Sea Swift helps restore space exploration history on Gove Peninsula

14 September 2020

Northern Australia shipping company Sea Swift has helped restore a piece of Australian space exploration history to its rightful home in the Northern Territory.

Sea Swift has worked with the Gumatj Corporation to cover the cost of freight from Darwin to Gove for the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) antenna, a 1960s space exploration guidance antenna originally installed and operated in East Arnhem Land between 1967-1970.

The antenna and its units have been based in Adelaide for many years after it was acquired by the Australian Defence Department and transported to Edinburgh Defence Base.

Maria Robbins of Arnhemland Historical Society said her organisation has been liaising with the Defence Science and Technology team in Edinburgh over the last couple of years to secure the antenna once it was no longer required by the Department of Defence.

“The guidance antenna we’ve brought back to Gove is a reminder about the technical innovation and achievements of the 1960s in the context of space exploration,” she said.

“This antenna initially supported the space exploration activities of ELDO, carrying out the launch of rockets containing test satellites into Earth orbit in collaboration with the Australian Government.

“In the late 1960s, the geographical location of Gulkula, and the Gove Peninsula and its existing land and port infrastructure, made Gove an ideal site for building a rocket tracking station supporting ELDO rocket launches.

“The antenna being back close to its original operational location confirms the uniqueness of the land, its geographical location and feature, and how it supported ambitious and unique research and science projects aiming at the betterment of humanity.

“The ELDO antenna and satellite dish is an irreplaceable part of Gove Peninsula’s history.”

Sea Swift General Manager Operations Northern Territory Scott Ezzy said Sea Swift was proud to have played a part in restoring the antenna to the Territory.

“Having the ELDO antenna and mechanically-operational satellite dish located at the Arnhem Land Historical Society’s site will provide the local community and visitors with an insight into the role East Arnhem Land and its people played in space and communication in the 1960s,” he said.

“It will also support space-themed education with students being able to learn about space and the region’s history in space, as well as support the region’s tourism industry by offering tourists a unique attraction to view and interact with.

“This connection with the global space exploration era and research opportunities for local schools and community, creating points of local history interest and hands-on experience, is unique.

“At Sea Swift, we’re happy to have played our part in returning this exciting piece of history back to the NT.”

A nomination has been submitted with the NT Heritage Department to have the antenna heritage-listed.

Antenna unit weights:

  • Tower base – 4.9t
  • Tower midsection – 10.8t
  • Tower dish – 5x 50kg sections
  • Spare parts pallet with antenna feed horn – 300kg
  • Spare transmission – 60kg.