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"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, June 28, 2009

Port Moresby on Shortwave

As the first item in our program today, we return to the early radio broadcasting scene on the island of New Guinea. On previous occasions here in Wavescan, we have looked at the early spark wireless stations located throughout mainland Papua and New Guinea, and also the first radio broadcasting station on the island, the memorable mediumwave unit under the callsign 4PM.

On this occasion, we now turn to the shortwave broadcasting scene in Port Moresby, and we check out the story of the shortwave broadcasting station VIG. This is what happened.

You will remember that the mediumwave station 4PM was inaugurated with just 100 watts on 1360 kHz in 1935. Just three years later, in June 1928, the mediumwave programming appeared suddenly on shortwave, and it was quickly discovered that the AWA communication station, VIG, was now relaying the programming from its sister station 4PM.

Initially, this program relay was heard daily in the late afternoons, local time. However, as time went by, the scheduling for this shortwave relay became irregular, and subsequently it was heard only on the first and third Sundays of each month. However, with the political pressures heating up in the Pacific, shortwave VIG was again noted with the 4PM relay for two hours in the local afternoons on a daily basis.

Around this era, in mid 1940, one logging report in the United States claimed that station VIG at that stage was actually on relay for a short while over an amateur transmitter emitting just 25 watts.

The shortwave broadcasts from the regular AWA facility on 7310 kHz were heard quite widely, even though the transmitter power was thought to be just 1.5 kW. Reception reports were received in Port Moresby from listeners throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States, and QSL cards were issued, using what was described as a very plain card.

However, the mediumwave station 4PM was closed a week before Christmas 1941 and all of the technical equipment was transferred five miles out of town and installed on the bottom floor of the two story building known as Wonga Cottage. Thus, at this stage, there was now no local capability in Port Moresby for the production of radio programming.

Subsequently, in April 1942, communication station VIG was again heard on air with broadcast programming. However, this programming was not locally produced; it was rather a relay from several other stations, including the ABC and "Australia Calling" in Australia, and also the BBC in London. It is suggested that these relays were taken off air shortwave from the new 10 kW VLG at Lyndhurst in Victoria and the VLQ stations at Pennant Hills on the edge of Sydney in New South Wales.

During the following year, 1943, Australian army personnel dug a U-shaped cave into the hillside near Wonga Cottage, and all of the transmitters were transferred into the cave as a safety precaution against bombing raids.

A few months later, a temporary new radio facility was installed on the edge of Port Moresby and this was designated as Coconut Grove. This very temporary unit was on the air for just a month or so with three telegraph channels for press communication with Australia and the United States.

However, a month later, this Coconut Grove station was then re-built into several army Quonset huts and connected more adequately to the several AWA transmitters located at Wonga. This renovated Coconut Grove station was then noted on air with telegraph communication and voice communication with Australia and the United States. On several occasions, this radio traffic included radio commentaries for re-broadcast over the local mediumwave networks in the United States and Australia.

The combined facilities of Coconut Grove and AWA Wonga were used on several other important occasions also. Included in the list of these events was the official opening of the new ABC mediumwave station 9PA in Port Moresby on February 29, 1944, with General Douglas MacArthur, and also Sir Charles Moses from the ABC in Sydney.

During the month of May in the year 1944, the combination of the facilities located at Coconut Grove and Wonga were used for a series of program broadcasts that identified on air as "Radio Guinea" with program relays from the ABC and the BBC. These broadcasts were noted on 9380 kHz in the evenings and on 15230 kHz in the mornings. It is probable that these program relays were taken off air from the new 10 kW shortwave transmitter VLQ at Bald Hills, on the northern edge of Brisbane in Queensland.

The last known radio broadcast from station VIG was a bulletin of news in English, heard in the United States in October 1945. From then onwards, even though VIG was heard occasionally at a distance, the content was always official and commercial messages. Thus it was that the AWA communication station VIG was noted on air with radio broadcast programming for a period of a little over seven years, stretching from 1938 to 1945.