The Cairns Repeaters


The Great Repeater Hunt

The story so far: Peter Burgess told Robert Brand that when he recently visited the site of OTC’s Cairns Cable Station he noted that it was up for sale/lease. Peter Burgess & Bruce Boler told Robert Brand that they recalled land based cable repeaters being buried behind the station. They considered that if this is true it might be a good idea to approach Telstra to retrieve these items which may be of historical significance so that they can be displayed in the Powerhouse or Telstra Museums.

Laurie McIlree advised:

  • There were two spare land based repeaters located in a specially built underground pit located in the North East corner of the estate (under the big mango tree) behind the garage, the concrete storage unit was about 15 metres long and 4 metres depth with a concrete removable lid which had two air vents through the lid, these two APNG repeaters were spare units as APNG had buried repeaters in the land section from the station to the beach, they were complete with attached tails so that when needed the lid could be removed and the repeater lifted out with a mobile crane for use. They were stored there to suite outside environmental conditions as if buried.

    Cairns Repeater Pit – Laurie McIlree

  • The tail ends of the repeaters had connectors so that local powering and testing could be done with the repeaters in the ground. They were land based repeaters and not suitable for deep sea operation.


Does anyone know whether the repeaters are actually still there and/or who is the current owner of the property?

This from Noel Sutherland:

The Cairns Cable Station site it was divested by Telstra in 2008.

Prior to sale, Telstra arranged for recovery of equipment from the cable station building.  All other fixtures that remain at the time of transfer of the land would be deemed abandoned by the vendor (seller) and then become the possession of the purchaser.

Title searches show that Lots 34 & 35 are currently owned by Lagbail Pty Ltd.  One would need to perform company searches through the ASIC websites to identify the directors and registered address of Lagbail Pty Ltd in order to approach them about the interest below.

Tony Fisher

Tony Fisher has offered the below history on Cairns Cable Station and has posed a question:

Does any-one know what became of the “display” repeater, or have any photos of it or of “Keith’s Museum” before Telstra performed its “ethnic cleansing” of the OTC history in Cairns?

I spent 2 years at Cairns which covered the period of failure of the Seacom Cable and the subsequent removal of all the Cairns Seacom terminal equipment, (See attached pix of “Ceremonial Cutting” showing myself, Anna Woodward, and the late Keith Vincent, plus a pix of the then Cairns staff members and families at the “Cairns Seacom Wake”).

During that time we never had cause to open the “crypt” or test the spare APNG land repeaters, so unfortunately I have no info to offer with regard the APNG repeaters.

 As another point of interest however, – Some time after the official decommissioning of Seacom, the spare Seacom repeater was pulled out of storage (in Sydney?) and shipped to Cairns to become part of the “Seacom museum” set up by the now late Keith Vincent in the vacated part of the main equipment room.

This area was left vacant after Anna and I stripped out and disposed of all the Seacom equipment, including “walking” the Telstra land line rack (live) across to the northern wall from where it was left sitting in the middle of what had been the old Seacom Suite, –  but that is another story of the ingenuity of OTC Techs left to their own devices…..

At the time that I left Cairns to take part in the construction of Sydney SES at Oxford Falls, – Keith had plans to have the Seacom repeater “sectioned” (the middle section only, – leaving the tails complete), and have a half cylindrical polycarbonate cover manufactured to display the internal (valve powered) workings of the repeater. Unfortunately I never got to see the sectioned repeater or finished museum, although I did hear from others that it was quite impressive.

Cairns Seacom Wake – courtesy of Tony Fisher

Seacom Ceremonial Cutting – courtesy of Tony Fisher

Peter Burgess:

A quick update on the repeaters.. I had a call from the agent (boss of Remax here in Cairns)..

They are very close friends with the developer who will raze the building and build a new one.  They can’t speak with him as he’s on holidays until Mid November, but feel he will be comfortable with my suggestions…     Hopefully he will also have access to something heavy to lift the concrete lid if the repeaters are still there…

Do you remember when i first posted this photo, i felt that it was only recently that there was some activity there with Des Kinnersley…. I still get the feeling when I drive past too, and especially when I looked at Lauries photo’s … even got a “deja Vu” too.. I reckon there must have been a Transit story about the burial of the repeaters because I HAVE seen that picture before somewhere, some time…. and not whilst working in the satellite areas !!! Intriguing !!

Des Kinnersley poses the following question:

What happened to R99, the Seacom repeater that was buried on Holloways Beach when the Seacom was turned down in 1985?

Robert Brand

I have been in contact with the Powerhouse Museum here in Sydney and they would be keen to have an undersea repeater for display. I suspect that there are a few repeaters around the place and possibly one that could be recovered.

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