Ozcan Ertok (1929-2022)


National Mapping Technical Officer 1971-1991


By Laurie McLean January 2023


Oz Ertok at Mapleton, Queensland 25 June 2011.


Early life

Özcan Ertok believed he was born at Konya in Turkey on 22 November 1929.  Today Konya is a city of over a million people located in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey about 260 kilometres south of the capital Ankara.  Konya has a rich history with the region said to date from around 3 000 BC.  In medieval times, Konya was the capital of the Sultanate of Rum.


As a consequence of the major changes in Turkish society during the 1920s and 1930s, precise details of Oz’s early life are difficult to verify.  Oz’s father, Ibrahim Ertok, was a teacher and his mother Hüriye Doğan was a housewife.  However, Oz’s parents both died within 40 days of each other when Oz was around 6 or 8 years of age.  Subsequently, Oz was raised by his grandmother Ebik, the widow of Oz’s grandfather Mustafa who was killed at Gallipoli during World War I.  Grandmother Ebik looked after Oz for a couple of years before she also died.  After her death, Oz was raised by his uncle.


By way of background, the post-World War I period in Turkey was a time of great political and social upheaval as the modern Turkish Republic was forged from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire that had endured for over 600 years.  Turkish World War I commander Mustafa Kemal Pasha later known as Atatürk (1881-1938) became the first President of the new Republic after leading the successful Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923) to revoke the terms of the 1920 Treaty of Sèvre that had sought to divide Turkey amongst the Allied victors of World War I.  Reforms under Atatürk’s presidency included abolishing the Sultanate and Caliphate to establish a parliamentary democracy, giving equal rights to women and men, abolishing canon law, adopting the international calendar, time and measurement systems, establishing a new Turkish alphabet and Turkish language as well as reforms to modernise education and the economy.


Although some official documents state that Oz was born in Konya, other official documents state he was born in Mucur, Kırşehir.  As far as Oz’s family knew, he was born in Mucur, a village within Kırşehir Province about 20 kilometres south-east of the centre of the provincial capital Kırşehir city, and some 210 kilometres north‑east of Konya and about 160 kilometres south-east of Ankara.


Also while Oz was born on the 22 November 1929, at some point while under the care of his Grandmother Ebik, Oz’s birthdate was officially changed on Turkish records to 22 November 1932.  The reason for this change is believed to be associated with Oz’s school enrolment.  Oz undertook his primary and secondary school education in Ankara and later gained a Diploma in Electrics.  At 21 years of age, Oz joined the Turkish Air Force as a civilian radar technician in 1951 and served there for some 9 and a half years.  While with the Air Force, Oz undertook further study and gained Diplomas in Radio (Wireless) Electronics and Radar Electronics in 1953 and 1955, respectively.


In 1957 and 1962 Oz successfully completed further advanced courses of study in Italy where he firstly gained a Diploma in Advanced Radar Technology and later a Diploma in Nuclear Electronics.  Between 1960 and 1970, Oz worked with the Turkish Atomic Energy Commission where he was a nuclear electronics expert at the Nuclear Research Centre in Ankara.


Immigration to Australia

In early 1970, Özcan Ertok sought a position with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and also wrote to the then Department of Labour and National Service in Melbourne seeking other suitable employment opportunities.  Oz and his family were then living at Kaynak Sok No 49 in Yenimahalle, a metropolitan district on the north-western edge of Ankara.


Prior to leaving Turkey, Özcan Ertok changed the spelling of his name to Ozcan Ertok; probably for convenience in an English language environment.  The later spelling is followed in this article.


Oz and his wife Gülören Azime (née Gullekin) age 44 and their 3 children, sons Ümit Ibrahim age 18, Kursat Ilhami age 17, and daughter Mehtap Nilüfer age 13, immigrated to Australia in November 1970 under the 1967 Australia and Turkey Assisted Passage Agreement.  The Ertok family departed Ankara on 28 November 1970 onboard Qantas Flight QF 168.111 and flew into Sydney.


Initially, the Ertok family was accommodated at the Balgownie migrant workers’ hostel located at Fairy Meadow on the New South Wales south coast near Wollongong.  About a month later, Oz and his family moved to Melbourne where they were accommodated at the Midway migrant hostel at the inner‑western suburb of Maribyrnong.


Oz had come to Melbourne expecting to take up a position with L M Ericsson Pty Ltd the Swedish multinational telecommunications company based at Broadmeadows.  When Oz was a few months away from leaving Turkey, Ericsson had written to him stating they were interested in his Turkish language skill and offered Oz an administrative position on a salary of $4 500 per annum.  (Around that time a Nat Map Technical Officer, Grade 2 was on a maximum salary of about $4 700 per annum.)  Unfortunately early in 1971, when Oz presented for final interview at Broadmeadows, the pay and conditions of the position were then stated to be substantially less than what had been offered previously.  He declined the lower offer.


Oz was then in somewhat of a dilemma as to what the future in his new country was to be for him and his family.  Fortunately he was then advised of a potentially suitable vacancy with the Commonwealth Government’s Division of National Mapping in Melbourne.  At 41 years of age, Oz joined Nat Map on 20 January 1971 after being interviewed by then Supervising Surveyor Syd Kirkby MBE and thus embarked on a 20-year career there.


In January 1971, as Oz was not then an Australian citizen, he could not be permanently appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service.  Instead, Oz was given a temporary appointment as a Technical Officer (Engineering) Grade 1 in Nat Map’s Control Survey Branch, position number 36.


Living at Mitcham

By no later than 1974, Oz and his family were residing in a tile-roofed, triple‑front, 3-bedroom, weatherboard home on a leafy 685 square metre block at 4 Ventnor Street in the suburb of Mitcham about 21 kilometres east of the Melbourne central business district.  Oz remained at Mitcham after his wife Gülören and their daughter Mehtap returned to Turkey in the 1980s.  Oz sold 4 Ventnor Street in June 1994.


Australian Citizenship 1974

On 22 March 1974, Oz Ertok was granted a certificate of Australian citizenship by the then Minister for Labour and Immigration, Clyde Cameron (1913–2008).  Oz was then residing at 4 Ventnor Street Mitcham.  The granting of Australian citizenship to Oz was promulgated on page 27 in the Australian Government Gazette No P10 on 8 December 1975.


The Nat Map years 1971-1991

As mentioned above, Oz Ertok joined the then Commonwealth Government’s Division of National Mapping within the Department of National Development as a temporary electronics technician (Technical Officer, Engineering, Grade 1 ) in late January 1971.  On 1 July 1974, having become an Australian citizen some 3 months earlier, Oz was permanently appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service with Nat Map then in the Department of Minerals and Energy as a Technical Officer (Engineering) Grade 2.  This appointment was promulgated on page 55 of the Australian Government Gazette, Issue No P4, on 27 June 1975.


Until 1977, Oz was based in National Mapping’s Melbourne office at the Rialto Building at 497 Collins Street, towards the western edge of the central business district.


The Gothic style Rialto and adjoining Winfield House buildings were designed by Melbourne-born architect and politician William Pitt (1855-1918) and built during 1890-1891 by contractors William Comely and Thomas Henry Gwillam (1855-1930).  Both buildings were classified by the National Trust in 1973 and are now part of the Intercontinental Melbourne Hotel.


The Rialto Building at 497 Collins Street Melbourne circa 1977.

XNatmap image from Eric MacGibbon.


National Mapping’s Aerodist program 1963-1974

In 1963, National Mapping employed Aerodist, a South African made airborne microwave electronic radar distance measuring technology, on a major program to establish horizontal ground control for photogrammetric map compilation for the 1:100 000 scale National Topographic Map Series.  The Aerodist measuring program was to operate over 12 field seasons with the final Aerodist line being measured in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in early November 1974.  During the program, the Aerodist system was used to measure some 3 020 survey lines that fixed the positions of some 485 survey control stations over more than 50 per cent of the Australian mainland; see diagram below.


The Aerodist system allowed dynamic slope distances from 2 ground transponder (or remote) stations to be measured by the master equipment in an aircraft that would fly between the two ground stations.  Typically, the Aerodist ground remote stations were established in braced quadrilaterals at 1° of latitude and longitude intersections within a surrounding geodetic survey network.  Usually 8 lines were measured from each Aerodist ground station to adjoining ground stations; see second diagram below.  In the more remote areas, a helicopter was used to position the Aerodist remote operator parties from base camps on to the ground stations where these 2 people would camp out for most of the week.


By using these measured slope distances, as well as the known aircraft antenna separation distance, the height of the ground stations, the height of the remote instrument in relation to the ground station, the aircraft height at the line crossing point, and by taking meteorological observations to calculate atmospheric refraction, a sea level distance between the two ground stations could be determined.  The slope distances between the Aerodist stations were recorded on paper charts in the measuring aircraft.


Final National Mapping Aerodist Blocks-the extent of the measuring program between 1963 and 1974.


A typical Aerodist one degree braced quadrilateral (diagram by Harvey Else 1972).


Aerodist master measuring equipment in Grand Commander VH-EXZ circa 1966.

An XNatmap image.


In 1963, each Aerodist line was normally measured with 5 useable runs.  However, in 1964 and all subsequent field seasons, for each Aerodist line a minimum of 7 good runs would usually be flown.  The integrity of the run was determined by the quality of the traces that recorded the measurements on to the paper chart.  Often more than 7 runs were needed to obtain 7 good ones.


Oz’s Aerodist years 1971-1974

Oz Ertok worked on maintaining and refurbishing Aerodist master measuring units and remote units both in the field and in the Rialto office electronics workshop from when he started with Nat Map in 1971 until the Aerodist measuring program ceased in November 1974.  In the field, Oz would also operate the master equipment mounted in a fixed-wing aircraft during measuring flights (line crossings).


Oz started with the Aerodist measuring party in the field at Dubbo in central New South Wales in May 1971 and worked with that party at Rabbit Flat in the Northern Territory and later at Christmas Creek homestead, Balgo Mission and Halls Creek in Western Australia.  With the help of his then field party leader, Surveyor Frank Johnston, Oz gained his first-ever driver licence on 18 August 1971 at the Halls Creek police station in Western Australia.  Later in 1971, Oz was with the Aerodist field party at Camooweal in western Queensland.


The Rockwell Grand Commander 680FL (VH-EXZ) that was used as the Aerodist measuring aircraft from 1966 to 1974.  XNatmap image.


Oz with Frank Johnston in their swags after an overnight stop on the way to Rabbit Flat in June 1971.  An Oz Ertok image.


During Aerodist measuring operations over the Coral Sea in October 1971, Oz was stationed for some time at Maer Island in Torres Strait some 200 kilometres north-east of Cape York.  (Maer Island was the home of Edward Koiki (Eddie) Mabo (1936-1992) whose successful decade-long High Court case led to the Court’s decision in 1992 that overturned the doctrine of terra nullus and allowed the granting of indigenous (Native Title) land rights in Australia.  Sadly the Court’s decision was handed down 5 months after Eddie Mabo’s death.)


Early in November 1971, after the completion of the Coral Sea work,  Oz Ertok left Cairns with fellow Nat Mapper Michael Lloyd for the 3 000 kilometre drive back to Melbourne, travelling in a 109-inch wheelbase 4-cylinder Land Rover van.  On their journey south, Oz and Michael spent a couple of nights at Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.  Here Oz declared that he liked the town and that he would live there one day; it was about 24 years later that Oz settled at Noosaville in what was to be his final home.


In 1972, Oz continued working with the Aerodist measuring party from Kalgoorlie, Laverton, Featherstonhaugh airstrip, Carnegie homestead, Wiluna, Balfour Downs homestead, Kidson Field airstrip, Blyth airstrip and Forrest in Western Australia.  Forrest was a small railway settlement beside the Trans‑Australian Railway line on the Nullarbor Plain about 80 kilometres west of the South Australian border.  In 1929, an airstrip and refuelling facility was established at Forrest to allow overnight stops for scheduled passenger and mail air services between Perth and Adelaide.


Oz Ertok (seated) booking for Andrew Turk operating an Aerodist remote unit for height checks at Featherstonhaugh airstrip in 1972.  Peter Langhorne image.

Apart from Kalgoorlie, Laverton, Wiluna, and Forrest, these 1972 Aerodist aircraft bases were fairly remote locations where Oz camped out with other members of the Aerodist field party.  Three of these locations were just abandoned rough airstrips out in the bush that had been built and used by oil exploration companies in the 1960s.  Featherstonhaugh airstrip was on the southern edge of the Gibson Desert about 630 kilometres (direct) north-east of Kalgoorlie.  Kidson Field airstrip was in the northern Gibson Desert over 1 000 kilometres by road (or about 600 kilometres direct) south-east of Broome.  Blyth airstrip was in the Gibson Desert about 75 kilometres directly west of the then Warburton Mission (now the Warburton Ranges community) and about 550 kilometres by road north-east of Laverton.


In 1973, Oz worked with Aerodist in Victoria and New South Wales where the field party operated from bases at Deniliquin and Hay in New South Wales and from Swan Hill, Mildura and Horsham in Victoria.  (Most likely, Oz was not at all of these Aerodist bases.)


In 1974, the final year of Aerodist field operations, Oz worked from Wyndham, Halls Creek and Derby in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.  Also in 1974, Oz conducted tests with a JMR Doppler satellite receiver at survey control station R 110 (Savage Hill) on Bigge Island in the Bonaparte Archipelago north-east of Derby.


During 1973 and 1974, while still working with the Aerodist program, Oz spent some time in the field as well as in the office working with Nat Map’s WREMAPS 1 Airborne Laser Terrain Profiler.  Between 1975 and 1980, Oz had a major involvement with the laser profiler field work.


Nat Map’s Airborne Laser Terrain Profiling operations 1970-1980

Between 1970 and 1980, National Mapping deployed an Airborne Laser Terrain Profiling system to provide photogrammetric vertical control for the plotting of certain map sheets in the 1:100 000 scale National Topographic Map Series.  The system was also used for special projects including a micro-wave telecommunications link in North Queensland and for the Royal Australian Survey Corps in South Australia.


The system deployed on this program was known as WREMAPS 1 and was developed by the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury to the north of Adelaide to meet the Division of National Mapping’s defined operational requirements.  The system comprised a laser distance measuring sub-system, a barometric reference unit to establish the height datum, a special continuous‑strip 70 mm camera to record the track flown by the laser, gyroscopes to sense the attitude of the aircraft, and associated support equipment, including a paper roll chart recorder for capturing the relevant data.


Refuelling the laser aircraft, Rockwell Aero Commander 680FL (VH EXP), at Ayers Rock (Uluru) in 1975.  An XNatmap image.


Between 1970 and 1975, the laser terrain profiling system was mounted in a twin-engine, high-wing Rockwell Aero Commander 680FL (VH‑EXP) chartered from Executive Air Services Pty Ltd based at Melbourne’s Essendon airport.  From 1977 to 1980, the system was mounted in Nat Map’s own aircraft, then a turboprop, twin-engine, high-wing Nomad N22B-25 (VH‑DNM).


During its decade of operation, National Mapping’s WREMAPS 1 Airborne Laser Terrain Profiling system was used to fly over 250 000 kilometres of laser terrain profiles.  Over 100 000 vertical control height points were manually extracted from these profiles.  These height points were used as the vertical control for the photogrammetric plotting of some 2.7 million square kilometres of map coverage in the National Topographic Map Series which at a scale of 1:100 000 depicted contours at 20-metre vertical intervals.  This mapping coverage was over about 35 per cent of the Australian mainland, as shown on the map below.


Aircraft bases used for laser terrain profiling operations between 1970 and 1980 and area covered by Nat Map’s laser profiling.  Diagonal shading depicts map sheets with standard east‑west terrain profiles and vertical stripes depict map sheets with non‑standard north-south profiling.  Map annotated by Paul Wise.


Oz Ertok working on the WREMAPS 1 laser system in 1978 in the electronics workshop in Nat Map’s Ellery House office at Dandenong.

An XNatmap image.


Oz’s time with Nat Map’s Airborne Laser Terrain Profiler 1973-1980

In 1973, Oz Ertok worked with the Laser field party with Senior Surveyor Rom Vassil (1930-2021), and Surveyors Paul Wise, Simon Cowling and Mike Morgan and others around Esperance (23 May-8 June 1973).  Oz rejoined the Laser field party at Port Hedland on 18 August 1973, and continued from bases at Halls Creek, Western Australia and Rabbit Flat, Northern Territory.  Afterwards the field party undertook a microwave survey in North Queensland where Oz was at Townsville, Cairns and Weipa.  After that survey, Oz was with the Laser field party at Cunderdin which is about 130 kilometres north-east of Perth; Oz left the laser field party at Cunderdin on 21 November 1973.


In 1974, Oz was with the Laser Terrain Profiler field party with Senior Surveyor Rom Vassil Surveyor Paul Wise and others.  The field party operated from bases at Esperance and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia; Broken Hill in New South Wales; Longreach in Queensland and Ceduna in South Australia.


In 1975, Oz was with the Laser Terrain Profiler party with Surveyor Paul Wise and others.  The field party operated from bases at Oodnadatta in South Australia and Alice Springs, Vaughan Springs homestead, and Ayers Rock (Uluru) in the Northern Territory.


There were no Laser Terrain Profiler field operations in 1976, as the system platform was changed from the chartered Aero Commander to Nat Map’s Nomad aircraft and various modifications were needed.


Oz Ertok in 1977 operating the WREMAPS 1 laser terrain profiler system in Nomad aircraft VH‑DNM with Surveyor Rod Menzies and Pilot Pat O’Donohue.

An XNatmap image.


In 1977, Oz worked with the Laser Terrain Profiler field party with Surveyors Paul Wise and Rod Menzies and others.  The field party operated from bases at Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and from Fitzroy Crossing, Kidson Field (refuelling only), Nullagine, Newman, and Meekatharra in Western Australia.


In 1978, Oz worked with the Laser Terrain Profiler field party with Surveyors Paul Wise and Rod Menzies and others.  The field party operated from bases at Forrest and Giles Weather Station in Western Australia, Broken Hill in New South Wales, and Alice Springs and Ayers Rock (Uluru) in the Northern Territory.  (Giles Weather Station is in the Gibson Desert of Western Australia to the south of the Rawlinson Range and about 130 kilometres north-west of the Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory borders junction.)


In 1979, Oz worked with the Laser Terrain Profiler field party with Surveyors Paul Wise, Martin Kros, Leon Derkacz and others.  The field party operated from bases at Forrest, Giles Weather Station, Ayers Rock (Uluru), and Alice Springs.


In1980, the final year of WREMAPS1 laser operations, Oz worked with the Laser Terrain Profiler field party with Surveyor Rod Menzies and others.  The field party operated from bases at Ceduna and Cook in South Australia to support the Royal Australian Survey Corps with the Army’s Operation Desert Walk 80.  (Cook was a small railway settlement beside the Trans-Australian Railway line on the Nullarbor Plain about 130 kilometres east of the Western Australian border.)


Nomad aircraft on Laser operations at Kidson Field on 4 July 1977, from left: Leon Derkacz, Laurie McLean, Tony Maginn, Paul Wise, Graeme Lawrence (on ladder), Oz Ertok, and pilot Pat O’Donohue.  Oz Ertok image.


In Antarctica 1970s, 1980s and 1990s

From the late 1950s, the Division of National Mapping provided mapping support and field survey staff for the Australian Antarctic Division’s Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions.  During the 1970s and 1980s, Oz worked in Antarctica as a member of Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions and later with Greenpeace (1990s).


In the summer of 1974-75, Oz Ertok and Nat Map Senior Surveyor Rom Vassil were members of an Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition; other Nat Mappers on this expedition were Surveyors Mike Morgan and Steve Bennett (died 2020) and Technical Officer Bob Goldsworthy (1939-1985) who carried out traversing operations.  The expedition members travelled south onboard the MV Nella Dan.  Oz was the Wild RC9 aerial survey camera operator during high altitude aerial photography operations over Enderby Land from a base at Knuckey Peaks about 400 kilometres south-west of Mawson Station.  The aircraft was a single engine turboprop Pilatus Porter (registration VH-FSB) which was chartered by the Australian Antarctic Division from the Melbourne-based Forrester Stephen Pty Ltd; the pilot was Gus Van Scalina.


Pilatus Porter (VH-FSB) circa 1970.  Edited image from Ben Dannecker collection from Markus Herzig’s Pilatus Porter History web site.


The Knuckey Peaks aircraft incident January 1975

On a flight early in this expedition, the pilot, navigator Rom Vassil and camera operator Oz Ertok were all wearing oxygen masks, thermal clothing and gloves as the cabin temperature in the unheated and unpressurised Porter was below minus 40 degrees Celsius.  After completing one photography run and with the Porter cruising at 20 000 feet on autopilot during the second run, Rom noticed that the pilot was no longer making heading corrections when requested.


Rom looked at the pilot and to his horror saw that Gus was unconscious.  Oz was still busy working over the camera view finder when he received a firm tap on the shoulder from Rom who advised that Gus had collapsed.  Although he served as a technician in the Turkish Air Force prior to coming to Australia in 1970, Oz was not a pilot and had no formal flying experience nor training as a pilot; neither had Rom.


But this was a desperate situation and something extraordinary needed to be done.  Oz left the camera and his oxygen supply and sat in the right side seat of the Porter.  He noticed Gus had a bad colour, his head was flopped to one side and that his oxygen mask was pushed to the side of his face off his mouth and nose.  In the right side seat, Oz noticed he had no oxygen mask as he sat behind the aircraft’s dual controls.


Oz knew that to save Gus’s life and to remain conscious himself the aircraft had to quickly descend from its 20 000 feet operating level to below 10 000 feet where there was sufficient atmospheric oxygen to breathe normally.  But Oz wasn’t sure how this could be done on autopilot and whether he would be able to control the plane if he switched off the autopilot.  A decision was needed and only Oz could make it.


With some trepidation Oz switched off the autopilot and pushed the control column forward to commence the descent.  Almost immediately, the aircraft began to shake violently.  Fortunately, Oz had the presence of mind to recall that the Porter needed a high power setting to maintain 20 000 feet and during the initial descent this setting had caused the aircraft to over speed.  Oz then operated the throttle lever to reduce engine power and by flying manually descended the aircraft to 9 000 feet where the crew could all breathe without the aircraft oxygen supply.


Oz then flew the Porter back to Knuckey Peaks that was about 120 kilometres distant.  The flight time was about 1 hour.  Oz also contacted the base on the aircraft radio to advise of the situation.  Once over the base, Oz circled the area 3 times to reduce the fuel load.  Fortunately as the aircraft was circling Gus regained consciousness and although not fully recovered was able to land the aircraft.  Gus’s landing of the aircraft was forced by Oz, who despite prompting to the contrary, knew such a manoeuvre was well beyond his own capabilities.


After this incident (that was promptly reported to Australian aviation authorities) further high altitude (on-oxygen) flying was prohibited by the Department of Civil Aviation due to the pilot’s recent medical history.  Gus later flew the Porter back to Mawson Station at a low altitude.  Here unfortunately, on 23 January 1975 at the Gwamm airstrip on the plateau above the Mawson Station it was blown over during a blizzard in the night, rolled several times and was destroyed at a cost of $125 000.


The heavy Wild RC9 aerial survey camera, serial number 616, was carried onboard the aircraft in its mounting frame.  Such cameras can only be placed but not secured in the mounting.  As the aircraft rolled around in the blizzard, the camera came out of its mounting and caused further damage as it was thrown around the cabin.  Later the camera was returned to the manufacturer in Switzerland for repair but was never able to operate again with its original metric precision.)


Sadly, Ozcan Ertok was never given formal recognition for his brave and crucial role in this frightening aircraft incident.  Undoubtedly Oz’s calm and quick thinking and decisive actions saved the lives of all 3 aircraft crew members that day.  Oz’s actions were certainly not part of business as usual but something well beyond that.


Nat Mappers heading south on MV Nella Dan in December 1975, from left: Andrew Greenall, Mike Morgan, Oz Ertok, Carl McMaster, and John Manning. 

Image provided by Mike Morgan.


ANARE summer trip 1975-76

During the following summer of 1975-76 Oz returned to Enderby Land where he continued to undertake aerial photography operations from a base near Mount King on the eastern edge of the Tula Mountains, about 440 kilometres west of Mawson Station.  That ANARE summer survey party also comprised John Manning, Carl McMaster, Mike Morgan and Andrew Greenall.  They travelled south on the MV Nella Dan that departed Melbourne on 8 December 1975 and returned on 9 March 1976.  The field party surveyed in Enderby Land west to the Russian base at Molodezhnaya.  The photography party (Mike Morgan and Ozcan Ertok) operated a Wild RC9 aerial survey camera mounted in Pilatus Porter aircraft (VH-FZB) again chartered from Forester Stephen Pty Ltd.  That season Oz and Mike achieved the equivalent of 2 seasons’ aerial photography output and helped make up for the loss of production due to the unavailability of VH-FSB the previous year.


Oz Ertok at the Mount King base Enderby Land in January 1976.

Mike Morgan supplied image.


Coastline Delineation Aerial Photography Western Australia 1976

During the 1970s, National Mapping undertook a series of aerial photography projects to capture the Australian coastline at mean high water and at mean low water.  The objectives of the overall program were to obtain coastal aerial photographs at low water to determine the baseline for offshore boundaries and at high water to plot the coastline on 1: 250 000 and 1: 100 000 scale map sheets in the National Topographic Map Series.


To assist in the definition of the land-water interface, the aerial photography was usually captured at an average scale of 1:35 000 on Kodak 2424 black and white 230 mm format film stock that sensed into the infra-red band of the electromagnetic spectrum.


Between 9 November and 8 December 1976, coastal aerial photography at mean high water and mean low water was taken along the Western Australian coast covering the map sheets from La Grange (just south of Broome) to Geraldton.  Photographic coverage was also obtained of the reefs in the Rowley Shoals that are located in the Indian Ocean about 330 kilometres north-west of Broome.


Ozcan Ertok joined the 1976 Nat Map coastal photography field party as the electronics technician.  Other field party members included Senior Surveyor Andrew Turk (initially) and field party leader Surveyor Paul Wise.  Photography line navigator was Technical Officer Bill Stuchbery and the Wild RC9 aerial survey camera operator was Technical Officer Graeme Lawrence.


Real time tidal data was recorded by Technical Assistants Michael Lloyd and Hayden Reynolds, and Technical Officers Andrew Hatfield, Steve Pinwill, and Bob Goldsworthy.  The Wild RC9 aerial survey camera was mounted in a Shrike Commander 500S (VH-PWO) piloted by Max Cooper and chartered from the Perth-based Executive Air West.


Ellery House Dandenong 1977-1991

In April 1977, Oz Ertok moved with the rest of Nat Map’s Melbourne office staff from the Rialto Building to newly-built premises at Ellery House in 280 Thomas Street Dandenong; about 30 kilometres south-east of Melbourne CBD.  Ellery House was named for Robert Lewis John Ellery (1827-1908) who was an astronomer and director of the Williamstown observatory for 42 years.  Ellery conducted a geodetic survey of Victoria from 1858 to 1874.


Oz was to spend the final 14 years of his Nat Map career based at Ellery House in Dandenong.  Among his duties at Ellery House, Oz worked on various items of electronic and photographic equipment including the Digital PDP 1100 computer that supported Nat Map’s digital mapping system.


Ellery House, 280 Thomas Street Dandenong circa 1977.

XNatmap image.


Bathymetric Mapping 1983

In 1983, Oz worked with Nat Map’s Canberra-based Bathymetric Mapping Branch where he undertook two 6-week tours of sea-borne duty onboard the MV Cape Pillar.  Oz’s first tour was from late January to 10 March 1983 in the Investigator Group off Port Lincoln and in the Nuyts Archipelago off Ceduna in South Australia.  The second sea-borne tour was from 21 April to 1 June 1983 in the Great Australian Bight off the Nullarbor Cliffs.  The Cliffs extend westward from the Head of the Bight (its most northern extent) which is located about 200 kilometres east of the Western Australian border to around the border area.


Crewman Bob Hutchison with Oz Ertok (right) onboard MV Cape Pillar at Thevenard, South Australia during Bathymetric mapping operations in 1983.  Oz Ertok image.


In 1971, the Division of National Mapping commenced a bathymetric mapping program to survey and map the Continental Shelf from an inshore depth of 20 metres to a depth of 300 metres at the outer edge of the Shelf.  About 280 map sheets at 1:250 000 scale were required to cover this vast area.  Bathymetric maps showed isobaths at 10-metre depth intervals supplemented by spot depths as well as features such as islands, reefs and cays that broke the sea surface.


The planned bathymetric map coverage extended to Australian and State territories that were far off-shore, namely: Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs on the Lord Howe Rise underwater plateau in the Coral Sea Islands Territory, Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean about 2 000 kilometres north-west of Broome, Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean about 1 000 kilometres south-west of Christmas Island, the sub‑Antarctic Heard and McDonald Islands, Mellish Reef in the Coral Sea nearly 1 100 kilometres east of Cairns, Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island (New South Wales) and Macquarie Island (Tasmania).


MV Cape Pillar.  An XNatmap image.


From the early 1970s to the early 1990s, the following vessels were used for bathymetric surveys: MV Coralita, MV Murphy Star, HV Ataluma, MV Manly Cove, MV Bluff Creek, DT Burrowarree, MV Lalinda an MV Candela.  The TSMV Febrina was used for surveys in Great Barrier Reef waters for many years.  During this period, the 2 000 ton Department of Transport lighthouse tender MV Cape Pillar was used extensively for surveys in further off-shore waters as, to a lesser extent, was her sister ship the MV Cape Don.


Wintering at Mawson Station Antarctica in 1984

In 1984, Oz Ertok wintered at Mawson Station as a member of an Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition while engaged directly by the Antarctic Division on temporary release from Nat Map.  On this expedition, Oz was the senior Radio Technical Officer.  He installed the first of the Inmarsat satellite communications systems in Antarctica.  The Officer-in-Charge of Mawson Station during this expedition was Brian Turnbull.  Typically, ANARE wintering expeditions left Australia late in the year prior to wintering and returned early the following year.  Thus it is likely that Oz would have left Melbourne around December 1983 and returned early in 1985.


Wintering at Macquarie Island 1986

In 1986, Oz Ertok wintered at Macquarie Island as a member of an Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition while again engaged directly by the Antarctic Division as a Radio Technical Officer to install an Inmarsat communications system and to fulfil the role of one of the 3 communications officers.  Macquarie Island is administered as part of Tasmania and is located in the Southern Ocean about 1 500 kilometres south-east of Hobart.  During the 1986 wintering expedition, the Officer-in-Charge at Macquarie Island was Robert (Bob) Lachal.  Oz departed Macquarie Island onboard the MS Nella Dan on 11 December 1986 and arrived at Hobart on 14 December 1986 (ANARE Voyage 3 1986/87).


With the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group 1987-1991

The Division of National Mapping ceased as a unique Commonwealth Government organisation in July 1987.  Under Commonwealth Government administrative arrangements that were gazetted on 24 July 1987, Division of National Mapping functions were undertaken within the Department of Administrative Services by the subsequently formed Surveying and Land Information Group.


The Group was later renamed the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group and included former Australian Survey Office functions.  These administrative arrangements followed the double dissolution Federal elections that were held on 11 July 1987 and saw the re-election of the Australian Labor Party federal government under Prime Minister Robert James Lee Hawke (1929-2019).


Oz Ertok was to remain with the new organisation, based at Dandenong until early 1991.


Public Service retirement 1991

After some 20 years of service to Australia’s national mapping effort, Oz Ertok retired as a Technical Officer Level 3 from the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group within the Department of Administrative Services on 16 January 1991; he was then aged 61 years.  Oz’s retirement was promulgated on page 901 of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, Public Service Issue No PS7 on 21 February 1991.


Greenpeace World Park base Cape Evans, Antarctica 1991

On leaving the Commonwealth Public Service, Oz Ertok had not seen enough of Antarctica, so during 1991 Oz wintered as a radio operator with other Greenpeace expeditioners at the Greenpeace World Park base at Cape Evans on Ross Island within the Ross Dependency claimed by New Zealand.  Maintaining an Inmarsat satellite system that provided both telex and telephone communications was one of Oz’s primary roles.  He also installed solar panels and a wind generator as well as batteries for solar and wind energy storage.


The Cape Evans base, located at 77° 38′ 20″ South Latitude and 166° 24′ 50″ East Longitude, had been established in 1987; see location map below.  The Greenpeace base was near the shore of McMurdo Sound and near the United States McMurdo Station, and the New Zealand Scott Base.  The Greenpeace base was also close to Scott’s Hut on the south‑eastern shore of Cape Evans.  This hut was erected in 1911 by the ill‑fated British Antarctic Expedition of 1910‑1913 led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott CVO RN (1868‑1912).


The Cape Evans Greenpeace base was closed down and completely dismantled at the end of the 1991-1992 expedition.  Except for Oz Ertok who was evacuated by air courtesy of New Zealand authorities in late November 1991 (see details below), all of the Cape Evans Greenpeace expeditioners returned on Greenpeace's Antarctic ship the MV Gondwana.  This ship arrived at the ice edge then 26 kilometres from Cape Evans on 27 December 1991 and evacuated and dismantled the base using 2 Hughes 500 helicopters to ferry to the ship.


The Greenpeace World Park Base at Cape Evans 1990-91.

Edited image from the Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial Collection.


Antarctica showing bases where Oz Ertok worked between 1974 and 1991.

Base map annotated by Paul Wise.


Oz Ertok at Scott’s Hut in Antarctica in August 1991, about 80 years after the hut was built.  Oz Ertok image.


Scott’s Hut, Antarctica in 2015.

Helen Glazer image from Wikipedia web site.


Planned ascent of Mount Erebus, Antarctica November 1991


Mount Erebus, Ross Island, Antarctica.

Richard Waitt, United States Geological Survey (edited) image 1972.


Mount Erebus is an active volcano on Ross Island in Antarctica, with a summit of some 3 790 metres.  It is located about 40 kilometres north-east of the Greenpeace base 1987-1992 at Cape Evans.  Mount Erebus was the site of the Air New Zealand (sightseeing) Flight 901 disaster on 28 November 1979 with the loss of all of the 257 people onboard.


During his time at the Greenpeace Cape Evans base, Oz prepared for a solo ascent of Mount Erebus and after thorough planning set off on this mission.  His intention was to reach the summit carrying a Turkish flag.  Initially, Oz made good progress.  However, bad weather closed in and Oz was forced to spend around 36 hours in his tent on the side of Mt Erebus.  Apparently, Oz always felt he was well prepared and in a good position, but he was unaware that a rescue mission had been enacted to find him.


From the comfort of his tent on Mt Erebus, Oz was making a cup of tea when he heard a helicopter above.  It landed a short distance from his camp and the helicopter crew came to meet him.  Oz was a little annoyed that the recovery team wanted to pick him up as he was eager to reach the summit.


Noting this objective, the recovery team offered to fly Oz to the summit, however, Oz declined as he felt it would not do justice to his ascent attempt nor to the Turkish flag he was carrying.


As a consequence, Oz was airlifted from Mt Erebus by a joint New Zealand and United States Search and Rescue Team on Wednesday 27 November 1991 at about 1:00 pm.  The recovery operation had been requested by Greenpeace the previous day after 3 other Greenpeace members on a separate field trip in the largely snow-free Dry Valleys region, across McMurdo Sound, over 100 kilometres north-west of the Cape Evans base had been unable to raise Oz during 2 planned radio schedules.  At the time, weather in the Cape Evans-Mt Erebus area had deteriorated with 50 kilometre per hour winds reducing visibility to about 250 metres.  (The McMurdo Dry Valleys, namely Victoria Valley, Wright Valley and Taylor Valley were in an area of low humidity in Victoria Land hence little snow.)


Two helicopters with Search and Rescue teams were put on standby shortly after the Greenpeace request for assistance was made.  After the weather cleared on the Wednesday, the recovery operation began with refuge huts and possible climbing routes checked prior to Oz being located some 1 500 metres up Mt Erebus in a tent.  He was found by Search and Rescue personnel Maryann Waters and Jon de Vries flying in a Royal New Zealand Air Force Bell Iroquois turbine-engine helicopter.  Once located, Oz was flown to the United States McMurdo Station for a medical check-up and was then accommodated at the New Zealand Scott Base at Pram Point (about 2.5 kilometres east of McMurdo Station and about 3 kilometres south-east of the Greenpeace base).  Afterwards, Oz was flown to New Zealand under an agreement between Greenpeace and New Zealand’s Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Antarctic section.  In later years, Oz spoke little of this incident.


However, Oz’s family became aware of the incident in real time when Ümit (Oz’s son) received a telephone call from a Greenpeace Director in the United States concerned for the wellbeing of Oz who was then missing in Antarctica.  Ümit calmly asked whether they had found a body to which the answer was no.  Ümit then responded that there was no need to worry, and that Oz would be fine.  The calm reaction from Ümit (who knew how meticulous and calculated Oz was), seemed a shock to the Director who appeared to be expecting a more difficult conversation.  Later Greenpeace flew Ümit to New Zealand to greet his father and escort him back to Australia.


Living on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast 1995-2022

In early 1993, Oz Ertok purchased an 800 square metre block at Noosaville on Queensland Sunshine Coast.  Here he designed and built his spacious and comfortable 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home which he occupied in 1995.  Over following years at Noosaville, Oz was a welcoming host for numerous Nat Mappers and their families, many of whom stayed with Oz for a few days.


Oz Ertok’s home 1995-2022 at Noosaville.

Edited Google street view image June 2014.


Oz with Mike Morgan at Noosa in 2003.

Image provided by Mike Morgan.


But Oz Ertok hadn’t fully retired; he continued to travel overseas including visits to Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Dubai, China, Canada, Russia, and the Arctic North‑West Passage as well as returning to outback Australia in 2009 where he revisited Rabbit Flat.


Last Antarctica trip

Between 23 October and 23 November 2015, Oz’s undertook his last Antarctic journey that saw him travel through Dubai, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Ushuaia (on the southern tip of Argentina), before boarding a ship for a voyage to South Georgia Island and Antarctica.  A focus of this voyage was a visit to the cemetery at Grytviken, a former whaling station on the east coast of South Georgia Island.  South Georgia is a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean about 2 000 kilometres east of Cape Horn in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago off the southern tip of South America.  At Grytviken, Oz visited the grave of Irish-born Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton CVO OBE FRGS FRSGS (1874‑1922).  Oz celebrated his 85th birthday on this voyage.


Shackleton was Oz’s Antarctic explorer hero who led the Imperial Trans‑Antarctica expedition of 1914-1917.  After being trapped in pack-ice since February 1915, the expedition’s vessel Endurance finally broke up and sank below the ice in the Weddell Sea on 21 November 1915.  Later, Shackleton led his men in small boats to shelter on Elephant Island, in the South Shetlands.  Afterwards, Shackleton sailed in a small boat to South Georgia Island to seek assistance to recover his men from Elephant Island; all were saved.  Oz timed his visit to South Georgia to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Endurance.


The sinking of Endurance in the Weddell Sea in November 1915.

James Francis (Frank) Hurley OBE (1885-1962) (edited) image from the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge UK.


Oz in November 2015 at the headstone on Shackleton’s grave on South Georgia Island.

Oz Ertok image provided by Tarkan Ertürk.


About Rabbit Flat


Oz Ertok at Rabbit Flat’s tent city tourist accommodation in June 1971.

Oz Ertok image.


In mid-June 1971, when he arrived at the remote Northern Territory Rabbit Flat roadhouse in the Tanami Desert about 600 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, Oz Ertok adopted it as his Australian birth place and spiritual home.  Like many other people who stayed there over the years, Oz got on well with the proprietors, Bruce Farrands and his French-born wife Jackie and their 2 sons.  Oz returned to Rabbit Flat with the Laser Terrain Profiler field party in 1973.  As mentioned, Oz revisited Rabbit Flat again for the final time on an outback tour in his Suburu Forester all wheel drive wagon in 2009; the image below was taken during that visit.


The then stockman Bruce Farrands came to Mongrel Downs Station in the Northern Territory in late 1966 after working for a couple of years on Billiluna Station about 250 kilometres to the west and across the border in Western Australia.  (Mongrel Downs is now owned by the Mangkururrpa Aboriginal Land Trust and is known as Tanami Downs.  The homestead is about 50 kilometres south-west of Rabbit Flat.)


In Perth in January 1968, Bruce married Jackie who came to Mongrel Downs as a governess the previous year.  (Jackie had arrived in Melbourne from France in 1965 at age 24 years.  Jackie came from Berardengo, Colombes a commune beside the River Seine about 10 kilometres north-west of central Paris.)


From May 1968, Bruce and Jackie attempted to establish a tourist facility for Ansett Pioneer coaches at Tanami Bore but it was a very wet winter, tracks were impassable for many weeks and with no coaches the venture failed.  In June 1969, with financial support from Bill and Lorna Wilson (the then owners of Mongrel Downs in partnership with Joe and Marie Mahood), the Farrands established the Rabbit Flat roadhouse on a 5‑acre (2.2-hectare) government lease between The Granites and Tanami beside the Tanami Track north-west of Alice Springs.  The Farrands developed and operated their roadhouse until December 2012 when they ceased trading.


Oz Ertok and Bruce Farrands outside the Rabbit Flat roadhouse in 2009.

Image provided by Oz Ertok.


Oz Ertok outside his Noosaville home in November 2009.

Laurie McLean image.


Back home at Noosaville, Oz continued to enjoy daily bicycle rides and swimming in the sea at Noosa until shortly before his death.



Sadly, Ozcan Ertok died suddenly but peacefully at his Noosaville home on 30 December 2022; he was 93 years of age.  Oz was survived by his 3 children, sons Ümit (Melbourne) and Kursat (Thailand), and daughter Mehtap (Turkey) and their partners and by 6 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.  (Oz’s former wife Gülören died in Turkey in 2019 at 93 years of age.)


Ozcan’s grandson Tarkan Ertürk travelled from Perth and his father Ümit travelled from Melbourne to Noosaville soon after Oz’s death to arrange his funeral and attend to related matters.


Oz’s remains were privately cremated on 3 January 2023.  On 4 January 2023, Tarkan and Ümit hosted a wake for him at Oz’s Noosaville home.  About 30 people attended the wake, including Oz’s Noosaville friends and neighbours as well as several of Oz’s Nat Map colleagues.  The Nat Mappers were Syd and Jude Kirkby, Ed and Nicole Burke, Michael Lloyd, and Laurie McLean.  Several other Nat Mappers sent their condolences and apologies to Oz’s family.  Gail, Louise and Maria, 3 of Oz’s close neighbours, kindly assisted with catering and were thoughtful hostesses at the wake.


During his 2 decades of service to Australia’s national mapping operations, Oz Ertok was highly respected as a true professional and for his technical skills, dedicated work ethic and as an excellent field survey party member.  Oz was just a good bloke and a pleasure to work with.  Oz made many lifelong friends during his time with Nat Map.  While Oz has now sadly gone from this world, he will never be forgotten by the Nat Map community who extend their sincere sympathies to Oz’s family for their sad loss.


At Oz Ertok’s wake 4 January 2023, from left Ümit Ertürk, Michael Lloyd, Ed Burke, and Syd Kirkby.  Edited image from Nicole Burke.


At Oz Ertok’s wake from left Syd Kirkby, Laurie McLean and Tarkan Ertürk. Edited image from Nicole Burke.


At Oz Ertok’s wake from left: Laurie McLean, Ed Burke, Michael Lloyd, Syd Kirkby and Tarkan Ertürk.  Edited image from Tarkan Ertürk.




During the research and preparation of this article the following people generously provided assistance :


·       Tarkan Ertürk, Ozcan Ertok’s grandson

·       Ed Burke, former Nat Map Technical Officer

·       Nicole Burke, Ed’s wife

·       Charlie Watson, former Nat Map Senior Surveyor

·       Mike Morgan, former Nat Map Surveyor

·       Paul Wise OAM, founder, operator, and editor-in-chief of the XNatmap web site and former Nat Map Senior Surveyor.


The author gratefully acknowledges the kind assistance provided by these people.


Some of the discussion of Oz Ertok’s recovery from Mt Erebus was informed by Greenpeace removes base and changes tactics for future Antarctic work; an article on pages 241-246 in Antarctic, Volume 12, No 7, Issue No 139, April 1992; a quarterly magazine published by the New Zealand Antarctic Society Inc, Christchurch.