Antarctic communications

Radio receiver (metal box with black knobs and dials)
Collins 51J-4 receiver (Photo: Elspeth Wishart)
Men stand around an old radio set listening

Former expeditioner Bob Allen provided the Antarctic Division with notes regarding memories of his time at Wilkes in 1968.

According to Bob’s notes, one of the highlights of a year down south in the days before satellite and email was hearing voice communication from Australia via commercial and ABC Radio. At Wilkes the radio room had Collins valve receivers and it could pick up radio station 4BR at Toowoomba, Queensland. Three of the expeditioners at Wilkes in 1968 came from Toowoomba, so the station was contacted by telegram and from then on the station frequently acknowledged the boys down south.

Radio Australia was easily picked up down south and the “Calling Antarctica” program and its announcer Jocelyn Terry were well known to every expeditioner. She would read out letters from family and wives and play requested records. According to Bob Allen’s notes, expeditioner and weather observer Frank Scaybrook’s mother would actually visit the radio station and speak to her son on air herself. Her opening line was “Hello Frank, Mum here” and she would ‘prattle on for a few very boring minutes,’ according to Allen.

According to “The Silence Calling” (page 226), Radio Australia announcer, Mary Adams broadcast one of the more unique items, which was an expeditioner’s wife giving birth. This was broadcast at the insistence of the wife, and was a big hit down south, being repeated three times.

Today with instant contact around the clock via email and phone we tend to forget what it was like not all that long ago.

This page was last modified on 18 September 2009.