Gordon Morris Homes (1950-2021)


National Mapping Surveyor 1971-1987


Prepared by Laurie McLean April 2021


Gordon Homes at the Australian Hydrographic Office circa 2018.

Image supplied by Taryn Angel.


Gordon Homes joined Nat Map as a 20-year old Cadet Surveyor in 1971 and went on to become a Senior Surveyor and an expert in tides and sea levels before Nat Map ceased as a unique organisation in mid-1987.  Afterwards Gordon briefly worked with the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group before having a long career with the Australian Hydrographic Office of the Royal Australian Navy within the Department of Defence.


Gordon was well respected by his Nat Map colleagues especially for his expertise with tidal analysis.  However, some of his colleagues found Gordon could sometimes be a little short especially if things weren’t going well.  Nat Map Senior Surveyor Brian Murphy worked with Gordon from the early 1970s including on bathymetric surveys in north-western Australian waters.  Brian recently said: I always had a lot of time for Gordon.


The following tribute to Gordon is not a complete record of his service with Nat Map.  Unfortunately, after numerous searches for readily available records and consultations with several of his Nat Map colleagues, many gaps remained in the author’s knowledge of Gordon’s Nat Map activities.  Nevertheless, it is hoped that the following article will provide the reader with some useful insights into the important professional work that Gordon Homes undertook during his Nat Map career as well as afterwards.



Gordon Morris Homes was born on 21 September 1950 at the Memorial Hospital in Sir Edwin Smith Avenue North Adelaide.  Gordon was the youngest of the 4 children born to Nita and Max Homes.  Gordon’s 3 older siblings were his brothers Malcolm Frank (born 1941), Allan Sydney (1943-2020), and Campbell Richard (born 1946).  Each of Gordon’s brothers was born at the Unley Private Hospital, an 18-bed maternity facility on the corner of Unley Road and Commercial Road about 4 kilometres south of the Adelaide Town Hall.


At the time of Gordon’s birth, his parents and his older brothers resided at Meningie a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Albert in the Coorong District about 150 kilometres by road south-east of Adelaide.  Once a paddle steamer port, Meningie has a current area population of about 1 000 people.  In 1950, Gordon’s father was a police officer at Meningie.


About Gordon’s parents

Gordon’s parents Maxwell Frank Homes (1916–2003) and his wife Nita Merle Homes (1915–1990) née Morris married at the Presbyterian Church on Payneham Road in the inner northern Adelaide suburb of St Peters on 27 April 1940.


Gordon’s mother Nita Merle Morris was born at Jamestown in South Australia’s mid-north on 12 March 1915.  Nita was the youngest of the 3 children born to Frederick Muir Morris (1868-1926) and his wife Mary Jane Morris (1875-1968) née George.  Nita’s 2 older siblings were her sister Dorothy Thelma Muir Morris (born 1902) and her brother Oswald Muir Morris (1907‑1909).  Nita Homes died in Adelaide on 3 October 1990 at the age of 75 years.


Gordon’s father Maxwell Frank Homes was born at the inner southern Adelaide suburb of North Unley on 16 February 1916.  He was the first of the 2 children born to Frank Homes (1890–1963) and his wife Eliza Cordelia Homes (1894‑1975) née Lemmey.  Max’s younger sibling was his sister Roma Cordelia Homes (born 1918).  Max Homes died on 20 July 2003 in Flinders Private Hospital at Bedford Park about 10 kilometres south-west of the Adelaide CBD; he was 87 years of age.


Gordon’s father Max Homes worked for many years in the South Australian Police Force.  In March 1934, at 18 years of age, Max was appointed as a junior constable on probation.  Over the years, Max Homes was posted to various locations across South Australia.  In 1939, Max Homes was a police constable and resided with his parents and younger sister at 41 Dixon Street in the inner southern Adelaide suburb of Clarence Park.  Max’s father Frank was then a police sergeant; by 1940 Frank Homes was a police inspector.


On electoral rolls for 1941 and 1943, Max and Nita Homes were listed as residing at 12 Eric Street South Plympton, an inner south-western Adelaide suburb.  Here Max was employed as a police constable and Nita in home duties.


At the time of his death in 2003, Max Homes resided at Christies Beach about 28 kilometres south-west of the Adelaide CBD.  As mentioned elsewhere in this article, Max had also resided at Meningie, Port Augusta West, Tea Tree Gully, Elizabeth, Stirling West, Renmark, Maree, Whyalla and Broken Hill.  Thus as a policeman’s sons, Gordon Homes and his brothers moved quite a lot during their childhood.


The last electoral roll entries discovered for Gordon’s parents were for 1977 and 1980 (post-1980 rolls are not publicly searchable).  On these 2 rolls Max and Nita Homes resided at 586 Silica Street Broken Hill.  On both rolls Max was listed as being employed as a manager and Nita was employed in home duties.  By these years, Max was over 60 years of age and had presumably retired from the Police Force.


Education 1956-1967

Gordon Homes’ early education was impacted by his father’s various postings as a serving police officer.  In late 1953, Gordon’s family moved from Meningie to Port Augusta West.  Gordon later commenced his formal school education at the Port Augusta West Primary School.  During 1957, the Homes family moved to the outer north-eastern Adelaide suburb of Tea Tree Gully where Gordon continued at primary school.  In 1958, the Homes family moved to the recently established satellite town of Elizabeth about 24 kilometres north of the Adelaide CBD where Gordon attended the Elizabeth South Primary School until 1962.  That year, the Homes family moved to Stirling West in the Adelaide Hills where Gordon graduated from the Stirling East Primary School in 1962.


In 1963, the Homes family moved to Renmark on the Murray River about 220 kilometres north-east of Adelaide.  That year, Gordon undertook his first year of high school at the Renmark High School.  In 1964, the Homes family returned to Elizabeth where Gordon went on to complete his high school years at the Elizabeth High School; he graduated at the end of 1967.


Tertiary education 1968-1972

Between 1968 and 1972, Gordon Homes attended the South Australian Institute of Technology at its Adelaide City campus on the north-west corner of North Terrace and Frome Road adjacent to the University of Adelaide campus.  The SAIT developed from the South Australian School of Mines and Industries that was established in 1889 in North Terrace.  The University of Adelaide and the School of Mines maintained some form of reciprocal relationship from that time.  In 1955, Surveyor Donald Cantry established a degree course in surveying in the School of Civil Engineering at the School of Mines.


From 1957, under their affiliation arrangement, the South Australian School of Mines and Industries and the University of Adelaide jointly administered the Faculty of Technology and Applied Science.  Degrees from this Faculty were awarded by the University and certificates and diplomas by the School of Mines.


In 1960, the School of Mines and the Adelaide Technical High School merged to form the South Australian Institute of Technology.  The relationship with the University continued with the establishment of a jointly administered Faculty (and degree) of Technology.  At the South Australian Institute of Technology in 1969, surveying was separated from civil engineering and a new School of Surveying was established with Donald Cantry as its Head.


In 1970, Gordon Homes was awarded a Photographic Technicians Certificate from the South Australian Institute of Technology.


On 7 April 1971, Gordon Homes was awarded a cadetship with the Commonwealth Department of National Development and appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service as a Cadet Surveyor from that date.  Such Commonwealth cadetships were available to undergraduates who had completed at least 1 year of a degree course at an Australian university (or similar tertiary institution) and were eligible to proceed to a degree in surveying.  Cadets were paid a small salary provided they made satisfactory academic progress.  After graduation they were bonded to the Commonwealth Public Service for a period equivalent to the length of the cadetship.  Any early release from this bonding required proportionate repayment of the salary received during the cadetship.


In early 1973, Gordon Homes graduated from the University of Adelaide with the degree of Bachelor of Technology – Surveying.  Upon satisfactory completion of his surveying course in 1972 (but prior to his graduation ceremony), Gordon’s position with the Division of National Mapping in the Department of National Development was automatically up-graded to Surveyor, Class 1 in the Third Division of the Commonwealth Public Service at the full salary of that position.


Gordon Homes with Nat Map 1972-1987

Gordon Homes came to Nat Map Canberra in late 1972 at the completion of this survey course at the South Australian Institute of Technology.  As indicated earlier in the text, Gordon most likely started with Nat Map once his course results were known but prior to his formal graduation in early 1973.


During his early days in Canberra, Gordon resided at the Gowrie Hostel at 210 Northborne Avenue Braddon at the corner of Ipima Street.  The hostel was  built by the Commonwealth Government in 1965 as a residential facility for public servants.  During the 1970s, it became known as the Gowrie Private Hostel and also accommodated school groups and tourists.  In 1992, the hostel was acquired by the Australian National University and used for student accommodation and re-named Fenner Hall.  In 2019, it became an ANU post‑graduate student accommodation site named Gowrie Hall following the opening of a new Fenner Hall in University Avenue Acton.


Bathymetric Mapping Program

At Nat Map, Gordon commenced in the Marine Surveys Section of the Bathymetric Mapping Branch under United States‑born Senior Surveyor George Earl Williams.  Initially, Gordon was based in Nat Map’s Derwent House office at 28 University Avenue on the west side of Canberra’s Civic Centre.  However, during 1976-1981, Gordon was based at Nat Map’s office at Morisset House, 9 Morisset Street Queanbeyan.  During 1981, Gordon moved with the rest of Nat Map’s head office to Unit 3 in the Cameron Offices at Chandler Street Belconnen.


Nat Map’s Bathymetric Mapping Program produced a mapping series coverage over Australia’s continental shelf.  Primarily these maps provided an aid for future resource exploration and for scientific studies as well as numerous other applications.  A major client for these maps was the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics.  The Program was to provide mapping from an inshore depth of 20 metres to a depth of 300 metres at the outer edge of the continental shelf.  Bathymetric maps were published at a scale of 1:250 000 and 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.  For more details on Nat Map’s Bathymetric Mapping Program, refer to the Charlie Watson and Paul Wise article Bathymetric Mapping – Nat Map’s Unfinished Program at this at this link.


Nat Map Senior Surveyor Charlie Watson recalled that Gordon Homes liked undertaking tidal analysis work by hand as well as on a computer.  Gordon did a few of these analyses using the Admiralty semi-graphic method for short term observations which was very complex.


Charlie remembered that, from his surveying course at the South Australian Institute of Technology, Gordon was conversant with the method of solving matrices used in least squares adjustments that had been developed by the United States mathematician Prescott Durand Crout (1907-1984).


Charlie also recalled that Gordon had studied the 1957 book Introduction to the Theory of Error by Yardley Beers (1913-2005).  Beers was a research physicist who, during the 1960s, was involved in the construction of the United States National Bureau of Standards’ WWV world-wide time and frequency standard broadcast station at Fort Collins, Colorado where he oversaw the maintenance of the caesium standard atomic clock.


Circa 1974, Gordon Homes was involved in bathymetric surveys around Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island in the Timor Sea off the north-west coast of Western Australia’s Kimberley region.  Nat Map Senior Surveyor Charlie Watson recalled undertaking survey traverses with Gordon to connect the three islets on Ashmore Reef.


Each islet (East, Middle, and West) was about 7 kilometres distant from the next one.  The field survey party made a number of sun observations for azimuth and Tellurometer measurements for distance determination using model MRA 4 instruments.  Charlie remembered Gordon making some of the Tellurometer measurements.


Nat Map Technical Officer Phil Allen recalled working with Gordon Homes during a short field project on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula in the early 1970s.  This project involved undertaking geodetic surveys to establish control points for the future installation of stations for the Decca Hi-Fix/6 radio‑based system used to position the ship during bathymetric surveying operations.


Low Water Mark Coastal Photography 1974 - 1975

Gordon Homes was the surveyor-in-charge of Nat Map’s low water coastal aerial photography program over south-eastern Australia that was run from the Canberra office during 1974-1975.  The objective of this program was to take aerial photographs at low water to determine the baseline for offshore boundaries.  This work involved tidal predictions and ground confirmation of the state of the tide so that the aerial photography capture flights could be timed to coincide with low tide.


The project was over the coast line of south-eastern Australia covered by the 1:250 000 scale coastal map sheets from Penola in eastern South Australia to Tweed Heads in northern New South Wales.  The aerial photography was captured at average scales of 1:25 000 to 1:34 000 on black and white 230 mm format film stock that sensed into the infra-red band of the electromagnetic spectrum.  A Wild RC10 aerial survey camera (serial number 1336) was used in a chartered aircraft.


Nat Map’s Wild RC10 aerial survey camera.

XNatmap image.


Survey Operations Branch

Following a departmental reorganisation in 1977, both Bathymetric Mapping and Geodetic Survey activities were undertaken within the Survey Operations Branch of National Mapping’s Survey Group then based at Nat Map’s Queanbeyan office.  However, Gordon was not involved in Nat Map geodetic survey work.


Great Barrier Reef bathymetric survey 1980

Between late May and mid-June 1980, Gordon Homes was the surveyor‑in‑charge of the first Nat Map bathymetric survey contract in Great Barrier Reef waters using the RV Kalinda.  It was a combined survey with the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics.  BMR was testing their magnetometer system for sub-bottom profiling while Nat Map was doing the usual bathymetric lines of survey.


The bathymetric survey was controlled by the Decca Hi-Fix/6 radio based positioning system with 3 Hi-Fix shore stations in use.  These stations were at Fitzroy Island off Cairns, on South Brooke Island off Hinchinbrooke Island and at Alva caravan park south of Townsville.  The survey was started under Senior Surveyor Simon Cowling from 31 March 1980.  Gordon Holmes took over from Simon about 28 May 1980 and Gordon handed over to Surveyor Rod Streeter around 12 June 1980.


RV Kalinda was a 22 metre prawn trawler launched in 1973 for use in Queensland waters and the Gulf of Carpentaria on prawn research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Fisheries and Oceanography.  She was taken out of CSIRO service in 1975.


RV Kalinda from Kalinda Affordable Charters web site.


The Kalinda was constructed in 1973 by boat builders Thompson and Thompson.  She was a solid, carvel planked timber monohull with a length of 22 metres, a beam of 6 metres and a draft of 2.5 metres.  She had a loaded weight of 95 tons and cruised at 8 knots.  Today the Kalinda is operated out of Townsville by Kalinda Affordable Charters.  She is advertised as having berthed accommodation for up to 32, including 4 crew and with 3 bathrooms.  She carries 3 000 litres of fresh water and 6 500 litres of diesel fuel and has a range of 1 700 nautical miles (3 150 kilometres).  Kalinda’s main engine is a Rolls Royce 65 C series, 240 kiloWatt 6-cylinder 4-stroke diesel with an after‑cooled turbo and a 4 blade bronze propeller.  Her fuel consumption is 20 litres per hour.  Her electrical power comes from a 40 kilo Volt-Amperes alternator and a 25 kVA alternator that are both driven by a 4-cylinder Ford diesel engine that consumes 5 litres per hour.


Antarctic tidal analysis 1980

In 1980, Gordon Homes undertook an analysis of the incomplete bottom‑mounted tide recorder records obtained at the Australian Davis Station in Antarctica during the 1978-1979 summer season.  The tide records were obtained by Nat Map Senior Surveyor Brian Murphy as part of an extensive large scale detail survey of Davis Station he undertook in support of a major Station re-building program commenced in that season by the Australian Antarctic Division.  At the time, Davis was the only Australian Antarctic Station that did not have tidal harmonic constants included in the Australian National Tide Tables.  An extract of Brian Murphy’s survey report together with Gordon Homes’ tidal analysis report is provided in the Appendix.


Promotion to Senior Surveyor 1980

On 27 November 1980, Gordon’s promotion to Surveyor Class 2 (Senior Surveyor) was promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.  This position was in Nat Map’s Survey Operations Branch where Gordon’s formal duties were to supervise the work of a team engaged on either geodetic or bathymetric surveys.  Such survey work involved leading survey parties in the field or at sea on surveys of unusual complexity.  Also in this position, Gordon was involved in the analysis and computation of survey data relating to the more important surveys and maintained a continuing review of techniques and equipment.


For his first few years as a Senior Surveyor, Gordon Homes was the surveyor‑in‑charge of continental shelf bathymetric surveys conducted with MV Cape Pillar.  Between 1981 and 1983, MV Cape Pillar was used for bathymetric surveys in continental shelf waters of the North West Shelf, the Coral Sea, the Arafura Sea, off Tasmania and in the Great Australian Bight.


MV Cape Pillar.  XNatmap image.


Nat Map chartered the Cape Pillar at various times from 1971 to 1989 for bathymetric and other surveys in Australian territorial waters including around the sub-Antarctic Heard Island and the nearby McDonald Islands.  A Department of Transport Navaids vessel (lighthouse tender), the Cape Pillar was built in 1964 in the New South Wales State Dockyards at Newcastle.  She was of 2 100 gross tons with an overall length of 73 metres, a breadth of 12.72 metres and drew 4.24 metres.  The Cape Pillar was powered by a 5-cylinder Polar 2-stroke diesel engine that produced 1 490 kiloWatts with a 4-blade, 5 ton Kamewa controllable pitch propeller of 2.75 metres diameter.  She had a service speed of 10-12 knots.  The Cape Pillar had a crew of about 35 people and berths for 12 passengers.


Offshore Boundaries and General Branch 1983

Owing to his increasing work load as secretary of the Permanent Committee on Tides and Mean Sea Level, Gordon moved to the Offshore Boundaries and General Branch in 1983.


Nat Map’s Planning and Co-ordination Branch had been established in 1977 to support the Division’s senior management in the planning and review of work progress and resource availability and use.  This Branch brought together, under one manager, a number of functions that previously were spread throughout the Division and responsible to various operational branch heads.


In 1983, the provision of secretarial services to the National Mapping Council and its associated committees and working groups as well as to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research Working Group on Geodesy and Cartography, previously functions of the P and C Branch, were transferred to the newly created Offshore Boundaries and General Branch which was later to be re-named the Maritime Boundaries and Scientific Liaison Branch.  (The Director of National Mapping was also Chairman of the National Mapping Council and Secretary of the SCAR Working Group.)


From May 1984 to February 1987, the Offshore Boundaries and General Branch was led by Nat Map Supervising Surveyor Rom Vassil.


Secretary, Permanent Committee on Tides and Mean Sea Level 1979-1991

Gordon Homes was the secretary of the Permanent Committee on Tides and Mean Sea Level from its inception in September 1979 until he moved to the National Tidal Facility at Flinders University in July 1991 where he worked under Professor Geoffery Lennon AO.  Initially, the Permanent Committee was convened by the Director of National Mapping under the auspices of the National Mapping Council.


The National Mapping Council was established by the Curtin Government in 1945 under an agreement with State Premiers.  It comprised the heads of Commonwealth and State mapping organisations, chaired by the Director of National Mapping.  The Council’s primary role was to coordinate the national mapping activities of the Commonwealth and the States.  Over the years, the Council established various committees and working groups to address specific mapping and surveying related matters.  Generally such groups operated for a limited time while addressing a matter referred by the Council.


At its 37th meeting in Perth during 18-20 September 1979, the National Mapping Council established a Permanent Committee on Tides and Mean Sea Level.  Initially, the Committee consisted of a representative of the Flinders Institute for Atmospheric and Marine Sciences together with nominees of the Director of National Mapping and the Hydrographer, RAN as well as co-opted members from National Mapping Council member organisations and the Australian Association of Port and Marine Authorities.  The Committee’s membership changed over the years.  Subsequently, representatives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Australian Antarctic Division, the Australian Academy of Science, the Bureau of Meteorology and State marine agencies and port authorities joined the Permanent Committee.


The Committee’s initial role was to establish a database of digitised tidal observations, catalogue other tide gauge recording, a data base of tidal harmonic constants, consider formats for the storage and exchange of the tidal data, and address related matters.  The Committee’s current role is to coordinate a national database of tidal records, develop national standards and best practice guidelines for tidal related matters, and act as a focal point for national enquiries relating to tides and mean sea level.


The Permanent Committee held its inaugural meeting in Canberra on 17 April 1980.  While with the Division of National Mapping, Gordon Homes continued as secretary of the Permanent Committee on Tides and Mean Sea Level until mid‑1987.


In the early 1980s, Gordon was involved in the Permanent Committee's preparation of Recommended Operating Procedures for Tide Gauges on the National Network. The Procedures were released in 1984 as National Mapping Council Special Publication 9 and can be viewed at this link.


At its final meeting at North Sydney in November 1986, the National Mapping Council recommended that it be dissolved and be replaced by a body with wider terms of reference.  However, the Council also recommended that the Permanent Committee on Tides and Mean Sea Level remain in place to continue its important work.


In February 1988, Prime Minister Bob Hawke sought the concurrence of the State Premiers and the Northern Territory Chief Minister with the creation of an Intergovernmental Committee on Mapping and Surveying to replace the National Mapping Council; subsequent concurrence was unanimous.  The new Intergovernmental Committee held its inaugural meeting in July 1988 at Canberra.


On 1 July 1988, Commonwealth responsibility for bathymetric mapping transferred to the Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic Service and as a consequence the Hydrographer, RAN became the convenor of the Permanent Committee.  (During 2000, the title Hydrographer, RAN was changed to Hydrographer of Australia.)


Permanent Committee representation

Gordon Homes represented the Permanent Committee on Tides and Mean Sea Level at various relevant conferences and other forums in Australia.  Gordon’s known representations included:

·       Presenting a paper on the Permanent Committee to the Australian Physical Oceanography Conference held at Flinders University, South Australia in February 1983.  (Gordon’s paper is available at this link)

·       Presenting an update report on the Permanent Committee at the Australian Physical Oceanography Conference held at Hobart in February 1985.

·       Attending a symposium Marine Research in South East Australia - Past, Present and Future at the University of New South Wales in July 1985.

·       During 6-7 February 1986, attending a workshop on Numerical Modelling of Marine Systems at the University of Adelaide.


Global Sea Level Observing System meeting, Paris 1985

During 2-6 December 1985, Gordon Homes attended a meeting in Paris of the Task Team on the Global Sea Level Observing System that was held by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.


Australian Surveying and Land Information Group 1987-1988

Under revised government administrative arrangements implemented after the federal elections in July 1987, Division of National Mapping functions became part of the newly formed Australian Surveying and Land Information Group within the Department of Administrative Services.


Gordon continued as the Permanent Committee secretary after National Mapping functions became part of the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group in July 1987.  With arrangements for that new organisation still bedding down,  Gordon became Senior Surveyor, Marine Science Liaison, Bathymetric Unit, Australian Surveying and Land Information Group, Department of Administrative Services from September 1987 to July 1988.


Royal Australian Navy, Hydrographic Branch, Canberra 1988-1991

From July 1988 to July 1991, Gordon Homes was Senior Surveyor, Liaison and Secretariat, Royal Australian Navy, Hydrographic Branch, Department of Defence in Canberra and continued as secretary of the Permanent Committee.


On 28 March 1988, the AUSLIG Bathymetric Unit moved from Floor 1B to Floor GC of Unit 3 in the Cameron Offices.  The Unit remained at that location after becoming part of the Hydrographic Branch, Royal Australian Navy on 1 July 1988.  On 26 August 1991, the Unit personnel again moved to NCR House in Cohen Street Belconnen opposite the Bus Depot.  However, by that time Gordon Homes had moved to Adelaide on a contract at Flinders University.


South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project 1991-1995

In July 1991, Gordon Homes took-up a 4-year contract at the National Tidal Facility at Flinders University in Adelaide where he had been appointed Manager of the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project.


At a South Pacific Forum in Kiribati in July 1989, Prime Minister Bob Hawke pledged for Australia to fund a $6.25 million program of climate monitoring for Pacific islands over the next 5 years.  By July 1992, $6.7 million had been committed to the Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project in the Pacific.  In that month, Prime Minister Paul Keating committed a further $1.3 million to the Project.


The National Tidal Facility ceased as an organisation in December 2003 and became the National Tidal Centre and is now the National Operations Centre Tidal Unit located within the South Australian Regional Office (Adelaide) of the Bureau of Meteorology.  The Unit is the primary source of tide tables, tidal streams and tidal constituents for the Australian Hydrographic Service and also manages the national data archive for sea levels and tides.


The South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project was initiated by the Australian Government to provide accurate, long term records of the variance of long-term sea-level in the Pacific region.  The project also provides information on the processes, scale and implications of sea-level rise and variability of extreme events on South Pacific communities.  It also makes sea‑level data available to support the management of coastal infrastructure and related industries.


The 14 Pacific Island countries participating in the project are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu; 13 of these countries host a permanent tide gauge facility.


The project now continues as the Pacific Sea Level and Geodetic Monitoring Project and is managed by the Bureau of Meteorology.  As well as a system of tide gauge facilities, the monitoring network in Pacific Island countries includes a network of earth monitoring stations for geodetic observations that was implemented and is maintained by Geoscience Australia.


In June 1995, at the end of his 4-year contract at the National Tidal Facility in Adelaide, Gordon Homes joined the Australian Hydrographic Office in Wollongong as Manager, Technical Development.


Australian Hydrographic Office Wollongong.

Image from AHO web site.


Australian Hydrographic Office, Wollongong 1995-2018

Gordon Homes commenced at the Australian Hydrographic Office in June 1995 as Manager, Technical Development.  Around this time the Hydrographic Office had moved from North Sydney to newly constructed premises at 8 Station Street Wollongong near the railway station.  Here Gordon was involved in much of the early planning and implementation of the first iteration of the Digital Hydrographic Data Base.  This project enabled a fundamental change in how the Hydrographic Office managed source data and compiled nautical charts.  It set the foundations to enable the Hydrographic Office to triage, validate and store growing volumes of source data and compile and update paper and electronic nautical charts.  This Data Base continues to evolve and remains one of the key components of the Australian Hydrographic Office.


From 2004, Gordon Homes’ section at the Hydrographic Office became responsible for developing and providing geospatial support to Defence operations and exercises, a capability that has expanded and continues today.  Gordon was also active in the evolution of Standards.  He spent many hours reviewing and editing documents as a member of Standards Australia working groups.  (Standards Australia is the peak non-government standards development body in Australia; it is a not-for-profit organisation.)


The Australian Public Service Gazette of 10 January 2008, promulgated Gordon’s promotion to Director, Innovation and Development (Executive Level 2) with the Australian Hydrographic Service at Wollongong.  In 2009 following a restructure within the Hydrographic Office, Gordon’s title was redesignated as Director, Data Services.  In this position he led the computer services, bathymetric appraisal, and tides and geodetic sections of the Australian Hydrographic Office.


Public Service Retirement 2018

Gordon Homes retired in July 2018 after 47 years of public service, he was 67 years of age.  At that time Gordon was Director, Data Services, Australian Hydrographic Service, Royal Australian Navy, Department of Defence.  In this position Gordon was one of the 4 Directors at the Hydrographic Office who reported directly to the Australian Hydrographer within the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation.


Sporting interests

In his early days in Canberra during the 1970s, Gordon Homes played amateur basketball with the Vampires who fielded teams in both the South and the North Canberra District Basketball Associations’ competitions albeit in different grades.


Roller skating was also a significant part of Gordon’s life and he made many friends through his participation in competitions within Australia and in his travels to international events where he represented Australia.  Gordon was associated with the Taren Point Roller Skating Club, the Illawarra Roller Skating Club and the Skate New South Wales Artistic Branch.


At its Annual General Meeting on 16 December 2020, the Illawarra Roller Skating Club, honoured Gordon Homes with Life Membership of the Club.  Gordon has been a member of the Club for many years and was the glue that has held the Club together over the previous 10 years as an executive office holder and coach.


Gordon Homes at Oceania Roller Sports Championships.

Image from Skate New South Wales web site.


Gordon Homes on roller skates.

Image extract from Taren Point Roller Skating Club Facebook post.



Gordon Homes became ill from cancer during 2020.  As Gordon’s condition deteriorated in early 2021, he moved to Canberra to be closer to assistance from family members.  On 4 February 2021, Gordon was admitted to Clare Holland House hospice at the Calvary Hospital in Menindee Drive Barton.  Gordon died peacefully at Clare Holland House on Saturday 6 February 2021.  He was 70 years of age.


The funeral service to celebrate Gordon’s life was held on Friday 12 February 2021 at Hansen and Cole Funerals in Northcliffe Drive, Kembla Grange.  The service commenced at 4:30 pm.  Gordon’s cousin Judy Homes officiated at his funeral service where the speakers were his daughter Taryn, his brother Campbell and Andrew Coulls, a colleague from the Australian Hydrographic Office.  Gordon was a fan of the United States rock band Bon Jovi (that was fronted by Jon Bon Jovi) and their song It's My Life was played during the service.  Gordon’s niece Marilla Homes sang the 1948 Nat King Cole standard Nature Boy while the congregation placed flowers on his coffin.


A number of Gordon’s work colleagues from the Australian Hydrographic Office were mourners at his funeral; they included Bruce Kafer, Andrew Coulls, Jasbir Randhawa, Phil Randall, John Sperring and Alan Deck who had also worked with Gordon at Nat Map.  (Rear Admiral Kafer AM CSC RAN was the Hydrographer of Australia from December 2000 to December 2004.)


After his funeral service Gordon’s body was cremated and the ashes were to be scattered at sea.


The various roller skating clubs with which Gordon was associated carried tributes to him on their web sites.  Most of the words used above on Gordon’s roller skating interests came from these tributes.  The Taren Point Roller Skating Club image post recorded Gordon as a true gentleman.  The post from Skate New South Wales Artistic Branch noted that Gordon has been a fixture at skating events and training for many years and his smiling face and friendly manner were a great comfort to many a nervous skater, and added that Gordon would be missed by all of our skating family.


Gordon will also be missed by his Nat Map colleagues who extend their sympathies to the members of Gordon’s family for their sad loss.




The author wishes to thank the following people and organisations who kindly provided valuable information that greatly assisted with the preparation of this article:

•         Taryn Angel (Gordon’s daughter)

•         Paul Wise

•         Charlie Watson

•         Alan Deck

•         Simon Cowling

•         Brian Murphy

•         Phil Allen

•         John Payne

•         Jasbir Randhawa (Australian Hydrographic Office)

•         Andrew Coulls (Australian Hydrographic Office)

•         Taren Point Roller Skating Club (web post)

•         Illawarra Roller Skating Club (web post)

•         Skate New South Wales Artistic Branch (web post).












(Extract from) Survey Report

Australian Antarctic Territory

1978-79 Summer Season

Vestfold Hills, Princes Elizabeth Land,

and Mac. Robertson Land


B A Murphy


4.7 Recovery of the Tide Recorder

The recorder and mount were recovered at 1000 hours on 26 January, 1979.  It was immediately obvious that the clock was not running.


Upon opening the recorder casing the first thing that was noticed was the considerable amount of condensation.  The strip chart was removed and inspected.  The tidal curve had certainly been recorded but was well off the centre of the strip chart with much of the curve missing.  (It was later established that this was due to incorrect setting of the Set Depth switch).


Later analysis showed that the recorder had operated for a period of only 490 hours out of a total power-on time of 722 hours i.e. the power available to the system was quite insufficient and the batteries were fully expended after some 20.4 days of a planned 30 day deployment.


Examination of the tidal curve trace shows the latter part of the record to be extremely irregular and erratic which tends to support the fact that electrical power was insufficient.


4.8 Analysis of Tide Recorder Strip Chart Record by Mr G M Homes

An analysis of the incomplete DNT-2 bottom-mounted tide recorder records obtained at Davis Station during the period from Wednesday 27 December 1978 to Friday 26 January 1979 was later completed by Mr G M Homes, Surveyor Class 1.  For those periods where the tidal curve was not recorded on the strip chart he inferred tidal heights by correlation with predicted heights for Mawson Station.


From this analysis, Mr Homes determined that the elevation of the top of the steel pin marking horizontal control station NM/S/5 at Davis is 27.760 metres above mean sea level.  This elevation was determined from:

·       the levelling connection from bench mark NMV/S/5 to sea level at 2055 hours (Davis Base Time = UT + 7 hours) on Thursday 25 January 1979;

·       the levelling connection from control station D19 to sea level at 1200 hours (Davis Base Time) on Tuesday 8 January 1980.  See Field Level Book 13238.


Adoption of a reduced level of 27.760 metres for NM/S/5 would define mean sea level as follows:

·       0.086 metre ABOVE Carsten's determination in February, 1963,

·       0.313 metres BELOW Allison's determination in March, 1974,

·       0.970 metres ABOVE Manning's determination in February, 1977.


It is important to note that Manning's determination in February, 1977, was the vertical datum subsequently adopted by me in 1979 for the Davis local control network (and also for the Vestfold Hills trigonometrical heighting network).  If a value of 27.760 metres was to be adopted for NM/S/5 then all heights within the Davis local control network and the proposed Davis airstrip control network should be REDUCED by 0.970 metre.


A copy of Mr G M Homes' report on the analysis of the tide recorder strip chart record is attached at Annex 36.


4.9 Analysis of the Reasons for Failure of the Tide Recorder Deployment

The reasons why satisfactory tidal records were not obtained from the recorder deployment are considered to be:

·       insufficient battery voltage to drive the strip chart recorder and clock

·       heavy condensation inside the recorder

·       incorrect setting of the Set Depth switch.


Although the Eveready Alkaline Type D batteries were tested with a multimeter for their nominal 1.5 voltage prior to connection to the recorder circuitry, this test most certainly could not give an indication of just how long each battery would endure the 1-2º Celsius temperatures it would be subjected to over a period of at least 30 days.  Any battery becomes progressively less efficient with any decrease in operating temperature and it is considered that this factor is the basic reason why satisfactory tidal records were not obtained.  Much more investigation and experimentation needs to be undertaken in this respect before any future attempts are made to deploy bottom-mounted tide recorders in these environments.


The reasons why a considerable amount of condensation was found inside the recorder casing after it was recovered cannot be fully explained.  All initiation and calibration procedures were carried out on a work bench in a temperature-controlled environment.  The recorder was then removed from this environment and placed aboard the barge with the casing unsealed in order that a time mark could be manually recorded on the strip chart immediately prior to sealing and deployment.


A period certainly in excess of one hour elapsed between the time the recorder was removed from the temperature-controlled environment and the time it was sealed and placed in the water.  This period should certainly have allowed for the removal of any possible differential in air temperature between the inside and outside of the casing.  Air and water temperatures were measured at the time of deployment, the former being 4º Celsius and the latter 1º.  Relative humidity was approximately 60%.


Although great care was taken in sealing the recorder casing before deployment, including the installation of a new O ring, the condensation was taste-tested for evidence of sea-water penetration.  However, this test indicated that the casing had remained water-tight.


It was always feared that a large slab of pack ice would be blown or swept over the recorder assembly with the ever-present possibility that the underside of this slab would have insufficient bottom clearance over the recorder thereby leading to the whole assembly being overturned and crushed.  This is a problem which must also be given much further consideration if it is intended to deploy bottom-mounted tide recorders in shallow water in these environments in future.  It is suggested that the recorder mount be much more solidly constructed to give the casing complete protection against possible pack ice fracture.  A concrete cradle in which the recorder would be fully embedded and secured is considered absolutely essential for future shallow water deployments.


Inexperience with the recorder and its operation led to the Set Depth switch being incorrectly set to the actual water depth at the deployment site and not to some other value.  However, the lack of sufficient electrical power to maintain strip chart recorder/clock operation over the period of 30 days that the recorder was deployed completely overshadowed the problem caused by the incorrectly set switch as the main reason for failure of this operation.


Lastly, after witnessing the extreme physical discomfort suffered by the two divers who volunteered to deploy the recorder, I would be extremely reluctant to employ this type of recorder in the future.  The Aanderaa type of recorder, with which National Mapping is also equipped, is ideally suited to tide recording tasks in these environments, its main advantage over the DNT-2 type being that it is not attitude-sensitive and consequently does not require to be laid by divers.



Annex 36


Report on the Analysis of the Incomplete Tidal Records Obtained at Davis During the 1978-79 Summer Season – G M Homes


At Davis, over many years, attempts have been made to connect various levelling networks to the datum of mean sea level.


Until the Summer Expedition 1978-79 no known tidal observations had been made.  Surveyor B A Murphy used an NBA Controls Ltd DNT-2 Bottom Mounted Tide Recorder placed in 4 metres of water off Davis Base during this expedition.  The objective was to obtain 29 days hourly tide heights above the set depth of the recorder and make an observation of the water level ashore at a known time, whilst the recorder was operating, connected by levelling to a nearby BM forming part of the local control network.  In this way the level of the set depth on the recorder could be related to the BM, and hence an observed MSL value obtained for the datum of the levelling network.


Unfortunately the set depth setting was set too high and only the high waters were recorded on the chart.  Also the cold water must have affected the batteries which appeared to have gone flat after only 19 days.  The water level connection was made prior to the gauge being recovered on the 29th day.


The problem of data extraction from the chart was further complicated by the absence of timing marks whilst the pen was at the zero of the scale.  Generally enough timing marks were available to interpolate across the gaps with no ambiguity.  However, as the batteries began to go flat the chart drive speed became more random and an ambiguity of one hour did arise on days 15 and 19.


The hourly tide heights above the set depth were extracted from the chart and plotted on an enlarged height scale/shortened time scale graph.  By measuring the average time intervals between high waters the ambiguity on day 15 was removed but the data for day 19 remained suspect.


Predictions were run for the corresponding period for Mawson based on D'AT Gale's analysis of 1956 using 9 constituents.  These hourly predictions were plotted at the same scale as for Davis.  From examination it became apparent that the high water sequences at the two sites were identical, although Davis lagged Mawson by approximately one day.  The other observations were that the range at Davis was slightly larger than Mawson and that the base level of the Davis observations was quite close to MSL.


With this information the missing parts of the tide curve for Davis were inferred maintaining similarity with Mawson.  The missing hourly values were then extracted from these inferred curves, and a complete 19 day data set prepared.  This was analysed using program CON 4 to obtain the 4 main constituents only.


Using these constituents, hourly predictions were run for the observation period and these values were plotted on the inferred Davis curve and compared.  It was clear that the observed high water data matched quite closely with the predicted data (0.2 metres worst fit) and that the low water data was of the correct species.  From this I was confident that a predicted value for the moment of connection between water level and bench mark NMV/S/5 would not be in error by more than ± 0.15 metres and that the inferred value of MSL was of the order of 0.10 metres.


The tide height at the moment of connection was then predicted and its level above MSL calculated.


Predicted height               4.54

Inferred MSL                   4.04


Height above MSL          0.50m


Levelling showed that the observed water level was 1.310 metres below bench mark NMV/S/5.


Therefore NMV/S/5 was 1.81 metres above MSL.


This also gave a reduced level at NM/S/5 of 27.76 m and at D14 of 2.60 m above MSL.


In 1980 Surveyor B J Sloane made a similar water level connection to the levelling network.  The predicted value for this connection would be less accurate due to inadequacies of the analysis program and the length of time since the observation period, but the value would still not be in error by more than ±0.25 metres.


Predicted height               3.57

Inferred MSL                   4.04


Height above MSL          0.47m


Levelling showed that the observed water level was 11.247 metres below bench mark D19.

Therefore D19 was 10.78 m above MSL.


This gave as a comparison RL at D14 of 26.50 m, a difference of only 0.10 metres.


Although not an exact determination, this procedure has indicated fairly strongly that the height of NM/S/5 on which much of the vertical control in the Vestfold Hills is based on approximately 27.76 m above MSL.


This is of the order of one metre lower than assumed by Surveyor J Manning and adopted by Mr Murphy.


G M Homes

15 September 1980