Category Archives: Above

Let’s get high.

Solar Power Station

Person for scale

Most of the power stations we visit are coal, nuclear or gas fired. All technologies that have gone out of favour as renewable grow cheaper and more prevalent.

Solar Concentrators  track the sun throughout the day, using hundreds of mirrors to focus the energy into a small area, concentrating the power 500 times.

Slated to be the biggest and most efficient solar photo-voltaic power station in the world,  somehow this Solar Power Station in Victoria became abandoned. The mirrors painted over, gates shut and forgotten about.

JPL Elevator Testing Tower

Fear of elevators is fairly common. Each time I’ve been in one and it’s made strange noises or lurched around, everyone inside wonders if maybe the elevator’s going to plummet to the ground.

It doesn’t plummet to the ground.

But they sure do here!

Built in the 70’s this elevator testing tower was designed to test the safety functions of elevators.
They’d see how fast they could get them to go before falling apart.
They’d test how hard they could stop.
Ultimately, after running the car to the top of the tower, they’d cut the cables and see what happens as it plummets to the ground.

Sounds like a good place to elevator surf.

Climbing The Omega Tower

We’ve explored some fairly tall places in the past, but none compare to the Omega Tower at VLF Woodside.

It’s the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere. She towers over Q1 and Eureka Tower, clocking in at 427m from the ground to the topmost point. It took only 30 days to build the tower itself.

Built as the precursor to GPS by the US Coast Guard, the Omega Navigation system broadcast “Pings” at set times from each of the 9 Omega Stations around the globe. This enabled Ships & Aircraft to find their location down to about 2km.

Following the shutdown of the Omega system in 1997, the Omega Tower was gifted to the Australian Navy. They used it to send orders to Submarines until 2004, and “classified” transmissions until 2008, when the tower finally fell silent.

The tower itself, still stands, towering half a vertical kilometer in the sky, totally abandoned. At the base lies the transmitter (almost 15,000 times as powerful as your mobile phone), power generation, offices and the Helix Building – a giant Faraday cage containing a wooden helix coil, engineering porn at it’s finest!

With the sun peaking over the horizon, and some light fog, we made our way past the signs reminding us that this was a military facility, past the radiation hazard signs, past the electrified fences and guard cows, to the base of the tower.

We entered a climbing trance as we climbed up the inside of the tower. Continuously saying “Oh look, we’re only 2 platforms off the top.” from about the 5th platform to the 9th, it’s hard to judge distance.

At the top, we wasted half an hour taking in the view & dropping little parachute army men. At some point it was decided it’d be a good idea to go sliding out and down the guy wires.

After a little jaunt out onto the guy wires, we all clipped on and started the 2 hour long section-by-section rappel back down to the ground. We waved a goodbye to the Omega Tower, and a brisk run for the few K’s back to the car, hoping to god we wouldn’t find any MPs waiting for us at the base…

As we pulled back out onto the main road, and started the 3 hour drive back to Melbourne, knowing we’d done something rather special. For 30 glorious minutes we’d been on top of the world.