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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 7, 2010

The Story of the Canadian Chronohertz Station CHU

The Canadian chronohertz station CHU is well known in North America and beyond. The broadcasts from this time signal station can be heard quite clearly every day, and the reception of this station can be used quite readily as a guide to shortwave propagation conditions in North America. The story of station CHU goes way back into the earlier part of last century, back when radio broadcasting itself was very young.

The ornate Dominion Observatory was well known in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. It was completed more than one hundred years ago, in the year 1905.

The usage of radio for the reception of time signals began in the Dominion Observatory in the year 1921, and during the following year an experimental station was launched under the callsign 3AF for occasional field usage. During the following year again, the regular broadcast of time signals was inaugurated over station CNRO, also in Ottawa, one of the main radio broadcasting stations operated by the Canadian National Railways.

During that same year, 1923, the observatory launched its own radio station under the callsign 9CC (later VE9CC) for the experimental transmission of time signals on a regular basis. Station 9CC was licensed for operation on 275 metres, corresponding to 1090 kHz in what became the standard mediumwave band.

Four years later a new set of transmitters was licensed under the callsign VE9OB with daily transmissions on three shortwave channels: 3333, 7353 and 14705 kHz. These channels were quite close to the amateur radio bands, thus ensuring a wide usage of the service by both amateur stations as well as professional shortwave broadcasting stations. Interestingly, the CHU time service on shortwave still occupies three channels which are rather close to the three original frequencies.

In 1938, the callsigns in use at the Dominion Observatory were regularized; the calls VE9OB and VE9CC were discarded and all transmitters on air were identified with the now familiar call CHU.

During the mid 1940s, plans were implemented for a new chronohertz radio station, no longer at the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa, but some miles out of town near Barrhaven at what was known as the Greenbank Road Shortwave Station. Greenbank was already in use at the time as a government communication station, and the first new transmitter for CHU was a war surplus unit rated at 300 watts. A wider service was subsequently inaugurated on January 1, 1951, with the three channels in use: 3330 kHz at 300 watts, 7335 kHz at 3 kW, 14670 kHz at 300 watts.

We note 30 years later that a total of seven shortwave transmitters were in regular and standby usage for the CHU chronohertz service. That was in the year 1980, and these were:

Back a few years ago, station CHU came into prominent notice in the radio world, due to the fact that one of its regular channels, 7335 kHz, was located in the 40 metre amateur and broadcast band. Due to new international regulations, CHU would need to leave this frequency and move to another shortwave channel. There was some suggestion that the channel would be deleted entirely, or even perhaps that the entire station would even close down forever. However instead, a license was obtained for another channel, higher in frequency, and not within the amateur section of the band, and thus the station would remain in service.

An item in the World DX Club bulletin in England for February 2009 gives the interesting details of the change over from one channel to the next, from 7335 kHz to 7850 kHz. Currently, they operate only one transmitter and one antenna for this 40 metre band service.

Raymond Pelletier at station CHU in Canada states that the 40 metre band transmitter was shut down during the afternoon of December 31, 2008.

A coil at the base of the antenna system was then changed, the transmitter was turned on again and re-tuned to the new channel 7850 kHz. Full power was then applied, and then the regular audio signal was applied, with its ticking sounds, and voice announcements in English and French.

International radio monitors who were listening to the change over on their radio receivers report that CHU left 7335 kHz at 2107 UTC on Wednesday afternoon December 31, 2008, and the transmitter was re-opened on 7850 kHz with an open carrier one hour and 20 minutes later at 2227 UTC. Eight minutes later again, the regular audio service was noted.

Currently, station CHU is on the air 24 hours daily on three channels: 3330 kHz with 10 kW, the new 7850 kHz with 3 kW, 14670 kHz also with 3 kW.

Interestingly, back in the year 2007, a call was made to establish an additional CHU service on shortwave for use in the western and northern areas of Canada where reception from Ottawa is unreliable and sporadic. However, up until this time, apparently nothing has been done in response to this need. It should be remembered also that a similar call has been made to establish a WWVB service on longwave for reliable coverage in the eastern areas of the United States.

Station CHU is a reliable verifier, and the Indianapolis Collection holds four different styles of QSL card dating from 1966 onwards.

The Adelaide River Story

In our next major feature in Wavescan today, we bring together four unusual but quite fascinating items of information, under the title, "The Adelaide River Story":

The river called Adelaide River is a short but broad river, just 110 miles long, in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is navigable for 3/4 of its length and it runs north, emptying into the ocean at the north of the continent. The Adelaide River was named in honor of Queen Adelaide in England, a German princess who not only became queen in England, but was also queen of the small German state of Hanover.

Next we look at the town of Adelaide River, a small settlement approximately 70 miles south of Darwin. Originally, the area was inhabited by the wandering Kungarakan and Warai Aborigines. In 1871, a small settlement was established for workers who were installing the Overland Telegraph that connected the north to the south in the continent of Australia. Two years later, a small store and cafe was opened at Adelaide River, and 15 years later again, the railway line from Darwin reached the little settlement.

The city of Darwin was first bombed, and largely destroyed, in double bombing raids on October 12, 1942. Panic stricken residents and forces personnel fled to Adelaide River and overran the area, and the location was soon taken over as the headquarters of the Australian army in the Northern Territory.

Quite soon afterwards, American personnel began to flood into the area, until, at the height of their activities in Australia, some 30,000 Americans were encamped at Adelaide River. They brought with them all that was necessary to sustain life and activity in the area, and this included their own hospital, food preparation, living quarters, and all of the necessary hardware to defend Australia's northern border with Asia.

It is understood that the American camp at Adelaide River was the largest single concentration of American personnel anywhere in Australia. It was indeed, a temporary American city, if you please, in Australia's great outback.

There was a need for a major radio station at Adelaide River for long distance communication and so a search began in January 1943 for a suitable location. Quite soon, a site was chosen on part of Mt. Bundy Station, a huge cattle ranch a couple of miles north east from the town of Adelaide River and American navy personnel began construction work for the new project. A little less than two months later, on March 25, the communication radio station became operational. It would be suggested that the maximum power of any of these shortwave transmitters on the Mt. Bundy Cattle Station would be in the range of 10 kW.

Interestingly this new shortwave radio station identified on air under the callsign KAZ. The callsign KAZ was not an Australian callsign, nor an American continental callsign, but rather it was borrowed from the Philippine Islands.

The callsign KAZ was first used at the RCA communication station on the edge of Manila in the year 1930 during the era when the Philippines were still an American possession. The last reported entry for KAZ in the Philippines was at the end of the year 1941.

The usage of this same callsign in Australia for the large radio communication station at Adelaide River was apparently at the instigation of General Douglas MacArthur. The use of the Philippine callsign KAZ in Australia was intended to confuse unwanted listeners in Asia as to the actual location of the station, and also to indicate a close link with the Philippines.

This large new shortwave station was in frequent communication with other American stations throughout Australia and also up in the islands north of Australia. This station communicated regular forces information, and also the flow of news that was subsequently released for use on radio and in newspapers in Australia and the United States. During its 1-1/2 years of on air usage, station KAZ in Australia was also in frequent communication with small groups of people in the Philippine Islands.

As decisive events in the Pacific began to move north away from Australia, American personnel moved out of the area and the functions of station KAZ at Adelaide River in Australia's Northern Territory were transferred to Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea. The transfer of activity from Adelaide River to Hollandia took place on November 21, 1944. The actual shortwave station at Adelaide River was closed a little less than a year later, though the American Seabees installed their own small communication station at the same location a few months before the entire facility was closed.

The Mt. Bundy Cattle Station itself is now a tourist resort, and the few remains of the American navy communication station KAZ are simply historic reminders of an important era in the state's illustrious past.

It should also be remembered that there was an Australian entertainment radio station on the air at Adelaide River. In March 1944, a request was made to army headquarters in Melbourne and approval was granted. A small station was installed, apparently running just 20 watts on 1440 kHz. This new radio station was inaugurated in May 1944 under the callsign 5DR. The transmitter was provided by the PMG Department, and programming was provided by army personnel with frequent relays taken off air from shortwave stations operated by the ABC. This temporary station was on the air for a period of around half a year, but it remained completely undetected by any radio monitors in Australia and New Zealand.

In October of the same year, work commenced on a new and more substantial broadcasting station at Adelaide River, but the project was abandoned just before it was completed; most of the personnel had moved away from the area and the station was no longer needed. In time, another 5DR was erected in Darwin itself, and this call was subsequently amended to 8DR, and shortwave coverage was later added for outback areas in the Northern Territory.

The glory days of Adelaide River with its huge population base are long since gone. These days, local surveys tell us that the town of Adelaide River has a population of just 190 people, but it does possess a major tourist attraction. Travelers passing through the area like to stop at Adelaide River and go for a cruise on the river itself. The attraction is the unique fresh water jumping crocodile, jumping out of the water to catch food suspended on a bamboo rod from a passing boat.

There are 5 different companies operating on the Adelaide River and offering tours for people to see the unique jumping crocodiles. One of them is the Adelaide River Queen, and we listen again to their theme music.