Page 605
Previous/Next Page
Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology
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
Extract from Overseas Telecommunication Veterans Newsletter

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
Chapter 3: Willis Island is Born

Extract from Overseas Telecommunication Veterans Newsletter

This extract from the Overseas Telecommunication Veterans Newsletter is a detailed account of the beginnings of Willis Island. It should be remembered that AWA, and later OTC, managed the island until 1966 when the Bureau took over.

Cliff Cutler's family have given the Veterans' Association a number of documents and photographs which Cliff had in his possession. One of these is his log of the expedition to build a station at Willis Island in 1921 and it is thought that this would be of interest to our members. It is repeated in its entirety except for the deletion of a couple of small derogatory remarks.

October 5—Wednesday
Left Melbourne 5.00 pm

October 6—Thursday
Arrived Sydney 10.45 am. Saw Toomb and Crawford. Called at Graham's and had a spot. Left Sydney 3.30 pm.

October 7—Friday
Arrived Brisbane 6.40 pm. Met Chilton and Bond. Left Brisbane 8.30 pm for Gladstone, travelled with Sam Foll.

October 8—Saturday
Arrived Gladstone 10.30am. Bingira arrived 1.00pm left 3.00pm. Lovely weather. Leverett and Dunne aboard. Had good start.

October 9—Sunday
On boat good trip.

October 10—Monday
Arrived Townsville 5.00 am raining heavily. Had breakfast and went ashore. Weather cleared and day very steamy. Saw VIT [Townsville Coastal Radio Station—Ed] staff and arranged aerial on Innisfail. Got much assistance from Atkins.

October 11—Tuesday
Fitted aerial to ship. Spent evening with Lamb.

October 12—Wednesday
Busy day loading ship. Cooma arrived early morning. Arranged for VIT to charge emergency battery one cell of which found to be leaking. Jessop mended and gave seven hours. Charged cells delivered to wharf 10.45pm.

October 13—Thursday
Left 3.00am for Willis. All aboard. Weather hot. Sea calm.

October 14—Friday
Arrived off Willis 6.30pm. Anchored for night. Sea calm. Weather hot.

October 15—Saturday
9.00am went ashore to look around with first party. Laid out position of masts with Davis and Priddle then assisted bringing gear ashore until 9.30pm. Weather fine and hot. Sea dead calm. Island covered with heavy grass and plants, one similar to NZ Spinach.

October 16—Sunday
Sea dead calm. Up at 6.30am. Had to wait second relay for breakfast so missed first boat. Went ashore with second boat and assisted unloading until lunch time. Went aboard 12.30pm for lunch and after same ran circuit to charge battery from ships mains. Gave VIT and CQ [a general call to anybody that may be listening—Ed] a shout—no response. VIT C G J came in well all afternoon but no good at night owing to xes [possibly atmospherics—Ed]. All hands came on board 5.30pm.

October 17—Monday
Up at 6.30am. Went ashore 7.20am with first boat. Helped land cement and general gear. Sea dead calm. Got back to boat to get engine on boat for shore. D and I got left on ship. Case got dropped into water and engine covered with sand, etc. Went ashore and cleaned her up. Finished 5.30pm. Dunne picked up Caulfield Cup results from Pt Moresby. Great trouble with eye, much pain through glare.

October 18—Tuesday
Went ashore first boat and helped land cement and gear. Came aboard for lunch and not feeling too well. Had a spell in afternoon. Worried. Sunburn troubling everybody. Took photo of island. Sea dead calm.

October 19—Wednesday
Went ashore 5.00am. Laid out western mast base and anchorages with Priddle. Came aboard for breakfast 8.30am then helped to get the big case (panel set) ashore. Had to rig sheer legs and lay case on side. Dynamo and Dynometer also taken ashore. Dynamo dropped in water off truck but did not get much damage. All cases taken up hill on trolley. Came aboard for lunch and went ashore and assisted Priddle to fix pump for water supply. Weather changed afternoon to rain and SE wind.

October 20—Thursday
Went ashore 5.00am. Fixed mooring for boat with D. Sorted out mast parts and came aboard for breakfast. Went ashore and worked about till lunch. Weather taken turn, sea rough. Innisfail shifted out to deep water making it hard to land gear. Opportunity to land balance of gear has been lost and it is now difficult to row to ship. Things progressing well on shore. After lunch I fixed tank and water supply for concrete. Coming aboard 5.00pm.

October 21—Friday
Weather blowing from SE and rough. Could not go off early as previously owing to sea. Going ashore with lunch and having a full day ashore. Rafters put on first boat today. Fixed pump and mixed concrete. Put in good days work. Weather now cool and good SE wind blowing. Ship anchored well out and opportunity to get balance of cargo ashore missed.

October 22—Saturday
Too rough to go over at 5.00am so had breakfast and went ashore with lunch packed. Got all W/T gear assembled ready for use as required. Found voltmeter of main power board broken both pivots. Got engine bed in position and concreted, mixed concrete, mended pump. Came aboard 5.30pm. Weather delightful. SE Trades blowing.

October 23—Sunday
Went ashore at 8.00am with lunch and did the plumbing of building. Glorious day and put in good days work. Came aboard at 5.30pm. Cannot locate engine oil, apparently not sent. Quite a lot of cement and stores to be landed yet and the leader is gambling with the weather in not getting it ashore whilst weather is good. Unpacked units for switchboard and found both pivots of voltmeter broken off.

October 24—Monday
Weather freshened and blowing too hard for 5.00am trip ashore. Got ashore at 8.00am and finished plumbing, got engine on bed, generator mounted and switchboard wired up. Came aboard 5.00pm. W D [Works Department—Ed] party shifted quarters ashore. Gale sprang up during night and brought light rain. Blow is very severe and will prevent getting anything ashore including food for party.

October 25—Tuesday
Blowing gale too rough to get ashore early. Propose trying midday. Too rough at 1.00pm. Got ashore after exciting trip at 4.00pm. Made comfortable for night and got engine ready for a run. Blow very hard. One of labourers proved good cook so things look all right for meals.

October 26—Wednesday
Up 5.00am morning coffee and work. Got kick out of engine. Running okay. Assisted in plumbing and made start at repairing voltmeter. Worked to 8.00pm. Blow still on and no-one ashore from ship. Cement concrete in for one mast. Set anchorages with P. Finished water connections for engine.

October 27—Thursday
Up 5.00am morning coffee. Completed voltmeter. Made two pivots of needles tested. Test okay. Unpacked rest of W/T gear. All in good order. Pumped water for engine. Cooling finished 6.00pm. Blow still going strong, boat brought food off ship, had a busy time landing stores.

October 28—Friday
Up 5.00am. Unpacked main panel and found okay. Put into position and got wiring nearly completed. Worked until 6.00pm. Blow still on. Ship's party came ashore again. D' visited us and went aboard again.

October 29—Saturday
Up 5.00am. Chaps got two turtles about 5 cwt. each. 6.00am started on panel. Completed panel and tested out, all W/T apparatus now fixed. Too rough for boat to come off. Tucker rough, water stored in whisky barrels, not too good. Neither one thing or other. Worked right up till dark to finish.

October 30—Sunday
Started 8.00am and assembled mast and jury ready for lifting. Got mast all assembled and guys laid out. Tackles rigged after much talky talky by everyone. Finished 5.30pm.

October 31—Monday
Started 6.00am. Checked off guys finished and shackled up. Started hoist mast. Soon had her vertical in two minutes. Spent the rest of day finishing off guys. Owing to importance of P & D, sub mast up without dressing guys. Finished 6.00pm. No phones ashore to try out set. Battery in bad state, apparently reverse charged on board.

People in Bright Sparcs - Davis, John King

Previous Page Bureau of Meteorology Next Page

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