation has improved from the original 'temporary' primitive shack to modern air-conditioned living quarters. Even the methods of getting stores ashore are vastly improved, the original method being to use the ship's boat to get close to shore and to cart the stores by hand the last few yards through the water.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd.

People in Bright Sparcs - Davis, John King

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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