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by Maurie Miller


This is a brief biography of my time with Adastra Hunting Geophysics. Excuse memory lapses.

1954/55. I was a field technician (electronics) with the S.A. Mines Department. We did airborne scintillometry surveys with an Avro Anson Mk 19 at 200 feet radio altitude. The navigation was crude to say the least, three Landrovers spread over 40 miles in a straight line with Aldis lamps morseing the numbers on survey pegs. Aircraft courtesy of R.A.A.F. The SA Mines decided to go in for magnetometer surveys and obtained a submarine detector ASQ 91, but problems arose with patents and conversions. At this time Huntings of England joined up with Adastra Airways to form Adastra Hunting Geophysics. Thc SA Mines hired Adastra Hunting with the English crew, Capt. Bob Keeling, Alan Palmer technician, Derrick ? ,and Jack Tierney, an Australian from Adastra for the surveys. The aircraft was a Percival Prince. I flew with them and as Alan Palmer was due to return to UK to get married he asked me to join AHG, but I was hesitant to do so. They took on two technicians from AWA, one left due to airsickness. Eventually after a couple of surveys in SA, I approached Jack Tierney who was in charge of the operation to join Adastra. The UK crew went back and our crew consisted of Capt. Ted McKenzie, Navigator Jack Tierney, Engineer Ken Stredwick, Camera Operator Gordon Morell and myself. The Prince equipment consisted of a PSC magnetometer with detection head at the tail, radio altimeter (APNI ex wartime) Vinten 35mm tracking camera with multi intervalometer (6400 frames per 400 feet) and ground magnetometer to check diurnal drift and sunspot interference. Aircraft metal compensation for detector head was done by bar magnets in the tail of the aircraft (very crude and not satisfactory).

1955/56. We did a small mineral survey from Leigh Creek

1956 Went to Smithton in Tasmania. The weather was very poor so after struggling for some weeks we went to do a job for Rio Tinto in Cloncurry Queensland.

1956. Back to Smithton. Then to Lion Range with one traverse from Horn Island to New Guinea and return. Thence to Ceduna. Dates get a hit hazy here. Sometime on the way back from Ceduna I was sent to Queenstown, Tasmania where they were having trouble tuning the E.M.Bird towed by the Sycamore helicopter. The E.M.Bird was a 20foot long, fibre glass tube with a coil at either end and a scintillometer at the centre. The survey was not a great success as Tasmania has rather tall trees.

1957. A Catalina aircraft arrived from Canada equipped with magnetometer PSC, (same type as the Prince aircraft), radio altimeter, (same type as the Prince), Vinten camera (same type as the Prince), electro magnetic system (EM), scintillation counter, (locally made type AS3) for clarity magnetometer measures of magnetic strengths of in earth fields. EM sends AC fields vertically down (in this case 400 cycles per sec at 500 watts +230 cycles per sec at 250 watts) The signals are picked up by a bird towed under the aircraft + response from the ground. The bird is towed on a 500 foot cable. Mineral surveys 500 feet above ground radio altitude. Oil surveys 1500 feet above ground radio altitude. NOTE: Even though the bird trails on its cable, over the time we had the Catalina we managed to lose five birds by contact to ground.

Dec.1957. We did a proving run from Sydney to Burketown with all the equipment running. During this trip it was found that the scintillometer was picking up the radioactivity from the tips of various switches. These were crushed with pliers and tipped overboard.

1958/59. Adastra had both Prince and Catalina working in Tasmania. The areas were the west coast and some of the eastern side due to the turbulent nature e.g. going over mountains etc. An extra flight panel had been fitted to monitor conditions (attitude etc). This was fitted behind the starboard bulkhead of the pilots seats. The panel was illuminated and a tracking camera was used to photograph it. I do not know if it gave any useful information but it increased our workload. On our return to Sydney, contracts were in short supply. There were five technicians by then so the company wanted to offload. Ted Roberts and myself resigned voluntarily. Ted was older and married and wanted to get into TV, he went to Channel 7. I was ex TV from UK, so I went to Channel 2. Adastra was not too happy that we were the ones that left. Approximately nine months later, I had a phone call at work from Adastra asking me to return as senior technician. There was trouble with a magnetometer on the ground at Cobar. I I left Channel 2, and Peter Woyzbun, geophysicist, drove me to Cobar. On my return from Cobar, Adastra decided to update the magnetometer and obtained a Gulf magnetometer which was designed for a bird configuration. The use of a bird did not have the problems of a/c compensation but did not handle turbulence as well and had problems with tow cables. The magnetometer cable had about twenty conductors. I had got rid of bar magnet compensation for stinger operation by using coil inductors from regulated power supply on the Catalina. Later on, Kentings of Canada sent us a circuit using zener diodes which were new then for a power supply. So we made that up. Magnetometer bird configuration was used on Ansons, Hudsons, Catalina (when EM not used) and DC-3. Stinger was used on DC-3 and Aero commander. The Catalina was eventually put to bed. I made many trips in various aircraft which I can't put dates on. The DC-3 did surveys over the water from Broome and at Weipa using Radist navigation.

1965. We did a magnetometer survey over the Coral Sea using Doppler navigation (using bird). An extra fuel tank was installed in the cabin. The survey was eight hours daily from the northern end of New Caledonia. Les Sheffield our electrical instruments engineer looked after the Doppler. I looked after the magnetometer and cameras. We photographed atolls as we flew over them. Mike Wood was our navigator. We had a cinecamera operated single frame by a solenoid, photographing the Doppler readout. Les and I had rigged up a left/right meter for the pilots. Mike had worked out sea current drifts, and the Doppler kept us to about half mile spacing. It was a great success and finished in about a week. I went to Giles on the Aero Commander with Bruce Gregory as pilot and did a weeks work. We lived in a tent at the end of the runway (that was the smallest crew). My final trip was with the DC-3 with the old Catalina EM fitted and magnetometer in the stinger. We had trouble compensating the magnetometer because, against my advice, steel supporting bars for the EM loop had been fitted instead of alloy ones. This trip was from Roper Bar and we lived in tents, fuel was in drums brought in by trucks. The survey took three months which included a week at Robertson River camp where Alec Garriock our relief skipper and I changed a generator as our engineer was back at Roper Bar. I had done many more surveys but I cannot recall the order of them. They include St George (many times), Walgett, Oakey, Dirranbandi, Tamworth, Roma, Bundaberg and Forrest. I retired from AHG in September 1966.

Maurie Miller
12th February 2003


Maurie Miller passed away in Sydney on 4 November 2012.