Cooby Creek – Our World


 

Our World

Cooby Creek was the Australian earth station for the ‘Our World’ broadcast early on the morning of Monday 26 June 1967.

The station used the ATS-1 satellite to both transmit and receive television.

Produced by the BBC and the European Broadcasting Union, ‘Our World’ involved host broadcasters from 14 countries (a total of 19 countries were planned, but the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany pulled out a few days earlier in response to the Six Day War in the Middle East). The programme was seen live in 31 countries by more than 400 million people.

The entire programme was live, with no use of videotape.

It was the first truly international live television broadcast, and only the Apollo 11 EVA broadcast eclipsed it two years later.

Cooby Creek

Australians had to get up early to see the world, live on their television screens.

ABC advertisement from a Sydney newspaper on Sunday 25th June 1967.
Scan: Colin Mackellar


Cooby Creek

The text from the above ABC-TV advertisement.
Scan: Colin Mackellar

 

The Executive Producer for the Australian segment was Dr Peter Pockley of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Science Unit. He was located at the ABC’s National Television headquarters at Gore Hill in Sydney.

The Australian contribution began with a cross to the ABC’s Brian King at a Tram Depot in Melbourne, where the first tram of the morning was about to leave, at 5:22am local time.

A cross to the CSIRO’s ‘Phytotron’ plant growth laboratory in Canberra followed, where the ABC’s Eric Hunter introduced the segment.

Towards the end of the broadcast the final Australian contribution came from the Parkes Radio Telescope in central NSW. The ABC’s Kim Corcoran reported from the Parkes Control Room, where Telescope driver Dennis Gill and Director John Bolton observed the most distant object then known – Quasar 0237 -23.

For Cooby Creek to serve as the link, a temporary guyed tower was erected just outside the gate, and an ABC Outside Broadcast van from Brisbane was stationed at Cooby for the programme.

Cooby Creek

At 5:22 am Australian Eastern Standard Time, viewers worldwide had their first glimpse of Australia at the Hammer Street Tram Depot in Melbourne – through the signal sent from Cooby Creek.

This was Our World’s first cross south of the equator, immediately following the Japanese segment showing workers building subways beneath Toyko’s streets.

Technically, the switch from Japan to Australia was the most complicated of the programme – the Japanese station at Ibaraki had to go from transmit to receive mode, while Cooby Creek had to switch from receive to transmit mode.

The ABCs Brian King presented this segment. (He also presented the launch of Apollo 11 – from the ABC’s Sydney studios. His expert commentator guest was Bob Leslie.)

Screen capture: Colin Mackellar.


Cooby Creek

Dennis Gill (left) and John Bolton are seen live in the Parkes Control Room. Screen capture: Colin Mackellar.


Cooby Creek

Australian Broadcasting Commission engineers at Parkes on the morning of the broadcast.
Photo © CSIRO, supplied by John Sarkissian at Parkes.


Cooby Creek

One of the ABC television cameras on location at Parkes.
Photo © CSIRO, supplied by John Sarkissian at Parkes.

 

ABC Press Kit

Because Our World was a major international event, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (the Australian host broadcaster) produced a comprehensive Press Kit for the media.

A Parkes local had kept their copy of press kit. John Sarkissian at the Parkes Radio Observatory was shown the material by a reporter from the Parkes newspaper, The Champion-Post, in 2011.

The text of the press release is a very good overview, though note that it was written before the Eastern bloc countries withdrew (at short notice) from the broadcast.

Here’s part of the text. See below for a PDF file of the complete text, and the accompanying photos. Thanks to John Sarkissian for the scans. Image restoration by Colin Mackellar.

 

OUR WORLD – THE AUSTRALIAN TECHNICAL STORY

The Australian section of the Our World telecast is a major achievement in long-distance overland television transmission.

It has been made possible by combining the facilities of four organisations concerned with communication – the Department of Supply, the Postmaster General’s Department, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission.

The Our World transmission will be received from the ATS-1 satellite and the Australian segment of the programme will be transmitted to the ATS-1 satellite from the tracking station at Cooby Creek a few miles from Toowoomba in the south east part of the State of Queensland.

The Cooby Creek station was built and is manned by the Department of Supply for the American National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA). From there the signal from the satellite, received on the 525 line system, will be carried by microwave link and cable through Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, to Sydney, the capital of N.S.W., a distance of more than 700 miles.

In much of the east of Australia there are permanent co-axial and microwave links operated by the Postmaster General’s Department, but other temporary links will have to be established to receive the satellite programme and manned to complete the coverage. These temporary links will be provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department and by the A.B.C. and will require the outside broadcast resources of the Commission’s television stations in all States.

In Sydney the signal will be converted to the Australian 625 line system at the A.B.C.’s Gore Hill studios and relayed through a vast microwave and co-axial network to television stations in five eastern states and the Australian Capital Territory. The Network spans many hundreds of miles and stretches from Cairns in the far north of Queensland to Hobart in the Island State of Tasmania more than 1200 miles south, and from Lismore in the east of N.S.W. more than 700 miles west to Port Pirie in South Australia. (This is an area roughly equivalent to the area covered by Eurovision).

To provide the Australian segments of the programme, the A.B.C. outside broadcast units, microwave links and even parts of the television studio centre have been modified from the Australian 625 system to the 525 line system so that the programme can be transmitted directly into the American circuit where it will be combined with other Asian and American Zone contributions and relayed on to Europe via the Early Bird satellite.

The A.B.C.’s outside broadcast units will be at Parkes in Central N.S.W., in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria and the national capital, Canberra, to provide the three proposed Australian segments.

Additional A.B.C. microwave links and P.M.G. coaxial cable and microwave circuits will be necessary to bring these segments to the A.B.C.’s Sydney studios at Gore Hill where they will be fed into the Our World international programme.

Three A.B.C. television studios at Sydney’s Gore Hill will be used to control the incoming programme and to send out the Australian segment through the Cooby Creek tracking station to the ATS-1 satellite, More than a hundred technicians and engineers will man the cross country microwave links, O.B. Vans and Studios during the Our World transmission.

Not the least of the problems in receiving the programme and providing the Australian segment will be that of receiving and transmitting the producers instructions and the commentary by cable. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Postmaster-General's Department have co-operated with the A.B.C. to provide up to 30 sound circuits to allow for this.

For Australia, the Our World programme is a significant advance in the handling of television transmission.

It will be the third reception of a television programme live from overseas. It will be the second transmission from Australia to the outside world but it will be the first in which there is both transmission to and from Australia.

_______________

 

Our World

The folder for the press release material.


Cooby Creek

The text of the press release in full (800kb PDF). Scan courtesy John Sarkissian, OCR Colin Mackellar.


Our World
Our World

Dr. Peter Pockley (Executive Producer for Australia) and Mr. Ken Middleton (Executive Engineer for Australia). Scan courtesy John Sarkissian.

Large, Larger.


Our World
Our World

Commentators Kim Corcoran, Eric Hunter and Brian King.
Scan courtesy John Sarkissian.

Large, Larger.


Our World
Our World

Dr. Lloyd Thomas Evans at the Phytotron in Canberra.
Scan courtesy John Sarkissian.

Large, Larger.


Our World
Our World

John Gatenby Bolton, Director of the Radio Telescope at Parkes.
Scan courtesy John Sarkissian.

Large, Larger.


Our World

The Radio Telescope at Parkes.
Scan courtesy John Sarkissian.

Large, Larger.


 

There does not seem to be a complete, publicly available, copy of Our World, however, two portions are online –

  • Part of the programme as recorded in Australia – courtesy WA TV Historyon YouTube. (36 minutes duration, beginning with James Dibble in Sydney introducing the programme.)
  • A longer – but discontinuous – recording held by the Alexandra Place Television Society in London. Their 90 minute kinnie is cropped, probably because it was sourced from a 405 line version (which kept the middle 405 lines of a 625 line picture) – on YouTube.

Sadly, neither recording has the Phytotron segment from Canberra.

Does anyone have access to a full recording? I would be glad to know.