An evening on Mount Tamborine

On the 17th and 22nd of May, the blogger ventured to Golf Course Road at Mount Tamborine on Queensland’s Gold Coast. The aim of this insanity was to record UHF analogue television signals for historical (that is, archival) purposes before the signals were to be switched off forever. A ‘switch off’ policy was implemented by Australia’s federal government, as in many nations. It takes place incrementally across different regions over a three year period.

This photo illustrates Tamborine around 1930, courtesy of Picture Queensland, State Library of Queensland.

H. J. Jenyns' residence ca. 1930

Before the first trip to Golf Course Road on the 17th, this team of ‘crazies’ stopped to inspect one of the main inland lookouts. Truth be told, the first priority was to buy a mixed carton of boutique local beer at the hotel. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the delayed arrival time to the mountain. Oh, the joys of peak hour traffic in the CBD! With time to spare, the lookout offered a worthwhile distraction.

By 5:45 pm, the sun was about to set. Driving to the destination, it was obvious that many on one of North Tamborine’s lookouts seemed to be obsessed with taking photos. Peer pressure got the better of the team!

Hang Glider's inland lookout

Hang Glider's inland lookout

The weather was fine, but it was cold for May. The security guards at Golf Course Road looked puzzled when photos of the towers were taken from the golf course carpark. Even more bizarre was the fact these correspondents came armed to Tamborine in a sedan loaded with a laptop, metres of coaxial cable and UHF yagi antenna!

Golf Course Road broadcast site

Because it was night time, photos of the broadcast towers did not turn out well.

Site in darkness

Photographer Lewi Hirvela’s golf day photos show the beasts during day time. The golfers seem oblivious to the ugliness they are witnessing!

Golf day

At the towers, the altitude was 551 metres (1,807 ft) above sea level. The broadcasts from this site to the Gold Coast include the UHF local broadcasts, capital city relays (some with live local news) and the FM local commercial and community strations.

Altitude and temperature readings

The temperature between 6-7 pm varied within approximately two kilometres (1 mi) of the broadcast site, but measurements suggest it remained a warm 24-27 degrees celsius. By 7 pm, barometric pressure was 945 hPa with an overcast 27 degrees (80.6 F).

On the 22nd of May, a final trip to Golf Course Road was undertaken. This adventure was made more dangerous than the first due to frequent showers. The weather on this evening was cloudy with warmer temperatures. Because of the altitude, thick fog made driving problematic… even for commuters with Four Wheel Drive vehicles.

By this date, many of the television broadcasting stations had set an analogue closure alert ticker along the bottom of all analogue services, providing an ominous indication of  their forthcoming death!

Final trip inside car

By 7:30 pm, the temperature had dropped to below 20 degrees (68 F). Because of the wind and rain, only the bravest souls dared to venture outside the car to orientate the antenna!

Altitude and temperature readings

The fully charged laptop battery lasted over an hour during recording which was more than adequate. Nonetheless, a pure sine wave inverter and a fully charged 12 volt battery was packed in the boot in case of emergency.  That would only be required if the laptop’s juice fell short of expectations. That happened on the first trip … live and learn.

Final trip inside car

Fortuitous VHF services from the capital on 7 and 10 were also receivable with this UHF yagi. In these photographs, the car is parked in the nearest park. This was probably about a kilometre from the broadcast site. Parking at the broadcast site likely not only looks suspicious, but presents a danger of saturating the tuner with excessively strong signals. So this nearby park suited the needs of the trip perfectly.

UHF yagi in the park

To record the automatic scans, free version of Bandicam software was used. The Gold Coast analogue broadcasts themselves were captured to the hard disk in the standard DVD compliant MPEG2 format using Honestech TVR. Fortunately, analogue recordings that are snowy can be later enhanced with Dscaler noise reduction software.

Final trip inside car

The tuner employed was a simple PCMIA Cardbus analogue TV card picked up for $10 from a Sydney computer wholesaler that was clearing out superseded technology. This cheap beast can be seen protruding from the left side of the laptop. Note the emergency food supplies. This blogger is getting hungry right now writing this!

Stationary in the carpark of Rosser Park, there was plenty of unusual FM stations to be savoured on the Blaupunkt factory radio. These included The Rebel from Stanthorpe on 97.1, The Breeze from Tenterfield on 102.5, News Radio broadcasts from Inverell and Warwick on 93.5 and 96.3 respectively and FM104.7 Grafton. At the inland lookout in North Tamborine on the first trip (illustrated by the photos at the top of the article) Ten FM from Stanthorpe on 98.7 and ABC New England on 99.1 were clearly audible. There may have been more distant FM signals, but time was of the essence. It is a steep descent back to the dirty city and takes concentration during the adverse weather conditions.

Don't Turn It Off! © 2010 dirac3000

Once complete, the day of the analogue switch off was quite historic. Surprisingly, there were a number of pieces focussing on the history of analogue television that aired on the commercial television stations, notably BTQ7. Perhaps not such a terribly niche project after all?

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