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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, July 26, 2009

Early Wireless Stations in North East New Guinea

As we mentioned on a previous occasion here in "Wavescan," the north east section of the island of New Guinea was at one stage a German colony in the Pacific. In the year 1884, Germany laid claim to North East New Guinea; in 1920 the League of Nations gave North East New Guinea to Australia as a mandated territory; in 1949, North East New Guinea was combined with Papua to form Papua New Guinea; and in 1975, Papua New Guinea was granted complete independence.

Back in the year 1912, a series of wireless communication stations was established in coastal areas of mainland Australia. At the same time, consideration was given to the establishment of a similar network of wireless stations in nearby island areas, including New Guinea. The first stations to be established in North East New Guinea under this plan were installed at Aitape, Madang, and Morobe, all of which were originally towns settled under the German administration.

The town of Aitape was at first a mission station established in 1896 by missionaries from Germany. Today, it is still a small town of around 8,000 people, situated on a rocky headland overlooking the nearby islands in an area that is located on the north coast of New Guinea, about a hundred miles from the international border with Irian Jaya.

The spark wireless station, VZX, was built on a flat area between the muddy river and the beach and it was staffed originally by three operators and a mechanic, though later on, only two staff were needed to operate the station.

In 1930, the station was upgraded to valve operation and the callsign was changed from VZX to VJW. This station was closed six years later, in 1936, when station VJN was opened at Wewak, further along the north coast.

Next came two stations, one at Madang and another at Morobe. The town of Madang was settled originally by personnel from Germany and it is located on a small peninsula with a beautiful harbor on each side. The spark wireless station was installed in 1916 under the callsign VIV, and it was upgraded with a valve transmitter in the late 1920s. In January 1942, the station was bombed in an air raid, and a few days later the staff demolished the station and fled to Port Moresby. A completely new station was built in Madang in 1947.

The Morobe station was also built in 1916. The town of Morobe is located about two thirds of the way down the north east coast of New Guinea and these days it is the administrative center for the Morobe district. The wireless station was on the air under the callsign VZK and it was closed when another station was opened at nearby Salamoa in 1927.

A period of ten years goes by, and two more wireless stations were installed in North East New Guinea, at Bulolo and Salamoa. The Bulolo station was installed in 1926 to serve the new gold mining community in nearby Edie Creek. Bulolo was an isolated area with a hot steamy climate, inland from Lae.

The wireless equipment for this new station was carried in by porters and it was installed for use temporarily in a tent, awaiting the construction of a new small building. Interestingly, this building was unfortunately constructed on a rich gold-bearing alluvial flat, and so two years later the station was moved again. This wireless station was on the air under the callsign VJX, and when valve equipment was installed in the late 1920s it resumed service as VLT. The station was abandoned in January 1942, never to be rebuilt.

The town of Salamoa is built on a narrow sand spit sandwiched on the edge of the ocean, and the wireless station was installed in 1927 when the station further south at Morobe was closed. This station, known as VJQ, was in use for a period of fifteen years before it was finally abandoned, in 1942.

Give another half dozen years, and another seven wireless stations were installed throughout North East New Guinea. Known locations for these stations were Wau and Lae and Marburberg and Wewak and Edie Creek. However, two stations, VKO and VJP, were installed at locations that are now not known.

The station at Wau, VJX, also served the gold mining community a day's walk from Edie Creek. Some fifteen years after the station was activated, it was damaged in a bombing air raid and so the equipment was transferred to nearby Edie Creek, in February 1942. However, one month later, this Edie Creek station was abandoned and destroyed and the station personnel walked overland to Port Moresby.

You will note that the wireless stations located at Bulolo, Edie Creek and Wau, all operated under the same callsign VJX, though of course these were all in consecutive order, one after the other.

The wireless station in the important town of Lae, which is located in the tail of the "Bird of Paradise" as we might say, was opened in 1933 with the callsign VLU. Lae was the last re-fuelling location for Amelia Earhart in her epic round-the-world flight before she disappeared over the Pacific in July 1937. Station VLU was closed in early 1942. Today, Lae is the second largest city in Papua New Guinea.

The final station in this compendium of wireless stations in the territory that was once German North East New Guinea was located at Wewak, some two hundred miles from the border with Irian Jaya. This station was installed as VJN in 1936 when the town became an administrative center for one of the north coastal areas. This station was abandoned in December 1942 and it was re-established in 1947 by OTC, the Overseas Telecommunication Commission in Australia.

So, in our program today, you have heard the story of a dozen early wireless stations, often lonely and isolated, in the extensive German territories on the island of New Guinea. On a coming occasion, we will cross over the international boundary, and tell you the story of wireless and radio in the western half of the island, Irian Jaya.