The installation of wireless apparatus on the steamers of the Huddart Parker fleet began in 1910 with the construction of their newest liner Zealandia. Prior to departing the UK on her maiden voyage to Melbourne the Zealandia became the first Australian-owned steamship to be so fitted. Following the Zealandia’s arrival in June 1910, wireless equipment was gradually installed on those vessels already in the fleet in Australia.
The second vessel to be fitted was the Ulimaroa. Preliminary work was conducted on that vessel by Messrs Clayton, Joel and Co., electricians, in Melbourne in early August and completed by Australasian Wireless Ltd technicians in Sydney prior to her departure for New Zealand on 27 August 1910.
Next to be fitted was the Company’s SS Riverina which, although preparations for installation had begun before the end of September 1910, wireless apparatus was not fully fitted and operational, and a wireless operator embarked, until her departure from Sydney for Western Australia on 17 December 1910. At that time the Riverina became the first interstate vessel to be fitted with a wireless telegraphy system.
It was many months into 1911 before the next of Huddart Parker’s passenger steamers, including the Wimmera, began to be prepared for wireless installation.
Preparatory work for both the Victoria and the Wimmera were conducted in Sydney when each steamer arrived in port in August and September 1911 respectively. This began with the erection of the wireless operator’s house on the bridge deck. Further installation work continued on each steamer’s further and subsequent returns in Sydney.
It was not until her departure from Sydney for Auckland and other New Zealand ports on 8 November 1911, that the Wimmera sailed for the first time fully fitted with wireless equipment and operator. The Victoria followed suit on 23 November. Both installations were carried out by the Australasian Wireless Company Ltd using the Telefunken wireless system.
The adoption of the Telefunken system also made Huddart Parker Limited and the Australasian Wireless Company the subject of a writ by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company in early 1912 for alleged infringement of Marconi patents.
Notwithstanding the installation and operation of wireless facilities aboard Huddart Parker’s vessels to communicate with other ships and shore facilities, the erection and installation of stations ashore, in both Australia and New Zealand was lagging. The effect of this was displayed in the following reported instance:
“The need for a wireless station at Auckland was evidenced on Sunday, when friends of passengers by the steamer Wimmera from Sydney were unable to ascertain the vessel’s whereabouts. The Wimmera is now fitted with wireless apparatus, and if a message indicating the probable time of her arrival had been posted on the wharf many people would have been saved a long and anxious wait. A wireless message was sent by the operator on the Wimmera to the Wellington wireless station at five o’clock on Saturday night, stating that the vessel would arrive at Auckland at nine o’clock on Sunday night. This message was intended for transmission by telegraph to the Auckland office of the Huddart-Parker Company, but it did not reach that company’s office until late on Sunday night.”
New Zealand Herald, Volume XLVIII, Issue 14837, 14 November 1911, Page 6
In January 1912 the cargo of the Wimmera included wireless material for the construction of a station that would feature in the events surrounding the vessel’s loss in 1918:
NORTHERN WIRELESS STATION.
ARRIVAL OF MATERIAL.
The first consignment of material for the high-power wireless station to be erected at Awanui arrived by the Wimmera last week. It comprises 70 odd packages of iron work, weighing 29 tons. The packages have been temporarily stored in Auckland, and will be transferred to Awanui in about a month’s time, when it is hoped work at the site will be sufficiently advanced to permit the erection of the iron work. The machinery for the station has yet to come to hand.
The equipment for the low-power station to be erected somewhere in the vicinity of Auckland has, it is understood, now been ordered.
The New Zealand Herald, 15 January 1912, p7
In addition to the wireless stations in New Zealand the primary east coast Australian station, constructed at Pennant Hills near Sydney, was the conduit for news and communication with the mainland.
RECEIVED BY S.S. WIMMERA.
Passengers by the Wimmera, which arrived from Sydney yesterday, were fortunate enough to be supplied with wireless news of the world’s happenings every morning. The same thing occurred on the vessel’s trip from Auckland to Sydney, when news came to hand three times a day from the Pennant Hills high power station, north of Sydney. This means that the operators worked easily over 1000 miles in daylight every day, which is a really splendid performance for daylight, as the sun’s rays have the effect of dissipating the other to some extent. The news was transmitted with the reliability and accuracy of ordinary telegraphy. About a column of news was received every day by the operator, Mr. H. V. Thompson, typed by Mr. J. Patrick, purser, and posted in conspicuous portions of the vessel.
The items included the latest boxing, Jack Johnson’s doings, the New South Wales’ bowlers, Wilding’s tennis performances, cricket scores, Sydney races, the American Presidential election, annual meeting of the National Bank of New Zealand, Titanic enquiry, etc. The occurrence speaks volumes regarding the success of the Pennant Hills station, which is achieving all that was expected of it. The reason why the passengers were accorded this luxury was that the station is being tested prior to being handed over to the Commonwealth authorities. The passengers greatly appreciated the privilege, and many expressed the view that there was no reason why some arrangement should not be made by which a regular news service could be established.
Evening Post, Volume LXXXIII, Issue 152, 27 June 1912, Page 4
On the 27th of May 1913 the Australasian Wireless Company Limited, of 32 Elizabeth Street, Sydney entered into an agreement with Huddart Parker Limited
“…to maintain in a suitable position on board the shipowners’ steamships : “Riverina”, “Ulimaroa”, “Westralia”, “Victoria”, “Wimmera”, a set of all necessary apparatus for the transmission and receipt of messages by means of the Company’s system of Wireless Telegraphy.” and “to instal and maintain such apparatus and shall provide and pay the salary of the necessary Operator as the Company’s Agent to work same. ”
WIRELESS FROM THE WIMMERA.
The local agents for the steamer Wimmera received a wireless message from the captain yesterday stating that he expected to arrive in Hobart at 6.30 o’clock this morning from Sydney, which port he left at 12.30 p.m. on Tuesday. Should the Wimmera arrive at the time stated it will be a record voyage for her, the time being 42 hours. The Wimmera has been making fast voyages of late, the time taken on two previous occasions being 44 hours 6 minutes and 45 hours 23 minutes. The Wimmera has 227 passengers on board. She sails again on Saturday for Sydney.
The Mercury, Thursday, December 25, 1913
© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021