Broadcaster Dudley Wrathall of Auckland radio station 1ZB visited the Musick Point Radio Station in 1946 and spoke with station manager LG (George) Scull.
The interview is primarily a description of the layout and function of the operating areas within the Musick Memorial Radio Station.
LISTEN (Duration 11 min 30 sec)
Jim Sullivan: From the 1946 series ‘We found a story’ Dudley Wrathall visits the Musick Point Air Communications Centre and finds out more about it from Mr LG Scull.
Mr Scull: “Mr Wrathall, this is the operating room and we have here a number of operating positions – we call them ‘bays’ – and the particular one we’re standing in front of at the present time is known as the Small Ships Channel. The purpose of this Small Ships Channel is to enable small ships travelling around the coast to communicate with the shore, and it is mainly done by radiotelephone. It’s two-way communication.
And we also have connected to this particular bay certain of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Those which are connected have no other means of communication with the mainland and they pass radio messages concerning their business or for medical purposes to and from their place to Auckland.
Mr Wrathall: That would mean, Mr Scull, that if there was an accident they could call up here and a plane or a doctor could be sent down.
Mr Scull: That is so. That would be decided by the authority to whom they sent their message of course. If they should happen to have some form of complaint, and they’re able to give the symptoms, the Health Department would, in their wisdom, decide what was wrong and may even give preliminary instructions how to treat the patient until something further could be done.
Mr Wrathall: And what are those islands – what are they? Would they be Rakino, et cetera?
Mr Scull: Yes, Rakino is one, and Little Barrier, and the lighthouses: Mokohinau will I think be coming in again shortly and also Cuvier Island. We have communication with those places. Lighthouses of course are under the jurisdiction of the Marine Department, but the other private stations such as Great Mercury and Little Barrier and Rakino they have their own form of message and communication – more or less private stations arranged with the Post and Telegraph Department.
Mr Wrathall: So that disposes of Number 1 Bay. Now, the 2nd bay here, Mr Scull.
Mr Scull: This Number 2 Bay is the one which we work all ships other than those previously described, and it is known as the Mercantile Marine Channel.
Mr Wrathall: It works overseas ships.
Mr Scull: That is so – all ships leaving Auckland or even Wellington, for other places overseas may come within our area and we may work them with telegrams to passengers or from passengers.
Now this is Number 3 Bay, Mr Wrathall, and it is consists of equipment designed to give Radio Bearings, either to aircraft or to merchant ships. If an aircraft of a surface ship desires a bearing, either to check his plotting or his position, he may call up the station and request a bearing, and we from this position here are able to give him his bearing within two or three degrees, which to all intents and purposes is all that he desires for navigational purposes. It has been found very, very useful for ships approaching Auckland when they’ve been in heavy weather or fog. It gives them some idea as to whether their dead reckoning is reliable or not.
Mr Wrathall: That applies to ‘sea ships’, as it were, and air ships.
Mr Scull: Both to surface ships and aircraft.
Mr Wrathall: That was Number 3 Bay, now this Number 4 Bay, Mr Scull.
Mr Scull: Number 4 Bay is the setup for communication between the Ground and Aircraft, or vice versa.
Mr Wrathall: Ah, this is aircraft, solely aircraft.
Mr Scull: That is so, and it takes care of all aircraft flying between Auckland and Australia, Auckland and New Caledonia, or Auckland and Suva, over the area for which Musick Point is in radio control.
Mr Wrathall: Again, the aircraft can get bearings on this bay, is that the idea too?
Mr Scull: No. They may ask for bearings on this particular bay, but they are given on the bay previously described. Or rather I should say on the equipment at the bay previously described.
Mr Wrathall: Yes. Number 5 Bay we come to now.
Mr Scull: Number 5 Bay is the one which links up Rose Bay, Sydney and Laucala Bay in Fiji, and also we have regular schedules with Suva Air Radio which is another station, the original Civil Aviation station.
Mr Wrathall: That was Number 5 Bay. Well, we’re getting around this room very nicely. Number 6 Bay:
Mr Scull: Number 6 Bay is another Air-to-Ground or Ground-to-Air Channel similar to the one previously described for communicating with aircraft between Sydney-Auckland or Sydney-Suva.
Mr Wrathall: And then we came to the final bays, one of which passed messages to and from Norfolk Island, Noumea and Lord Howe Island.
The last rack was one which maintained contact with Awarua in the South Island, in connection with a high frequency direction finding service provided for ocean-flying aircraft. This service becomes operative when aircraft pass out of range of the medium frequency direction finding equipment. The high frequency direction finding net service provides for aircraft crews to have bearings taken of their aircraft simultaneously by Waipapakauri Air Radio, Musick Air Radio, Norfolk Air Radio, Ohakea Air Radio, Suva Air Radio and Awarua Air Radio. Much use has been made of this service as an aid to navigation – the plotted bearings providing an approximate ‘fix’ or position on a map.
Well, then Mr Scull guided us up the second floor, where the teleprinter room is situated.
Mr Scull: Up in this room, Mr Wrathall, we have, as you see, a number of teletype machines. They are, in effect, electrical typewriters and they’re joined to ‘lines’, similar to a telephone, and similar instruments at the other end of the circuit record exactly what is keyed on this typewriter. In addition to that, the people at the other end may, if they so desire and have any traffic, send their messages on their machine and it is recorded on a paper roll, as you see here, for onward transmission.
We have one to the Meteorological Office at Mechanics Bay. We have one to Pan American office in Auckland City. Another one goes to the Control Office at Mechanics Bay. And we have one to the RNZAF Signals Office at Whenuapai, and another one to the Pan American organisation at Whenuapai.
The meteorological one is in operation, more or less 24 hours in the day, collecting meteorological data from Laverton, Australia, which sends out which sends out rather comprehensive reports, and also a number of stations in the Pacific.
The meteorological data is regarded as most important as far as the operation of aircraft is concerned because it enables the pilots, at least to have some idea what they’re likely to encounter while they’re flying.
Mr Wrathall: I noticed, Mr Scull, that it seems to me – looking over this chap’s shoulder – that they’re almost in code, these messages.
Mr Scull: Yes, well, quite a lot of messages are in code. They’re code specially arranged – what one might term, apart from meteorological messages – company codes. And they are, I would say without exception, designed to keep the number of words down in a message. If one has to say everything in plain language, quite a number of words have to be used.
The meteorological stuff, of course, is always in code and has to be broken down when it gets to the meteorological office.
Mr Wrathall: Oh yes. Well, thank you Mr Scull.
Mr Wrathall: And finally we went up to the third floor, where there was situated another complicated piece of apparatus.
Mr Wrathall: Now is this a transmitter here, Mr Scull?
Mr Scull: Yes, Mr Wrathall. This is on the next floor up and probably when you were coming down the drive to the station you noticed a rather peculiar affair up on the top of the tower, which perhaps might even look like a number of, or a couple of, Red Cross ambulance stretchers criss-crossed.
Mr Wrathall: Yes, it did intrigue me quite a lot.
Mr Scull: Well that actually is the aerial system for this particular transmitter, and it was installed for the purpose of enabling us to maintain communication with the Chief Post Office in Auckland, where a similar installation is, to overcome the difficulties should we have a major breakdown in our cables or ‘lines’ between here and the city. It doesn’t isolate us altogether, and we have a radio communication by radiophone on a high frequency with the Chief Post Office, and therefore are able to pass essential messages until such time as the break was remedied.
Mr Wrathall: Really you could never be really isolated here at Musick Point.
Mr Scull: That is so, Mr Wrathall.
Mr Wrathall: And there listeners you have the story of what happens inside the portals of Musick Radio. Time doesn’t permit of telling you of the excellent accommodation and facilities for the staff of about 60, the wartime work of the station or the ancient Maori history of the site of the place. Suffice it to say that overseas experts have stated the work done by the staffs is equal to anything of its kind in the world.