Southern Signals

Hugh Tranter

In 1791, a letter is published in a British newspaper detailing the mistreatment of convicts on board the ships of the Second Fleet the year before, forcing the government to act. Sixty years later, a dinghy races out to Sydney Heads to meet a ship carrying the latest news from Britain, likely three months old. In 1916, radio enthusiast Lionel Hooke succeeds in rebuilding the transmitter tower on the crippled Aurora, alerting the world to the ship’s plight in Antarctic waters. Fast forward to 1997 and an ARGOS beacon switches to distress mode. HMAS Adelaide arrives to pluck a frostbitten Tony Bullimore from the Southern Ocean.

As Australia moved from reliance on handwritten letters to the telegraph, telephone, television and beyond, communicating to, from and around a big country became ever quicker, ever easier. Author Hugh Tranter has selected moments both big and small where the adoption of communications technologies saved the day, made life easier or propelled us forward as a nation.

From sea-stained dispatches to data sent back from deep space, Southern Signals is the story of Australia’s use of communications technologies to bridge vast distances through war and peace, exploration and growth.

Paperback & ebook

Hugh Tranter

Hugh Tranter is a Sydney-based researcher and author, who enjoys unearthing stories through old newspapers, letters and accounts.