Naval Communications Station Harold E Holt (NCS HEH)
In 1963, the US leased an area of North West Cape, Exmouth, Western Australia, for the establishment of a VLF Communications Station, as part of its world wide nuclear submarine force communications network. It was subsequently named the Harold Holt US Navy Communications Base, named after the former Prime Minister of Australia - who mysteriously drowned while he was in office. In 1972, US Navcommsta Harold E Holt became a joint facility, with an RAN officer as second in command, and 35 RAN personnel integrated into the general operations at the base.
H.E Holt Naval Base is situated on the remote and rugged North West Cape of Western Australia, between the Indian Ocean and the Exmouth Gulf. The nearest city is Perth, the Western Australia state capital, which is located over 780 miles to the south. Exmouth is a small town with a normal population of around 2,500. During the cool winter months (June through August) however, the population can swell to near 5,000 with the arrival of tourists drawn to the North West Cape by the refreshing temperatures and natural beauty of the area.
The Exmouth airport, which is so long and wide it can handle any size jet, is located about 35 km out of town. It is on the site of the old Learmonth strip, built during World War II when the Exmouth Gulf became an important base for Australian and US submarines.
In April 1999 naval wives and children were flown to safety just hours after the strongest winds recorded in Australia and generated by Cyclone Vance caused millions of dollars damage to homes, factories, shops and Harold E. Holt in northern Western Australia. There was talk of 330 kph winds but there were confirmed wind gusts of 276 kph. the strongest wind ever recorded in Australia.
On May 7, 1999 Space & Naval Warfare Systems Center awarded Continental Electronics Corporation, Dallas, an Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity, Cost-Plus-Incentive-Fee type contract with an estimated amount of $5,626,886 to provide upgrades, modifications, engineering support, on-site technical services, material procurement and maintenance to extend the life of the Very Low Frequency Fixed Submarine Broadcast System sites at Cutler, Maine, Arlington (Jim Creek), Wash., Lualualei, Hawaii, Exmouth, Australia and Aguada, Puerto Rico. The scope of work includes manufacturing, assembly, integration, installation and testing. Place of performance will be the contractor's facility in Dallas, and the five Navy sites. Period of performance for the base period shall commence May 14, 1999 through September 30, 1999. This contract contains option line items, which, if exercised, will bring the total cumulative value of the contract to $34,529,696 (total dollar amount including options).
Exmouth is a townsite on the north west coast, 1260 km north of Perth. It was gazetted a townsite in 1963, and was founded as a support town to the Harold E. Holt Communications Station run by the U.S. Navy. Exmouth is situated on the western side of Exmouth Gulf from which it takes its name. The feature was named by Commander Phillip Parker King RN of HMS "Mermaid" during hydrographic surveys in the area in 1818. The name honours the Viscount Exmouth, Edward Pellew. Edward Pellew was born in Dover, England in 1757 and died in 1833. He had a very distinguished career in the navy, and was regarded as British naval hero. Pellew entered the Royal Navy at 13 years of age, was appointed Lieutenant in 1778 and received his commision as post Captain in 1780. In 1793 he received a knighthood for his heroic conduct in capturing the "Cleopatra", a French frigate. Three years later he was created a Baronet for his heroic services in saving the troops and crew of the British transport "Dutton". In 1804, he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral. In 1814, having risen to the rank of Admiral of the Blue, he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Exmouth of Canonteign, County Devon; and, finally, was advanced to a Viscountcy in 1816 for his gallantry in bombarding and totally destroying the fleet and arsenal of Algiers in that year.
The North West Cape is a peninsula bordered by the Indian Ocean to the north and west and the Gulf of Exmouth to the east. Roughly 50 miles long, it varies in width from two miles at the northern most tip to 30 miles at the southern end. The Cape Range, a line of rugged limestone hills, runs the length of the peninsula. Located on the northwest coast of the cape is the 125,000-acre Cape Range National Park. Spotted with rugged mountain scenery, beautiful beaches and lagoons (Turquoise Bay is spectacular), and ancient, deeply eroded gorges, the park is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Like most of central and western Australia, vegetation is sparse. Semi-arid conditions support a large variety of native bush and grass. Beautiful wildflowers cover the cape from August through October. Bush fires are a real danger, so open fires within the National Park are forbidden. However, gas or kerosene camping gear is allowed in most of the caravan (camper) parks in and around the park.
The Ningaloo Marine Park adjoins the Cape Range Park. The Ningaloo Reef is the only reef in the world on the west side of a continent and extends from the tip of the North West Cape south for 120 miles. At some points the reef extends right up to the shore making for a snorkeler's paradise with fish of every size, shape, and color. At other locations, the reef is a little further offshore, creating beautiful blue lagoons.
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