Chatham Islands Radio 1970-1979

Small ships desk (2182 kHz) at Chatham Islands Radio in early 1970s
Small ships desk (2182 kHz) at Chatham Islands Radio in the early 1970s. The two receivers are a Collins 51S-1 (left) and a Philips 8RO 501 (right). Photo: P Huitson
Radio operator Gordon Phillips
Radio operator Gordon Phillips joined ZLC in December 1966 and stayed there for many years, generally working the ‘doggo’ (late night) shift. Photo: P Huitson

“Gordon’s room used to amaze me – he had so much junk in it. There was a wee path from the door to his bed (which had stuff piled on it) so he made his way to his bed and then put the stuff off the bed onto the floor. And he had the biggest room.
“He also had a kitset television which he was working on. He was using the biggest soldering iron I had ever seen. The techs told him he would fry the componentry as he went along but Gordon took no notice.”
– Peter Huitson


“I always wondered why anyone would build a TV set on the Chathams. This was before the era of VCR, and TV signals from NZ would rarely make it that far, even with a good aerial. I suspect it was a learning thing more than anything else.
“One of the meteorologists down the road (Martin Potter) built a nice 30ft ferro cement Hartley yacht during the 1980s. I asked him where he was planning to sail, his reply ‘oh no, this is just to help pass the time’. When he left the island he sold it for a song to one of the locals. I don’t think it ever did get in the water.”
– Lester Price

Peter Huitson was a radio operator at ZLC in 1971 and 1972
Peter Huitson was a radio operator at ZLC in 1971 and 1972. Photo courtesy P Huitson
Lester Price was a radio operator at ZLC
Lester Price was a radio operator at ZLC 1970-1972 and also a keen amateur radio operator. Photo: P Huitson
Brian 'Eccles' Wright from Papanui radio depot, radio ops Tony Rodgers and Tam Leota
L-R: Brian ‘Eccles’ Wright from Papanui radio depot, radio operators Tony Rodgers and Tam Leota. Photo 1971: P Huitson
Radio operator Barry Meikle
Radio operator Barry Meikle (aka ‘Smedley’) worked at ZLC from Sept 1970 to Sept 1971. He returned for three months in 1979. Photo 1971: P Huitson
Like many people on the Chatham Islands, Peter Huitson preferred to get around on a motorcycle.
Like many on the Chathams, Peter Huitson liked to get around by motorcycle. Photo courtesy P Huitson

“We were a great bunch of lads – there would have been about six of us down there at a time as operators with a couple of technicians, a linesman and the station manager – Dennis Horan when I was down there, a really nice chap. All of the operators were a similar age, so we used to head off on our bikes exploring the island, searching for fossilized sharks’ teeth in the lagoon, etc. They used to show a movie in the town hall each week which was something to look forward to.”
“The arrival of the mail was a big event – news from home and then all the mail order items we had bought. My big spend was music and there was always an LP or two in the mail. The mail used to come by air but was the first thing off loaded if the plane needed to reduce its load. The pilots used to radio in how many were on board, so much freight and mail or “no mail” this trip which was disappointing for everyone. If there was a backlog, it used to arrive on the Holmdale which came across to the island every 6-8 weeks.
“What happy times. It was a condition of our employment that we spend at least one six-month term on the Chathams. I did three tours of duty as I enjoyed it so much.”
– Peter Huitson

» 1980-1991

One Comment

  1. Barry Munro
    10 September 2016

    It is interesting to see the changes at ZLC since I was there in 1968. I never heard a mention of the later addition to the station, but the new hostal was still under construction when I left Chathams during the last quarter of that year. (I arrived there on the 9th of April of that year, the day before the infamous “Wahine” storm of the 10th.

    Good to see photos of familiar faces and unmet familiar names.

    73s Barry Munro.

Leave a Reply