VK0EK – March 6 – April 20, 2016

Hugh Milburn, who was active on Heard Island in 1969 as VKØHM, paid a visit to Expedition Leader Bob Schmieder. Hugh is one of a handfull of people who have had the extraordinary experience of visiting and working on Heard Island. He was there nearly 50 years ago. Bob’s previous visit was a mere 20 years ago.
The ANARE site is reclaimed by the elements. (Upper row) 1947, 1969. (Lower row) 1997, 2012.
Feb. 24, 2016. The Expedition has a remarkable visitor today: Hugh Milburn, known to some older amateur radio operators as VKØHM. He operated mostly 20m during his working stay on Heard Island during 1969-70.

Hugh recounted the circumstances of his work at the ANARE station, at Atlas Cove:

My stay there was not for DX of course, but driven by the Cold War when there was a strong interest in knowing the size and shape of the earth (geoid). The Air Force and Army Map Service went to great lengths in those pre-GPS days to survey as well as possible.  They fielded the Satellite Triangulation effort that had small teams all over the globe, except in the USSR. Interesting work, but as the party chief (LT) on HI, my first obligation was keeping the team alive and well (which was not easy), second was the ‘work’, and third was communication, although we could not do the work without comms. We had all Collins gear, ran about 800W to a 3-element beam around 14 MHz on a government channel from which we downloaded satellite ephemeris and other data. Since this gear was at all other stations, I used it where possible for ham contacts to talk phone patch back to Seattle (to my girl friend, now wife of 45 years).  Of course when VKØHM came up on 20 m, the band lit up with DXers desperate to make contact. It was too low a priority to spend much time, but we did make about 2000 contacts, and I have a box of QSL cards, handled by W7PHO in Seattle at the time.

“I spent much of my career at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab running the Engineering Division, making the tools the scientists used to collect data on the ocean. Most of the effort at the Lab is the study of the ocean’s role in climate, which started long before that word was high in the media.  That work also dragged me around the world, but much of it was in Alaska,along the world’s equator (El Nino/La Nina), and on the sea floor with Alvin along the Cascadia subduction zone. The  tsunami work we had done did got little attention until the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, and shortly after that the project went ‘viral’, so to speak.  I am now mostly retired and only do a little consulting when something interesting comes up.”

Hugh came with his  brother-in-law Lyle Lewis K6GFB, the Marin Country ARCBA Officer in the Red Cross Service. Hugh also brought with him 95 photographs from Heard Island which he had digitized. They show various stages and aspects of the operations there in 1969, and as such, they are important historically. The set of four photos above, spaced 10-20 years apart, show the ANARE station in various stages of decay. Hugh’s 1969 photo is the one in the upper right.


  1. Jon Stow says:

    Reblogged this on Amateur Radio News from Jon Stow, G4MCU and commented:
    Historically interesting amateur radio from 1969.

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