Monday, June 08, 2015

Camelot on the Lizard Penninsula

Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station is a large telecommunications site located on Goonhilly Downs. From that name you probably already guessed this is in the UK. Specifically it's in Cornwall on the oddly named Lizard peninsula. (Marconi built one of his earliest wireless stations there in 1900. It's still standing. [LINK] )
At one time Goonhilly was the largest satellite earth station in the world. It had over 60 communications dishes at the site. Currently that title is held by the Madley Communications Center in Herefordshire in the UK. The site also uniquely connects to undersea marine cables. That's the data gamut: underwater to outer space. More here.

The 140 acre site was built the the UK post office starting in 1961, and in 1962 it carried the first transatlantic television broadcast. They only yielded control of the site when the Tories privatized their postal service in 1984 and the site was given away to BT Group. I blame Margaret Thatcher. BT tried to close the site in 2006 to build a wind farm. The historical status of one 50 year old dish stopped them.

Goonhilly also has maintained an informal tradition of nick-naming it's satellite dishes. Its first dish was dubbed Arthur when it was built in 1962 to link with Telstar. It's largest dish has a diameter of 32 meters and is nick-named Merlin. Numerous characters from the legend of King Arthur and Camelot are represented at the site. The site's largest dish, dubbed "Merlin", has a diameter of 32 meters. Other dishes include Guinevere and Isolde after characters in Arthurian legend, much of which takes place in Cornwall. there's an incomplete list here.  One travel guide from the year 2000 claimed Goonhilly then had 25 dishes named after gods and characters from Cornish legends.

Depending on which stories you consider part of the Arthurian cannon, there are up to 152 names available for use at Goonhilly. There are sites available for development if you are interested. Some highlights below:

Arthur - 1962 - 26 meter dish (Goonhilly1)
Uther - 1968 - 27 meter dish (Goonhilly2)
Guinevere - 1972 - 29 meter dish (Goonhilly3)
Lancelot - 1978 - 19 meter dish (Goonhilly4)
Geraint - N/A - /unknown - (Goonhilly5)
Merlin - 1962 - 32 meter dish (Goonhilly6)
Tristan - 1983 - 13 meter dish (Goonhilly7)