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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, November 22, 2009

Bermuda on Shortwave

On three previous occasions, we have presented the story of radio broadcasting on the island of Bermuda, out there in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North America. In our program today, we present the final episode in the Bermuda story; and it is Bermuda on Shortwave.

We go back to the year 1927, and that is when we find the British amateur broadcaster, Gerald Marcuse, on the air with his rather famous shortwave station G2NM. He would sometimes play musical records over the air, and sometimes he would just chat in amateur radio style with whoever would join him in any part of the world.

On several of those earlier occasions, Marcuse talked with an amateur radio operator located in Bermuda, and he also played music recordings over the air. The amateur radio operator in Bermuda, whose name and callsign are no longer known, would receive these programs from England on his own radio receiver, and he would then re-broadcast them live for the benefit of other amateur radio operators in the Caribbean. These spontaneous radio broadcasts were the very first attempts at radio broadcasting in Bermuda; and that was in the year 1927.

Six years later, a communication station was installed at Hamilton in Bermuda and it was given the primary callsign ZFA. This new station, with a power of 1.5 kW, was officially inaugurated in November 1937, and this special ceremony was broadcast live on 10055 kHz under the secondary callsign ZFB. This shortwave programming was received off air and landlined to Radio City in New York for re-broadcast over local mediumwave stations throughout the United States.

Throughout the years, running from 1933 up to around 1939, international radio monitors in the United States reported hearing occasional special shortwave broadcasts from Bermuda. This programming was transmitted by Radio Bermuda under the callsign ZFA on 5025 kHz, ZFB on 10055 kHz, or ZFD on 10335 kHz. On each occasion, the purpose of the shortwave broadcasts was for onward relay on mediumwave in the United States, and sometimes in Canada.

During the same 1930s era, radio programming was broadcast on shortwave from the three passenger liners associated with Bermuda, as was mentioned in "Wavescan" last week. These ocean going passenger ships were the Empress of Britain, the Monarch of Bermuda, and the Queen of Bermuda. Radio listeners at the time declared that the Empress of Britain was the most active with radio broadcast programming, under the callsign GMBJ.

Each of these ships was noted in the United States with occasional radio programming, usually for re-broadcast in the United States and occasionally Canada, though sometimes the shortwave programming was simply spontaneous for whoever was listening. The programming relay for NBC in New York was received by the maritime communication station WOO, located at Ocean Gate in New Jersey.

Interestingly, at the beginning of the year 1938, the radio world was surprised by the release of a news item stating that a powerful new shortwave station would be constructed on the island of Bermuda. For a whole year, there were occasional mentions of this projected new shortwave station in the radio magazines in the United States, and sometimes elsewhere.

The news information never indicated who was behind this project, nor what its purpose would be, though it could be speculated that the coverage area could be the United States. The various printed references to this station stated that it was a new facility, that it would be a powerful shortwave station, and that it would be installed on Smith's Hill in Bermuda.

The final known news release about this station indicated that it would be on the air in November 1939, and that it would broadcast news bulletins on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

We would ask the question today: Why would anyone construct a powerful shortwave station on an island and have it broadcast just three news bulletins each week? Needless to say, the project never materialized.

Do we hold any QSL cards from Bermuda? Yes, just a few, like almost half a dozen.

1958 Mediumwave ZBM1 with 250 watts on 1235 kHz Postal Card
1961 Communication ZFD48 with 4 kW on 10385 kHz Color photo St. George's Harbour
1996 Maritme ZBM with 1.2 kW on 2582 kHz Letter

Also, two QSL cards from British amateur G2NM, before and after his historic stint at Empire Broadcasting.

However, we also hold half a dozen picture postcards showing the three passenger liners that were associated with the island of Bermuda and were involved in international shortwave broadcasting; the Empress of Britain, the Monarch of Bermuda, and the Queen of Bermuda.