The New Zealand liner TSS Awatea. Her lovely Maori name means "Eye of the Dawn". The turbine-powered, 13,482-ton liner was built in 1936 by Vickers Armstrong of Barrow for the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand. Able to do a fast 23 knots, she served on the company's Pacific route from Auckland and Sydney to San Francisco and Vancouver, Canada. In the late 1930s, the elegant trans-Tasman liner was the fastest and most luxurious merchant ship in the Southern Hemisphere. It was probably the most aesthetically pleasing liner of her era. In 1942 the ship was bombed and sunk in the Mediterranean while trooping in North Africa.
Offshore radio station: ZMBJ from 1936 till 1939.
The electronic equipment on board the "Awatea" was made by AWA in Australia and it was installed in the ship at the time of construction.
The transmitters on board the Awatea were licensed by the New Zealand authorities as ZMBJ, and for long distance communication it operated with 400 watts on 8840 kHz. However, there was no radio studio on this ship and when the station was on the air with program broadcasting, the communication equipment was diverted for this purpose.
In September 1936, the Prime Mimister of Australia, Mr Joseph Lyons, was travelling on this ship and he made a broadcast to Australia from the shortwave transmitter ZMBJ. This broadcast was relayed Australia-wide on the ABC network by the mediumwave station 3LO in Melbourne. Around this era, occasional broadcasts using recordings of popular music were heard in both Australia and New Zealand.
As time went by, this ship made fewer radio broadcasts until towards the end, it was noted only in communication traffic with the maritime stations VIS in Sydney and ZLW in Wellington. However, generic QSL cards were issued for both the program broadcasts as well as for the communication traffic. [Information by Dr. Adrian Peterson]
Location: International waters in the Tasman Sea