Off-the-grid communication

WHAT a long way we have travelled since the First Fleet arrived in Australia.

Captain Phillip would have written a letter and sent it back to England on a returning ship advising the First Fleet arrived safely .

He and others would wait some months for their letters to arrive back in England and the replies sent by another ship bound for Australia .

As exploration increased and the Blue Mountains were breached, squatters soon followed and the vast inland of Australia slowly became settled.

Cattle Kings like Sid Kidman and the Durracks established vast stations across the inland of Australia.

The paths that explorers like John McDowell Stuart travelled soon had overland telegraph lines providing communication across Australia and overseas.

John Flynn or Flynn of the inland as he was affectionately known saw the need of a “mantle of safety” to the occupants of the isolated inland of Australia and Flynn worked tirelessly to establish the Aerial Medical Services who to this day still operate across Australia as the RFDS.

Flynn knew he needed a way that the isolated residents could contact the flying doctors for medical help when required; enter Alfred Traeger, the inventor of the pedal radio, which revolutionised communication in Australia. Traeger had the first pedal radio installed at Augustus Downs in 1929.

By the 1950s there were hundreds of Traeger’s radios installed and being used at homesteads, hospitals, missions and the bases of the Aerial Medical Service, which later became the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

These radios were not just used to summon medical help but also used to chat to neighbours and friends who could be hundreds of kilometres away; these chat sessions were dubbed the “Galah Sessions”.

The Flying Doctor radios were developed to use battery power and now these radios were being carried by the new wave of explorers in boats and four wheel drives to communicate from the isolated areas of Australia.

Our early television explorers like the Leyland Brothers and Malcolm Douglas would take these HF Radios with them deep into the isolated areas of Australia and its coastal reaches. 

As explorers nowadays a typical 4WD will be equipped with a UHF wireless which is handy for car to car contact. They are also used in the day-to-day operations in many workplaces. Truckies and grey nomads constantly use their UHF for vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

Once we get off the beaten track we still need to summon help if required. If you’re on the water your boat should have a marine radio.

VHF, HF and 27 MHz marine radio services are available for the safety of boaters, generally as recreational boaters we have a 27 MHz radio as a minimum.

A most important addition to the radio is a GPS operated EPIRB. Check the rules of your state; it is possible that it is mandatory for you to carry one.

I currently carry a GME Digital 406MHz MT600 EPIRB. These require registration with https://beacons.amsa.gov.au/ and it’s essential to register the beacon every two years. I update the registration of my boat and the tow vehicle that the beacon will be associated with on a regular basis. Trip details and personal contacts, etc can all be done on the AMSA website and will be critical in saving your life if your adventure goes pear shaped.

Last but not least is the ability to contact the outside world when you are so far off the track that mobile networks will not work and there may be no one else in range to pick up a UHF radio call.

Here a satellite phone, satellite sleeve or a GPS device is essential.

I have used all three of these satellite devices but I now choose to carry a Garmin inReach Explorer +, and for my needs and peace of mind is exactly what I need. Here’s teh link: buy.garmin.com/en-AU/AU/p/561269

At a purchase price of around $700 with a $20 monthly plan I find it a small price to pay for a service that will possibly save my life. Given its rugged construction and IPC Water Rating, mapping features and SOS alert function it accompanies me on all my adventures no matter what mode of travel.

So wherever you go, remember, keep in touch!

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