The Anglesey Climb
In August 1970 a spectacular rock climb was televised live, the coverage being transmitted for the first time in colour, over the course of the whole Bank Holiday Monday at intervals.
The whole operation was a huge technical challenge for the BBC, at the time possibly the only broadcasting organisation in the world capable of mounting such a daring operation. CMCR9, (then LO5) was only a few months old, and was chosen for the job as the PC80 cameras, fitted with specially made equalisation amplifiers, could operate on up to 5,000ft of cable. (Bear in mind that the cable, type G101(which has 101 cores) weighs over 1Kg /ft.)
The sea cliffs at South Stack, Anglesey are a hostile environment. The 14 ton scanner was positioned as near as possible to the cliff top, given the access via narrow lanes, and a base made as can be seen in the photo on the main page. Scaffolding platforms were constructed on the shore at low tide, and camera positions established on the cliff face. The Pye cameras take two men to lift, without the lenses, and the mountings are of similar weight. All the equipment had to be manhandled or hoisted on ropes. Each camera was worth more than a farm on Anglesey. Five PC80s were to be used, plus a 'Minicam', an early portable camera operated from a Land Rover, the cameraman being an experienced climber himself.
A 'rehearsal' was set up the previous day, and it was thought that the cameras should be left in position to save time, but the camera supervisor refused to leave the cameras on the beach platforms, a wise decision- in the night, a storm blew in, and one of the platforms had vanished by morning, washed away by the sea. As it was, salt water was being driven into the cable joints and equipment, and conditions for the crew and climbers were far from safe or comfortable. Would it have gone ahead in today's risk-assessment world?
It was done, but unfortunately the recordings seem not to have survived. I talked to Joe Brown, now in his 80s, and he said that later, when home recorders became available, he tried to get a copy of the programme, but the Quad tapes were said to have deteriorated too much to play.
The Radio Times rightly made a big feature of the broadcast, and some of the write-up (of course done in advance of the transmission) is shown here, along with the double-page colour spread to guide the viewer. (All pictures and text copyright Radio Times.)