I had the rather enviable honour to attend the Australia Day Celebrations on none other than Direction Island yesterday.
The site of the old cable station and wireless station are long gone, but the history of the site is well recorded with plaques along the walking trail. I’ve been truly humbled in the knowledge of the personal sacrifices and hardships that these people endured in such remoteness.
I encourage anyone with the means or motive to get over to the now uninhabited “Rat Island” should they venture to the furthest western point of Australia here at Cocos (Keeling) Island and experience this themselves.
Tony Fisher (ARF)
On one side (the ocean side) of Direction Island is the site of the old Cable Station, and the other (facing the lagoon) was recently recognised as the “Best Beach in Australia”. One more reason to travel there….http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2016/12/australias-top-10-beaches-for-2017
My daughter Jennie operates a kite-surfing tourism business there – Zephyr Kite Tours
Was lucky to be stationed on Direction Island 1963/65. I have great memories not too many hardships in those days not like previous communications people during wartime, etc,
The old mess and cable station building were still the same but we had modern houses built for OTC(A) married staff to live in.
I have great memories of playing cricket, tennis and ‘Olympics’ against West Island staff, Met, DCA, Qantas and Admin, as DI was only 400yds wide by three qtr miles long and ten feet above sea level was pretty unique.
We had movies that we showed. We got private orders from Singapore, shopped at Bones in Perth, RAAF did low flying exercises over Cocos.
There was confrontation between Indonesia and Singapore whilst I was there so they cut of communications via Cocos to Perth.
We weren’t allowed on Home island where Clunies-Ross had a feudal system because the Australian govt was interfering in feudal system. Only saw him couple times wearing big dagger as his badge of office.
At last, recognition of the “personal hardships and sacrifices” OTC staff endured while serving on Direction Island.
Let’s face it, we endured the most perfect weather conditions, remaining constant at around 30 during day and reaching a minimum of 24 at night, all year round, no need for winter clothing.
Waking every morning no further than 100 yards from the pristine beach of the coral filled lagoon, with an uninterrupted 6mile view across the lagoon to West Island. In the other direction a couple of hundred yards away were the deep waters of the Indian Ocean.
Entertaining and being entertained by international yachties often included a sail aboard the yacht.
Then there were the occasional weekend trips to West Island. If you could hitch a ride with the skipper of the DCA Marine Base work boat. The success of which depended mainly on his mood at the time of asking.
Cheap alcohol to be enjoyed while sitting on the verandah of the ‘Exiles Club’, after work, watching the Cocos Islanders returning from collecting coconuts from the islands of the atoll, in their sailboats, tacking up to our shoreline to enable a heading toward ‘Home Island’.
Meanwhile we might be contemplating what movie it was that had arrived for showing on our outdoor screen, situated among the coconut palms. Depending on the movie or the sobriety of the projectionist, Dennis Simpson would always managed a film breakage requiring a repair at which time our glasses could be recharged, it was the manager Mos Hart’s policy that no drinks be recharged during the screening of film because that would require a light be turned on in the bar which of course interrupted the movie.
Another conversation might be who, from among the ‘singlies’ and ‘marriedies’ would be contenders for a game of tennis that evening, or, we might be questioning whether the boys from the DCA Marine Base might be up for a game of darts and a drink or two, or was it our turn to venture the 500 yards or so down to their camp via an unlit winding track through the coconut palms. Getting there wasn’t all that bad, returning often became difficult.
No it wasn’t that hard of a gig and yes! we did fit in some work!
It would be interesting to read what was written on the plaques, on D I. Does anyone have any photographs?
I was at the Cable Station from February 1965 until late 1966 and was involved unfortunately in the packing up destruction and closure of the Station.
I was on Cocos for much of the same time as Don. We did have it pretty easy during those years. I imagine it was a bit tougher in the earlier days.
We relied on the ships for the majority of our supplies but we got fresh vegies and fruit from Perth via Qantas on a weekly basis and if we ran
out of something important like beer, OTC would pay the air freight and the price we paid did not change.
Prior to WW2 when there were only ships for supplies if you ran out of something you waited for the next ship. Also we had a freezer so there was a good variety in the diet. I think the earlier staff relied on fish and coconuts a lot of the time. At least the fish were plentiful. Otherwise tinned food.
As far as CCS goes tho’ I think there is only three or four of us left who spent any time up there now though.
Thought you might like to see what it like back in the 60’s too and have attached a couple of pix from those days.
Cheers for now
With reference to my account of life on Direction Island in the mid sixties, it was my intention to acknowledge the hardships that would have been endured in those earlier times when the only contact with the outside world was by morse code and the irregular resupply of provisions by ship, mail apparently was delivered by passing ships dropping off barrels into the ocean to be recovered by small boats from the island.
Unfortunately I got carried away with memories of the good times we OTC staff were privileged to have experienced and I forgot to include that acknowledgment.
Thanks Keith and Chappy for picking up on that point.