Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Omega Station (see Mike's last comment question)

Given that I tend to give long answers and that someone else might be interested, Mike had asked about using the Omega Station in Haiku Valley on Oahu for locations.  I don't have any photos, but I do have a little info--although please correct me as you probably know more if you've done research.  The Omega Station was run by the Coast Guard and was sort of an almost science fiction, 1950's (?) state of the art concept.  Long before satellite tracking, ships and submarine's needed to know where they were on the planet.  This facility generated a huge, ultra-low frequency that could be tracked by ships around the world.  I think it might have been used with 1 or 2 others somewhere for triangulation or something.  Anyway, this large, windowless building built in a (then) isolated bowl shaped valley which used the natural contour like a giant dish.  Somehow they managed to string a cable across the valley and suspend this device above the bowl shape for broadcasting.  The cable is gone, but the "stairs" are still there-- which are actually a 3,000 ft. ladder that makes my palms sweat just looking at it.  It was restored for public use by the public, but there are a few "liability issues" like getting blown off it while climbing or falling a couple of thousand feet down.  

Anyway, there was a bit of secrecy about this place and it was really isolated with a small road up to it.  The very first thing I ever worked on in film was a really crappy movie called "Vacation in Hell" or something like that.  I carved a giant pig statue as they were allowed to cover 2 sides of the Omega Station with fake steps and turn the whole thing into an Aztec Temple in the jungle.  It was probably used at some point in 5-0 and Magnum, but that was before my time.  In the mean time, they built the most expensive freeway ever built through Haiku valley in the 80's and 90's.  It took all of the 80's and 90's to build it. I saw a thing on the History Channel las week that H-3 is considered the "most beautiful" freeway in the world.  We just called it the freeway to nowhere since it connects Pearl Harbor with the marine base in Kaneohe.  Anyway, one of the concerns early on was that the radiation from the Omega Station would be harmful.  At one point they were going to enclose the freeway after it emerges from the giant tunnels on the windward side at a couple thousand feet up with steel mesh.  Well, by the time they got that far, they didn't need the station anymore so the mesh idea went away. 

     I do remember being told that when they used to film there, you could stand on any hill and hold a fluorescent tube in your hand up in the air and it would light up!  So I'm sure there was something to the radiation concerns.

I went through the building remains a couple of years ago on "LOST."  Very sad.  Vandals had destroyed all of this wonderful old "high tech" equipment and controls that had been left behind.  Given that the station generated it's own power to create this huge signal, all of the major copper and reusable things had come out of there.  However, it still retained a lot of controls and guages, switches, and things that had mostly been smashed.  We were able to use some of the damaged things on "LOST" but had to return them since they technically still belonged to the government.  There is just a very small road in and nothing is marked, but there in the middle of this jungle is this huge old building that looks like a Jurrassic Park set.  If you have a death wish and want to see the station from above, you can go slow while on the H-3 while up about 2,000 feet in 70 mile an hour traffic and look down and there it is.  I'm sure it would cost more to tear it down that would be practical so it just sits there.  When I was filming there with "LOST", we didn't actually use the station, but another old wooden warehouse building located further up the hill from there.  They may have since used it, but I haven't watched the show in 2 years.  Are they really battling aliens on Mars now?

So, once again, I turned a simple question into a PhD. thesis, but that's just me.


Mike (N1095A) said...

Sad indeed to see how the building was left to vandals. I think it would have made a heck of a museum, much like what has been done with missile sites all over the country. You are correct about the use of the facility. It was built by the Navy along with 7 others around the world.
Thanks Rick.

Magnum Decorator said...

Unfortunately the road to the Omega Station passes through a quiet residential area at the end of a street. Neighbors complained about the traffic whenever we filmed there. There have been other "house" museums (like the Doris Duke estate and the Contemporary Art Museum) that also face scrutiny from nearby neighbors and parking, noise, and security issues. Then the ones on military bases have entry security issues. After 911, the Arizona Memorial stopped women from even carrying in small purses. It didn't take thieves long to realize that every rental car in the lot would have purses or valuables in them and they had a huge theft problem. Still, leaving the station to decay and be vandalized was a sad option, I agree.

Omega ET said...

I was stationed there in the last days of its use as an Omega Station and closed the doors so to speak in October 1997. I still have the keys to the transmitter on me and the schematics that we used for troubleshooting on my wall at work. I now work in LORAN (which is the newer navigation system, relatively speaking, that really spelled the demise of Omega). This too is closing as an outdated system to GPS and the same stuff will happen to these places that happened to Kaneohe. I saw the place on an episode of LOST and couldn't believe how excited and how disappointed I was at the same time. I had really hoped that a state park or something could have been made of it to preserve its history not just as a Coast Guard asset, but also as a Navy one too.

Magnum Decorator said...

Really interesting comment, thanks! I just posted an entry in response. I suppose between the environmental control requirements and the usual government red-tape, most of that retro technology has long been shredded. The FAA center inside Diamond Head Crater was another amazing site,

Matthew said...

Interesting write up on the station. The walls were 5 feet thick and were built to withstand a direct hit from a 500 lb'er. The station received its power from the Hawaii grid, however, there was a backup generator in place if power went out. Yes, you could take a fluorescent bulb and light it up holding it properly outside. Up on top of the building was the Helix room, a coil large enough to drive a truck through. When it rained in the valley, you could count about 100 waterfalls coming off the mountains.Great place to be stations. I was there as the Executive Petty Officer, and was one of my best tours I had.

justin said...

i am a youn kaneohe male i went to the omega station for the first time today i beleive in the supernatural haevily does anyone know if anything bad happened there it got really cold downstaits like really cold and i felt someone watching me the whole time there was no one there but if u guys would shed some light on the subject id appreciate it mahalo