- Early Wireless
Radio broadcasting from ships goes back a long way, almost to the beginning of wireless experimentation itself. The early experimenters in Europe, including Marconi himself, demonstrated the value of wireless communication by installing primitive experimental apparatus in small boats and transmitting messages across the intervening ocean. This form of wireless communication was also demonstrated in the early years between Catalina Island and the California coast in the United States, and between Rottnest Island and the state capital Perth in Western Australia.
However, as far as broadcasting is concerned, maybe we could designate the first occasion as the coverage of a sporting event, the Kingstown Regatta in Dublin Harbour, Ireland. Marconi installed a wireless transmitter on a tug boat, the Flying Huntress, and he transmitted the progress of the boat race in Morse Code for the benefit of the Dublin based "Daily Express" which printed the results in a special edition. This was a two day sporting event held on July 20 and 22 way back in the year 1898.
The first voice broadcast from a ship was conducted by the Kentucky inventor, Nathan Stubblefield, on March 20, 1902. He was giving a public demonstration of his wireless system and he sent voice messages from the ship Hartholdi on the Potomac River in Washington, DC. Among those who heard the messages on shore were several congressman and other public officials.
The first wireless program with music and speech was broadcast from a royal navy ship, the Andromeda, in the year 1907. This broadcast was organized by Lieutenant Quentin Crauford and at the time the "Andromeda" was anchored at Chatham, an inlet off the Thames Estuary on the east coast of England.
In recounting the event, Wireless Operator Crauford stated that he adapted the spark wireless transmitter with the callsign QFP on the "Andromeda" so that it could broadcast music and speech. His historic inaugural broadcast was a patriotic concert program performed by navy personnel.
This surprise broadcast was heard by wireless operators on board other navy vessels anchored nearby. However, as a security measure, Lt Crauford was not permitted to publicize the event, neither before nor afterwards, though the event attained historic significance as the first wireless broadcast in England and the first from a ship.
Some nine years later, a ship broadcast was made from Ireland which they now claim as the world first. The event took place during the now famous Easter Uprising at a time when Ireland was striving for independence.
The cable linking Ireland and England had been deliberately cut and in an endeavor to get the information out, a broadcast was made from a ship wireless transmitter. Republican leaders occupied the Irish School of Wireless Telegraphy, repaired a damaged ship radio, and transmitted the information in Morse Code.
This unusual broadcast was on the air for a period of nearly 20 hours, beginning at 5:30 pm on April 25, 1916. However, it is not certain as to whether the wireless transmitter was still in the ship or whether it was temporarily located ashore in the school property.
And finally in ship broadcasting for today, we move to Russia. During the communist revolution in Russia in 1917, Vladimir Lenin announced the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in a wireless broadcast from a navy cruiser anchored at St. Petersburg. He had the wireless operator on board the Aurora, send out the information in a series of Morse Code broadcasts.
These days, a picture of the "Aurora" is featured on postcards used as QSL cards by Russian amateur radio operators.
- The Great White Fleet
At the turn of the century 100 years ago, the United States had just emerged from a series of military excursions in the Caribbean & Central America as well as in the Pacific. In an endeavor to exert a wider international influence, it was decided to build up the navy and to send it on an extended tour of the seven seas.
Quite simultaneously, Marconi and a host of other experimenters were making rapid strides in the development of the new wireless apparatus, both in the Old World as well as in the New. Wireless was now enabling rapid communication from country to country and from ship to shore.
For a preliminary series of test transmissions, wireless apparatus was installed on two battleships, Connecticut and Virginia, and trials were conducted in September 1907 off the Atlantic Coast of the United States. These wireless communications were conducted successfully between the two battleships as well as with the land-based station CC on Cape Cod.
As a result of these experimental transmissions, a total of 24 transmitters and receivers were installed on the major vessels making up the flotilla that would sail the world. The main network transmitter was installed on the battleship, Ohio.
Altogether, 16 battleships and 4 destroyers, together with additional support ships, were assembled at the Brooklyn Navy Yard ready to make the 14 month tour around the world. All of the ships were newly painted a gleaming white and hence the flotllla became known as the "Great White Fleet".
Each of these massive ships bore the name of an American state, except for one which was called the Kearsarge. Radio callsigns were allotted to each transmitter on each ship; some were just abbreviated initials such as GC on the "Georgia" whereas others were internationally accepted callsigns such as KSZ on the Virginia.
This navy convoy began its epic 46,000 mile journey on December 16, 1907 just one week before Christmas. Their onward journey took them down the Atlantic Coast of South America, around Cape Horn, and up along the Pacific Coast of South America to California.
At Long Beach, a coastal suburb of Los Angeles, two ships from the "Great White Fleet", were released and two came in as replacements. The battleships Alabama and Maine were released and they were replaced by the Nebraska and Wisconsin.
The next stage of the grand tour took the navy flotilla to Hawaii, then on to Auckland in New Zealand, across to Sydney in Australia, up to Japan via the Philippines, and then across to China, and around to Colombo in British Ceylon. The final stage of the tour took the largest convoy the world had ever seen to Aden and then into the Mediterranean and out across the Atlantic back home again. By the time this flotilla returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yards, 15 months had elapsed and it was now March in the year 1909.
Along the way, many goodwill wireless broadcasts were made, consisting of both speech and music It should be remembered that radio broadcasting on land had not yet begun and it was in fact still a dozen more years before radio broadcasting would be launched.
As the "Great White Fleet" proceeded around the world, many wireless broadcasts were made, to passing ships as well as to land based communities. The first series of major broadcasts was made to the combined navies of the United States and Brazil off the Atlantic Coast of South America.
On the Pacific side of the South American continent, another series of broadcasts was made to the combined fleets of Great Britain and Chile. While anchored at Long Beach in coastal California in April 1908, the Ohio made several broadcasts of music and speech.
As the flotilla made its way across the Pacific, several long distance broadcasts were made for the benefit of radio operators in Hawaii, Auckland and Sydney. Likewise, radio operators in the Philippines, Japan and China also heard a similar series of wireless broadcasts.
The historical rundown of the "Great White Fleet" informs us that additional wireless broadcasts were made for the benefit of professional and amateur radio operators in Colombo, Aden and Egypt, as well as to Greece, Turkey and Gibraltar.
When the "Great White Fleet" returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yards at the conclusion of this historic diplomatic and radio jaunt around the world, the entire assemblage of wireless apparatus was removed from all of the participating ships and placed into storage. Thus concluded a milestone event, not only in the history of the sea, but also in the history of radio, an event that is seldom chronicled in the pages of the modern radio historian.
|RADIO BROADCASTING FROM SHIPS|
1. Early Wireless
|1898||Flying Huntress||Ireland||Dublin||Boat race results||Boat race Kingstown Regatta Dublin 20 & 22-7-98; WS184
Boat race Dublin; 82.7 YBWT&T 1898 22
|1902||Hartholdi||USA||Washington||Test broadcasts||1st voice message from a ship; WS187|
|1907||Andromeda||QFP||England||Chatham||Navy broadcasts||World’s 1st broadcast from a ship; WS184|
|1916||Ireland||Dublin||Irish Uprising||Easter Uprising; WS187
Easter Uprising; RNB 17-1-94 83
|1917||Aurora||Russia||St. Petersburg||Lenin speech||BBC Engineering 13
Amateur QSL card
2. Great White Fleet
|1907||Alabama||AB-KSX||USA||World tour||Good will programmes||Withdrew in San Francisco|
|Connecticut||Test transmissions off Cape Cod; RA373
|Maine||Withdrew in San Francisco,
|Nebraska||Joined in San Francisco|
|Ohio||Main transmitter; RA373
|Virgina||KSZ-KYD||Test transmissions off Cape Cod; RA373
|Wisconsin||Joined in San Francisco|
|More references concerning the Great White Fleet:
Postcard Collector 6-99 32
December 10 1907 - Feb 22 1909.
24 transmitters & receivers
16 battleships 4 destroyers 14 month world cruise; WBE 1907 began 46,000 miles, Atlantic and Pacific; WBE Hampton Roads VA, Cape Horn, West Coast USA, Hawaii, Samoa, Auckland, Sydney, Philippines, Japan, China Sea, Indian Ocean, Suez Canal, Mediterranean, Hampton Roads;
Prior to leaving San Francisco, the composition of the U. S. Atlantic Fleet was changed by the substitution of the Nebraska and Wisconsin for the Alabama and Maine. (The Alabama and Maine preceeded the fleet to the United States via the Suez Canal.)
The Great White Fleet
Another Great White Fleet Site
FAQ Great White Fleet
- Europe & AtlanticBack during the era of the 1920's and 1930's, it was the custom of the day for ships passing each other in mid-Atlantic to salute each other by playing musical records over their communication radio transmitters. On many occasions this interesting phenomenon was noted, though usually the printed DX reports do not mention the name of the ship. However, at least seven famous passenger liners during that era are noted by name as broadcasting radio programming, at least on a temporary basis.
The SS Bremen of the German Lloyd Line laid claim to being the first passenger liner fitted with a wireless telephony set. This ship was launched around the year 1900 with the original callsign DDDX, though this was later changed to DOAH.
The famous ship, Titanic, is sometimes credited with sending in 1912 the last distress call in Morse Code as CQD and the first as SOS. Though this claim is discredited, yet it is probable that the Titanic sent the first and last combined CQD-SOS call.
Interestingly though, it is claimed that the "Titanic" also made several broadcasts of recorded music on its first and only voyage into the Atlantic. Available information would suggest that the first music broadcast took place as the ship was nearing Queenscliff in Ireland and again as it was leaving.
On July 20, 1920, the SS Victorian left England and among its many passengers were delegates attending the Imperial Press Conference in Ottawa, Canada. Each day, a program of speech and music was transmitted on the longwave channel 107 kHz to the "Victorian" from MZX at Chelmsford and from MPD at Poldhu in Cornwall. Each evening while en route across the Atlantic, the "Victorian" broadcast brief concerts to passing ships from its own 3 kW transmitter MVN.
Two years later, on October 29, 1922, the first radio broadcast in Denmark was made from a ship anchored in the harbor at Copenhagen. This was an experimental demonstration broadcast and the receiver was located in a lecture hall in the city.
The famous French liner, Normandie was launched in 1932 and we quote the DX report from a listener in Australia. He says: On Sunday morning October 30 at 12:45 am, Radio Paris made a special broadcast on 25.6 metres when it described the launching of the new French liner, "Normandie". The christening of the vessel by Madame Lebrun, wife of the president was heard first, and as the liner ran down the slipway the playing of the "Marsellaise" was plainly audible.
This ship, the "Normandie", also made music broadcasts during its voyages across the Atlantic under the callsign FNSK.
The great Cunard liner, Queen Mary was launched on September 26, 1935, and it commenced its maiden voyage across the Atlantic 8 months later. When the vessel left Southampton on May 26, 1936, a broadcast from the ship was relayed by the BBC, and two days later an early morning relay was made. During its inaugural voyage and on several subsequent occasions, the "Queen Mary" made many broadcasts under the callsign GBTT while plying the Atlantic.
Our seventh ship in this historic line-up is the Dutch hospital ship, De Hoop. This mercy vessel was launched in 1964 and it served fishing boats in the North Sea with medical, technical and spiritual aid. Religious services were broadcast in the Dutch language each Sunday and Wednesday with 300 watts on 2316 kHz under the callsign PHKS.
When the collecting of QSL cards came into vogue in the early 1920's many of the ships on the air at the time issued verification cards or letters in response to reception reports from many different countries.
- The Americas - Earlier YearsNow we choose the American scene in its earlier era. It is discovered that at least five different ships were on the air with broadcast programming in the Americas during the era between the two Great Wars.
It was in the year 1919 that Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States, made a tour in several areas of Europe for the purpose of implementing peace and rehabilitation among the previously warring countries. An influential member of his entourage was Walter Lemmon who later went on to establish his own shortwave station, the famous WRUL at Scituate, near Boston in Massachusetts.
At the urging of Walter Lemmon, President Wilson made an Independence Day broadcast on July 4, 1919. At the time, he was aboard the navy vessel George Washington which was out in the Atlantic steaming towards the American coastline.
The navy communication transmitter on the "George Washington" was tuned to the frequency 2380 kHz for this first ever radio broadcast by an American president. This historic radio broadcast was heard at receiving stations along the coastal areas of the United States, though at a low level.
In the early part of the year 1933, a scientific broadcast was made from an underwater vessel known as the "Bathysphere". Explorer Otis Barton and Captain William Beebe were lowered in the "Bathysphere" off the coast of Nonsuch Island in the Bermudas.
Descriptions of the underwater seascape were transmitted over a telephone link from the "Bathysphere" up to the ship, Freedom, half a mile above. A radio transmitter on the "Freedom' with the callsign ZFB1 broadcast the programming on 125 metres, 2400 kHz, to Bermuda, where it was relayed onward for reception in the United States.
The entire underwater program was carried by the NBC mediumwave network throughout the United States as well as on shortwave from W3XL. You can see a diagram of this very interesting broadcast from the ship "Freedom" on page 65 of Jerry Berg's book, "On the Short Waves".
During the same era around the early 1930's, there were several gambling ships anchored in international waters off the coast of California. At least two of these ships carried radio transmitters that were on the air with broadcast programming. In radio terminology, we would today describe these shipboard radio stations as "pirates".
The City of Panama was registered in Panama, and its radio transmitter emitted 500 watts on 815 kHz. The saltwater pathway assured a very strong signal in the Santa Monica areas of Los Angeles thus causing severe interference to legally licensed land-based stations. The impact of this station, which was on the air under the unusual callsign RXKR, also caused a flurry of diplomatic activity.
Another radio station during the same era and in the same area off the coast of Los Angeles was on board the gambling ship, Rex.
In the early 1940's a navy vessel with a German name, the Kron Prinz, was fitted out in the Caribbean as a powerful radio broadcaster. This information is portrayed on an American postcard from this era. The original "Kron Prinz" was allocated the callsign DPZ during the spark wireless era.
What happened to this ship? Was it a part of the German navy? Or was it the surrendered "Kron Prinz Wilhelm" as a carry-over from World War 1. We could ask the question: Was the powerful radio equipment on board the "Kron Prinz" ever on the air with program broadcasting? Did they ever make any test broadcasts? If so, there seems to be no record of this information in any of the DX magazines during this era.
- Americas in Recent YearsNow we pick up again the story of radio broadcasting from ships, and this time, during the postwar era in the Americas. During this period of time, it is known that at least seven ships were involved in some form of radio broadcasting.
Back in the year 1961, the military fiasco known as the "Bay of Pigs" occurred, in which there was an aborted invasion on the southern coast of the island of Cuba. During this event, two American boats, operated by the CIA, were used for broadcasting radio information into this island country.
One un-named boat, loaded with a mediumwave transmitter, was stationed off the coast of Cuba near the capital city Havana where it went on the air in the Spanish language. Another un-named boat, a yacht, was loaded with a shortwave transmitter, and it went on the air three times each day in Spanish as "Radio Independiente".
Some 24 years later, there was another insurgency movement in Latin America, this time in Central America. In support of this new insurgency movement in El Salvador, Radio Vinceremos was launched in 1981.
Radio Vinceremos was located "somewhere in Central America" and its shortwave transmitters propagated a strong signal that was heard quite regularly in the United States, Europe and the South Pacific. Radio Vinceremos issued large and colorful QSL cards for its many shortwave transmissions.
In an endeavor to counter the broadcasts from Radio Vinceremos, the United States stationed two navy ships in the Caribbean off the coast of Central America. These two navy vessels were Spruance class destroyers and they were located in the Gulf of Fronseca.
Programming from the shortwave communication transmitters on these two vessels, first the Caron and later the Diego, consisted entirely of jamming noises. The signal from these two ships was also heard widely throughout North America and into Europe and the South Pacific. It could be conjectured that no QSLs were ever issued for these jamming broadcasts.
We move our geography now a little north, to the Atlantic coast of the United States. On July 5, 1973, radio stations WXUR AM & FM located, in Media, Pennsylvania, were closed by order of the FCC. The owner, Reverend Carl McIntire, then installed an old 10 kW RCA transmitter on board the ship, Columbus . The antenna was a simple inverted V.
Two months later, McIntire went on the air at half power as "Radio Free America", choosing several different mediumwave channels, though mostly above the top end of the mediumwave band. At the end of 11 days of spasmodic testing, the station was closed for ever. One QSL letter is known, prepared by Larry Magne on behalf of "Radio Free America".
In the year 1988, the ship Sarah was anchored in international waters off Long Island New York for the purpose of broadcasting as "Radio New York International". This ship was stated to contain four transmitters; mediumwave, longwave and FM. This ship apparently went on the air for a short period of time. Subsequently, however, broadcasts from the "Sarah" were heard on relay over shortwave WWCR in Nashville, Tennessee, for which QSL cards were issued.
The next American endeavor at ship broadcasting is due to go on air quite soon. Alan Weiner of shortwave station WBCQ in Monticello, Maine is fitting out the ship Katie with broadcast transmitters for the purpose of going on air legitimately from several different exotic locations. It is anticipated that the "Katie" will go on the air from its first location, perhaps Belize, within autumn 2001.
|RADIO BROADCASTING FROM SHIPS|
3. Europe & Atlantic
|1910||Bremen||DDDX||Germany||Atlantic||1st with telephony||1st liner fitted with wireless telephony; LI 79.23 20-2-26 1
DDDX 130 m (2300 kHz); WW 82.2 1933 38
DOAH; WRTVHB 1936 94
|1912||Titanic||MGY||England||Atlantic||Music broadcasts||Callsign MGY; SWM 5-00 46 & LI 79.23 9-8-30 12
Distress calls; MT 4-98 66
Sequence of distress calls and messages: LI 79.23 9-8-30
Sank April 15, 1912; WBE
Receiver discovered; SWM 4-00 11
Final Morse Code message; WS130
|1920||Victorian||MVN||England||Atlantic||Music broadcasts||Full details; BBC Engineering 13
Atlantic full details; RA373
Atlantic MVN 7-20 night broadcast MVN MZX MPD; WS187
|1922||Denmark||Copenhagen||1st radio broadcast||1st broadcast 29-10-22; RTVN 83.1 12-50
|1932||Normandie||FNSK||France||Atlantic||Launching ceremony||Launched 30-10-32 broadcast Paris; 79.23 LI 12-11-32 55
FNSK; WRTVHB 1936 94
|1936||Queen Mary||GBTT||England||Atlantic||Music broadcasts||Full technical details; LI 79.23 23-5-36 1
Broadcasts and relays by BBC; LI 79.23 30-5-36 54
GBTT; LI 79.24 13-9-47
|1964||De Hoop||PHKS||Holland||North Sea||Religious broadcasts||Full story; Offshore Radio 118
Played gramophone records 1920's; Offshore Radio 8
|4. The Americas - Earlier Years|
|1919||George Washington||Navy||USA||East Coast||Woodrow Wilson||Woodrow Wilson broadcast at counsel of Walter Lemmon
Returning from Europe, July 4, 1919
2380 kHz heard poorly in USA; HECUSN 623.856 1919Link:George Washington
|1933||Freedom||ZFB1||USA||Bermuda||Bathysphere relay||ZFB1 relay from Bathysphere; JB book 65
125 m to Bermuda
|1933||City of Panama||RXKR||USA||California||Gambling ship LA||California RXKR 500 w 815 kHz 1933; PC 11-98 18
Gambling ship, Santa Monica Bay
Strong QRM to land based stations
Created diplomatic problems
QSL; DX News 1-7-72;
|1930's||Rex||USA||California||Gambling ship||Commercial station Santa Monica; Offshore Radio 6Links:
Gambling Ships (2)
|1940's||Kron Prinz||DPZ||Germany||Caribbean||Floating broadcaster||Kron Prinz DPZ spark callsign 1913; 82.7 YBWTT 238
79.23 1226-3-30 LI
Floating broadcaster fitted out Caribbean 1940's; Postcard
|5. Americas in Recent Years|
|1961||Boat||CIA||USA||Havana||Bay of Pigs invasion||CIA boat off Havana MW; PC 4-01 11|
|1961||Yacht||Independiente||USA||Cuba||Bay of Pigs invasion||CIA SW station; PC 4-01 11|
|1985||Caron||Navy||USA||Caribbean||Jamming Vinceremos||US navy destroyer jamming Vinceremos & Farabundo Marti
Spruance class destroyer in Gulf of Fronseca
Story 1981; Clandestine Confidential 63
|1985||Diego||Navy||USA||Caribbean||Jamming Vinceremos||US navy destroyer jamming Vinceremos & Farabundo Marti
Spruance class destroyer in Gulf of Fronseca
Story 1981; Clandestine Confidential 63
|1973||Columbus||RFA||USA||New Jersey||McIntire WXUR||McIntire & Radio Free America 1973; Speedx article
Follow up article; US radio magazine
QSL letter from Larry Magne; Speedx
Ship raided; ODXA 9-87 62
Legal defence; NY Times 12-10-73 2
Full story 10 kW RCA; Offshore Radio 59
|1988||Sarah||RNYI||USA||Long Island||Relays via WWCR||Radio NY International MW SW FM; ADXN 10-88 14
Relays via WWCR
|2001||Katie||USA||East coast||WBCQ Alan Weiner||Weiner project, full story; PC 5-01 36|
6. Radio Broadcasting from Ships in the exotic South Pacific
We turn our attention now to the exotic South Pacific.
In July 1925, the United States Pacific Fleet left from its base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii for a state visit to Australia. The battleship, West Virginia acted as the radio control vessel for this navy tour, and it made several broadcasts directed to Australia. Just before the Pacific Fleet left Honolulu, Admiral Coontz made a speech that was relayed to local listeners by stations 2FC & 2BL in Sydney.
Over in the Northern Hemisphere, the new Empress of Britain, was launched in 1931 for Atlantic passenger traffic and it replaced an older vessel with the same name. Even though this new passenger vessel was owned and operated by Canadian-Pacific, nevertheless its radio apparatus was registered with English callsigns.
In the year 1932, this new and large passenger liner made a round-the-world tour, and while it was in Pacific waters, it was heard with two different callsigns and several radio broadcasts. For communication purposes, the callsign was GMBH, and for experimental broadcast and amateur communications the callsign was G6RX.
The “Empress of Britain” was heard in Australia during its communications with VLK Sydney, and also with KZGF Manila, WOO Ocean Gate New Jersey, and GBP in Rugby England. Several radio broadcasts were also heard in Australia and New Zealand, including a broadcast from the ballroom, as the radio magazine said, “for the benefit of English listeners”.
Postcards of this ship, the “Empress of Britain”, are sometimes available at postcard exhibitions.
The Director 2 was an American schooner which left New York harbor in mid 1940 for a two year cruise into the South Pacific. The purpose of this “Fahnestock South Seas Expedition” was to record local music, to study bird life, and to make oceonographic studies in various areas of the South Pacific.
The “Director 2” was expected to be in the vicinity of the islands of Fiji in July 1940. It was also planned that this ship would make a series of 20 radio broadcasts back to the United States for re-broadcast by the NBC network. The transmitter was a 1kW unit using six different frequencies in the international communication bands.
It was announced in the pages of “Radio News” in November 1939 that another expedition was planned for the South Seas. The National Geographic Expedition would leave San Francisco on September 19 for a tour of exploration in the South Pacific. The team of specialised explorers would be on board the Coast Guard cutter, Hamilton, and it was planned that several relay broadcasts back to NBC would be made from remote locations in the South Pacific, including Easter Island and Pitcairn Island.
However, in the next issue of the same magazine, “Radio News”, it was announced that the planned National Geographic expedition to the South Pacific “has been called off for the duration of the war”.
7. Radio Broadcasting from Ships - The Pacific Scene, Part 2
In our continuing series of topics on radio broadcasting from ships, we return to the exotic South Pacific in the era between the two wars. In this era of experimental radio broadcasting, a large number of ships plying the oceans of the world would transmit short special programs. The wireless equipment was available and it was not in continuous usage for navigation and maritime communications.
These unique radio broadcasts were presented for the benefit of passing ships, and for the benefit of listeners located ashore on nearby land areas. Sometimes these music broadcasts were made from the old 78 rpm records, and sometimes they were presented live by the ship’s orchestra. Many of these broadcasts have gone unmentioned in the radio magazines of the day and the information is forever lost. However, some of these exotic and spontaneous broadcasts did receive brief mention in a radio magazine from some listener who happened to tune in.
One of these brief references to a ship broadcast is found in the weekly radio newspaper, “Listener In”, printed in Melbourne, Australia. This brief statement tells of radio broadcasts in early March 1927 when the passenger liner, Franconia made a series of broadcasts of music from the ship’s orchestra.
Nearly a decade later, back in early 1935, the schooner Seth Parker was in the South Seas on a geographic expedition. During its visit into the South Pacific, several radio broadcasts were made back to the United States for relay nationwide on one of the mediumwave networks. These point-to-point relays were accomplished through the radio transmitter on board the “Seth Parker” which was allocated the callsign KNRA and seven channels in the shortwave bands.
We move ahead another decade to the month of January in the year 1946. The war is over, and the Americans are making preparation for atomic tests at Bikini Atoll. American navy vessels will carry relays of these events for the Voice of America, and Royal Navy vessels from England are also patrolling these same seas.
Shortwave listeners in New Zealand and along the eastern coast of the Australian continent heard several radio program broadcasts from the ships in the British fleet. These broadcasts were sometimes for communications purposes and sometimes for the entertainment of navy personnel and they were noted in the utility bands ranging from 11 Mhz to 18 MHz.
When on air, three of these navy ships identified as Radio Grenville, Radio Romance and Schooldame. It is suggested that Romance and Schooldame were code names, due to the fact that subsequent research reveals no navy vessels from England with these names. One of the three ships, HMS Grenville, was heard with a relay of station 2KY, a commercial mediumwave station in Sydney.
During this same era, Lieutenant Eric Morley was on the air with a one hour broadcast each Sunday from Radio Australia. He was a navy officer with previous radio experience at BFBS Gibraltar. The Morley broadcasts were on the air from the 50 kW transmitter VLC in Shepparton and they were directed to the British fleet in the Pacific. It is suggested that these broadcasts from Radio Australia were occasionally relayed by some of these navy vessels on duty in the South Pacific.
8. The Fascinating Story of Ship Broadcasting in Australian Waters
In this episode on the annals of radio broadcasting from ships, we take a look at the scene in the South Pacific again, in the waters surrounding Australia. We turn the clock back to the year 1926 and we observe that the European vessel, Carinthia [the second Cunard liner with that name, 20,277 tons, in service from 1925 to 1940, then torpedoed and sunk, 4 lives lost], is steaming through the waters of the Southern Ocean below Australia.
The mediumwave station 5CL in Adelaide was at the time on the air as a commercial facility, though these days the station is owned by the government ABC network under the callsign 5RN. A small radio transmitter was placed on board the Carinthia which was described as the "millionaire liner". A special program was relayed back to 5CL while the ship was steaming east towards Melbourne. A listener in Perth heard this special relay and reported the item in the Melbourne based radio weekly, "Listener In".
In the following year, another similar outside broadcast was made from another ship at another location, this time the Akuna (AH-KOON-a) in the waters of Port Philip Bay, Melbourne. The mediumwave station 3LO was also a commercial facility at the time, though today this station is also owned by the government ABC network, but still under its original callsign 3LO.
The occasion for this special broadcast was a visit from a member of the royal family in England. A small shortwave transmitter was installed temporarily on the "Akuna" for this relay broadcast from ship to shore.
Placing a portable radio transmitter on board a ship for the purpose of making a special relay was a popular procedure during the earlier era of radio broadcasting. In 1932, station 2UW in Sydney took a special relay from the Dutch passenger liner, Nieuw Holland, as it was leaving Sydney Harbour.
This event occured on Sunday October 23, 1932 which was designated as "Hospital Day". A small portable transmitter relayed the programming which was heard by a Sydney DXer in the 42 metre band. He described the reception level of the signal at his location as excellent.
Back in November 1941, the American ship, Lurline made a visit to Australia. The ship was noted at both edges of the continent on 8820 kHz when it was in contact with the maritime station KRO in Hawaii. As was the custom of the day, this ship was licensed with a callsign, KIEK, that could also be used for the relay of broadcast programming.
It would appear that radio broadcasts were made from transmitter KIEK which were also heard in Australia and reception reports were sent to their address in San Franciso. Five years later in 1946, QSLs were received in Australia, stating that the special transmitter had since been removed.
In the year 1947, the Royal Mail Steamer Orion visited Australia and it was noted on the air while in contact with the maritime station VIM in Melbourne. DXers of the day state that this ship, with the callsign GYLK, also made its own special broadcasts as it was leaving the continent though no QSLs were ever issued. However, I did hear GYLK on the "Orion" while it was in contact with VIM and the QSL card from VIM verifies the two way conversation which was logged on 2100 kHz.
|RADIO BROADCASTING FROM SHIPS|
6. + 7. The South Pacific
|1925||Pacific Fleet||USA||Pacific||Special broadcasts||Left Honolulu for Australia, broadcasts; LI 79.23 11-7-25 1
|1925||West Virginia||USA||Pacific||Control ship||Pacific Fleet left Honolulu for Australia July 1925; RA373
Broadcasts to Australia; LI 79.23 11-7-25 1
|1932||Empress of Britain||GMBH||Canada||World Tour||Several broadcasts||Occasional specials Asia Pacific G6RX; LI 79.23 20-2-32 52
Operated by Canadian-Pacific; LI 79.23 20-3-32 52
Atlantic GMBJ; 22.68 ISWC 7-31 8
GMBJ; AMPRD1936 94
Launched in 1931; Postcard
|1940||Director - 2||USA||Pacific||Naturalist expedition||Naturalist expedition Pacific NBC relays 1kW SW; RA373
Full details of expedition; R&H 79.11 4-40 54
|1927||Franconia||Pacific||Broadcasts by ship’s orchestra||Broadcasts by ship’s orchestra; Notebook 79.217B 36 LI 12-3-27|
|1935||Seth Parker||USA||Pacific||Radio broadcast back to USA||KNRA 7 channels; SWL Feb-Mar 1935 RD 41& 43|
|1946 Jan||Romance (?)||England||Pacific||Navy, heard as Radio Romance||Radio Romance 11010 kHz; R&H 77.10 2-46 36|
|1946 Jan||HMS Grenville||2KY Sydney||England||Pacific||Heard with relay 2KY Sydney||12640 kHz, from Fleet HQ; R&H 77.10 2-46 36
14400 relay 2KY Sydney; R&H 77.10 2-46 36
|1946 Jan||Schooldame (?)||England||Pacific||Royal Navy on duty in Pacific||12630 kHz; R&H 77.10 2-46 36Royal Navy: Transmissions, broadcasts & relays; R&H 77.10 2-46 36|
8. Ship Broadcasting in Australian Waters
|1926||Carinthia||SA waters||5CL relay heard in WA||Relay from 5CL in SA waters heard in WA; LI 79.23 20-2-26 1|
|1927||Akuna||Australia||Vic waters||Royal visit 3LO relay||3LO transmitter for royal visit to Australia; Note Book 79.217B 36|
|1932||Nieuw Holland||Holland||Sydney||Special relay 2UW||Special transmitter relay 42 m 2UW ; LI 79.23 12-11-32 55|
|1941||Lurline||KIEK||USA||Southern||QSLs 5 years later||KIEK 8820 contact KRO Honolulu heard WA; R&H 79.11 X 41-53
QSLs 1941 broadcasts transmitter removed; R&H 79.13 1-47 69
|1947||Orion||GYLK||England||Southern||Unofficial broadcasts||GYLK Southern Ocean; R&H 79.13 6-47 69
VIM QSL card
9. The Australian “Kanimbla” - A unique and remarkable radio broadcasting station
Back in the days before World War 2, there were two ships in Australasian (OS-tral-Asian) waters that were quite famous in the international radio scene. One was the “Awatea” (AH-wa-TEE-a) that plied across the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, and we will tell you the story of that ship radio station on another ocasion.
The other ship radio station was aboard the MV Kanimbla (ka-NIM-bla) that plied in Australian waters. Both ships were built in the United Kingdom, both were launched in the years 1935 and 1936, and both were noted for the broadcast of radio programming; the “Kanimbla” as VK9MI and the “Awatea” as ZMBJ. The notable fact about the passenger liner “Kanimbla” is that it was the only ship in the entire history of our world in which a radio broadcasting station was constructed into the ship at the time when the ship was built. The 11,000 ton passenger liner “Kanimbla” was built at Belfast in Northern Ireland, by the famous ship building company, Harland & Wolff. The electronic equipment was manufactured by AWA in Australia and shipped to Ireland for installation while the ship was still under construction.
The “Kanimbla” was granted by the PMG Department in Australia a radio broadcasting license with the experimental callsign VK9MI and, as we mentioned earlier, it is the only ship in the world to have a radio broadcasting station incorporated into it at the time of construction. The radio station consisted of two studios; one for group broadcasts, and the other for announcer presentation. The crystal controlled transmitter was rated at 1.5 kW, though the QSL card states that the output into the antenna system was just 50 watts. This would seem to suggest that the original broadcast transmitter mal-functioned quite early and that the broadcast programs were then radiated from the ship’s communication transmitter. The original AWA transmitter could operate on any wavelength between 20 & 50 meters. The first test broadcast from 9MI was made on April 21, 1936 during sea trials in the Firth of Clyde. The new MV “Kanimbla” began its delivery voyage from Northern Ireland to Australia at 4:00 am on April 26, 1936. It is reported that the radio station 9MI made four test broadcasts each day during this 15,000 mile journey to Australia.
The official inauguration of the new radio broadcasting station VK9MI was made in a special broadcast to Australia while the ship was south of the continent in the Great Australian Bight,1,000 miles from Sydney. At 8:00 pm Eastern Australian Standard Time, VK9MI went on the air shortwave and the program was picked up and relayed thoughout Australia over the ABC mediumwave network. This inaugural broadcast from 9MI was made on 11720 kHz, though subsequently the regular channel was 6005 kHz, though this was modified in April 1939 to 6055 kHz. The at times irregular schedule from VK9MI was usually half an hour or an hour a few evenings a week. The announcer and manager was Eileen Foley, who also signed the QSL cards.
The “Kanimbla” plied with passenger traffic backwards and forwards on the southern route between Western Australia and Queensland, and the ports of call in this shuttle service were: Fremantle in Western Australia, Adelaide in South Australia, Melbourne in Victoria, Sydney in New South Wales and Brisbane & Mackay in Queensland.
The local AWA mediumwave stations on land in each of these areas frequently relayed the shortwave programming from VK9MI to the local audience. Among these stations were 2AY in Albury New South Wales, 3BO in Bendigo Victoria, and 4CA in Cairns (pronounced as in air) Queensland.
On many occasions, radio station VK9MI was heard on shortwave throughout Australia and New Zealand, and many QSL cards were signed by the famous woman announcer, Eileen Foley. As time went by, the transmitter began to malfunction and it produced a noisy wide signal in the 49 meter band. At the outbreak of the European War at the beginning of September 1939, the radio staton VK9MI was silenced, along with all other experimental shortwave stations in Australia. The “Kanimbla” then became a troop carrier, and after the war, it was unceremoniously scrapped.
In WS 397 additional information on the Kanimbla was published:
Kanimbla Update - What happened to this ship afterwards?
Just a few weeks back, we presented the story of the radio station on board the Australian motor vessel,"Kanimbla". On that occasion, we mentioned that the ship was built in Belfast Ireland and that it was the only ship in the world into which a radio station was installed at the time when the ship was constructed.
The "Kanimbla" sailed for Australia on April 26 1936 and it made four radio broadcasts each day throughout the entire voyage. One month later, the inaugural broadcast was made for listeners in Australia with a nationwide relay on the ABC mediumwave network.
From that time onwards, the passenger liner travelled the Australian coastline, frequently sending out entertainment programs over the 50 watt broadcast transmitter, VK9MI. In those days, a VK callsign indicated an experimental station, not necessarily an amateur station as is the case these days. These hour long broadcasts in the evening were presented by the station announcer, Eileen Foley, and they were picked up by local mediumwave stations in the AWA commercial network and relayed to local audiences.
The final broadcast from VK9MI on the "Kanimbla" went on the air right at the beginning of September 1939 and when war was declared, the broadcast station was silenced forever. Station VK9MI never radiated another entertainment program.
We could ask the question: What happened to the "Kanimbla" after that?
One of the really fascinating aspects about research into the history of radio broadcasting is this. When you think that you have completed research into all of the available information on a particular station, then unexpectedly, new information becomes available.
This is the case with the story of the radio broadcasting ship, "Kanimbla". For much of this additional information, we are indebted to Dr Martin van der Ven in Germany, who maintains a website on the story of radio broadcasting from ships. His website is:www.offshore-radio.de
Just one month after the outbreak of the European Conflict, the "Kanimbla" was taken over by the Royal Navy and the ship was commissioned as HMS "Kanimbla", that is His Majesty's Ship "Kanimbla". The "Kanimbla" then made its way to Hong Kong for re-outfitting as a navy troop transport.
Acting as a navy vessel, the "Kanimbla" carried troops and supplies to allied forces in the Pacific and Asia. During this era, the ship was operated by the Australian navy on behalf of the British navy.
Nearly four years later, HMS "Kanimbla" was re-commissioned in a ceremony in Sydney and it joined the Royal Australian Navy as "HMAS "Kanimbla', that is, His Majesty's Australian Ship, "Kanimbla". The ship served a similar role in the Australian navy for a period of six years after which it was de-commissioned in Sydney in 1949.
At this stage, the "Kanimbla" was re-outfitted again as a passenger liner and then returned to its original owners when it rejoined the passenger traffic. Then in 1961, the ship was sold in Asia and renamed the "Oriental Queen" for passenger traffic in Asian waters. Three years later again it was placed under charter to a Japanese company, and after three more years, they purchased it.
In 1974, just 40 years after it was built, the glorious ship "Kanimbla" was unceremoniously broken up for scrap. That then is the end of the long and interesting saga of the "Kanimbla", the only ship in the world that had a radio broadcasting station built into it at the time when the ship was constructed.
However, there are two more items of interest. There was a soldier in the American army by the name of A. J. Haley. A few years ago, he read an article about the Australian ship, the "Kanimbla", in the American radio magazine, "Popular Communications". He wrote to the editor of the magazine stating that he rode the "Kanimbla" during its era of service as a troop transport vessel in the Pacific. After his demobilization, Haley entered the radio world himself in an amateur role, with the callsign K8UJW.
The other item is this. In recent time we have received several batches of old QSL cards for the AWR Historic Collection. One of these cards is an original QSL card from VK9MI for a reception report dated August 5, 1937 and it was signed by the announcer, Eileen Foley herself.
Another QSL card also verifies a reception report on a transmission from the "Kanimbla", and it was during its time of service under the Australian navy. The callsign was VLFS and the ship was calling the maritime station VIS in Sydney at the time on 12380 kHz. The date of reception was May 30, 1946.
A recent reception report from Robert Chester in Adelaide, South Australia, tells an interesting story regarding his involvement with a special once-in-a-lifetime radio broadcast from a ship. Robert was commenting on a previous edition of Wavescan in which we presented the story of “Radio Broadcasting from Ships in Australian Waters”.
It was back around the year 1961 and Robert Chester was the panel operator for the commercial radio station 5DN with its studios in North Adelaide. The 5DN mobile studio was placed aboard the local steamer, Troubridge (TRUE-BRIDGE), which made a regular run from Port Adelaide on the mainland to Kingscote on Kangaroo Island, a little over 100 miles.
The morning announcer, Mel Cameron, was in the mobile studio on the ship and he was in communication with 5DN by radio. For this special broadcast, Mel Cameron on the ship made all of the announcements, and Robert Chester back in the studio played all of the musical recordings and commercial advertisements, using as many as five different turntables.
Although there were difficulties with the radio link at times, yet nevertheless they successfully completed this unusual remote broadcast. Robert Chester states that he understands this was the first radio broadcast by a commercial station from a ship at sea in the waters off the coast of South Australia.
11. First Music Broadcast from a Ship - a very unusual broadcast
The July issue of “Radio & Television News” for the year 1954 tells the story, a very unusual story actually, of what they claim is the first broadcast of music from a ship. The item was written by Charles G. Cooke, who heard the broadcast. This is what he says:
Here is the story of what was probably the first instance of a music broadcast by wireless. It was in the Spring of the year 1906 and all of the navy vessels in the American Atlantic Fleet had returned to their home base at Hampton Roads in Virginia at the end of winter maneuvers in the Caribbean.
Officer Cooke was the wireless operator on one of the navy vessels and while he was on duty he heard a spark transmitter changing its pitch and playing the first line of the song, “Home Sweet Home”. In those days, wireless apparatus was quite primitive and officer Cooke was listening-in on what is described as an electrolytic detector.
Amazed and curious at this strange wireless broadcast of music, he made enquiry from all of the wireless operators in the American fleet. He finally discovered that the strange music was coming from the US Navy vessel, USS Missouri.
The ingenious wireless operator on board the “Missouri” was using an 80 volt DC generator feeding a mercury turbine interrupter through a large spark coil. The operator had calibrated a sliding rheostat with the correct positions for the musical notations C D E F G A B C. All that was necessary to transmit the musical tones was to slide the rheostat to the desired notation and the spark transmitter changed its tone accordingly.
Officer Cooke concluded his unusual historic item with the comment that in those days, that is back in the year 1906, there were no wlreless traffic controls and virtually no interference so that it was possible to play around with wireless equipment, sometimes in quite novel ways.
REFERENCES - RADIO BROADCASTING FROM SHIPS
9. The Kanimbla
Year Date Location Information
1935 Dec 15 Belfast Launched 15-12-35; Ven website
1936 Apr 21 Clyde Sea trials begin, 1st test broadcasts
Apr 26 Atlantic Delivery voyage to Australia
May 28 Southern Ocean Inaugural broadcast relayed by ABC
1939 Sep early Australian waters Final broadcast of VK9MI
1939 Oct 6 Australia Commissioned as HMS Kanimbla
1943 Jun 1 Australia Commissioned as HMAS Kanimbla
1949 Mar 25 Sydney De-commissioned
1950 Dec 13 Australia Returned to owners afer re-outfitting
1961 Australia Sold & renamed Oriental Queen
1964 Japan Under charter to Toyo Yusen in Tokyo
1967 Japan Purchased by Toyo Yusen
1974 Broken up as scrap
Information & References
Article WA Broadcaster & Eileen Foley report; 84.447
Kanimbla 10,985 tons 468.8 ft long 66.3 ft wide; Ven website
Photo of ship; PC 12-87 18
Article WA Broadcaster; 84.447
VK9MI full story; AMP RA 129
VK9MI QSL card undated; PC 12-87 18
Commissioned by Royal Navy as HMS Kanimbla 6-10-39; Ven website
Commissioned by RAN as HMAS Kanimbla 1-6-43; Ven website
Sold to Pacific Transport Co 1961 renamed Oriental Queen; Ven website
11. The USS Missouri
Spark wireless music USS “Missouri”; RTVN 7-54 91
12. Radio Broadcasting from Ships in New Zealand Waters
The South Pacific nation of New Zealand was settled first by Polynesians migrating south from the Central Pacific more than 1,000 years ago. The islands were first visited by European explorers in 1642 when Abel Jans Tasman tried unsuccessfully to make a landing. He named the islands after "Sea-Land", a coastal province in northern Holland.
The first European settlements were established by foreign traders around 1790, and British administration of New Zealand was established from Sydney in 1839. The Treaty of Waitangi (WHY-TANG-ee) in 1840 guaranteed the rights of the Maori (MAU-REE) people, and in 1841 New Zealand became a separate Crown Colony. Although there was some discussion with Australia around the turn of the century a little more than 100 years ago, New Zealand opted not to be federated into Australia, and separate Dominion status was granted in 1907.
New Zealand lies 1,000 miles off the coast of eastern Australia with the Tasman Sea separating the two countries. In the era of travel before aeroplanes were modernized, obviously sea travel connected the two countries to each other and with the rest of the world.
In those days, all of the large ocean going passenger liners and cargo vessels were constructed overseas, usually in England and Northern Ireland. Several of these ships were noted with the broadcast of radio programming and we look at these in this edition of Wavescan.
On February 3 in the year 1931, there was a massive earthquake in the Hawkes Bay area, on the west coast of the north island of New Zealand. Telephone communications were knocked out and electricity services were disrupted. The only means for adequate communication was by radio, amateur and professional.
It so happened, that the Royal Navy vessel, HMS Veronica was anchored in Hawkes Bay near the city of Napier at the time and their radio equipment relayed personal messages, voice reports and radio programming out of the area for wider broadcast. Several otherunnamed ships at anchor in Hawkes Bay also provided a similar radio relay service.
In the year 1934, a refrigerated cargo vessel, the New Zealand Star, was launched at Belfast in Northen Ireland. This ship was considered to be the most modern ship of its type and it was constructed for the New Zealand meat trade.
The launching ceremony was scheduled for Thursday morning November 29, 1934 at Belfast in Northern Ireland and it was planned that this event would be broadcast worldwide on shortwave. In preparation for the launching ceremony and the radio broadcast, a rehearsal of the entire program was conducted on the Monday, four days in advance.
The New Zealand section of the rehearsal ceremony, including a speech by the Governor-General of New Zealand, Lord Bledisloe, was broadcast from the 1 kW shortwave transmitter of station ZLW at Titahi (tit-AH-hee) Bay, near Wellington. In Sydney, station VK2ME relayed the rehearsal program to London with one of its 10 kW shortwave transmitters, where it was recorded as a precaution in case of propagation difficulties at the time of the actual event.
The rehearsal broadcast from ZLW was heard in Melbourne quite by chance by the column reporter for the weekly radio journal, "Listener In" and he reported the event a few days later in his newspaper.
The Australian trade magazine, "Broadcasting Business", reported in full detail in 1937 about a special broadcast from the passenger liner Mariposa. While the ship lay at anchor at Circular Quay (KEY) in Sydney Harbour, AWA engineers installed a 250 watt broadcast transmitter. This unit was tuned to 190 metres, 1580 kHz, which was at the time, just above the top end of the standard broadcast band.
While the "Mariposa" was still an hour or two away from Auckland Harbour in New Zealand, a broadcast was made over this small and temporary radio station. The live programming consisted of songs by the famous Italian tenor, Tito Scipa, and a speech by the Mayor of Auckland, Sir Ernest Davies. This programming was picked up by station 2ZB in Auckland and relayed on the ZB network throughout New Zealand.
While the "Mariposa" was anchored at Suva in Fiji, Tito Scipa made another broadcast, though this time in the Suva Town Hall, and not from the ship itself.
Another New Zealand vessel, the Dominion Monarch, made an international radio broadcast while on its maiden voyage to London in 1939. This event was reported in the daily newspaper, the "Melbourne Herald" on February 10, 1939.
In 1947, DXers in New Zealand heard radio communications on 4460 kHz from the inter-island ship, the Hinemoa (HIN-nee-MOH-a), under the callsign ZMFQ. The DX report in the Australian magazine, "Radio & Hobbies", states that the 500 watt transmitter was constructed as a broadcast transmitter, but it was instead installed in the Hinemoa. Even though this transmitter was a broadcast quality transmitter, there is no reference anywhere to the broadcast of radio programs from this ship.
The most famous of all radio ships in New Zealand waters during this era was the passenger liner, Awatea (AH-wa-TEE-a), but that's an interesting story for another time.
13. The Story of the Wandering Apache
The Apache Indians lived in the southwest of what is now the United States and they were made up of five different tribal groups. The Apache Indians became famous, in legend at least, as a wandering people, giving rise to the designation, the "Wandering Apache".
There was an old ship that was built in Baltimore, Maryland, and launched in 1891. Under its original name, the "Galveston", this ship saw duty in the Spanish-American War, after which it was renamed the Apache. This ship was de-commissioned in 1937, and after the American entry into World War 2, it resumed official duties as a troop transport.
In the year 1944, the "Apache" was taken to Sydney, Australia where it was totally rebuilt and equipped with electronic equipment for service as a radio broadcasting ship. Generators, receivers, cables, antennas, all were installed, including two shortwave transmitters at 10 kW each.
This mobile broadcasting station sailed north from Sydney in late September 1944, arriving at General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters at Hollandia, New Guinea on October 10. Two days later, the "Apache" joined a flotilla of American war vessels for the return invasion of the Philippines.
It was somewhere around mid-morning of October 20 that the "Apache" made its first transmission, a navy report to California about the new invasion of the Philippines. The allocated callsign for this radio broadcasting ship was WVLC, reminiscent of the Australian callsign, VLC in Shepparton, Victoria.
For the next one and a half years, the "Apache" was heard on the air quite often, sometimes with the relay to America of Pacific war news & reports, and sometimes with the onward relay of radio programming from the shortwave stations in the "Voice of America" network in California.
After a spate of on air service in Manila Bay, the "Apache" moved to the Lingayen (ling-GAY-an) Gulf early in the new year 1945 to cover the moving tide of warfare on the island of Luzon. At the time of the signing of the surrender documents on the USS "Missouri" in Tokyo Bay, the "Apache" was there, but it was silent, simply because the more powerful land based shortwave station at Nazaki (na-ZAR-kee) in Japan was carrying the programming on relay back to America.
After this, the "Apache" was noted with radio despatches and occasional programming off the coast of Korea, and then further south off the coast of China.
The saga of radio broadcasting from the reconditioned "Apache" came to an end on April 20, 1946, when the American navy vessel, USS Spindle Eye took over not only the radio prograrnmming but even the callsign WVLC. The "Apache" was decommissioned, and then in 1950 it was scrapped.
During its 18 months of radio history, the "Apache" served as a communication ship, an interrnediate relay station for armed forces communications, and as a radio broadcasting unit carrying programs on behalf of the American Armed Forces Radio Service & the Voice of America. It is quite probable too, that this station also carried a relay from Radio Australia on certain occasions.
The "Apache" was logged in Australia, New Zealand and the United States under three very similar callsigns. The basic callsign was WVLC. Another callsign in use for a brief period of times was WVLO, and it is suggested that this was in reality the second transmitter, which was noted subsequently under the callsign WVLC2.
Numerous QSLs exist in old radio collections in New Zealand & Australia & the United States but they are all in the form of typed letters. There is no known QSL card in existence bearing the callsign WVLC, not even for the relay of VOA and AFRS programming.
That then is the end of the story of the radio broadcasting ship, the "Apache", but, there is more to the story than this. Not so well known is the fact that there was another radio ship travelling with the "Apache" with the identification FP47.
We mentioned that the "Apache" had a co-traveller, a little vessel known as the FP47. Let's look now at the story of this lesser known sea traveller which was in reality another radio broadcasting ship.
The FP47 was a much smaller ship than the "Apache", at just 125 ft long and it was built originally for the Alaska freight and passenger traffic. This ship was also taken to Sydney in Australia at the same time as the "Apache" where it also was completely rebuilt and re-outfitted. Two diesel generators were installed in the FP47 as power units for all of the electronic equipment which included two American army Morse Code transmitters at 500 watts each.
In rebuilding the ship, the original masts were re-positioned in an attempt to counteract the weight of the heavy electrical equipment. However, the calculations were incorrect and the masts leaned forward giving the appearance that the ship was moving backwards. The official radio code for the FP47 was "Bedpan".
The original delivery date for both the "Apache" and the FP47 was planned for late November 1944. However, the events of the war speeded up and the FP47 hurriedly sailed from Sydney Harbour with the "Apache" right at the end of September. Both ships, with their electronic equipment still untested, arrived at General MacArthur's forward headquarters in Hollandia, New Guinea, on October 10, just 2 days before sailing time for the return invasion of the Philippines.
Two days later, the whole invasion fleet left Hollandia for the Philippines, with the "Apache" trailing behind, and the smaller FP47 trailing behind the "Apache". The entire flotilla arrived in Manila Harbor exactly one week later.
The purpose for the radio ship, the FP47, was to be a subordinate radio ship to the "Apache". The Morse Code transmitters sent war news and despatches to the "Apache" for onward transmission to the United States. The FP47 was a communication vessel for use by newspaper and radio correspondents, whereas the "Apache" was a radio broadcast station and a navy communication facility.
The FP47 saw duty in the coastal areas of the Philippines and other islands in the western Pacific, usually in conjunction with the "Apache", but not always. After the conclusion of hostilities, the FP47 was sent back to the Philippines, were it carried radio traffic in Morse Code apparently in conjunction with land based stations that had been re-established.
That's the last that is known about the little radio ship, known by number and not by name.
Ramon Jackson wrote the following addition:
While they did often appear together FP-47 was anything but a "subordinate radio ship to the 'Apache'" as FP-47 was the operational communications ship for operations and Apache was a host for news people. I recently added extracts (https://patriot.net/~eastlnd2/SWPA%20CP%20Ships.htm) from the official history to be linked from my web page https://patriot.net/~eastlnd2/army-sc.htm that has the following text you might use to correct that mistake:
General Akin himself had no doubt of the value and necessity of Army communications ships in SWPA combat. On 21 March 1944, he set up in GHQ SWPA Signal Section a separate Seaborne Communications Branch to plan for extensive communications afloat and to provide a more adequate CP fleet. The first task was to obtain ships more suitable than the Harold or the Argosy.68 Such a ship was the freighterpassenger, FP-47, acquired by Signal Corps in March 1944, at Sydney. The Army had built her in the United States in 1942, a sturdy, wooden, diesel-driven vessel only 114 feet long, but broad, of 370 tons, intended for use in the Aleutians. Instead she had sailed to Australia as a tug. The Signal Corps fitted her with Australian transmitters and receivers, also with an SCR-300 walkietalkie, two SCR-808's, and an SCR-608, plus power equipment, antennas, and, finally, quarters for the Signal Corps operators. The Australian sets were intended for long-range CW signals operating in the high frequencies; the SCR's were short-range VHF FM radios for use in the fleet net and for ship-toshore channels. Armed with antiaircraft weapons and machine guns (served by 12 enlisted men of the Army ship and gun crews), navigated by a crew of 6 Army Transport Service officers and the 12 men already mentioned, the FP-47 was ready for service in June. Her Signal Corps complement consisted of one officer and 12 men.
The facilities of FP-47 were needed immediately at Hollandia to supplement the heavily loaded signal nets that could hardly carry the message burden imposed by the invasion and the subsequent build-up there of a great base. Arriving on 25 June, she anchored offshore and ran cables to the message centers on land. Her powerful transmitters opened new channels to SWPA headquarters in Brisbane and to the advance headquarters still at Port Moresby. At Hollandia, and at Biak, to which the FP-47 moved early in September, this one ship handled an average of 7,000 to 11,000 code groups a day.69
Before the Philippine invasion, the CP boats acquired shipboard antrac. Four Army communications ships, PCE-848, 849, and 850, and the Apache (primarily for use by news reporters), arrived at Hollandia on 2 October 1944, as the Southwest Pacific headquarters readied for the invasion of Leyte.
Later in the Philippines:
The three PCE's constituted the CP fleet for the Leyte operation, along with two others, the FP-47 (the only holdover from Signal Corps' first communications ships in the New Guinea fighting) and the Apache. The Apache was something new in Signal Corps experience. It was a communications ship specifically and solely intended for public relations work. General Akin's Seaborne Communications Branch had gained enough experience in shipboard Army signals so that when the SWPA public relations officer asked for a correspondents' broadcast ship to send press copy to the United States (there had been difficulties getting press copy through Australian Postmaster General facilities), the Signal Corps men answered “Yes.” They acquired the Apache, a 185-foot, 650-ton ship, which had served first as a revenue cutter, then as a Coast Guard vessel. Because of her age, fifty-five years, she had been sold for scrap just before World War II. Resurrected by the Maritime Commission, she was used for a while by the Navy. Then, in the somewhat sour words of her skipper, “Like everything else that nobody wants, she was turned over to the Army.”
In July 1944 her conversion to the best known vessel of Signal Corps' CP fleet began in Sydney harbor. By dexterously combining various pieces of equipment, the Signal Corps installed a 10-kilowatt voice-modulated transmitter—a shortwave radiotelephone that could reach the United States directly. Radio relay, AN/TRC-1, was added to provide circuits to shore terminals. A variety of antenna rigs, a studio, and a control room completed the floating broadcast facility for war correspondents, who could now sail close into the theaters, pick up reports and news from shore over the VHF radio relay, and prepare and broadcast programs home quickly and directly. With a Signal Corps detachment of three officers and eleven enlisted men and with a ship and gun crew similar to that aboard the FP-47, the Apache was readied and sailed to Hollandia early in the autumn of 1944.17
Designated Task Unit 78.1.12 by the Navy, the five ships of the CP fleet were readied in October at Hollandia: the PCE-848, 849, and 850, the Apache, and the FP-47, which also served press needs. Aboard the PCE-848, General Akin occupied a cabin along with one of his staff officers who handled General MacArthur's messages (MacArthur himself sailed in the USS Nashville). Aboard the 848 also was a VHF team to operate radio relay equipment. The PCE-849 carried General Akin's assistant, more Signal Corps men, and an intercept team of the 978th Signal Service Company. The duty of the latter, a group of a dozen officers and men under Capt. Charles B. Ferguson, was to intercept enemy broadcasts and to receive messages from the guerrilla radios in the Philippines. The PCE-850 carried Colonel Reichelderfer and his Signal Corps assistants serving General Krueger's Sixth Army headquarters. Still other Signal Corps men worked communications circuits aboard the Nashville and the Wasatch serving Generals MacArthur and Krueger, respectively, using an assortment of radio relay and portable radio types.18
The FP-47 often assisted in the transmission of news from the Apache, as operational requirements allowed, but was primarily the operational communications ship with Apache being for public relations/news.
It is just 58 years this week since General Douglas MacArthur made his famous "I have returned" speech from the shortwave facilities on board three different radio ships at the beginning of the return invasion of the Philippines. The date was October 22, in the year 1944. This is how it all happened.
In their concerted drive into the Pacific, the Japanese army landed on the north coast of Luzon Island in the Philippines on December 10, 1941. The American & Filipino troops were slowly pushed southwards until they were concentrated on Bataan (ba-TAHN) Peninsula and on Corregidor (cor-EGG -i-door) Island, near the mouth of Manila Bay. General Douglas MacArthur was on Corregidor Island at the time and he listened to the daily news bulletin every evening on shortwve from KGEI in San Francisco.
General MacArthur was ordered by the president of the United States to evacuate to Australia and before leaving, he told his support staff that he intended to return as soon as possible. MacArthur, together with his wife and son, were quietly taken out of the Manila Bay area by small boat to a port in the southern Philippines where they boarded a plane for Australia. Soon afterwards both Bataan & Corregidor surrendered.
However, in the meantime, the American forces in the Philippines established a shortwave radio station that identified on air as "Freedom Radio". This new station was first noted in Australia in February 1942 using a channel in the 31 metre band.
Now, in the era immediately prior to these events, the original Far East Broadcasting Company, station KZRB, operated at least two mobile radio stations on shortwave. It is thought that one of these mobile stations was taken over by the American army and used on the Bataan peninsula for the broadcasts of "Freedom Radio".
This station was afterwards transferred to Corregidor Island where it was noted until the time of surrender. It is probable that army equipment was also used for the broadcasts of "Freedom Radio", both on Bataan Peninsula and on Corregidor Island.
MacArthur's flight to Australia took him across Indonesia and Timor with the intent to land at Darwin. However, because of an air raid at the time, his flight was diverted to Batchelor, some 30 miles further south. Here it was that he made the first of three speeches, re-iterating his promise to make a triumphal return to the Philippines.
According to several of his biographies, he made the same speech again at Alice Springs a day later, and a couple of days later again at the railway station in Adelaide, using on each occasion his handwritten notes on the back of an envelope. Radio station KGEI also re-broadcast this information on shortwave to the Pacific.
In Australia, MacArthur made his headquarters, at first in Melbourne and then later in Brisbane. Radio magazines of that era state that a railway train was fitted up for use as his headquarters complete with several communication transmitters, though this is not mentioned in any of his available biographies. As the fortunes of war changed, MacArthur again moved his headquarters, to Port Moresby and then to Hollandia, both on the island of New Guinea.
At this stage, the radio ship "Apache", followed by the smaller radio ship "FP47", arrived in Hollandia from Sydney Harbour in Australia. The return invasion was imminent and the American forces sailed for the Philippines, together with the "Apache" & the little "FP47" trailing at the end of the invasion fleet.
This massive fleet arrived in Leyte Gulf on the evening of October 20, the "Apache" made a series of inaugural broadcasts on October 21, and MacArthur announced to the world on October 22, 1944, "I have returned" in fulfillment of the promise he had made more than two years earlier.
The inaugural invasion was made at Red Beach, north of Palo on Samar Island. Here it was that MacArthur waded ashore in preparation for his "I have returned" speech. An American army vehicle, a weapons carrier, was fitted up as a mobile communication station and MacArthur made his speech from this location.
This mobile broadcast was picked up on the navy vessel, Nashville and re-broadcast on several shortwave frequencies for reception throughout the Philippines. The "Apache" also relayed this broadcast and the "FP47" carried news despatches in Morse Code containing the same information.
Two days later, MacArthur returned to the navy vessel "Nashville" and made a repeat broadcast, this time for all the world to hear. The "Apache" relayed this programming to the United States, where it was picked up in California and broadcast to the Pacific via KGEI as well as via other shortwave stations in California.
Almost every biography on General Douglas MacArthur makes reference to his legendary radio broadcasts; "I will return" and subsequently, "I have returned". The date of his first "I have returned" broadcast, was October 22, 1944.
Interestingly, October 22, 1844 is a very significant date in Bible prophecy and in American religious history. General Douglas MacArthur made his famous "I have returned" speech exactly 100 years later to the very day, a fact that is sometimes presented by Gospel preachers on radio and television.
This week forms the anniversary 58 years later of these famous radio broadcasts that were carried on shortwave from the transmitters located on three vastly different ships. These ships were the freighter "Apache", the U.S. navy vessel "Nashville", and the converted fishing trawler "FP47".
REFERENCES - 12. Radio Broadcasting from Ships in New Zealand Waters
Year Ship Country Location Broadcasts
Hinemoa ZMFQ 500 w broadcast transmitter; R&H 79.13 9-47 86
Mariposa Full article, relay from ship; 79.3 BB 29-7-37 1
New Zealand Star Launching in Belfast, preliminary tests; LI 79.23 1-12-34 59
Veronica, HMS Relay messages & programs Hawkes Bay earthquake; VITA NZ 60 Feb 3, 1931
Ships WW 79.1 2-2-31 17 Earthquakes
|REFERENCES - 13. The Story of the Wandering Apache|
Year Date Event
Call Reference Dates
kHz m Event Reference Date
Ship Information & Reference
Apache - Station Profiles
Apache - The Ship
Apache - History
Apache - Electronic Equipment
Apache - Travels
Apache - Channels
Apache - Monitoring
Apache - Programming
Apache - QSLs
|REFERENCES - 14. The Story of the Little Radio Ship, the FP47|
|FP47 - Ship
Station Profile; Star Spangled Banner 83.3 93
125 ft long; Star Spangled Radio 83.3 94
Built for Alaska freight and passenger trade; Star Spangled Radio 83.3 94
2 diesel generators installed; Star Spangled Radio 83.3 94
Re-outfitted in Australia; 83.3 95
Masts altered, leaned forwards; Star Spangled Radio 83.3 94
Two army Morse Code transmitters @ 500 w; BE 83.3 SPR PP 94
Code for FP47 - Bedpan; Star Spangled Radio 83.3 100FP47 - Events
Original delivery date to PNG scheduled late November 1944; SSR 83.3 93
Re-outfitted in Australia; 83.3 95
Sailed with Apache; 83.3 95
Arrived Hollandia Oct 10, 2 days before sailing time; Star Spangled Radio 83.3
Sailed for Philippines October 12, 1944; Star Spangled Radio 83.3 94
Arrived Leye Gulf October 19; Star Spangled Radio 83.3 98
Moved from Leyte to Luzon 1-1-45 for invasion; PC 1-95 19
Moved Dagupen Lingayen Gulf invasion Luzon Jan 9 1945; SSRadio 83.3 204
Covered landings Brunei, Lutong, Tawi, Borneo, Okinawa; PC 1-95 20
Sent press despatches in Morse to Leyte for onward to CA; PC 1-95 19
FP 47 apparently ended, coverage back Philippines 13-9-45; PC 1-95 20
|REFERENCES - 15. The famous "I Have Returned" broadcast|
Japanese forces landed on Luzon Island, December 10, 1941; 15WBE 344
Philippine & American forces surrendered Bataan & Corregidor April & May 1942
Bataan surrendered April 9, 1942, 2WBE 117
Corregidor surrendered May 6, 1942; 2WBE 177
Return invasion Manila Bay began October 20, 1944; 15WBE 344MacArthur's Return Speeches
10 biographies & autobiographies on General Douglas MacArthur; State Library
MacArthur, wife, son evacuated from Corregidor to South Philippines; 13WBE 4
Evacuated from Philippines by plane to Australia; 13WBE 4
Made "I will return" broadcast from Australia, 13WBE 4
I will return speech on KGEI in 1942; Schneider KTAB-KSFO-KWID document 8
MacArthur HQ in Sydney, then train travelling north into Q; RN 1-46 94 & R&H
MacArthur "I have returned" speech from radio ship Oct 22, 1944; Dunlap 148
KZRB - FEBC Manila
FP47 - Ship
USS Nashville (CL-43)
16. The Awatea Story
Back in the days before World War 2, there were two ships in Australasian (OS-tral-Asian) waters that were quite famous in the international radio scene. One was the Kanimbla with its radio station VK9MI, and that was the story in Wavescan on a previous occasion. The other ship was the Awatea (AH-wa-TEE-a) that plied across the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. That is the story for today.
The MV "Awatea", meaning "Eye of the Dawn" in the Maori (MOW-REE, 1st syllable rhymes with HOW) language, was a little larger then the "Kanimbla" and was rated with a displacement of 14,000 tons. It was built by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow in northern England and it was launched in February 1936, just two months after the launching of the "Kanimbla". The electronic equipment on board the "Awatea" was also made by AWA in Australia and it was installed in the ship at the time of construction.
The transmitters on boad 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.
At the outbreak of war, both the "Awatea" and the "Kanimbla" underwent the same fate. Program broadcasting from both ships was silenced and both ships were drafted into war service as troop carriers. In 1942 while on active duty in the Mediterranean, the "Awatea" was attacked and sunk, thus ending the illustrious life story of a very interesting radio broadcasting ship from "down under".
Occasionally, it is possible to come across an original QSL card from ZMBJ on the "Awatea" and sometimes you will see a reproduction of this exotic QSL card in a radio magazine. The AWR collection contains just one copy, and Dr Martin van der Ven in Germany also has a copy. You can find his web site on ship broadcasting at offshore-radio.de
17. Historical Item - BBC Radio Station on Board Ship?
During the era when the Voice of America was operating a radio station on board the Coast Guard vessel "Courier" the BBC in London announced that they also planned on establishing a radio station on board a ship. This was also at the time when there were several pirate radio stations on board ships in European waters as well as off the coast of New Zealand. This is how it happened.
In the year 1888, mining rights were granted by the Matabele (MAT-a-BEE-lee) people to Cecil Rhodes, a prominent Englishman living in South Africa. Seven years later, the Matabele territory was named Rhodesia in honor of its founder, though ten years later again, England divided the territory into two, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia. In 1960, Prime Minister Ian Smith declared unilateral independence for Southern Rhodesia.
Following a long period of turmoil, Southern Rhodesia was finally granted independence from England in 1980 and the name of the country was changed to Zimbabwe. It should also be mentioned that Northern Rhodesia is now known as Zambia.
In 1965, five years after Ian Smith declared independence for his country, the relay of the BBC news from London over the local radio stations in Rhodesia was cancelled. Hurriedly, the BBC erected a new station at Francistown in Bechuanaland. This new and temporary radio station operated with 50 kW on mediumwave and 10 kW on shortwave, and it was inaugurated on the last day of the year 1965.
There was speculation at the time that this new BBC station in Africa was in reality the previous VOA transportable station at Sugarloaf in Florida. VOA Sugarloaf was also a 50 kW mediumwave unit and it disappeared quietly around the same time. The official explanation at the time was that the station was destroyed by a hurricane and bulldozed into a pit, though visitors to the area find no evidence to support this theory.
An additional 50 kW mediumwave transmitter was installed at the Francistown facility a few months later during the year 1966.
Unfortunately, the station was too close to Southern Rhodesia to be effective on shortwave, and in any case, jamming transmitters made reception in the target areas almost impossible. In addition, the host country Bechuanaland was nearing independence as Botswana and it became necessary for the BBC to close this facility.
The final broadcast from the BBC Central African Relay Station was on March 31, 1968 and the entire facility was then donated to Radio Botswana. Entries in subsequent editions of the World Radio TV Handbook would suggest that at least the 10 kW shortwave transmitter was taken into use by Radio Botswana, on the single channel 9590 kHz.
However, in the meantime, the BBC announced plans to establish a radio station on board a ship, though the details of its electronic equipment were not given. It was intended that this ship would anchor in the Mozambique Channel on the east coast of Africa and make its broadcasts into Southern Rhodesia from this seabourne location.
That was the last that was ever heard of the BBC radio ship!
Program Updater in WS435:
A few weeks back, we presented the story of the BBC and their plans to establish a radio broadcasting station on a ship for coverage into eastern Africa. We now have an updater on this information from several sources, including the website of Dr Martin van der Ven in Germany, offshore-radio.de
The original plan called for this radio broadcasting station to be established on the aircraft carrier, HMS Leviathan back in 1966. However, this project was diverted to a land based station and site studies were conducted at several islands in the coastal areas off East Africa.
The small coral atoll, Aldabra in the Seychelles, was considered but finally a site was chosen in a swampy area on the west coast of the island of Mahe, the capital island in the Seychelles. This station was launched in 1988 and it replaced the earlier BBC relay stations that had been established in earlier times at Francistown in Bechuanaland, Somaliland, and on the island of Perim.
18. The Good Ship KKOL: An American radio station on the air on board a ship and we didn't know about it!
Quite recently, we received a surprising email message from Dr Martin van der Ven in Germany alerting us to the fact that an internet website contains the story of an American mediumwave station that is now located on board a cargo ship. The radio station is KKOL and the ship is the Coastal Ranger.
Mediumwave KOL first launched way back on May 23, 1922 as one of the very earliest radio stations in Seattle in the American state of Washington. More than half a century later, the callsign was changed to KMPS, and then more recently, the call reverted back to KKOL.
For most of its shore life, this radio station was on the air from studios located in downtown Seattle, with the transmitter base on Harbor Island. The 5 kW transmitter on 1300 kHz has been heard far and wide, even in Australia and New Zealand.
In the spring of last year, station KKOL agreed to abandon its long-time location on Harbor Island to enable expansion of the international port facilities. Work began on the construction of a new 50 kW transmitter base 15 miles south of Seattle; but, a temporay location was also needed.
A novel solution presented itself, and so a temporary radio station for KKOL, with 1 kW on 1300 kHz, was installed on a 175 ft long cargo ship, the "Coastal Ranger". This ship was previously in use with the fishing industry in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
Thus it was that the new and temporary radio station KKOL was officially launched, literally, on the "Coastal Ranger" on January 1, 2002. This is currently the only officially licensed radio broadcasting station on a ship in American waters.
The "Coastal Ranger" is tied up at a stationary wharf site in Elliott Bay, Seattle, quite close to its former location on Harbor Island. The transmitter was installed inside a shipping container on the deck and the antenna is a 74 ft long center-fed whip made by Viacom in Canada.
The tide levels in Elliott Bay rise and fall for a full variation of 16 ft; and in addition, the ship rolls a little with the effect of the wind and the moving water. However, these movements make no significant effect on the propagation of the mediumwave signal in its main coverage area.
Way back nearly 100 years ago, the callsign KOL was originally in use for a ship with the name, "Mount Hope". Maybe it is appropriate that the callsign is again in use on another ship, the "Coastal Messenger". This one is only temporary though, so those who can, should obtain their QSL while the opportunity is still open.
REFERENCES - 16. The Awatea Story
|Awatea - The Ship
"Awatea" = "Eye of the Dawn"; Dr Martin van der Ven
Photo - via Dr Martin van der Ven
Painting - via Dr Martin van der Ven
Constructed by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow (UK); Dr Martin van der Ven
Launched 14,000 tons Union SS, Barrow & Furness; Herald 79.217b 4
Launched 26-2-36 LI 79.24 4-10-37 9-37 37
Launching; Herald 26-2-36; Nb 79.217b 8
13,482 ton 23 knot, Sydney Auckland Frisco Vancouver, Martin VenAwatea - Electronic Eqipment
ZMBJ information in small booklet; LI 79.24 9-4-38 25
Radio equipment shipped to England for Awatea; LI 79.24 30-7-38
2kW LW, 1 kW LW, 250 w emergency; Broadcaster May 1936 18
Awatea - Broadcasting Activities
Awatea - Communication Traffic
Awatea - Later Events
Awatea - QSLs
|REFERENCES - 17. Historical Item - BBC Radio Station on Board Ship?|
1963 Early VOA Sugarloaf transportable 50 kW 1040 kHz relay VOA Marathon
1965 Radio stations in Southern Rhodesia discontinue relay of BBC news
1965 Fall VOA Sugarloaf gone by autumn 1965; RA512
1965 Portable station flown in and installed at Francistown, Bechuanaland
1965 Dec 30 BBC Central African Relay Station opened, 1 MW, 1 SW
1966 2nd MW transmitter installed
1966 BBC announces plans for ship radio station off Mozambique
1966 Sep 30 Bechuanaland granted independence as Botswana, BBC to move
1968 Mar 31 BBC Francistown closed, donated to Radio Botswana------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Location Information & Reference
|REFERENCES - 18. An American radio station on the air on board a ship and we didn't know about it!|
|Callsign Location Information & Reference
KOL Mount Hope Callsign for American ship; PC 6-98 18KOL Harbor Island Previously on 1270 kHz; QSL card Mar 4, 1943
Studios Northern Life Tower 1300 5 kW; QSL Mar 43
Held by Office of Censor; QSL card Mar 4 1943
Studios Northern Life Tower 1300 5 kW; QSL 1943
U. S Censorship; QSL card 26-6-44
1300 5 kW studio 1100 West Florida St; QSL 17-2-58
1300 5 1100 W Florida St (1922); 1960 BYB A249
1300 5 1100 W Florida St (1922); 1972 BYB B226
Station inaugurated in 1922; BY 1960 A249
Full story www.dalke.com; Martin van der Ven email
Same story; Radio World 18-12-2 33
Station inaugurated 23-5-22; WWW
Callsign changed to KMPS Sep 1, 1975; WWW
KMPS Seattle 1300 kHz 5 kW Box 24888 (1922); 1983 YB B262
KKOL Coastal Ranger Began Jan 1, 2002 1300 kHz 1 kW; Martin v d Ven
QSLs KOL 1300 kHz 5 kW, Northern Life Tower, Harbor Island 13-11-43; AWR QSL
19. Voice of America Relay Station on board the Battleship Texas
It is quite well known in the radio world that the Voice of America was on the air from the radio ship Courier while it was anchored in the harbor at the island of Rhodes in the eastern Mediterranean. However, it is not quite so well known that VOA was on the air in earlier times from many other radio ships, in fact anywhere up to a dozen. On this occasion, we trace the story of the very first endeavor on the part of the Voice of America into radio broadcasting from a ship, the navy vessel Texas 2.
This massive warship, the Texas 2, was launched at Newport News in Virginia way back in the year 1912. It was close to 600 feet long, and more than 100 feet wide. The total weight of this ship was 34,000 tons.
The U.S.S. Texas achieved two moments of fame in its illustrious career spanning 36 years. In the year 1919, it was the first American battleship to launch experimental aircraft at sea, and in 1942 it acted as the first seabourne relay station for the Voice of America. This ship was decommissioned just six years later, in 1948.
These days, the Texas lies at anchor in the Jacinto State Park, in the state of Texas where it is now a historic museum piece and a popular tourist attraction. Many postcards from the days of its former glory are still available from postcard dealers nationwide.
For the purpose of broadcasting to the people in coastal areas of Morocco in North Africa, a 5 kW mediumwave transmitter was installed in the USS Texas and this was tuned to the frequency 601 kHz. It is presumed that some form of test broadcasts were radiated in advance to ensure that the transmitter would function correctly at the time of the coming invasion.
Historic documents tell us that the first broadcast from the Texas was made around 4:30 am on November 8, 1942. At the time, the Texas was stationed in the Mediterranean off the coast of Rabat in Morocco and the channel for this epic broadcast was the same as the mediumwave station ashore in Rabat.
On board the Texas were radio personnel from the Voice of America and the American OWI department. Programming for this first broadcast was in French and English and it consisted of recorded messages and off-air relays from shortwave stations located in the United States and England.
The recorded speeches were broadcast in the French language by President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower. The president's message was delivered by an American diplomat pretending to be the president, though General Eisenhower's message was delivered by the general himself.
The programming on the air from the Texas was presented in both French and English under the title, the "Voice of Freedom" and the broadcast frequency from the mediumwave transmitter was changed a couple of times in an attempt to escape jamming.
In the early afternoon, the battleship Texas was ordered to approach the shore and to fire at targets on the land. The first salvo from the Texas damaged its intended targets on the land, and it also instantly destroyed the mediumwave transmitter, due to the noise from the massive explosions and the jarring and shuddering caused by the recoil from the huge guns.
Thus, the first seabourne relay station, operated on behalf of the Voice of America, was on the air for no more than eight hours. It would seem that no QSLs were ever issued for these broadcasts, and the only people who heard this station were those who were in the area at the time.
20. The Titanic Anniversary - April 15, 1912
These days, almost everybody knows about the sinking of the Titanic, the world's largest ship at the time, with its tragic loss of life. However, there are lots of additional items of interest associated with the story of the Titanic, including the usage of spark gap wireless equipment. It is now 91 years since these events took place.
We go back to the year 1898, the year in which the almost unknown American author Morgan Robertson published a novel under the title, "Futility". It was the story of a huge new British passenger liner with the name "Titan". On its maiden voyage across the Atlantic, the "Titan" hit an iceberg at midnight one night in April way off the coast of Newfoundland with a massive loss of life, 3,000 people. That old novel about the fictitious ship, the "Titan" was almost a prediction of what happened to the "Titanic" just 14 years later.
Actually, there were three ships in the "Olympic" class of large passenger liners and these were the Olympic, the Britannic, and the Titanic. All three of these ships underwent a series of tragedies and strange events.
The Olympic was launched on the same day as the Titanic, October 20, 1910 and it was also described as the largest and safest ship afloat. This ship was involved in several disabling maritime accidents. It was used as a Canadian troop transport during World War 1, and it was scrapped in 1935.
Strangely on November 11, 1929, the Olympic was in the Atlantic above the underwater wreckage of the Titanic when it shook violently for two full minutes. Later information revealed that this violent shaking was caused by a deep underwater earthquake.
The White Star liner, Britannic, was launched in 1914, four years after the twins, Olympic & Titanic. This new ship, the Britannic was also "the largest and safest ship afloat", and it was originally designated with the name, "Gigantic". This ship was designed as a passenger liner but it was quickly converted for use as a hospital ship in the Mediterranean during World War 1.
Two years later, the Britannic was seriously damaged by a huge explosion, either from a floating mine or by a torpedo from a submarine. Just 55 minutes later, she sank off the coast of an island near Greece.
The Titanic story is so well known. On her maiden voyage from England to New York, she struck an iceberg around midnight and sank before daylight.
The emergency message in Morse Code, "CQD & SOS from MGY Titanic", was sent by the wireless operators, Jack Phillips & Harold Bride. These messages were picked up by several other ships in nearby areas of the Atlantic, and also by shore stations in the United States, including station CC at Cape Cod.
However, it was the ship Carpathia that rescued more than 800 Titanic survivors from the frezzing waters, and it sent out a continuous stream of Morse messages from its wireless transmitter PA.
At times, transmitter PA on the Carpathia was not always audible in New York and so other ship transmitters began to relay the messages, including the sister ship Britannic and a United States navy vessel, Salem. In the chaos and cacophony of broadly-tuned Morse Code transmissions, some amateur radio operators began to send out their own spurious messages, all totally false.
The messages in Morse Code from the Carpathia, both direct and by relay from other ships, were intended for interception by only the maritime and newspaper stations in the New York area. However, so great was the interest in all of this startling information, together with the names of rescued passengers, that any one who had a wireless receiver and was familiar with Morse Code, tuned in to keep abreast of these tragac happenings.
During the three days of unfolding events in the Atlantic, multitudes flocked to the locations of the various wireless receivers. Even though these Morse messages were intended as point-to-point transmissions, the very number of listeners at so many different locations almost turned the communication messages into wireless broadcasts.
There were just two people who were employed on all three of these tragic ships, the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Britannic. John Priest was a fireman on all three ships.
Then there was Violet Jessop. She was a stewardess on the Olympic and the Titanic, and a nurse on the Britannic. When she was getting into the lifeboat in her escape from the sinking Titanic, a baby girl was handed to her. Many years later, after her retirement, Violet received a phone call from a stranger. It was from the baby girl, now grown up, whom she had rescued many years earlier from the sinking Titanic.
21. Marconi's Birthday; the story of the "Elettra"
The story of the brilliant wireless inventor, Guglielmo Marconi is very well known. He was born on April 25, 1874 at the family villa near Bologna (bol-OWE-nya) in northern Italy, and just last Friday was the 128 th anniversary of his birth..
Marconi began his first wireless experiments on the top floor of the family home just 20 years later using very primitive home made equipment. During the early part of the following year, he transferred his experiments outdoors and he succeeded in sending wireless signals over a distance of more than a mile with an intervening hill in between.
He moved to England soon afterwards and made many public demonstrations of his equipment. He then set up a factory at Chelmsford to make his wireless equipment.
Soon after the end of World War 1, Marconi bought a luxury steam-powered yacht, the "Rovenska". This ship was built in Scotland in 1904 for Maria Theresa of royal blood in Austria. This ship was never delivered to Austria but instead it was confiscated by the British navy and used as a minesweeper during World War 1.
Marconi had the "Rovenska" converted in England for use as a floating wireless laboratory which he renamed Elettra, the Italian word for "Electricity". In June 1920, the "Elettra" made a shakedown cruise in European waters. At this stage, test broadcasts on shortwave were made under the callsign ICCM using gramaphone records while the ship was in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of Portugal.
In fact, on many notable occasions, radio broadcasts on shortwave were made from the "Elettra", including for example, the following:-
1921 Boxing match from Brownsea England
1923 Test broadcasts to USA & Australia
1930 Broadcast to Sydney Exhibition from Genoa
1931 Round the world voice broadcast under the callsign IBDX
1931 Broadcast to Brazil for dedication of Christ statue 1935 Birthday broadcasts with other ships, the Graf Zeppelin and Admiral Byrd in Antarctica
The grand Marchessa Marconi died on July 20, 1937, and soon afterwards his ship the "Elettra" was sold. In 1943, while at port in Trieste, it was requistioned by the German armed forces, and it was torpedoed and sunk the next year by a British submarine off the Yugoslavian coast of Dalmatia.
However, this historic old radio vessel was raised from its rest at the bottom of the ocean in 1962 and donated to the Italian government. Unfortunately, through lack of interest and lack of funds, the "Rovenska Elettra" fell into disrepair and it was eventually scrapped.
And that is the end of the story of Marconi's birthday boat, the "Elettra". I wonder if there is somewhere out there in the world an old QSL card issued from the "Elettra" and signed by Marconi himself?
In a colorful shipboard ceremony, President George W. Bush of the United States made a historic speech from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), eighty miles out to sea off the California coast.
This speech, presented on May 2nd 2003, is now the second occasion for a sitting president to address the nation from a ship at sea.
Back in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson addressed the United States from the navy vessel, George Washington, out in the Atlantic in a July 4 ceremony. The 1919 broadcast was carried on shortwave back to the States, and last week's ceremony was carried by satellite for nationwide TV and radio coverage.
REFERENCES - 19. Voice of America Relay Station on board the Battleship Texas
Year Date Ship Information
1942 Nov 8 Texas 1st broadcast 4:30 am
Transmitter destroyed early afternoon------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Unit Inforamtion & Reference
BB35, 2nd battleship with the name Texas; WWW,
Texas Test broadcasts in advance; RMI221
Algiers 3 transmitters, taken over for OWI VOA AFRS programs; RA71
1:00 am SW broadcasts begin Eisenhower & Roosevelt; WWW
|20. Wireless Broadcasting & the Titanic|
Ship Year Date Event
Titan 1898 Apr Novel "Futility" portrays "Titan" hitting iceberg and sinkingOlympic 1910 Oct 20 Launched same day as Titanic; WWW
1912 Apr 14 Took wireless calls from Titanic 1500 died; WBE19 235
1929 Nov 11 Above Titanic earthquake shook 2 minutes; WWW
1935 Mar Scrapped in England; WWW
Titanic 1910 Oct 20 Launched same day as Olympic; WWW
Britannic 1914 Feb 26 White Star liner launched, originally to be Gigantic; WWW
Carpathia 1902 Aug 6 Launched; WWW
Ship Information & Reference
Titan American author Morgan Robertson 1861-1915 1898 novel Futility;WWW
British liner same size, same speed, maiden voyage; WWW
Hit iceberg April south Newfoundland midnight, 3,000 died; WWWOlympic
Largest and safest ship afloat; WWW
White Star liner launched Feb 26 1914, originally to be Gigantic; WWW
Largest ship afloat 882ft long 46, 328 tons; WBE19 235
558 ft long 64 ft wide 13,600 tons launched Aug 6, 1902; WWW
Cruiser acted as relay station for Carpathia when communication with land stations lost; WWW
Took baby into lifeboat from Titanic; WWW
|21. Marconi and the "Elettra"|
Year Date Event
1874 Apr 25 Guglielmo Marconi born in Bologna Italy
1894 Mid Began primitive wireless experiments in Bologna home
1904 Ship Rovenska launched, built for Maria Theresa of Austria
WW1 Rovenska used by England as minesweeper
1919 Purchased by Marconi, re-outfitted as radio ship, renamed "Elettra"
1920 Jul Test broadcasts from "Elettra" under callsign ICCM
1937 Marconi death, ship "Elettra" sold
1943 Requisitioned by German forces at Trieste
1944 Torpedoed by British submarine and sunk off coast of Dalmatia
1962 Raised, given to Italian Government, fell into disrepair, scrapped
Name year Date Event
Marconi 1874 Apr 25 Guglielmo born Bologna Italy 2nd son; 13WBE 156
Father wealthy Italian, mother Irish; 13WBE 156
Fluent in English & Italian; AWATR 79.5 4-74 131
1894 Mid Began primitive wireless experiments; 13WBE 156
1935 Apr 25 61st broadcasts ships Byrd Graf Zeppelin; Dunlp 105
1937 Jul 20 Death; 13WBE 156Rovenska 1904 67 m. 700 ton steam yacht built Leith Scotland; 3W Built for Maria Theresa Austria; WWW
WW1 UK minesweeper during WW1; WWW
Elettra 1919 Purchased by Marconi, renamed "Elettra"; WWW
Re-outfitted in England as floating laboratory; WWW
1920 Jul Test broadcasts as ICCM SW & LW; WWW
1930 Mar 25 Lights switched Sydney Exhibition; EA 79.5 8-74 51
1930 Comparatively low powered transmitter; LI 21-2-31 44
1931 Callsign IBDX; RN 8-31, RD 1931 124
1937 After Marconi's death sold Italian government; WWW
1943 Trieste, requisitioned by Germans; WWW
1944 Captured by German forces, later sank; Dunlap 149
1944 Torpedoed British submarine sunk off Dalmatia; 3W
1962 Raised, given Italian Gov, into disrepair, scrapped;
Elettra 1920 Jun 15 Folk music records Bay of Biscay to Portugal SW; W
- Historic Radio Broadcast from the Statue of LibertyThe August issue of the American magazine, "Short Wave Craft", in the year 1935 tells a very interesting story about a unique radio broadcast from the Statue of Liberty. It happened this way.
The French passenger liner Normandie began its maiden voyage from Le Havre in France just 68 years ago, on May 29, 1935. This luxury liner was the largest and most luxurious passenger ship afloat at the time, at more than 1,000 ft long. The "Normandie" crossed the Atlantic on this its maiden voyage arriving in New York just five days later.
At the time of its launching two and a half years earlier, on October 29, 1932, Radio Paris made a shortwave broadcast to the world of the ceremony. While out in the Atlantic on its maiden voyage, the "Normandie" made several music broadcasts en route as was the custom of the day. And on its arrival in New York on June 3, 1935, there was another spectacular and historic radio broadcast.
A welcoming program for the arrival of this new ship was compiled in Washinton DC and this special broadcast was fed by telephone line to the Statue of Liberty on Bedloe's Island in New York harbor. On the torch in the upheld hand of the Statue of Liberty was a special radio transmitter that modulated a beam of light.
This pulsating modulated light beam from the Statue of Liberty was picked up on a special receiver on the "Normandie" some five miles distant. The signal from this unique location was de-modulated on the moving [assenger liner and fed into the public address system as well as into a 50 watt shortwave transmitter. This small and specially installed shortwave transmitter relayed this broadcast back to New York where it was received by mediumwave station WEAF and fed into the NBC Red Network for a nationwide relay.
In addition, the General Electric shortwave station at Schenectady, station W2XAD, also carried the same programming which was picked up in France and re-broadcast throughout their country on their mediumwave and longwave networks. The French shortwave service also broadcast this unique program as a relay to the world.
That spectacular radio broadcast was part of the elaborate welcome to the United States for the magnificent passenger liner "Normanadie" at the time of its arrival at the end of its maiden voyage across the Atlantic. Interestingly, a radio broadcast was made at the birth of this ship, another at the time of its travels, and again at the time of its demise; and we will tell you more about that in our program in a couple of week's time.
- The Story of a Burning Passenger Liner
On two previous occasions, we have presented stories about the luxuriant French passenger liner, the Normandie. On this occasion, we return to the story of the "Normandie", and this time, the story of its demise.Construction work on the "Normandie" began at St Nazairre on coastal France in the year 1929. It was intended that this huge ship, more than 1,000 feet long, would be the world's biggest and the world's best. In fact, the electric lighting throughout the entire ship was so prolific that it was called the "Ship of Lights".
On October 29, 1932, the "Normandie" was launched amidst a fanfare of glamour and celebrity. The entire ceremony was broadcast to the world on international shortwave radio by Radio Paris, as it was known in those days.
Two and a half years later, the ship commenced its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to New York. On its arrival in New York, the event was heralded by another unique and magnificent radio broadcast that again spanned the world.
Programming from a radio studio in Washington DC was transmitted on light waves from the upraised hand of the Statue of Liberty and relayed on shortwave from American stations and re-relayed from Paris in France. After all, was it not the French who donated this majestic symbol of liberty and friendship to the Americans back in the year 1884?
Four years later again, after many voyages across the Atlantic, the "Normandie" was caught by the vicissitudes of war. In September 1939, the luxurious "Normandie" was detained in New York harbour by port authorities.
Two years later again, in May 1941, the Coast Guard seized the "Normandie" and at the end of the same year, the ship was seized again, this time by the American navy. They laid plans to convert this fabulous and now outdated passenger liner into a utilitarian troop carrier with a new name, the USS "Lafayette".
During the hurried work of conversion on the ship, a fire broke out. So much water was poured onto the burning ship that it capsized and sank right at its berth in New York Harbor. In fact, it was so cold on this February day in 1942 that the entire body of water in the ship just simply froze into one great ice block.
For the remainder of the war, the ship lay on its side, a slowly rusting hulk that betrayed no evidence of its former glory. In 1945, work began to break up the ship and sell it off for scrap. Demolition was completed on October 6, 1967.
At the time of the fire back on February 9, 1942, the ship again made the headlines, not only in the newspapers, but also on radio. It was the centre of attention for a dramatic nationwide broadcast on network radio. The noted commentator, Graham McNamee, made a live dockside broadcast about the progress of the fire and the gradual capsizing of the ship and this was heard nationwide over the NBC radio network.
Thus it was, that a dockside broadcast was made from the "Normandie" at its launching in 1932. A spectacular broadcast was made as the ship entered New York Harbor three years later. Under the callsign FNSK, the "Normandie" made many broadcasts while traversing the Atlantic, and at the time of its demise as the USS "Lafayette", another dockside broadcast was heard far and wide.
- Shortwave Broadcast from a Ship in Florida
Some months back, the Herald Tribune in southwest Florida reported on an important radio event that occured more than seventy years ago. This is the story.The well known radio promoter, Powell Crosley, had a palatial home built for himself at Venice in Florida. He loved fishing and he was the president of the Sarasota Angler’s Club.
In order to promote their annual fishing tournament, Powell planned an elaborate publicity event. Hwe had a 30 foot fishing boat constructed to serve as a floating radio station and he named his new boat, “Little WLW”,in honor of his huge mediumwave station, WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The electronic equipment on this boat included a shortwave transmitter with a 30 foot high antenna. The date for this remote broadcast was set for June 10, 1930, at 8:30 pm. This was the time of the full moon and the change of the tide.
More than thirty fishing boats were entered into the fishing contest to see who could land the largest tarpon fish. Just five minutes before the beginning of the live broadcast, a fisherman in a nearby boat caught a very large tarpon, weighing 85 pounds. This fortunate fisherman was taken on board the radio boat, Little WLW, and he was interviewed in the live broadcast that was heard throughout the nation.
The radio relay was broadcast live over the shortwave transmitter on board the “Little WLW” and it was picked up by a receiver at the bathing pavilion in Venice. The antenna was attached to the flag pole.
From Venice, the live program was carried by telephone lines for more than 1,300 miles to Cincinnati where it was re-broadcast by the big station, WLW. Other stations thoughout the nation also broadcast this program on relay from WLW. At the time, this was by far the longest landline usage ever used for a remote broadcast.
Extra Topic - Collecting Radio Postcards - The World
On a previous occasion here in Wavescan, we presented a special feature on collecting postcards that depict American wireless and radio stations. On this occasion, let's broaden our view and look at the radio postcards that are available in other countries.
There is another large album in the AWR Collection that contains postcards that depict radio stations in many countries around the world. Though smaller than the two American albums, this world view album contains four hundred radio postcards from seventy different countries.
Some of these cards were procured from postcard dealers in the United States, and some were procured from postcard dealers in other countries, such as England, Canada and New Zealand. In addition, many of the cards, particularly those from Germany, were sent to us by AWR listeners.
Some of these radio cards contain very interesting stories. For example, one card was bought from a dealer in London and it shows the wireless station VWP at Peshawar in what was the old British India. There was a British explorer in Central Asia who soon after the turn of the century tuned in to this station in order to get time signals so that he could determine his exact location.
Some of the modern cards were obtained during travels to different countries and some of the older ones were procured from postcard dealers. Among these older ones are cards that show the old wireless stations in Cuba and the Azores Islands. The old Marconi stations in England are presented, as also is the original station located on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The older Japanese radio cards are quie ornate as also are some of those from Latin America.
A section at the end of this album presents nearly one hundred postcards of ships that took part in radio broadcasting in earlier years. Included in this section is the Kanimbla in Australia, the Great White Fleet in the United States, and several majestic tourist ships from England, France, Germany and Italy.
All of these cards likewise portray interesting snippets of radio history in picture form from the earliest years up to the present time in a way that can not be presented by words alone.
|REFERENCES - 23. Historic Radio Broadcast from the Statue of Liberty|
|Year Date Location Event Broadcast Reference
1929 Feb St Nazaire Construction began
1932 Oct 29 France Launching ceremony
1935 May 29 Le Havre Began maiden voyage WWW
1935 Jun 3 New York Arrival maiden voyage Statue Liberty SWC 8-35 199
1939 Sep New York Detained WWW
1941 May New York Seized by Coast Guard WWW
1942 Feb 9 New York Fire as USS Lafayette NBC Graham McNamee WWW
1967 Oct 6 New York Demolition completed
|REFERENCES - 24. The Story of a Burning Passenger Liner|
|Year Date Event & Reference
1929 Feb Construction began St Nazaire largest ever; WWW
1932 Oct 29 Launched, built in France 1029 ft long 118 ft wide 83,423 tons; WWW
1935 May 29 Began maiden voyage to NY; WWW
1935 Jun 3 Arrival in New York on maiden voyage; SWC 8-35 199
1939 Sep Detained in New York; WWW
1941 May Seized by Coast Guard in New York; WWW
1941 Dec 7 Seized by U.S navy renamed USS Lafayette; WWW
1942 Feb 9 Fire during conversion troop carrier USS Lafayette capsized water froze;
1945 Oct 3 Broken up, began Oct 3, 1946 took one year; WWW
1967 Oct 6 Demolition completedReferences - From WS 343 & 438 & 440
Year Date Location Event Broadcast Reference
- The Story of another Radio Ship - the VOA Phoenix
According to Greek mythology, the "phoenix" was a large and beautiful bird which could die in a fire and then arise as a new and young creature. Very little else is known about this mysterious bird.Almost as mysterious is the story of the radio ship Phoenix which was fitted out with a bevy of electronic equipment to serve as a mobile broadcasting station. There are just two main sources for the brief story about the "Phoenix"; one is a university dissertation on the history of the Voice of America and the other is a brief reference in a book on the history of radio broadcasting from ships. All other references to VOA "Phoenix" seem to stem from these two earlier sources.
It is known that the "Phoenix" was not a war vessel, but rather a Greek merchant ship that was converted in the United States for use as a radio broadcasting station. Gerry Bishop, in his memorable compilation of radio ships with the title, "Offshore Radio", refers to this Greek merchant vessel as the "Doddridge", and then he briefly refers to the later ship, the "Courier". It is suggested that in reality, the "Doddridge" became VOA "Phoenix", not VOA "Courier".
We could ask the question, What was the radio equipment on the "Phoenix"? The only information we can find is that it contained just one transmitter, rated at 85 kW. If this information is correct, then it was a mighty big transmitter for a small ship. It would seem that the only broadcast transmitter on the "Phoenix" was a mediumwave unit rather than shortwave.
The original purpose for the radio ship "Phoenix" was to act quickly as a temporary radio broadcasting station in the Mediterranean until a permanent station could be built at a satisfactory location. However, by the time the "Phoenix" was ready to fulfil its intended role in the Mediterranean, the European Conflict was almost over, and so the ship was then diverted for use in the Pacific.
The official date for the end of the European Conflict is given as May 8, 1945, so it would appear then that the "Phoenix" left the United States for its journey across the Pacific around March or April, 1945.
Actually, it is stated that the United States navy delayed giving approval for the ship to move into the Pacific and by the time it did arrive in Far Eastern waters, the war in the Pacific was over. However, it is understood that the "Phoenix" did go on the air with test broadcasts off the coast of California and also in Far Eastern waters. The fact that there are no known DX reports of these test broadcasts would seem to confirm that these were made on mediumwave rather than on shortwave.
What happened to the "Phoenix" after the war? and what happened to all of its electronic equipment? No one seems to know. What is known is that it was a slow ship and that it did go on the air with test broadcasts in the Pacific around mid 1945, though it is officially stated that the ship was never used for regular radio broadcasting. In addition, there are no known loggings of this ship broadcasting station in any radio magazines at the time.
It would appear then that the radio broadcasting ship."Phoenix" was a temporary and very short lived project that never fully fulfilled its intended purposes.
- Underwater Broadcast from a Sunken Ship
It was in August 1919, that the 200 ft long freighter, David W. Mills went aground at Ford Shoals, five miles west of Oswego Harbor in Lake Ontario. This event occurred during a fog caused by forest fires in Canada. Efforts to free the ship failed and it broke apart and sank during a violent storm a few days later.In 1993, TV station WCNY, the PBS Public Broadcasting Station in Syracuse, New York State, ran a 30 minute documentary regarding this ship, and this broadcast honored the efforts of local tourist personnel to establish an underwater marine preserve for use by recreational divers. This dive site is located a few miles off shore in about 20 ft of water.
Eighty one years after the ship sank, and seven years after the earlier TV documentary, another TV broadcast was made from the same location, this time live from the site of the wreck, under the water. This live coverage marked the official opening of the underwater site as a recreational dive site.
In advance of the TV program, several dives were made at the site to film footage of the wreck itself which were later spliced into the live underwater program. Above the wreck was another boat, the Russell B, which was fitted out for use as a live TV studio. This surface boat was owned by the Lighthouse Marine of Port Ontario.
On the date of the broadcast, May 3, 2000, several TV personnel donned their diving suits and went down to the wreck of the "David W. Mills". Here they presented a live commentary as part of the special 20-minute TV feature. The complete program was broadcast live by station WIXT9 in Syracuse, and it was relayed also to Rochester. Segments of this unique program were seen nationwide on ABC television all across the States.
It is now just 84 years this month since the good ship "David W. Mills" sank, an event that was memorialized in two different series of TV programs that went on the air in the years 1993 and 2000.
- On the Air in Tokyo Bay
Tokyo Bay is a huge and wide bay that is landlocked and protected by several islands, large and small. Surrounding the bay are many well known cities such as Chiba, Kawasaki and Yokohama, and of course, Tokyo itself.Originally Tokyo was known as Edo, the name of a ruling family in the Middle Ages. The name of the city was changed in 1868 to "Tokyo", a name that means "Eastern Capital".
At the end of events associated with the Pacific War, His Majesty Hirohito, the Showa Emperor of Japan, announced on radio on August 15 1945 that the war was over. The Peace Ceremony was signed on board the navy vessel "Missouri" nearly three weeks later, on September 2. The role that radio played in these events forms an important and interesting chapter in international radio history.
At the time of the signing ceremony on the aircraft carrier "Missouri", there were 260 Allied navy vessels at anchor in Tokyo Bay. The "Missouri" itself lay at anchor eighteen miles out in the bay and six miles off the coast of Yokohama. An armada of 1900 planes, airforce and navy, flew overhead.
The USS Missouri was launched in January 1944, the fourth navy vessel to bear this title. It was noted on the air in that era by shortwave listeners in the United States, New Zealand and Australia with the callsign, NCBL.
Another navy vessel, the USS Iowa, also played a major role in the relay of radio signals at the time of the historic events in Tokyo Bay. This ship, the "Iowa", was launched in August 1942, and it was often noted on air under the callsign KU1M calling KU5Q on the island of Guam.
At the time of the signing ceremony, many radio circuits were activated to ensure reliable worldwide coverage. The originating point was the main ship transmitters, NCBL, on the "Missouri". Nearby was the "Iowa" which acted as the network control for these broadcasts with its shortwave transmitters under the callsign KU1M.
The four shortwave transmitters of Radio Tokyo at Nazaki in Japan carried a relay of the broadcast for long distance coverage, which was picked up in Guam, the Philippines and Hawaii for onward relay to the receiving stations in California and elsewhere. And from there of course, the relay became a worldwide radio broadcast phenomenon.
It was on September 2, 1945, at 9:02 am local time that General Douglas MacArthur stepped before the microphone that was set up on the landing deck of the "Missouri" for this historic worldwide broadcast. His wife Jean, was still in the Philippines at the time, living in the German embassy on the edge of Manila. She heard her husband's radio broadcast on a shortwave radio.
There is only one known QSL from these ships in this era. A QSL letter was received by Ray Simpson, the shortwave columnist for the Australian magazine, "Radio & Hobbies". This letter, verifying the reception of KU1M on the "Iowa" in March 1947, was received from the radio section at navy headquarters in California. At the time, the "Iowa" was on navy manoeuvres off the coast of California and it was noted on 9670 kHz.
- Two Ships & a Hotel
Back in the year 1993, a special publication in the form of a regular radio magazine highlighted in its 74 pages the early radio history in Australia. On page 8 of this magazine, "The Dawn of Australia's Radio Broadcasting", the story is told of a small radio transmitter that was installed on two different ships in Australian waters.In 1919, the AWA company asked their Technical Director, William Bostock, to construct a special transmitter for use in the planned tests and braodcasts from two ships in Australian waters. A single Marconi Q-valve from England was used and when it was fed with 240 volts, it glowed a bright cherry red.
This small transmitter was installed in the coastal steamer, Riverina and tested for three weeks during the month of April, 1919. Later that same year, additional similar tests were carried out aboard another ship, the Bombala. These tests broadcast were heard quite widely and were decribed as very successful.
Another occasion of early radio broadcasting is presented in the same article and this one took place three years earlier, in the year 1916. Another AWA engineer, Harry de Dassel, was on board the Royal Mail Steamer, "Moana", one day's journey out from San Francisco.
On the ship's radio receiver, he picked up an experimental broadcast from the Hotel Fairmount on the water's edge in the northern areas of San Francisco. This broadcast featured advertising for the hotel and several musical recordings. The callsign of this amateur station at the time was 6XG, and five years later this station was granted a broadcasting licence with the callsign KDN.
A quarter of a century later, the Fairmount Hotel again featured in radio broadcasting, this time on an international scale. The American government bought the Fairmount Hotel for the purpose of establishing studios and offices for the new shortwave station KGEI. This station, together with its sister transmitter, KGEX, was heard far and wide during the era of the Pacific War.
On this occasion, we compile our Historic DX Report as though it were written just 90 years ago, in the year 1913. By this time, there are numerous wireless transmitters on the air all throughout the world, but every communication is still made in Morse Code, or its equivalent in different languages. Let’s see what is being heard 90 years ago as we bring you this Historic DX Report.
SCOTLAND: As a result of the tragic sinking of the Titanic in April last year, a Scottish ship, the “Scotia”, left Dundee on March 8 to patrol the waters of the North Atlantic and to report by wireless the sighting of icebergs in the main shipping lanes. The “Scotia” is equipped with wireless apparatus made by the Marconi company in England and it has been allotted the international callsign MJN.
ATLANTIC OCEAN: On October 11, the Italian liner “Volturno” caught fire in mid-Atlantic and in response to an urgent appeal using the new SOS signal, ten ships came to the aid of the stricken vessel. A total of 521 people were rescued and transferred from the burning ship to the rescue vessels.
- The Ship that never Sailed!
Our opening feature in this edition of Wavescan was the long and interesting information about radio broadcasting on the islands of Palau. It is worthy of note that preliminary plans for the shortwave station KHBN called for a broadcast facility to be installed in a ship.The original intent was to operate an international radio broadcasting station on board a ship and to station it at suitable locations for the broadcast of Christian Gospel programming. After giving serious consideration to this matter, High Adventure announced in 1989 that they were abandoning the concept of a ship radio station as too expensive, too expensive to construct and too expensive to operate.
Following this decision, investigations were made regarding the possibility of establishing their projected station at a suitable location somewhere in Asia; for example, in the Philippines, or Singapore, or Guam. Initially, approval was granted for them to erect their station at Piti, in the center of the west coast of Guam.
However, environmental concerns came up, and they abandoned Guam in favor of Palau. Their station is located on the western edge of the main island of Palau on a low hill about 500 feet from the waterfront.
Thus the High Adventure radio ship never sailed, and in fact, it never got any further than the initial planning stages.
|REFERENCES - 26. The Story of another Radio Ship - the VOA Phoenix|
|Ship Information & Reference
Doddridge Converted Greek merchant ship Project Vagabond A; VOA Piersein 170
Converted Greek merchant ship Project Vagabond A; USIA World 10-89 8
Converted Greek merchant ship; RA16 & 216 & 373
Converted Greek merchant ship; RMI60 & VOA Courier document
3805 ton Greek merchant Doddridge converted; Offshore Radio 8
Doddridge became Coastal Messenger & Courier (?); RA373
Phoenix Converted Greek merchant ship; VOA Piersein 170
Intended for quick fill-in usage until landbased station built; Piersein 170
Project Vagabond A 1951 developed from Phoenix; USIA World 10-89 8
Intended for Mediterranean, diverted to Pacific; VOA Persein 170
Intended for Mediterranean, diverted to Pacific; USIA World 10-89 8
Converted Greek ship, diverted from Mediterranean; BDXC 7-96 23
SS Phoenix slow ship, departure delayed by navy; VOA 97.001GJ 17-14
85 kW transmitter (maybe 8.5 kW ?); Bishop
By the time the ship arrived, the war was over; VOA Piersein 170
By the time the ship arrived, the war was over; USIA World 10-89 8
Test broadcasts off coast of USA & in Far East 1945; RMI60 2, RMI221 2
|REFERENCES - 27. Underwater Broadcast from a Sunken Ship|
Ship Year Date Information
David W. Mills 1919 Aug Freighter David W Mills sank at Ford Shoal
1993 WCNY PBS documentary on the ship
2000 May 3 TV feature from Cultural Preserve Dive Site, NYS
ABC WIXT9 program on air Syracuse & RochesterRussell B Surface boat studio for relay of special TV program
2000 May 3 TV feature from Cultural Preserve Dive Site, NYS
|REFERENCES - 28. On the Air in Tokyo Bay|
Ship Information & Reference
Iowa KU1M called by KU5Q Guam on 13390 kHz; R&H 79.13 9-45 36
QSL: Iowa KU1M 9670 letter QSL Mar 1947 Ray simpson; R&H 79.13 3-48 56
Books: The Years of MacArhur by James Clayton
31. The Boat under the Bridge
A while back, we presented a story here in Wavescan about the New Zealand passenger vessel, "Awatea" (AH-wa-TEE-a), that made many voyages across the Tasman between Australia and New Zealand. This ship was also on the air at times with radio broadcast programming for which QSL cards were issued and these days these cards are quite rare.
Down in the island of Tasmania, Rex Arnott came across the radio script containing our feature item on the "Awatea" on the Pacific Heritage website in New Zealand. Rex tells an interesting story of earlier years, back in 1939.
At the time, a high profile radio comedian on the air in Australia was the New Zealander Jack Davey who was heard in the evenings on nationwide relay with quiz programs and other similar audience participation programs. During the day he was on the air over the mediumwave station 2GB in Sydney.
It so happened that Jack Davey's father, Captain A. H. Davey, was the Master of the passenger vessel "Awatea". Now, it was the pride of the passenger liner "Awatea" to pass under the Sydney Harbor Bridge at exactly 8:00 am on arrival day and then tie up at the wharf at Darling Harbour half an hour later.
Rex Arnott states that he remembers on many occasions listening to 2GB on arrival day and he would hear Jack Davey in 2GB talking on the radio with his father on the "Awatea". In true comedian fashion, if per chance his father was ever late, this provoked a season of verbal sparring over the air.
The earliest known usage of the international callsign VLC can be traced back to the year 1913 at the time when the coastal radio station in the Chatham (CHAT-am) Islands was opened for maritime traffic and for contact with New Zealand. There was a strong light on one of the antenna towers and this was used as a beacon for ships traversing the coastal areas.
In 1929, the callsign of Chatham Radio was changed from VLC to ZLC, and the next usage of this re-cycled callsign was at the lighthouse on Tasman Island, out from Hobart off the coast of Tasmania.
It was in 1941 that a 50 kW RCA transmitter was installed at Shepparton in Victoria for use by "Australia Calling" in its international shortwave service and it was allotted the callsign, VLC. These days though, the Radio Australia usage of the call VLC is not for a transmitter but rather it is the identification for a line feed from the studios in Melbourne to a 100 kW transmitter at the same radio base in Shepparton.
It is very interesting to note that the Australian callsign, VLC, was incorporated into an American callsign for a radio broadcasting station built into a renovated old ship. The American vessel, "Apache" was taken to Sydney Harbour in 1944 where two transmitters were installed; one for mediumwave & one for shortwave, and both at 10 kW. This ship made its first broadcasts off the coast of the Philippine Islands on October 20, 1944, under the callsign, WVLC.
There is a reason for this unusual, as it were, double callsign. The American transmitter that was installed at Shepparton was made available to Australia on a "lendlease " basis with the understanding that this unit, VLC, would relay "Voice of America" programming to the Philippines for one and a half hours each day. Thus it was that "Australia Calling" acted as a part time relay station for the "Voice of America", specifically with the program, "The Philippine Hour".
When the radio ship, "Apache" was off the coast of the Philippines, the relay of this "Voice of America" radio program was transferred from VLC in Australia to the "Apache" under the American callsign, WVLC.
However, a few months later another radio ship from America, the "Spindle Eye", arrived in the western Pacific and the WVLC callsign was transferred from the "Apache" to the "Spindle Eye". A few months later again, the "Spindle Eye" returned to the California coast and the usage of the WVLC callsign was dropped.
These days, there are many known QSL cards identifying the VLC callsign as used by Radio Australia, and at least a dozen QSL letters confirming reception of WVLC on the "Apache" are known to exist However, there are no other known QSLs for the other usages of the recycled callsign VLC.
Just as a matter of interest, the Australian callsign VLC does not seem to be in use these days, and the American callsign WVLC is held by a 25 kW FM station on 99.9 MHz in Louisville Kentucky.
33. Early Radio Broadcasting in Denmark
Just a little over a week ago, the shortwave service from Radio Denmark signed off for the last time. Their era of international broadcasting began with experimental transmitters at two different locations in Denmark, it spanned three quarters of a century, and then ended with the use of transmitters at two different locations in a neighbouring Scandinavian country.
Our opening feature in Wavescan this week, and next week also, will honor the memory of Radio Denmark, and on this occasion, we look at the very early story of local radio broadcasting in Denmark.
Actually, the first wireless stations in Denmark, fixed and mobile, were installed in several regional areas throughout their country in the era just before the commencement of World War 1. The fixed spark wireless stations were installed in Copenhagen and in half a dozen country locations and were on the air for maritime and national communication. The mobile stations were installed on ships and were established for maritime communication and to act as navigational beacons for nearby shipping.
The original callsigns for these early wireless stations were single or double letters, usually an easy to understand abbreviation for the location of the station. When callsigns were regularized, these were allocated in a three letter sequence beginning with OXA.
The first experimental radio broadcast in Denmark took place on October 29, 1922, more than 80 years ago. On this special occasion, the program was broadcast from a communication transmitter on board a ship in the harbor at Copenhagen and the receiver was installed in a lecture hall in downtown Copenhagen.
From this single and simple event has grown the entire broadcasting industry in Denmark which is on the air now from more than 100 local transmitters. These government and commercial stations are on the air almost entirely in the FM band. However, there are still two units on the air in the standard mediumwave & longwave bands and these can be heard on 243 kHz with 300 kW and on 1062 kHz with 250 kW for nationwide coverage and spill-over coverage into neighbouring countries.
During the following year after the inaugural single event transmission, two radio transmitters took to the air with radio programming. One was a radio station operated by a local radio club and the other was a military transmitter that was diverted part time for broadcast usage. As was stated at the time, these two stations provided listeners with public information and music concerts.
Two years later again, the Danish government took over all radio broadcasting throughout their country and this was organised as the Danish state broadcasting service. The inaugural date was April 1, 1925. When callsigns were regularized, the identification for the main station in Copenhagen was OXQ, with a similar range of callsigns for the network relay stations in country areas.
In the early era, these stations were on the air in the lower end of the mediumwave band and also in what has become the European longwave band. During the war, radio programming was under the Ministry of Education and the technical facilities were under the control of the Department of Public Works.
As far as QSL cards are concerned in the early years, the radio station in Denmark was quite reliable in responding to reception reports from listeners. Even though the power output of their stations was quite low, they were heard at times at great distances throughout Europe and even in North America. These days, these old QSL cards are valued collector's items.
That was Part 1 in our two part series honoring the long history of radio broadcasting in Denmark and in our program next week you will hear the story of shortwave.
FIRST TRANS TASMAN CONTACT
A few weeks back, one of the internet websites in New Zealand (https://www.morsecode.gen.nz) contained an interesting item regarding the first wireless contact across the Tasman Sea between New Zealand & Australia. This item stated that the Morse Code contact began on a ship in New Zealand waters and was picked up by a ship at sea and then relayed on to another ship in Australian waters. The date was given as the year 1903.
The First Trans-Tasman Wireless Message
"The first wireless message sent from New Zealand to an overseas country was transmitted in February 1908. It was dispatched on behalf of the then Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward, from H.M.S. Pioneer in Wellington to the Hon. Alfred Deakin on the H.M.S. Psyche at Port Jackson. The battleship H.M.S. Powerful acted as a repeater station from its position at sea 12 or 14 hours steaming distance from Sydney. Though the message was sent five years after the establishment of stations for the reception and transmission of wireless messages was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1903, another three years went by before New Zealand's first wireless station was built at Wellington in 1911. It operated from the tower in the G.P.O. and had a normal range of 600 miles. Two years later stations were opened at Awanui, North Auckland, at Awarua, Southland, and at the Chatham Islands. They were Government stations and began a continuous listening service for ships at sea and distress calls. All communications were in Morse code." Extract from the "N.Z. Truth", March 29, 1960, reprinted in NZART Break-In, March 1976.
(The statement on the location of VLW (later ZLW) is possibly incorrect - I am told that Wellington Radio remained on the same site at Tinikori Hill throughout its life.)
Australian Radio Anniversary - VLG Lyndhurst
Another nostalgic callsign during the Lyndhurst radio era in Australia was VLG, a callsign that was in use by both the ABC Home Service on shortwave as well as by Radio Australia in its external services to Asia & the Pacific. [...]
The broadcast callsign VLG was in use in the era just after World War 1 by two coastal steamers in New Zealand, the "Maunganui" (MAUN-ga-NOO-ee) and the "Mangaia" (man-GUY-a), and it was in use as a broadcast service from Lyndhurst for a period of 47 years. [...]
Year Date Call kW kHz Information Reference
1919 VLG Callsign for NZ ship, Maunganui NZ YBWT&T 1921
1920s VLG Callsign for NZ ship Mangaia NZ YBWT&T 1921