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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
Extract from Overseas Telecommunication Veterans Newsletter, Submitted by Bob Inglis
Letter from Eric Riethmuller to Lyndon Wade, September 1981
Later Letter from Eric Riethmuller to Lyndon Wade

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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Chapter 4: The Early Years

Extract from Overseas Telecommunication Veterans Newsletter, Submitted by Bob Inglis

The following is another extract from a copy of the Overseas Telecommunication Veterans Newsletter. This is a story submitted by Bob Inglis shortly before his death

Brought up on a mental diet of Robinson Crusoe and similar novels, the prospect of living on a desert island with one other companion appealed to my sense of adventure, and at the age of 34 found myself with Fred Flexmore early in May, 1926, standing on the beach of Willis Island surrounded by a mountain of stores watching the ship disappearing into the distance returning to Australia and civilization.

Feeling lonely and rather sorry for ourselves wasn't doing any good and as there was a terrific amount of stores and equipment to be stowed away (quite a big Job for two men). We got stuck into it. By the time everything was under cover, we were only too pleased to crawl into bed, tired out, but satisfied with our introduction to island life.

Work started next day soon after dawn and quickly settled down to what became routine; for me, radio with Cooktown, periodic readings of barometer, thermometers, rain gauge, changing of graphs on various instruments etc. Fred did most of the cooking (but as all food came out of a tin, the ability to wield a tin opener was of paramount importance) and being a carpenter, all the general maintenance.

When the meteo and radio station was established in 1922 (sic) by the late Captain J. K. Davis, ably assisted by Leverett and Dunne from the CRS [Coastal Radio Service—Ed], it was treated very much as a temporary measure and the various working parties sent out to do necessary maintenance jobs were highly successful in doing just as little as possible except souvenir most of the very complete set of tools originally supplied; by 1926 few tools remained.

The 1926–27 wet season produced a cyclone, the early report of which from Willis enabled Cairns to take precautions and thus save many thousands of pounds and establish Willis as a permanent meteo station.

Building ABuilding B
Building C

The buildings on Willis Island in the 1920s. (Photographs courtesy of W. T. P. Smith)

Erecting an antenna

Erecting an antenna, 1922.

Painting antenna guy wires

Painting antenna guy wires, circa 1927. (Photograph courtesy of Eric Riethmuller)

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