(Military) Adventures in the Outback

“We’re listening to you…” Sound is important to the military for several reasons. Also important to civilian populations, if they hear the right things in time. A small US military team from the 709th Technical Maintenance Squadron, Detachment 421, is helping make certain that some civilian and military needs for sound monitoring are met. Of all places, this is happening in the Australian Outback!

To be precise, they’re just outside of Alice Springs in the Northwest Territory – dead center of Australia. I didn’t know anything about them, and I’ll bet you didn’t either, in spite of the fact that they’ve been doing this since 1955!

They don’t eavesdrop on the communications of hostile nations. They maintain “an array made up of 20 individual sensors spread over nearly 40 square miles” which are designed to detect the sounds of nuclear detonations, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

The data collected by the sensors is sent to Geoscience Australia and the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre for evaluation and alerts if needed, and also sent to an Air Force base in the US to calculate the location.

” ‘We are essentially an island in the middle of an island,’ said Tech. Sgt. Andrew Bryan, Det. 421 noncommissioned officer in charge of maintenance. ‘We’re thousands of miles from any major city.’ ” So they don’t have to filter out traffic sounds, nearby airports, loud parties, etc. It’s just them and the bush and the wildlife – snakes, spiders, lizards, kangaroos, and snakes. Poisonous snakes. One species, the Western Brown snake, is called “gwardar” in an Aboriginal language, which means “go the long way around”. That is advice for people meeting this particular snake: go way around it!

As important as the distance from major cities is the fact that bedrock is relatively close to the surface there – only 90 feet underground. The bedrock “acts as a giant microphone for everything going on in the earth”. Down under the “down under”, a metal pipe is “coupled solidly to the bedrock“, and it contains “a free-floating magnet surrounded by a metal coil“. “When the earth’s crust moves, When the earth’s crust moves, the coil around the magnet moves with it, creating an electrical signal that is sent over telephone wires to the recording station.”

Someone did something right the first time – “Some of those lines, which the Det. 421 airmen maintain, have been buried and transmitting vital data for 65 years“, although new technology has been grafted in since.

There was an ad in which a man invited his friend to travel the outback, emphasizing the harsh conditions. The friend declined, until his buddy said, “I’ve got a Land Rover!” His friend brightened and replied, “I’ll bring the kids!”

Land Rovers really are that reliable, and that’s what this team uses, ah, hummm , along with “a quality suspension and a lift kit” and an ATV, LOL! If you’re going to visit this site, leave the stock Broncos and Trailblazers at home. And, wear high-top boots. Some of Australia’s venomous snakes are among the most toxic in the world!

To all our troops and Veterans, Thank You!

Have a blessed RED Friday y’all

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