Friday, 4 July 2008

Wireless Experimentation Station at Koo Wee Rup.

A very poor quality photograph of one of the buildings at the
Koo-Wee-Rup Wireless Experimentation Station.
Photo is taken from the Koo Wee Rup Sun of November 6, 1974.

Koo Wee Rup was once at the centre of International Wireless communications. In 1921, Amalgamated Wireless (Australia) Ltd. (A.W.A), selected Koo Wee Rup as a site for a Wireless Experimentation Station. The site of the Station was in Rossiter Road, near the intersection of Sims Lane, on land owned by John Mickle and it operated from June 1921 to 1922. It was at this Station that it was confirmed that direct and efficient communication between Great Britain and Australia was feasible when the very first direct press message was sent from the United Kingdom to Australia. It was received at 5.00 am on December 5, 1921 at Koo Wee Rup by Bill Bearup. Radio communications, at this time, were sent and received by a series of relays.

Wireless signals sent from Britain had already been received directly in Australia as early as 1918, as European Stations could be heard at certain times in Australia. These transmissions are effected by weather and especially sun activity (as anyone with a modern day HF radio would know).

Great Britain had proposed the establishment of an Imperial Radio Scheme, based on a series of relays, at the Imperial Conference of 1921 (the fore-runner of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting). Australia would have been at a disadvantage under this Scheme as we were at the end of the line and many relays were situated in politically unstable countries. The Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, rejected this Scheme at the Conference.

The Koo Wee Rup Station was staffed by Thomas Bearup, E.A Burbury and E.G Bailey. T. W. Bearup was Thomas William (known as Bill) Bearup (1897-1980). In 1916 he joined the Marine Service of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia). He later worked for the ABC and was Studio Manager for 3LO and had various positions within the ABC until he retired in 1962.

The experiments of Bearup, Burbury and Bailey used a heterodyne type receiver, with six stages of radio frequency amplication and two stages of audio frequency amplication. Their research showed that wireless signals could be received over long periods each day from New York, Rome, England, Paris and Germany and were consistent enough to prove that direct wireless communication was both practical and reliable between Australia and Britain.

A.W.A (who worked in conjunction with the Marconi Company) won the Contract from the Australian Government to construct and maintain Wireless Stations capable of direct commercial services to Britain and Canada.

The Gippsland Gate Radio and Electronics Club Inc (GGREC) re-enacted this feat in 2010  at the Koo Wee Rup Swamp Historical Society and one of their members, Steve Harding, had access to Bill Bearup's diary and this is what Bill wrote on June 14, 1910, the day after he arrived at Koo Wee Rup. He was describing the radio station -
It is about a mile from the hotel in the middle of a paddock. The aerial is a 2-wire inverted to 400 feet long & about 60 feet high. The stations buildings comprise two rough, unpainted, wooden “shacks” – one for the instruments & one for the engine & dynamo. The walls inside have been coated with brown paper to keep out the cold. Inside! What an uproar! Wire, cells, valves, instruments, switches & so on just stuck anywhere & everywhere. No effort has been made to make the station permanent – it has been established purely as an experiment. The only set available is a kerosene case! Power is obtained from an A.W.(A).L. 1½ K.W. rotary converter driven as a dynamo by a “Sunshine” two stroke 5 H.P. petrol engine. The receiver is a Marconi type 55D giving adjustments up to 30,000 meters. Radio frequency is amplified six times (V.24 valves) & rectified by a seventh valve (Q). ‘Phones’ Browns low resistance. Kept the noon to 4pm watch & was relieved by Lamb. It appears that this station belongs to the Marconi Coy & not the Amalgamated Wireless, though operated by the latter. The idea is to collect scientific data to show whether direct communication with Europe is practicable. I wonder if we are all fully seized with the importance of our mission?

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