Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Abandoned Earth Satellite Station

And now, for something completely different....I though I would digress from my recent Naval-related posts for one of my other photographic endeavours. 

One of my favourite things to point a camera at (other than ships) is abandoned buildings and structures. For a number of years, I had scoured the Nova Scotia countryside looking for old houses, not realizing that there was a significant abandoned complex fairly close to home - the old Teleglobe earth-satellite station in Charleston, NS. Very close, in fact, to my home town. 

An old information board lies partly buried in the grass outside one of the main buildings.
Teleglobe started off life as the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation (COTC), and the facility in Charleston was built in the 1960's as Canada's first earth-satellite station. I remember watching parts of the 1984 Winter Olympics from Sarajevo, and seeing the graphics showing how the signal was being beamed into Canadian households, via the Charleston facility. Around the same time, I also visited the facility on a field trip with the Beavers or Cubs. The time lag present in satellite communications was demonstrated to us by allowing us to use a telephone that bounced a signal off the satellite; we could say something, and hear it bounce back with some delay. I don't remember what I said. 

When I was there, the original satellite dish still stood under a large inflatable dome, accessed via airlocks to prevent the air from escaping.

Interior of the original pressurized dome. It had been converted for salt storage. In order to get this image, I had to shoot through a hole in the wall, to fit everything in.
The original dish was installed on the large concrete base in the middle of the photo above, and the bottom of the inflatable dome rested on the rim of the concrete wall that circles it. I seem to recall that there was a small window in the dome for the dish to "see" out, but that was 30 years ago and I may be mistaken. The wooden roof trusses were added later, to shelter the area to allow storage for road salt on the far side of the base - at least, I assume that is what was done. Remains of the salt are still there, along with the green air filters that I assume have been strewn about by vandals. The trenches in the floor once accommodated electrical cables and the like. 

This map once showed showed a network of satellite stations. 
Light peaks down into the chamber under the original dish mounting.
The original dish eventually became obsolete, and was replaced by two more modern dishes that were installed outside, and did not require a dome for protection.

The only remaining dish had been cut down, but was not immediately scrapped.
Of those two dishes, one had already been scrapped, and the final dome had been cut down - but was not scrapped for several years. It was kind of eerie to see this dish crashed down to the ground. 

Demolition had begun on the base for the scrapped dish, but crews appear to have given up trying to break up the heavily reinforced concrete. A yellowish scum coated the surface of the water that filled the base.
My understanding is that when the facility was abandoned, it was left largely intact, and it was some time before things started being removed. I don't know if the facility was stripped by the legitimate owners, or if it was scavenged by others. 

Access panels remain open on electrical equipment.
By the time we started exploring the facility, it had been heavily stripped of any equipment and materials that had any residual value. These open panels exposed the gutted remains of the equipment. 

The missing pieces are presumably valves or other fittings that were more valuable than the pipe itself.
I really liked the way the light fell right on the desk, leaving the fringes of the room darker.
Remains of the raised floor panels littered this room, after being removed to access the cables below.
A friend of mine made a nice art print from a photo of the caution tape wrapped around the column in this photo during one of our earlier visits to Teleglobe. He went back on a subsequent trip to see if he would get a better image from his new camera, only to find it had been vandalized by the paintballers that occasionally used the facility for their war games. My revulsion for paintball probably stems from the paintball paint still oozing from many of the surfaces during our expeditions there. 

Oh, look - the remains of a green paintball clutter this image.
This long breezeway connected the two main complexes on the site.
We visited the facility four times, starting in November 2007. By the time of our last visit in April 2011, one of the two main buildings had been torn down, and the fallen dish had been removed. Google Maps has high resolution imagery of the facility taken before some of the larger buildings were demolished, but apparently after the last dish was scrapped, so I would guess this was taken sometime in the summer of 2010.

Lighthouse NOW has prepared a short video showing the facility in its prime, as well as some interviews with former employees. 

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