Mt John Observatory Fibre Optic

Location:  Tekapo, South Canterbury
Duration:  12 Months, 2005
Client:  University of Canterbury
Delivered on Time and Budget?:  Yes

The REL Moleplough was contracted by the University of Canterbury (UOC) to moleplough in a fibre optic cable from the 1.0 metre McLellan telescope building , down the side of Mt John and around the lakeshore into Tekapo township to connect to a Telecom connection point.

Mt John was chosen as the best observatory site in New Zealand because of its high number of clear nights throughout the year, the stability and transparency of the atmosphere and the uniquely dark skies in the Mackenzie Basin. The area is devoid of city light pollution and is internationally recognised as one of the best-situated observatories for viewing the southern night skies.

One of Mount John's other claims to fame is that the highest recorded New Zealand wind gust occurred here on 18th April 1970 - 250 km/h or 135 Knots!

The 1-metre McLellan telescope holds the distinction of being the most southerly permanently mounted professional astronomical telescope in the world, outside of Antarctica and was built in the UOC’s workshops and installed at Mount John in February 1986. It is used for a wide variety of astronomical research, most of it in stellar astrophysics: the study of stars and their evolution.

The REL moleplough crew started their work at the 1.0m telescope building on top of Mt John with the cable initially fleeted up through existing ducting to the main telescope building on the very top of the mountain. They then ploughed away and down the steep eastern face of the 1031m mountain, 300m vertical meters to the lake shore below. The plough was assisted on the steep descent by a 20t excavator operated by Mark Wallace out of the Waimate depot.

Once on the lake shore the job became a relatively straight-forward installation around the shore line, through the motor camp, behind the main Tekapo shops to cross SH8 beside the Tekapo river before linking back into a Telecom building on the main street.

The total length of cable was 4.4km, with 865m down the side of Mt John. The crew did a very tidy and professional job in just five days including ploughing, fleeting, road crossings and plough line reinstatement. The end result was an upgrading of the connection bandwidth from 512kbits/sec to 12Gbits/s with the likelihood that one of the big telescopes will become remotely operated from Japan. The UOC was very happy with the job and are enjoying the benefits of a direct, dedicated high -speed fibre optic connection.



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