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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Australia: Carnarvon

A large satellite dish
One of the antennae from the OTC Earth Station

Although there was a little bit of Shark Bay that I hadn't seen – a homestead with hot artesian wells, apparently – I was in the mood to drive, so I set off down the peninsula, back past Hamelin, and onto the highway again. I took a left turn to head north, and after watching the kilometres slip by I soon arrived in Carnarvon, a very pretty little town on the coast.

Beyond the Suburbs

The blowholes, Carnarvon
The blowholes a-blowin'

One of the most impressive sights in Carnarvon is the tracking station just outside town, even though it was closed to visitors when I visited. The tracking station consists of a big radio dish on a hill, pointing straight up at the sky, and the local tourist office's literature proudly claims that this dish was used to track the Apollo and Gemini spacecraft, as well as being the dish that beamed Australia's first ever live satellite TV programme. Irritatingly, the first claim turns out to be untrue, as the NASA antenna that was used to track manned spacecraft is no longer with us; that antenna was part of the NASA Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN) Tracking Station, which has now been bulldozed. Instead, the dish that the tourist office falsely claims to be the MSFN antenna is actually one of two antennae from the OTC Earth Station, which was used to talk to a communications satellite in geo-stationary orbit over the Indian Ocean1.

1 Many thanks to Terence Kierans, who contacted me with the real story behind the antenna at Carnarvon. Terence was an Operations Supervisor during some of the Apollo missions, and he worked at the NASA MSFN Tracking Station from 1965 to 1970, so he should know!

2 Reticulation is the name given to automatic watering systems normally found in gardens and greenhouses; everyone's garden in Australia has a reticulation system, so the word has passed into normal usage here.