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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 20, 2011

New Zealand Earthquake Update

In a news release from earthquake devastated Christchurch in New Zealand, David Ricquish with the Radio Heritage Foundation, states that aftershocks strike the city at the rate of ten or more each day with a magnitude of 3 to 5 on the Richter scale. You will remember that we told you here in Wavescan last week about the recent disastrous earthquake in New Zealand.

David Ricquish states that a 1/4 of the total population has evacuated to safer localities, and that most of the downtown commercial district will need to be demolished due to ground instability. He also states that some suburbs will be completely demolished and replaced by parklands, forest and wetlands. He describes the recent quakes as the most devastating ever recorded in terms of damage to buildings and infrastructure.

In his news dispatches, David Ricquish states that many media personnel still face major difficulties as they continue to scramble to return their stations to the air due to the damage to major buildings and the fact that many media facilities are located in restricted areas. The antenna tower for mediumwave NewstalkZB sank into the ground as a result of the earthquakes, and many stations are using temporary facilities in order to remain on air.

The Radio Heritage Foundation has received an unrestricted broadcasting license for a mobile FM station in the record time of just six days and test broadcasts were scheduled to begin last Sunday (March 13). His Royal Highness Prince William from England, together with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, have received an invitation to speak over this new emergency radio station during their coming official visit to the area. Some years ago, David Ricquish represented the government of New Zealand in Los Angeles, California as their consul to the United States.

Radio Broadcasting in the Land of the Queen of Sheba, Pt. 2 - The Lightning & No Wire Company!

In our program last week, we presented the information about the radio scene in Aden, Yemen, with its early mediumwave stations; and the usage of the C&W, Cable & Wireless, communication station ZNR for the occasional broadcast of shortwave radio programming. We also mentioned that Yemen was the home of the legendary Queen of Sheba, who as a new young queen, visited the fabled King Solomon in Palestine. Her home was the now archaeological city of Marib, in the desert areas of Yemen. We pick up the story again today with this information regarding shortwave broadcasting in the southern Yemen, known at the time as Aden.

An official government radio station was inaugurated at Al-Hiswa in Aden on August 7, 1954. Initially this was a double facility with a shortwave transmitter rated at 3-1/2 kW, and a 300 watt mediumwave transmitter.

Three years later a 7-1/2 kW shortwave unit was installed, followed by a 10 kW unit eight years later again. During the year 1973, two shortwave transmitters at 100 kW were installed. In September 2005, this station was badly damaged in an air raid, leaving just one mediumwave unit active on the air.

After the two Yemens were combined, the Al-Hiswah shortwave facility near Aden remained in active use until 1995, when it went silent for a period of about eight years. However, it was re-activated again in 2003 and it is still on the air to this day with two transmitters, one at 50 kW and the other at 100 kW.

On the mediumwave scene, two regional stations were inaugurated in southern Yemen, at Al-Mukalla in 1967 and Sayun in 1973. These days though, there are just two major locations on the air mediumwave in southern Yemen, Aden, and these are:

Al Hiswah 100 kW 792 kHz
100 kW 1188 kHz
Al Mukalla 50 kW 785 kHz

We now go a little north, from Aden, Yemen to Sana'a, Yemen, and we go back to the beginning of radio broadcasting in that segment of the now united country. The first radio station at Sana'a was established in January 1946, though it is not known whether this was a mediumwave or shortwave facility.

Due to similar circumstances elsewhere in the region, we would guess that this new radio station was a comparatively low powered shortwave unit, operating probably on what we would call a tropical shortwave channel. A couple of years later, this station in Sana'a was closed, though some seven years later again, it was re-opened.

During the 1960s, two regional mediumwave stations were opened in North Yemen and these low power units were co-sited with already existing communication stations. In 1963, one of these regional mediumwave stations was co-sited with communication station 4WA at Taiz; and in 1969, the other was co-sited with communication station 4WD at Al-Hodeida.

The main shortwave station at Sana'a was inaugurated in 1950 with a 25 kW General Electric transmitter from the United States. However, at this stage, the C&W station at Sana'a was also in use for the occasional relay of radio programming, on both mediumwave and shortwave. The company name for C&W is Cable & Wireless. This is a difficult name to translate into Arabic, and when the name is translated back into English, it would read, "The Lightning & No Cable Company."

During the year 1973, two 50 kW Siemens shortwave transmitters were installed at Sana'a and soon afterwards, these were noted on air by international radio monitors in Australia and New Zealand. Channels in use at this stage were 6050 kHz and 9585 kHz. A 300 kW Thomson shortwave transmitter was installed in 1988.

These days North Yemen, as part of the united country of Yemen, is noted on only one shortwave channel, 9780 kHz with 50 kW. On mediumwave, eight different channels are listed at four different locations.

QSLs over the years from the two Yemens have been very difficult to obtain. From southern Yemen, Aden, we note the following QSLs:

1962 BFBS Mediumwave
1974 Steamer Point 50 kW, 755 kHz Pink antenna card
1981 Communication Station 3 kW, 5208 kHz Jose Jacob, India

And from northern Yemen, Sana'a, we note these QSLs:

1987 Sana'a Shortwave 50 kW, 9780 kHz Letter
1998 Sana'a & Mocha Mediumwave Letter
2001 Sana'a 4953 & 9780 kHz Colored card

Next on the International Radio Scene, Libya

The country that has suffered most in the recent political turmoil in the Middle East and Africa is Libya. According to the news reports that we have all seen on TV, vicious fighting has taken place, mainly in the areas nearby to their major cities in the northern coastal areas. Half a century ago, these areas featured prominently in the see-saw battles fought by the European powers during their North African campaigns.

The country of Libya is located in the north of Africa, approximately in the middle of the Mediterranean coastline. Libya is approximately 1,000 miles long and 1,000 miles wide, though with an irregular shape.

Almost the entire country is covered by the Sahara Desert, with a 50 mile strip of arable land along the coast, and a few oases inland. The hottest temperature ever recorded occurred in Libya on September 13, 1922, when the temperature was measured at 136 degrees Fahrenheit, 58 Celsius.

The population of Libya numbers around 7 million, their capital city is Tripoli, and their largest city is Benghazi. Oil was discovered in quantity in 1959, and these days the sale of oil forms 80% of the national economy.

This area of North Africa was inhabited by Berber tribespeople in earliest ancient times, and Phoenicians from the Palestine coast settled in the area around 700 BC. One hundred years later, the Greeks colonized the area, followed by the Romans, who were followed by the Vandals from central Europe, and then the Arabs came in around the 600s AD. In 1912, Italy took over Libya, and after World War II, Libya gained independence in 1951.

For those who have an interest in Biblical backgrounds, the continent of Africa gained its name, according to the ancient historian, from two of the grandsons of the revered Patriarch Abraham; Ephah and Epher. The original Berber tribespeople are descendant from Noah's son Ham; and Libya is mentioned by name more than a dozen times, with one statement yet to be fulfilled in coming events. The early Christian church remembered that a man by the name of Simon, from Cyrene in north eastern Libya, was arrested by Roman soldiers and forced to carry the cross along the via Dolorosa in Jerusalem on behalf of the Messiah.

Wireless communication came quite early to Libya, and the first stations were installed immediately after the end of World War I. These early wireless stations were located in Tripoli as ICK; Benghazi as ICJ; and Tobruk as ICU; together with four other regional locations.

However, radio broadcasting came quite late to Libya, and interestingly, the first mediumwave stations were installed and operated by British and American forces personnel, not by the national government or commercial interests. According to all available references, there was a total of six different BFBS stations on the air in Libya giving coverage to four different localities on AM FM and SW; and just one AFRTS station on AM mediumwave.

We look first at the British stations. According to Doreen Taylor in her book, "A Microphone and A Frequency," the first two British stations were erected somewhat simultaneously during the year 1946, in Benghazi and Tripoli. Both stations were quite small to begin with, using just whatever electronic equipment was available.

The original station in Benghazi was located on what had been the Italian airfield, and quite early, in 1947, an attempt was made to broadcast on shortwave. The transmitter was an American made RCA unit rated at 7-1/2 kW and the chosen channel was announced as 11820 kHz, though monitoring observations in Australia stated that the channel was more like 11850 kHz. Unfortunately, these BFBS shortwave broadcasts caused interference to a regular BBC transmission, so the first attempt at shortwave broadcasting was aborted.

However, shortwave broadcasting was again attempted on two subsequent occasions; in 1949 on 4780 kHz, and in 1956 with 7-1/2 kW on 4930 and 7220 kHz.

Two years after the station was inaugurated, Arabic programming was introduced for the benefit of local citizens; and four years later, the station was flooded following heavy rains in the hills nearby. However, due to quick action on the part of station personnel, very little damage was done to the station equipment.

The Benghazi station was closed in February 1958, but upon the insistence of King Idris, a smaller station with 1 kW on 833 kHz was installed in an empty ward in what had been the base hospital in Wavell Barracks. That was in 1960, but when most of the British forces left the area, the station was taken over temporarily by Signals personnel, and soon afterwards it was closed.

The BFBS station in Tripoli likewise had a double life. It was located initially in the British army barracks at Mareth, and ten years later the station was transferred to Miani Barracks four miles distant. Likewise, shortwave coverage was tried from this station, and it was noted in England on 4785 kHz in 1953. This station, with 1 kW on 1394 kHz, was finally closed in January 1966.

The BFBS station located at Tobruk came on the radio scene considerably later than the previous two. It was inaugurated in July 1964, it radiated 1 kW on apparently two channels, 1439 and 1484 kHz, and it was closed after six years of on air service.

Interestingly, the programming from the Benghazi BFBS station was also on the air from an FM relay station located at El Adem, 17 miles inland. This relay station received its program feed via a landline connection, and it was likewise on the air for only six years.

BFBS in Libya was therefore on the air shortwave from two different locations, Benghazi in 1947, 1949 and 1956; and from Tripoli in 1953. And yes, these BFBS stations in Libya did issue QSL cards, though these days they are quite rare. The Indianapolis collection does contain one card, verifying BFBS Benghazi on shortwave with 4 kW on 3305 kHz in 1954.

The American AFRTS station was located at Tripoli and the best information would suggest that it was launched with 100 watts on 1510 kHz in 1954. Very little is known about this station; it must have had an American callsign, but of that we do not know. It was closed, we would suggest during the year 1970, and at the time, it was operating with 1 kW on 1594 kHz.

Next week here in Wavescan, we will look at the earlier shortwave radio scene in Libya.