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by Ken Richards


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In 1956 when Bob Love and myself were given an assignment in Tasmania, little did we think that "Chasing Birds" would be condoned or encouraged by HQ in Sydney - but let me clarify something. These were not the two-winged or two-legged variety, but a rather rare species 22ft long and 18 inches in diameter with an umbilical cord stretching up to its mother. (photo) This bird had a vertical transmitter coil in it's nose and a vertical receiver coil in the rear, it's function was to transmit a signal to the ground which would be changed by certain ore bodies then picked up by the receiver coil and sent to the recording instrument in the cockpit of the Sycamore helicopter.

Tasmania is rugged on the west coast with some trees growing to 250ft - so it was inevitable that the bird would be collected by some of these. When this happened, a novel approach was employed to pinpoint the crash site on the forest canopy - a toilet roll, ready to unroll and with a sizeable river pebble jammed up the centre would be thrown out, it would spiral down and mark the site.

I recall a funny side to the toilet roll story. Rosebery in 1956 was quite a small town but did boast a hardware store, The Hudson Bay Trading Co, so imagine the young girl shop assistant's face when we walked in and asked for dozens of toilet rolls, not mentioning their ultimate use!

Going in on foot and recovering these birds proved to be an impossible task, no way can toilet paper on the canopy top be seen against any bright specs of sunlight, the undergrowth is dense and dank, and in areas of "the horizontal" the ground can be well below the large trees that grow horizontally with their own false floor maybe 20ft above ground.

Peter Mayman and myself attempted one of these unsuccessful and in hindsight very risky rescues just a mile or so out from Rosebery. Our supplies consisted of a large bar of chocolate and some matches, very quickly we were lost and it was only the Mine hooter that gave us a bearing to head out.

There were times when the bird came back damaged but it was always repairable (see photo above).

How true the saying




If you wish to contribute your experiences, please contact Ron