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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, October 18, 2009

Radio Broadcasting in the Bermuda Triangle

One of the fascinating rewards as a result of intense, in-depth research into the history of wireless and radio, particularly international shortwave radio, is the discovery of unexpected and yet very interesting additional information, details of which we were previously unaware.

Take, for example, the information we presented a few weeks ago about the shortwave station G2NM, that was a fore-runner to the BBC Empire Service from Daventry in England. In researching this information, we discovered that the event that triggered Gerald Marcuse into commencing the broadcast of his own preliminary Empire Broadcasts was the fact that he made contact with an amateur radio operator on the island of Bermuda who re-broadcast the radio contacts and occasional music programs from England for the further benefit of radio listeners in the Caribbean.

So, we decided to take a look at the historic radio scene in Bermuda, and we discovered lots of interesting information, too much in fact, for one program here in "Wavescan." On this occasion, then, we look at the early wireless scene in Bermuda. First though, some interesting information about Bermuda itself.

The British dependency of Bermuda is made up of more than 300 islands with a total area of just 21 square miles, though only 20 islands are inhabited. These islands are the most northerly coral atoll in the world and they lie midway between eastern Canada and the Caribbean islands, nearly 700 miles out in the Atlantic from New York City. Another claim to fame is that the Bermuda Islands form the fifth smallest country in the world.

The Bermuda islands lay virtually undiscovered and uninhabited for centuries, though it is known that survivors from occasional shipwrecks did spend at least a short while on the islands before departing again for the Americas or their return to Europe. In the year 1505, the Spanish explorer Captain Juan de Bermudez discovered the islands and charted them for the first time.

The first permanent settlers on Bermuda came, again, from a shipwreck. The ship Sea Venture was carrying colonists from England to North America and the ship was destroyed in a storm near Bermuda. Most of the survivors left later for the Americas, though two remained on the main island. Five years later, a boat load of passengers from England established the first deliberate attempt at colonizing the islands.

The total population these days is around 60,000, though 100,000 tourists flock to the islands each year. Their capital city is Hamilton, which is located on the main island, Bermuda.

Another claim to fame for these isolated islands in the Atlantic is the well known story about the Bermuda Triangle. According to the theory behind these legends, an inordinate number of ships and airplanes have mysteriously disappeared in the triangular area formed by Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Florida peninsula.

However, one historian has researched a large number of these disappearances and in his book he provides a logical explanation for each incident. In addition, he also states that the number of apparently strange disappearances in the so-called Bermuda Triangle is in about the same statistical ratio as elsewhere in the world, when the total flow of shipping and aircraft is taken into account.

Now for the radio scene in Bermuda! The first known wireless station was established by the British Royal Navy somewhere around the year 1913 and it was on the air under the irregular callsign QWC. During the following year, 1914, the English government bought a large property on Somerset Island and constructed a large wireless listening station with very tall towers. By this time, the station callsign was regularized according to the latest international prefixes and it identified on air with the callsign BZR.

In January 1932, a new communication radio station was inaugurated in Hamilton, Bermuda under the callsign VRT with a transmitter power rated at 1.5 kW. This new communication station was noted by shortwave listeners in the United States in contact with station WNB at Lawrenceville, New Jersey and with the new passenger liner Monarch of Bermuda under the callsign GMBJ. Three months later, the primary callsign for the maritime station in Bermuda was changed to ZFA, with subsidiary callsigns ZFB and ZFD, depending on which shortwave channel was in use.

The callsign for the maritime station in Bermuda subsequently became ZBM, and in more recent time, this was changed to ZBR, which is the current callsign. This station can sometimes be heard with weather reports on 2582 kHz; and yes, they do verify by letter.

In addition, there have been at least three other major communication stations located in Bermuda. The United States established both an Air Force Base and a Navy Base in Bermuda during World War 2; the callsign for the Air Force Base was AFJ, and for the navy it was NWU. Interestingly, the Canadian Navy established their own base in Bermuda back in 1963 and their communication radio station was licensed with a Canadian callsign, CZB. The Canadian facility was closed 30 years later, in 1993.

OK, now thats as far as we can go today with the radio story in Bermuda. Next week, we are planning to present the story of mediumwave broadcasting in Bermuda, and thats really very interesting also.