"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.
Wavescan, Aug. 31, 2008
Radio Broadcasting in KalimantanRadio Broadcasting in Kalimantan
On previous occasions here in our DX program, "Wavescan," we have presented the story of radio broadcasting in five different areas on the island of Borneo; Sabah, Labuan and Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo; independent Brunei; and Balikpapan in Indonesian Kalimantan. On this occasion here in "Wavescan" we conclude the story of radio broadcasting in all of the varied areas of Borneo with this feature on the other areas of Indonesian Kalimantan.
Back in the very early 1920s, the Dutch Petroleum Company established a spark wireless station at Tarakan, which is a small but important island located just off the east coast of Borneo, right towards the northern border with Sabah. This spark wireless station was licensed under the Dutch East Indies callsign PKG. It is presumed that station PKG was also used by the Japanese during their 2-1/2 years of occupation of oil-rich Tarakan Island back in the 1940s.
In the era just prior to the commencement of WW II, at least one radio broadcasting station was established in Kalimantan. This was: 1936, YDV2, Banjarmasin, 3330 kHz, owned by Eureka Co.
The first radio broadcasting station in Kalimantan, outside Balikpapan, after the end of WW II was station YCN, which in reality was transferred from Balikpapan and re-established in Pontianak on the central west coast of Borneo. This station was activated at its new location on the other side of the island in September 1946. Interestingly, this station identified on air with its two locations, announcing as Radio Balikpapan, Pontianak. At its new location on the west coast, it radiated broadcast programming with the usage of three shortwave transmitters rated at 40 watts, 125 watts and 250 watts.
Shortly afterwards, the identification announcement for station YCN was changed from Radio Balikpapan Pontianak to Radio Indonesia Pontianak, even though the Dutch did not relinquish their claims to the Dutch East Indies for another couple of years.
Under the Indonesian authorities, the callsign of the Pontianak station was changed from YCN to YDW, and only one transmitter, the 250 watt unit, was still on the air. Another shortwave station was established at this stage, YDO with 2300 watts on 3380 kHz at Banjarmasin at the bottom of the island. Shortly afterwards, an additional shortwave station was installed at Samarinda a little north of Balikpapan, YDY with 150 watts on 3590 kHz.
Interestingly, the World Radio TV Handbook does not list any mediumwave stations in Indonesia until the 1973 edition. However, during our first visit to Indonesia in 1968, there was a move on in Indonesia to transfer from the tropical shortwave bands into the mediumwave band, and several stations were noted in Jakarta on mediumwave at that time.
During the intervening years, a multitude of radio stations have been established in Kalimantan, the Indonesian section of the island of Borneo, and these commercial and government stations have operated in the mediumwave, shortwave and FM bands. Currently, the World Radio TV Handbook lists a total of 46 radio stations in Kalimantan, though it is probable that the actual tally is much higher. The WRTVHB list shows: mediumwave, 32; FM, 12, shortwave, 2. The two remaining shortwave stations still on the air in Kalimantan Borneo are: RRI Palangkaraya, 10 kw., 3325 kHz; RRI Pontianak, 10 kw., 3976 kHz.
It is probable that a few QSLs have been issued from these areas in Kalimantan Borneo over the years, but we do not hold any in our collection. Maybe a few Kalimantan QSLs are held by international radio monitors living in Australia and New Zealand.
American Radio Stations in Australia - Gnangara in Western Australia
On previous occasions here in our DX program, "Wavescan," we have presented the story of four different American radio stations located in Australia: General MacArthur's shortwave station installed on a train and a fixed station located at Hemmant in Queensland, the RCA lendlease transmitter at Shepparton in Victoria, and the AFRS usage of the ABC mediumwave station 4QR in Brisbane. On this occasion here in "Wavescan" we continue in our series of American radio stations in Australia, and we feature the shortwave station located at Gnangara near Perth in Western Australia.
Actually, Gnangara is an aboriginal place name, and it means: the place where yams grow. This is an outer suburban area, just fifteen miles north of Perth and just ten miles south east of Wanneroo, which was the original location for the now silent ABC shortwave stations VLW and VLX.
The Commonwealth Government procured 320 acres at Gnangara in 1952 for the purpose of establishing an international shortwave communication station. This large tract of land was then transferred to OTC, the Overseas Telecommunication Commission, fourteen years later, and then it was that work commenced on establishing a shortwave communication station on behalf of NASA, the American space agency. Some electronic equipment installed at this new shortwave station was new, and some was transferred from redundant NASA facilities in South Australia, and at Carnarvon in Western Australia.
The Gnangara station was established primarily for electronic communication with Mauritius during the series of Apollo space flights and moon landings from 1967 to 1975. Mauritius was considered to be one of the likely splashdown areas for the return of some of the Apollo space flights. Three shortwave communication transmitters at 7-1/2 kw. were installed at Gnangara with rhombic antennas oriented towards Mauritius. Landline communication to Moree in New South Wales completed the Australian circuits in the Apollo space program.
Although the Gnangara radio station was primarily an American NASA project, yet it was staffed by Australian personnel. The NASA usage of Gnangara was terminated around the beginning of 1975 at the successful conclusion of the Apollo space flights, and the Australian shortwave communication services were transferred from Gnangara to the OTC facility VIP at Applecross. Thus, the Gnangara station was now inactive.
In the meantime, Radio Australia was looking for a suitable site for a new and supposedly temporary shortwave station to fill in for the Darwin station which was disabled by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day, 1974. In order to once again test the viability of an international shortwave station in Western Australia, OTC engineers turned their attention to the recently inactivated shortwave communication station at Gnangara. They modified two of the 7-1/2 kw. communication transmitters for the broadcast of radio programming and a two week series of test transmissions began on February 25, 1975. These test transmissions consisted of music and test announcements in English which had been recorded in the Melbourne studios of Radio Australia. In two sets of daily transmissions, these test broadcasts were beamed to South Africa, Indonesia, and England with the use of rhombic antennas. Monitoring reports indicated good signals in several countries of Asia, and beyond.
Although reluctant to do so at first, Radio Australia did issue many QSL cards to verify the reception of these test transmissions. The Indianapolis collection contains two of these regular Radio Australia QSL cards, endorsed with the transmitter location, "Perth."
As a result of the successful series of test broadcasts from the NASA station at Gnangara, plans were implemented for the establishment of what was intended to be a temporary relay station for Radio Australia, at Carnarvon, on the continental west coast.
And that's a story for another occasion. But what happened subsequently to the NASA shortwave station at Gnangara? Four years after the series of test broadcasts, a small group of international radio monitors representing the Australian Radio DX Club made a visit to the Gnangara radio station and they found it active as a communication facility, VIP, for shipping in nearby coastal waters, and for outback communication with isolated areas in Western Australia. Three years later again, electronic equipment from the Australian earth station at Carnarvon was installed at Gnangara, and four years later again, a cable service connecting Australia to Asia was opened.
For a short time in 1994, a mediumwave station operated by Australian Aborigines was installed at Gnangara; two years later, VIP Gnangara operated the coastal station VID in Darwin by remote control, and in 2001 the cable service with Asia was superseded by satellite communication, and in 2002 the Gnangara shipping station VIP was decommissioned.
Last month, during the month of July, Gnangara was in use for the reception of signals from a communication satellite launched from an ocean platform at the equator; and the transmitter tower for the ABC mediumwave station 6WF is located nearby. However, with the rezoning of the nearby areas for housing, it looks as though the end of the Gnangara radio station is coming soon. Nevertheless, Gnangara will always be remembered in the international radio world as an American NASA shortwave communication station that was in use for a two week period in 1975 as a test facility on behalf of Radio Australia.