Millenium Partners, LGS and Telus visit Race Rocks with Pearson College

Photos by Victor Rakou, PC student (Russia) —–Text by Peter Seem, PC student ( US)

On January 14th, 2000, Tom Bates, Paul Longley, and a Telus representative, along with Angus Macintosh and Scott Nichol, from LGS, came out to Pearson College. After a whirlwind tour of campus from Garry Fletcher, Biology teacher, and Angus Matthews, administration and finance director, the group headed out to Race Rocks along with several Pearson Students.The group’s main goal for the day was to find sites for the radio or microwave transceivers that would transmit data between the college and Race Rocks. The transmission of data will be Telus’ contribution to the project. Paul Longley, from pre-sales technical support, and Tom Bates, with microwave engineering, were there to lend their expertise  LGS’ Angus Macintosh was acting as project manager, and Scott Nichol was recording the work for the web page the IT firm would be helping to create.

Other options, the tops of local mountains, would require running a ground cable from the site to the college, which would be both time consuming and costly. Clearly, the best option present was to aim for a site just behind Pearson College’s observatory, which was relatively clear of trees and already connected to the internet by a high speed line.

On January 15th, noon fell at Pearson College to a strange sight. A giant red helium balloon flew high over the college, dancing in the breeze on a long tether tied to a banister at the observatory, evidence of the team’s return. While one part of the group headed out to Race Rocks, the other sent up the balloon.

Ed Note: This tidepool was changed in the hurricane of 2006.Fortunately the camera had not been installed!

lighthouse on the overcast day


Scott up the tower


The two Anguses confer

While the group also needed to deal with finding sites and running power to all of the equipment on Race Rocks, their primary concern was the data transmission. In order to get undisturbed transmission they needed a clear line of sight between two stable sights. Any trees, foliage, or other obstructions, or small movements at either end, would break up the transmission. Indeed, even being too close to the water would generate refraction that could disturb data flow. The best solution found was to start from the highest point on Race Rocks, and aim up. From the top of the lighthouse, with the aid of a sighting scope, they took stock of the options.William Head, the closest point to the island, was deemed too low to the water to allow for a clean shot.

Angus Matthews leading the tour

LGS’s Angus Macintosh

top of the tower

The historic plaque at the base of the tower. Garry took the group over to the tidepool that has been constructed on the West side of the island.
Plans are to install one small camera underwater
in this pool to provide a window to view the emerging life and the frequent surge action in this pool.

Ed Note: This tidepool was changed in the hurricane of 2006.Fortunately the camera had not been installed!

back to the check on sight lines from the observatory

Trying to see RR from the observatory balcony

Pearson College Observatory


Looking out from the observatory

The observatory could be seen from the top of the lighthouse through a gap in the trees. The next question that had to be dealt with was whether any of the taller trees in between would provide an obstruction, and need to be topped. The prospect of gaining permission from the DND to take the tops off of one or two old growth trees on their property was frowned on because of the delays that would undoubtedly ensue. o get an answer, the team decided to take a look at the situation from the other end. A boat ride later, things weren’t much clearer. From within the dome of the observatory, it was very difficult to catch site of Race Rocks, or more importantly, the lighthouse. Despite Garry’s excited, “I see red! ” the mood was skeptical.Stripped black and white, with a red cap, the lighthouse should have stood out, if it was visible. The difficulty catching sight of it suggested that they would either need to be higher up or that a clean shot wasn’t going to be possible.

No one was willing to go ahead with any other part of the project, trying to secure donors and expensive equipment, without being sure that this most fundamental requirement could be met. It was resolved that they would try a test the next day to find out just how high an observatory side tower would need to be, if indeed it was possible at all.

From the lighthouse, they directed the balloon to be raised higher until they could see it, unmistakable, comfortably above any surrounding trees. The length of the tether, still well within the achievable height for a tower, was proof that a clear line for transmission had been found

The sight-line balloon that was used

Dave and Garry up up and away

A lot of lift in that Helium???


The project is ready to move into actually constructing the tower, setting up the transmission equipment, and obtaining the cameras and sensors. They hope to have transmission established and two cameras up and running by March 11, 2000.