It’s been 50 years since one of the key communications hubs for the submarine community opened its gates and created a remote Western Australian town in the process.
More than 1,200 kilometres north of Perth, Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt, in Exmouth, marked 50 years on 16 September with celebrations aplenty.
Initially named U.S. Naval Communication Station North West Cape, the Station was renamed a year later in honour of the Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt who opened the facility but disappeared months later, assumed drowned.
The Royal Australian Navy Band was in location to support, as VIPs and locals gathered for a parade, ball and other festivities, marking not only the Defence presence but the community that it created.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said the long-standing joint initiative between the Australian Defence Force and the United States Navy had ensured Australia’s important strategic capabilities and borders are protected.
“Since the station was commissioned on 16 September 1967, it has played a significant part in the Australia-US relationship through its strategic and operational role,” Minister Payne said.
The station was built following the 1963 signing of construction and operation agreements, and the status of forces agreement, between Australia and the United States.
“The Station provides Very Low Frequency communication transmission services in support of Australian, US and allied submarines and has strengthened the relationship between Australia and the United States,” Minister Payne said.
“The antenna array covers over 400 hectares. The antennas are a large spider-web of wires supported in a top hat arrangement using 13 towers, the tallest of which is nearly 400 metres high.”
The tallest tower is called Tower Zero and was for many years the tallest man-made structure in the Southern Hemisphere
In 1992 command of the base was officially passed from the United States Navy to the Royal Australian Navy.
The Station is now operated and maintained by the Australian Department of Defence on behalf of the Commonwealth and the United States, after a formal agreement between both countries was signed in 2008.
Created in support of the Station’s construction and operation, the town of Exmouth was declared open on the same day as the Station was commissioned and has become a popular tourist destination. The town has a population of just over 2,000 which triples during peak tourist season, as the location is a staging point to explore World Heritage Site, the Ningaloo Coast.