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Cyclone Tracy 40th anniversary

Date : 22 / 12 / 2014
Author : Jim Linton - VK3PC

In was in 1974 on Christmas Eve that Tropical Cyclone Tracy destroyed Darwin. The death toll was 66, but may be higher because of unrecorded people living in Darwin. Back then there were many single-storey flimsy houses. Some 12,500 homes were lost, only 400 survived as habitable, 25 ships sunk, dozens of planes were destroyed and all normal communications cut.

When news filtered out, under a state of emergency, Major General Alan Stretton was put in charge to lead the disaster recovery. The WIA journal, Amateur Radio magazine, in a December 1984 article "Cyclone Tracy 10th Anniversary", interviewed four radio amateurs who were involved. It tells of Slim Jones VK8JT in Darwin making contact with Ken McLachlan VK3AH at Mooroolbark in Melbourne's east, and their incredible 78 hour on-air stint. As the first relief plane neared Darwin when darkness began to fall, it had clearance to land due to a three-way contact that involved Ken VK3AH, Mal 9M2ML Slim VK8JT.

WICEN later helped the Red Cross and Salvation Army with their traffic. That work was detailed in Amateur Radio magazine on June 1985 in an article "The Christmas of '74", by Ted Gabriel VK4YG. Eventually Darwin was reconstructed under a new building code and is now a vibrant city. A series of 40 year anniversary events in Darwin have included historic photos, concerts, an upgrade of the Cyclone Tracy exhibition, and an all-faith church service. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation also filmed a documentary that interviewed about 19 people who were involved.


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