Headlines warning Australia of Cyclone Cliff.
Headlines warning Australia of Cyclone Cliff. Northern Star Archives

MEMORY LANE: Cyclones able to be tracked

IT WAS the year and week that Bill Haley, king of rock and roll, died and Lindy Chamberlain was being grilled over the disappearance of her baby girl, Azaria.

It is also the time of year where cyclones were happening and one man was testing out his new equipment to track them.

The front page of The Northern Star on February 14, 1981 announced that a cyclone was heading for the coast.

This information was conveyed by the Brisbane Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre and the warning area covered the coast from Yeppoon in central Queensland to closer to home, Byron Bay.

It was reported that winds up to 100km/h had brought down trees and ripped off roofs in New Caledonia, and this same destruction was heading towards Australia.

Cyclone Cliff, as it was called, at the time was 1100kms north-east of Brisbane and moving west-south-west at 30km/h.

Ted Matulevicius and his equipment.
Ted Matulevicius and his equipment. Northern Star Archives

At the same time, a Goonellabah man was learning how to photograph cyclones from 36,000km away in space.

Ted Matulevicius had equipment costing about $200 that he built himself and was able to photograph Cyclone Cliff at regular intervals as it swept from the Coral Sea towards Australia.

A satellite weather picture picked up by Ted Matulevicius at his Goonellabah home. Right is Cyclone Cliff and on the left are remnants of Cyclone Eddie in WA.
A satellite weather picture picked up by Ted Matulevicius at his Goonellabah home. Right is Cyclone Cliff and on the left are remnants of Cyclone Eddie in WA. Northern Star Archives

He said the system was centred on a home-built, 90cm parabolic dish antenna directed towards the Japanese weather satellite GMS 1, in stationary orbit over the equator.

Compared to today's standards, Mr Matulevicius' system would be considered very crude and simple, but it did the job and he may be considered one of the earliest storm chasers of our area.



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