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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, May 2, 2010

The Voice of America at Ocean Gate, New Jersey

Just a few weeks back here in Wavescan, we presented the story of the early Voice of America relay station located at Lawrenceville in New Jersey. On this occasion today, we present the story of another temporary VOA relay station, this time the station that was located at Ocean Gate, also in New Jersey, and that station was also operated by the huge radio and telephone company AT&T.

Interestingly, the five facilities that made up the two large AT&T shortwave stations in New Jersey were all constructed at the same time. These were the two transmitter stations located at Lawrenceville and Ocean Gate, and the three receiver stations located at Netcong, Forked River and Manahawkin.

A large tract of land, 175 acres of salt water marsh on the water front at Good Luck Point, at the mouth of the Tom's River was procured for the Ocean Gate transmitter station in the year 1929. This location on the Atlantic coastline was some fifty miles south of New York City.

The average elevation at the Ocean Gate property was just eighteen inches above high water, and so deep drainage pipes were inserted below ground level, entirely surrounding the three storied transmitter building. The original electronic facilities installed at Ocean Gate included a 15 kW shortwave transmitter, similar in design to the original transmitter installed at Lawrenceville, together with two curtain antennas seventy feet high.

The main callsign at this new shortwave station has always been WOO, though this callsign was also in use simultaneously at an earlier and smaller shortwave station operated by AT&T at Deal Beach. The usage of the experimental callsign, W2XJ was also transferred from Deal Beach to Ocean Gate. Another experimental callsign, W2XDO, was also used on air at Ocean Gate Radio.

The majority of the channel callsigns that were allocated by the FCC for usage at Ocean Gate Radio were three letter callsigns, sometimes with an additional number, and generally in the series beginning with WO or WD. For example:

WDI on 5052 kHz & WDJ on 7565 kHz
WOO on 12840 kHz & WOO9 on 8660 kHz

Radio station WOO at AT&T Ocean Gate, New Jersey was commissioned in 1930 with some excellent publicity about this new international communication station in the local newspaper. The initial purpose for Ocean Gate Radio was for contact with Atlantic shipping, and for communication with Europe and South America.

During the year 1937, the FCC gave approval for the installation of several new shortwave transmitters at Ocean Gate Radio and initially five new channels were assigned for usage of this station. At the same time, a small 400 watt transmitter was installed at Ocean Gate for contact with nearby coastal shipping and it was noted on air soon after its inauguration in 1937, talking with fishing boats under the callsign WOU.

Although this large and impressive shortwave station was erected primarily for commercial phone purposes, yet beginning in the year 1933, it was noted on the air at times with broadcast programming intended for mediumwave relay in Europe and Latin America. For a period of almost two years, WOO Ocean Gate Radio was also in use by OWI, the Office of War Information, for the relay of VOA programming to Europe, South America, and the South Pacific.

The first of the two receiver stations was constructed at Forked River, just ten miles south of Ocean Gate itself. Usage of this facility began around December 1929, and it corresponded with both of the AT&T transmitting stations, Deal Beach and Ocean Gate. The Forked River receiving station was installed on the Atlantic coastline, upon a marshy property of 292 acres.

The Manahawkin receiver Station was located on the coastline, ten miles further south below Forked River. This station became the main receiver facility for WOO Ocean Gate Radio, and in addition to its usage for the reception of radio transmission from Europe and Atlantic shipping, it was also the American terminal for the undersea cable from Bermuda.

It was in May 1942 that a daily four hour service of Voice of America programming for Australia and the South Pacific was implemented at Ocean Gate Radio, over two outlets, channel callsigns WOJ and WOK. During the following two years, a total of ten known shortwave channels and callsigns were noted on air with the relay of VOA programming for direct reception, and also for onward relay by radio stations located in North Africa and England.

Signal strength from Ocean Gate Radio as heard in Australia and New Zealand was often described as at a good level. It is probable that all of these transmissions were made at a power output of 20 kW.

On several occasions, for example, station WOO was noted on 12840 kHz with a relay of VOA programming in parallel with WGEO in Schenectady, New York. Foreign language programming was noted in Spanish on channel callsign WOK on 10555 kHz, and in French on channel callsign WOO4 on 8760 kHz. The final known VOA broadcasts from Ocean Gate Radio WOO were on the air in January 1944, though the station continued in use for several years as an American terminal for international phone calls.

In the mid 1950s, the large array of curtain antennas was removed and replaced with a series of twenty nine rhombic antennas. By the time the station was closed some forty years later again, the facility contained a bevy of transmitters rated at 10 kW.

When additional undersea cables were subsequently laid between Europe and North America, and when satellite communication became available, AT&T Ocean Gate Radio was no longer needed. The original date for the closure of this station was announced as February 28, 1999, and after a couple of postponements, the station was finally closed on November 9 of the same year, 1999.

These days, the Ocean Gate property is now a wildlife refuge owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the large transmitter building is owned by the local city government. However, if you were to visit what was once a large and influential shortwave radio station, you would still see a few remnants of its one time glory, including even one of the rotatable antenna systems.

During the time of its on air usage as a relay station for the Voice of America, as far as is known, no QSLs were ever issued. However, during the final twenty or thirty years of its on air service as a shortwave communication station, many QSL cards were issued on behalf of AT&T-Bell Ocean Gate Radio, WOO. These QSL cards were all oversized postcards, carrying the AT&T and Bell logos on one side. One of their QSL cards showed a map of the world on the other side, with all of the many AT&T locations marked. These QSL cards from Ocean Gate Radio WOO were usually posted from the AT&T receiver station at Manahawkin in New Jersey.

Earthquake Radio in Haiti

The attention of millions of people throughout the world was drawn out in sympathy for the victims and the survivors of the dramatic earthquake in Haiti back on January 12 earlier this year. Many organizations in many countries responded with all forms of aid for Haiti and her needy people, and this aid flooded in by plane and by boat. Among the multitude of organizations that assisted the people of Haiti with volunteer aid was the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.

Before the January earthquake wreaked its havoc, the Adventist presence in Haiti was well established, with more than a third of a million members in nearly one thousand congregations, large and small. The Adventist church also operated a university, a hospital, a nationwide network of schools, and an office for ADRA, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. Many of the landed properties were quickly turned into emergency relief centers.

On the radio scene, the Adventist Voice of Hope was on the air at the university on two channels, with 10 kW on 1560 kHz and FM on 89.7 MHz. However, it is not yet known as to whether the station was able to operate after the devastating earthquake. It is known though, that two other FM stations in the national capital, Port-au-Prince, were still functioning on air; Caraibes FM and Signal FM.

It is presumed that the Radio Amanecer Network in the adjoining Dominican Republic, with its seven radio broadcast transmitters, 5 AM-mediumwave, 1 FM and 1 shortwave, also produced special programming of benefit to listeners in neighboring Haiti. Radio Amanecer International is affiliated with Adventist World Radio.

The first news about the earthquake was brought to the attention of the world by amateur radio operators with the use of battery operated equipment. This information was passed on to other amateur radio operators in the adjoining Dominican Republic and in the United States. Soon afterwards, many radio organizations, large and small, began to implement special programming for Haiti, in Creole, French and English.

In the United States, the Voice of America increased its shortwave programming on three channels from 1-1/2 hours daily to 5 hours daily, and their 100 kW mediumwave station in Florida carried similar programming on 1180 kHz in the evenings.

The emergency broadcast service of Commando Solo soon sprang into action, and they sent their plane to fly lazy circles above the ocean just off the coast of Haiti. Programming was broadcast on three channels; on mediumwave 1030 kHz, and on FM 92.5 and 104.1 MHz. The mediumwave antenna is a 264 ft wire hanging from the plane with a 1/4 ton weight at the end. Programming from this 1030 kHz channel was heard by several listeners in Europe. The American military delivered 50,000 portable radio receivers that gain their power from solar energy and the hand crank mechanism.

In addition, several of the mediumwave and FM commercial stations in Florida prepared special programming for Haitian people in both Haiti and in Florida.

The well known Gospel shortwave station 4VEH is located on the northern peninsula in Haiti, and they were not seriously affected by the earthquake that struck the southern peninsula. This station broadcasts its programming on 840 kHz mediumwave, and they also stream their programming on the internet. In an endeavor to give inspirational coverage to the devastated capital city area, the 4VEH live programming was taken off the internet and relayed over the 100 kW mediumwave station operated by Trans Word Radio on the island of Bonaire. Station PJB operates on 800 kHz.

The BBC in London also joined in with emergency radio programming, and they took out a special relay beamed to Haiti from two different locations; the Gospel shortwave station WHRI with 250 kW in Cypress Creek South Carolina, and the large South American shortwave station located at Montsinery in French Guiana, also with 250 kW.

In addition, Radio Canada International and Radio France International also presented special programming beamed to Haiti on shortwave.

A few years ago, Radio Netherlands obtained a portable FM radio broadcasting station that was temporarily installed on the island of Sumatra following the terrible earthquakes and tsunamis in Indonesia. This same radio station was flown into Haiti and placed on air again at this new location in order to give local news and information to the stricken survivors.