Samson (Sam’s Creek) base station, North West Cape, Western
Australia 1972 -73.
Bill Cooper (ONI Bass Strait
operations, Victoria) in 1971 wanted to buy our house in Frankston as
his home. The attraction was our large garage for storage and repairs.
Our house was 120 miles - a two hour plus drive to Sale, Gippsland,
Bill’s base with Esso/Exxon. Bill did buy our house; we were moving
near our drive-in cinema at Dromana, and Rosebud Cinema, on the
Mornington Peninsula. I was at a loose end having left my job as an
electronics tech with Philips Industries, South Melbourne, to travel
overseas at some stage. USA was on my list and I had obtained a 6
month US visa but not a Green Card. After conversations with Bill, and
with my work experience he saw me as a prospective employee. He had a
need for a base station operator in Western Australia, I thought, …
"why not, might get to visit New Orleans, ha!" All this at
the tender age of 22 years.
Flew to Adelaide, joined another
employee, then on to Perth, after meeting with the guys from Perth
office. Perth to Paraburdoo by small plane. Paraburdoo to Roebourne
and Sam’s Creek, a six-hour drive - could never understand not
flying to Port Hedland.
Met up with Jack Jachimczak and
he schooled me in use of two-way radio operation, of Shoran and
manipulating yagis, and dealing with scorpions, centipedes, spike
seeds and so on. His wife/partner was living on the Gold Coast,
Queensland, and his Australian visa was running out. He wanted ‘out’
and was giving Perth office drama over it.
Sam’s Creek base station was
just south of Point Samson on a sand hill, west of Wickham and just
north of Cliffs Robe River Iron Ore Assoc./Cape Lambert iron ore
loading terminal – where desert meets the sea. Iron ore dust was a
problem on occasions, clouding out transmission. Jack left after a
week, I took him to Roebourne in the old Land Rover we had.
Sourcing water was a problem.
Bristow Helicopters reluctantly allowed me to fill up our water tanks
from their supply. From memory, I think they said at the time,
"Don’t come back". Bristow’s job was to ferry people to
Barrow Island and Burmah Oil Exmouth/Rankin rigs. Provisions were
sourced from the small Roebourne supermarket. Temperatures during this
November/December period were around 40 degrees centigrade every day.
During this period, I rebuilt the Briggs and Stratton with a ‘short
block’ from a crate, and constructed a rudimentary roof for the
engine with the materials at hand. During this solitary period, a
cyclone came through, no rain but so fierce the only place of refuge
was the Land Rover, and it was difficult to see through the windscreen
because of airborne sand. Credit to tent installers, it remained
intact although Shoran and pantry were loaded with sand.
Some weeks later Peter Coe turned
up and started contacting Perth office requesting a larger, better
tent, and we then set to rearranging the station. Peter was a
character, working slowly but methodically in blazing sun, not your
average Englishman. He did talk about Mike Hoare, and from what I
gathered I think he was in his troop for a time in Africa. Would like
to catch up with Peter – e-mail or whatever.
The Land Rover which I had relied
on so much for water and provisions was taken from us, some ‘political’
decision, and I thought it was about time I moved on. I eventually
left Peter on his own. He seemed happy enough.
Back to Victoria, worked as a car
hop at our drive-in, film pickup from distributors in Melbourne, among
other things, and took off to the UK shortly after. Married in Dundee,
Scotland, then back to Melbourne with STC Cannon, BWD Electronics,
before moving to Brisbane with wife and two children.
My last job in 2013 was with Danfoss Aust. (a Danish company) selling
and commissioning variable speed drives to the resource/mining and
water industries in Queensland and Northern NSW.
As a postscript, Bill Cooper in 1973 studied
acupuncture, I met up with him in Frankston and from memory this was
to be his vocation after ONI. After searching for Bill on Google, I
came up with a funeral notice for a William Alfred ‘Bill’ Cooper
who died October 29, 2015. Funeral to be held at Mt Martha, a nice
spot between Frankston and Rosebud. It could be him as I knew he liked