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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, March 13, 2011

Another Middle Eastern Trouble Spot: Yemen, Pt. 1 - The Story of Radio Broadcasting in the Land of the Queen of Sheba

The Middle Eastern country of Yemen is another one of the countries that has shared in the recent unrest that has moved through the Middle East and North Africa almost like a turbulent epidemic. The news on television has shown the mass events that took place in Tunisia, and more recently of course, the similar and greatly enlarged events in nearby Egypt, particularly in their capital city Cairo, as well as in Libya.

According to various news sources, thousands of Yemeni citizens took to the streets in January in the wake of these similar events in the two North African countries, Tunisia and Egypt. However, the news media state that in Yemen, the mass public demonstrations have been mostly peaceful and orderly, though the demands are the same; changes in national leadership where corruption and mismanagement are evident, and attention to the needs of citizenry regarding employment, income and local freedoms.

Yemen is described in the encyclopedia as one of the oldest countries in the world, and at the same time, one of the poorest. Yemen is made up these days of two states, each with its own capital city, Sana and Aden, and there was a time when they were separate countries. The combined country is about 750 miles long and nearly 300 miles wide, with a population of a little over 20 million.

Going way back in history, it is stated that Hamitic and then Semitic peoples moved into the area around 4,000 years ago, and the locality became an important trading route between Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Great Britain seized Aden in 1839 after the local people robbed a wrecked British ship, and they gradually expanded their influence and took over the whole area.

Independence from England was gained in 1967, and during subsequent fighting in the areas, there were two Yemens, Aden and Sana, in some form of separation. On May 22, 1990, the two Yemens were united into one country.

The encyclopedia states that the Biblical Queen of Sheba ruled the Yemeni peoples during the 900s BC, and that she visited King Solomon in Palestine around the year 950 BC. Local history tells us that the Queen of Sheba was a new queen at the time, in her mid teens, and that her name was Bilqis. Her capital city was Marib, in which important archeological excavations have been conducted in recent years.

In our radio story, we go first to Southern Yemen, or Aden as it was known for so long, and here we discover that way back, there was a very early cable station located in this small British colony. This underwater cable system connected Europe with the Middle East, Asia and the South Pacific.

This submarine cable was laid by the Eastern Telegraph Company and it was opened for communication service in 1879. In 1936, the communication company known as Cable & Wireless, C&W, took over the control of the cable station in Aden.

In the meantime, the Marconi company in England established a spark wireless station in Aden during the year 1915. This station formed part of the Marconi international network known as the Imperial Wireless Scheme and it was established for onward communication between England and Asia and the South Pacific.

In 1940, a small radio broadcasting station was established in Ra's Bradley, a suburban area of Aden and it was on the air as required spasmodically, with short broadcasts containing war news, important local announcements and emergency information. This station was closed in 1945.

Another very small station was installed in Aden by AFRS, the American Armed Forces Radio Service. This station was located inside an American army base, it emitted just 5 watts as a carrier current operation, it radiated on 1040 kHz, and it was on the air under the callsign WADN. The initial letter W indicated its American ownership; and the three subsequent letters, ADN, almost spelled out its location, as Aden. Station WADN was closed in August 1945.

Next on the scene was an informal amateur broadcasting station established with improvised equipment by volunteers at the Royal Air Force RAF base at nearby Khormaksar. This station was inaugurated in 1954 with 250 watts on 1236 kHz.

However, two years later, another Royal Air Force radio station was established at almost the same location and it was operated officially as a unit of BFBS, the British Forces Broadcasting Service. Interestingly, both stations on the air force base, were on the air simultaneously, sometimes in competition, and occasionally in co-operation.

The new BFBS station began with just 300 watts on 1025 kHz, though a little more than half a dozen years later, a tangible new facility was constructed at Steamer Point, a new 10 kW transmitter was installed, and the frequency was changed to 1241 kHz. When this substantial station was closed in 1967, much of the equipment and some of the personnel were transferred to the smaller and still rather unofficial radio station at the same air force base.

During two different time periods, the shortwave station in Aden operated by Cable & Wireless, C&W, was in use spasmodically for the broadcast of radio programming. In January 1941, station ZNR was heard in both Australia and New Zealand with the broadcast of radio programming on 12115 kHz.

The actual callsign in use was ZNR2, and the power output was just 250 watts. QSL letters were issued in confirmation of this shortwave programming that was noted for a few months around early 1941.

Then again, ten years later in the early 1950s, similar occasional broadcasts were noted from station ZNR, on the same channel 12115 kHz, but now with an increased power output of 2 kW. During this era, these broadcasts were noted on air for around a year or two

More on Yemen here in Wavescan, next week!

The New Zealand Earthquake

News reports as presented on TV worldwide, show horrific earthquake damage throughout the city of Christchurch on the east coast of the south island of New Zealand. A 6.3 earthquake struck the city and surrounding areas around midday on February 23. The city of Christchurch, with a population of 1/3 million, is rated as the 2nd largest city in New Zealand, and it was still in recovery mode from the previous major earthquake that struck the area four months earlier, on September 4 last year.

In an update regarding last year's 7.2 earthquake, it is stated that Christchurch was badly damaged on this earlier occasion. Estimates at the time for complete reconstruction throughout the ravaged city reach as high as $2 billion.

The New Zealand Earthquake Commission was making insurance type payments to all property owners for repair and reconstruction. Almost immediately, work began on rebuilding the damaged city and suburban areas with a total of 77,000 construction workers employed for the various projects.

In the immediate aftermath of the September earthquake, electrical power was off throughout the city, all schools and university campuses were closed, as were the airport and all rail services. The local news media played an important part in informing local citizens with updates of emergency information and official instructions.

One radio listener reported that he was awakened at 4:30 am when his building swayed like a ship. He also stated that the electrical power was off, and that they were listening to news updates on a wind up radio.

Another caller to the radio station, Newstalk Radio ZB, stated that the earthquake caused the ringing of bells in the church towers; and huge flashes of light were seen, apparently caused by exploding electrical transformers. Newstalk Radio in Christchurch was on the air originally under the mediumwave callsign 3ZB.

The available local media in Christchurch, radio and TV, were on the air full time with earthquake information in the aftermath of last year's earthquake. The media throughout New Zealand, and the international news media throughout the world, also carried headline news and detailed reports from the earthquake stricken area.

In a letter to Wavescan, international radio monitor Terje Nielsen in suburban Christchurch, states that the area has suffered more than 5,000 aftershocks since the major quake last year.

The recent earthquake last month struck the same city again, around midday on February 23. Though this recent earthquake was a little smaller in magnitude, 6.3 rather than 7.2, yet the damage was more severe due to the fact that the epicenter was closer to the city.

Again, all schools were closed, the airport was closed, and all rail services were temporarily shut down. Once again, the government relief agency requested distraught citizens to tune to local radio for updated emergency information and official instructions. With electrical power out in many areas, the radios in use would necessarily be battery operated or windup radios.

A total of six medical relief locations were set up throughout the Christchurch area, including the Sanitarium Health Food factory at suburban Papanui. This multi-storied factory building is set up on a spacious ornate property and it was almost undamaged in this recent earthquake.

The Sanitarium Health Food factory is owned by the Seventh-day Adventist church in New Zealand, and it is the major breakfast food provider throughout the nation. The factory has its own independent water supply and it provided free food, milk and water to stricken earthquake survivors.

As a result of the earthquake and its impact upon tourism, the New Zealand government has granted an automatic visa extension of six months to all foreigners in the country at the time.

During the disastrous earthquake, the downtown studio building for the Canterbury TV station, CTV, was suddenly and completely demolished. Independent news reports from Christchurch state that it is feared that at least 15 staff personnel died in the tragic event, and apparently an additional unknown number of visitors in the area.

In a report from New Zealand, noted radio historian David Ricquish states that several of the local radio stations were damaged or destroyed and they are not on the air. Other radio stations that survived are on the air with emergency news and information, sometimes on an informal network basis with joint programming. Some of the usual network programming from the North Island has been technically interrupted and the automatic relay in Christchurch, still on the air, has been playing dead air.

David Ricquish also states that he has been compiling a frequently updated list of active radio stations in Christchurch still on the air, and this can be obtained from his Radio Heritage website at radioheritage.net.

Once again, foreign news media gave wide coverage to this recent New Zealand tragedy. For example, Radio Australia on shortwave was noted for a few days with almost continuous coverage from Christchurch. This programming, in Pacific Newsbeat, consisted of phone interviews with survivors and government officials, as well as regular news reports and commentaries.

New Zealand Update

In an update just received from David Ricquish in New Zealand, he states that New Zealand is still under a state of national emergency as a result of the recent devastating earthquake.  He also states that 1/3 of the central business district of Christchurch will be demolished along with 10,000 homes throughout the city and suburbs, and ¼ of the total population are now refugees.  The radio authorities in New Zealand have granted approval for the Radio Heritage Foundation to establish a mobile emergency radio station with 30 watts on 102.1 FM and this will be located to give emergency coverage to the devastated areas.  Financial, logistical and personnel support have been promised from many different local and national sources.