Chapter 2: The first events, November 1973

In November 2 cluesheet001 1973 380px1973 Gary Aitken was working as a biology teacher at John Forrest Senior High School (JFSHS). He convinced his Year 11 biology class to try orienteering and they and their parents became the John Forrest Senior High School Orienteering Club – “The Surveyors”.

Aitken organised a school orienteering excursion to JFNP on the morning of the 4th of November, using the brand new JFNP map that he had field worked. The courses were simple – equivalent to Easy courses today. (1) Eighteen or so students and their parents attended. They used compasses, score cards and control buckets handed on from the VOA. (1) (4)

The second event was held a week later on the 11th November 1973. Aitken set two courses at JFNP – the “A” course was 2.1 km long with 8 controls and a “B” course 2.7 km long with 10 controls. This event also was for the “Surveyors” and their parents. (3)

After the event on the 11th of November, the students were “taken” by the sport and Aitken approached the JFSHS Principal, Mr M Kelso, to purchase 30 compasses for teaching purposes in the school. (1) The compasses were engraved by Aitken and Eric Isaachsen – they used an old dentist’s drill! (2) The compasses were kept in a plastic box. Aitken remembers, that when the box was left in the sun, the plastic would start to melt and go out of shape.

2 1974032 512pxA section of JFSH School burnt down in 1975. Shortly after, Aitken received a letter from Principal Kelso asking where the compasses were to account for them for insurance purposes. Aitken admitted that one or two compasses had been lost or damaged and the set was not complete. He therefore offered to purchase the set for public orienteering events. For a long time after, compasses from this set were hired out to novices at orienteering events. (1)

An event was organised for the day of the 18th of November. This was WA’s first public event. Aitken set two courses on the original JFNP map. The “A” course was 3.8 km long with 8 controls and the “B” course was 3.0 km long and 7 controls. The competitors were mainly UAAC club members and friends and colleagues of Gary Aitken. (1)

(1) Interview with Gary Aitken August 2006
(2) Interview with Eric Isaachsen September 2006
(3) Aitken, Gary. Event information sheet November 1973
(4) Aitken, Gary. “Orienteering” April 1975 p4 – 6

Photos: A map legend and clue sheet (top) and a control card (bottom) used in the first events in 1973. Click on the pictures to view larger images.