Australian base stations etc - sent by Ted Patro, Australia/NZ area manager


Sandy Island. A patch of sand on a reef surrounded by lots of sea; perhaps a little too isolated for most. Although, from recent input, not completely isolated! It seems that Harry Bridges was the operator on here for a time, and it is reported that turtles would come ashore, walk the length of the island, not diverting around anything en route, which included equipment and operator - if he happened to be laying down. Harry also suffered the cyclone trick! See below.

Sandy Island (West Australia). Actually this is Scott Reef, the island is a little sand dune on the reef which can be covered with water during cyclones. There is a metal light house tower structure about 30 feet high which has a locked door that contains the propane bottle to power the light. During cyclones, if we were occupying the station at the time, we would break the lock and ride out the cyclone inside the light house. The door  was alarmed and was monitored in Perth (Broome?) by the department of harbours and lighthouses, in this way we would know if the personnel had found shelter from the storm. We would send out a new padlock on the next supply run. Seems like when Harry was there they needed fresh equipment, also, the water rising high enough to completely swamp the camp. Must have been a horrifying experience, sheltering in that small, insignificant-looking shack.

Ashmore  Reef Spot Station 1988

Ted Patro

The kitchen at Ashmore Reef; quite civilized 

Ted Patro

Ashmore Reef (Northern Territory) Actually closer to Timore. The first time we saw Ashmore was on a Raydist job for Burma Oil Company with Western Geophysical. The Vessels were the Oil Creek and Bluff creek. Milton Hock was the party chief; I and Al Covinuto were the mobile operators on the recording boat. Don Heaverlo and (cannot remember the second operator) on the shooting boat. Anyway, it was found that Ashmore Reef was 12 miles off location as shown on the admiralty charts that we had at the time, this almost caused the loss of the seismic cable. On a later survey we were contracted to Woodside Petroleum (previously Burma Oil) to map and do a seismic survey within the reef on Ashmore. I and Ron Caraway had been doing a job out of Onslow, W A with a Western Geophysical shallow water crew. Woodside had chartered a freighter out of Perth to transport the shallow water vessels (about 25 foot long each), and the freighter sailed for Onslow to load the vessels. Upon arrival, the problems began. The crew, union members, naturally, did not want to load the seismic vessels on board. Woodside had installed a sea container on deck to hold all the supplies for the seismic crew. this also contained some beer for the seismic crew. The seamen had broken into the container and were all drunk. With the captain's approval, the seismic crew loaded the boats on board while the crew slept it off. By the time the crew became aware of this, the vessel was at sea, on the way to Broome, to make good the depleted beer stocks. At some point prior to arrival in Broome, one of the seamen became sick, so an ambulance was arranged to pick him up and take him to the local hospital. Once the vessel was alongside, first off was the seaman on a stretcher, being carried by two of his mates. We were still in the process of tying up the vessel, which we were doing ourselves. When the seaman on the stretcher reached the dock, he leapt off and started taking photos of us tying up the vessel (it was against union rules for us to do so, as we were required to pay a wharf crew to do this). The Vessel was then laid up in Broome for two weeks while the strike was sorted out. We then sailed for Ashmore Reef without any more problems. The job itself was very interesting in that Ashmore has two small sandy islets about 2 miles apart. We installed a shoran station on each islet and without any coordinates, completed a mapping survey of the reef, and a shallow water seismic survey, all relative to the two shoran stations. The seismic lines were drawn up once the mapping survey was complete. This was all done by hand.  As each line was completed, it was hand plotted on the map and the new line was handed to the crew to shoot next.

The actual coordinates, relative to the rest of the world, were completed a couple of years later when we tied all the Raydist surveys into the Australian mapping system.

Station equipment at Perth shop, 

ready for shipment

Loading up. Harry Bridges, possibly Phil 

Thompson, Tony Hennessy

Station en-route to its site


Accufix was a very long range (100 KHZ) system which required 150 foot towers. ONI had three permanent Accufix stations which operated for about 4 years. They were located at Point Samson, Exmouth and Cape Cuvier. Some of the personnel involved over the years were: Tom Bains, Ted Zimny, Jerry Naylor, Claude Cabiac, amongst others. ONI also sold a system to Esso for use in the Bass Straits. The system was installed by ONI and used by Esso to keep track of Supply vessel's, helicopters etc. They had a monitor display in their airport control tower at Sale, Victoria. This displayed a scale map of the Bass Straits, with all the oil platforms, pipelines and vessels shown. From the control tower you could watch a helicopter land on a platform, or a supply vessel approach. The system interrogated each helicopter or supply vessel every few seconds and plotted its location on the screen and transmitted its coordinates back to the aircraft or vessel. In a few cases where the sale airport was fogged in it was used to guide the helicopters in for a landing. The system proved so good that the Australian Air Force at one stage considered using it on their training area to keep track of the aircraft, but Esso did not wish to take responsibility.

The US Navy also had a system at Exmouth, used to communicate with their nuclear submarine fleet. Frequency was 10 KHZ and the towers about 1200 foot.

The beautiful Australian bush


Click on photo for more

Neat generator layout

National Survey marker for Mt Richmond, & an ONI version

ONA developed tracking tailbuoy

Loran setup at Point Samson, 1980

The end of another day on 

Browse Island, NW Australia

Tailbuoy: This was designed in New Zealand for Peter Warmke and Ian Easterbrook. They obtained a contract to provide two of these for GSI This was powered by solar panels for Syledis. ONA received the bare units in Perth and did all the wiring, installed solar panels and Syledis. Unfortunately the first one had poor welding and leaked badly. After repairs it worked quite well but was a few years too late to be used for very long.


NB 84 buoy This was developed under contract for ONI by some company ( cannot remember their name).
This buoy was to have very little swing in deep water. The Idea was to use this as a base station with Maxiran, Syledis or Motorola. The power was generated from a thermal generator. The only job I know of that it was used on was for Esso off the coast of Malaysia.

Other Australasia photos

Poor shot, copied from a copy of a Crosstalk page way back when. Ted Patro in the Perth office (Welshpool, actually).

Ted in Perth, 2004

It's all those nights when you forgot where you'd left your car, Ted.

Probably a touch to much of the products from this area

Sunset fishermen at Kalbarri, WA

MV Eugene McDermott II, GSI's prime seis vessel in Australia for many a year.

DT worked this vessel from Broome down to the Bass Strait and Tasmania.

My good friend, Chris Grubba, the captain.

We used the MV Karunda in the 

King Sound. Ideal, as with its flat 

bottom it sat on the mud at low tide, 

awaiting some water.

Another view of the Karunda. OK in the Sound, not so good out in a sea though!

Bob Molloy? swabbing the decks. Looks like the McDermott again.


Click on photo for enlargement

Nice place for a seismic project, New Plymouth, New Zealand. Spent four months here with the Geco Delta and Geco Kappa, although this was post ONI.

Geco Delta was the recording vessel, three streamers. Timing and data was transmitted from shooting boat - when the system worked!

Geco Kappa towed numerous gun arrays. A complicated job that over-ran by months, a lot of delay due to weather. That Tasman Sea can get very rough; even in summer. The result was, we got to spend a lot of time ashore.


Australia - Adelle Island Spot station, 1987


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