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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, April 17, 2011

Don't Cry for Me Argentina: The Radio Scene in South American Argentina

It was announced during the month of January, that RAE Argentina, Radiodifusion Argentina Al Exterior, the international shortwave broadcasting service in Argentina, is not closing after all, but instead will continue its international service on shortwave. Then too, during our listener contest last year, one listener asked for a station profile on an interesting shortwave station in South America, and another specifically asked for similar information regarding RAE Argentina.

In response to all three of these matters, in our program today, we begin a two part feature on radio broadcasting in Argentina. We have chosen as the title for this topic, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina", which is reminiscent of a powerful melody with remarkable lyrics. This week, we speak on early wireless and radio in Argentina; and next week, on the shortwave service RAE in particular; and also, Voice of America relays in Argentina.

Argentina is a large country in South America with a population of 40 million people. The country is 2,300 miles long and 1,000 miles wide, with Buenos Aires on the north coast as its capital city, and Ushaia down south on the nearby island of Terra del Fuego, as the most southerly town in the world. The famous Iguacu Falls on the border with Brazil, 237 feet high and 2 miles wide, are a major tourist attraction, as are the beaches along the Atlantic coast.

In its early pre-history, several Indian cultures lived in tribal areas within Argentina, though not as densely populated as further north. Just before the arrival of the first Europeans, the Inca Empire invaded the area of what is today northwest Argentina.

The first European to land in Argentina was the Spanish explorer, Juan de Solis, who arrived at the Rio de la Plata in 1516. Over the years, there were several attempts at establishing viable settlements in Argentina; and in 1542, Spain exerted control over all Spanish settlements in South America, organizing all of them into one large colonial administration.

In 1816, Argentina declared its independence from Spain as the United Provinces of La Plata; and in 1881 Patagonia in the south was absorbed into Argentina, thus establishing the boundaries of Argentina pretty well as we know them today.

On the wireless scene, it was on August 4, 1906, that the Argentine Marconi Company was formed for business in both Argentina and Uruguay. Four years later, Marconi himself visited Buenos Aires in Argentina, and while there he installed a rudimentary transmission device, which included a kite for use as the aerial, and a set of earphones. The location was the southern suburb of Bernal and the year was 1910. With this simple apparatus, Marconi succeeded in communicating with Canada and Ireland.

During the year 1910, an official list of wireless stations shows a total of eight on the air throughout Argentina, including a fixed facility at this same Bernal location under the callsign MBL.

Construction work for a huge new wireless station at Monte Grande, some 12 miles from Buenos Aires, began in 1918. The main transmitting station was developed on a property of 1200 acres, and two low frequency transmission alternators were installed.

The antenna system for this wireless giant, nearly two miles in length, was supported on ten towers imported from France and Germany, each 680 ft. tall. The counterpoise earthing system consisted of a buried network of wires, as well as a system of wires, 30 ft. above ground level.

The Monte Grande Wireless Station was officially opened for international service in January 1924 under the callsign LPZ. The corresponding stations in overseas countries were located in New York, Paris and Berlin. The receiver station in Argentina was located at Villa Eliza, 20 miles from Buenos Aires.

The two Alexanderson alternators installed at the Monte Grande communication station were in continuous usage until they were de-commissioned seven years later in 1931. By that time, a bevy of shortwave transmitters had been installed at this location.

The broadcast of radio programming had a very early beginning in Argentina. A man by the name of Enrique Susini, together with three friends, established a make shift radio studio in the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires which was under renovation at the time. They constructed a small 5 watt radio transmitter, erected an antenna wire from the theatre building to the dome of a neighboring building, and hooked in a microphone normally used by people with a hearing loss.

At 8:30 pm on August 27, 1920, the opening announcement was made in the Spanish language stating that the Radio Argentina Society was presenting the opera Parsifal by Richard Wagner. This live radio broadcast was taken from the stage of the theatre and it was heard by an estimated radio audience of less than 20 people, including a ship way up north off the coast of Brazil. The local newspaper, La Razon, published a raving review of the event, and the President of the nation, Hipolito Yrigoyen, commended the group for their initiative in producing Argentina's first radio broadcast.

During the next 19 days, many more radio broadcasts were presented over the little 5 watt transmitter and temporary aerial wire, including two of Verdi's operettas, Aida and Rigoletto. Over a period of time, Radio Argentina grew until it became a widespread network throughout the whole nation, until its demise 3/4 of a century later, at the end of December 1997.

These days, Argentina is on the air from 1, thousand AM, mediumwave and FM radio stations that provide virtually total coverage to the entire population of their country. According to the World Radio TV Handbook, Radio Nacional operates two high powered mediumwave stations at 100 kW each, LRA1 on 870 kHz for capital city coverage and LRA7 on 750 kHz at Cordoba, for regional coverage inland in the center of the northern part of the country.

In our program next week, we will present the shortwave story in Argentina, including the development of their international broadcasting station RAE, as well as the network of Voice of America, VOA, relay stations in Argentina. We will also call the listener, Jean Barbat in France, who made the request for this particular feature.

Radio Panorama RP9: Wireless Signaling through Water

As we presented in Wavescan on previous occasions, early experimenters attempted the transmission of telegraph signals with the usage of the earth as the connecting medium, though they discovered that these experiments achieved limited success. As an alternative, similar experiments
were carried out using water as the connecting medium.

Way back on June 5, 1811, Dr. Samuel Thomas von Sommering made an interesting experiment in Munich in Germany. He had developed his own version of a wire connected telegraph system. At the suggestion of a friend, Baron Schilling, he placed the end of each connecting wire into a wooden basket of water, and he discovered that the water also conducted the electrical signal.

The Scottish experimenter, James Bowman Lindsay, began his initial experiments in the transmission of an electrical signal through an intervening body of water in 1831. He found that a signal could be passed through the water with the use of two wires in parallel.

One wire was laid on the ground on the edge of a river, with each end submerged into the water. Another wire was placed in a similar position on the other side of the river. A Morse Code signal was then fed into the middle of one wire, and a receiver in the middle of the other wire.

Lindsay conducted his experiments in several different locations, though his greatest achievement was the transfer of an electrical signal across the mouth of the River Tay at Dundee in Scotland, a distance of nearly two miles.

On October 18, 1842, the famous Samuel Morse in the United States made a public demonstration of his wire connected telegraph. He laid an insulated wire under water between Governor's Island and Castle Garden in New York, a distance of one mile. Very soon after he began the transmission of an electrical signal along the wire, a passing ship dragged up the connecting wire and deliberately cut it. However, Morse discovered that the water itself could be used to conduct the electrical signal.

Two months later, Morse made another similar experiment, and on this occasion, he laid two wires on the banks of the canal in Washington, DC, one on each bank, with the ends of each terminated in the water. He successfully transmitted telegraph signals in this way through the intervening water.

Over in India, the Englishman, Dr. William O'Shaughnessy, succeeded in passing an electrical signal in the same way across the wide River Hooghly in Calcutta in 1849. He used two parallel wires with the ends of each terminated in the water. The distance for this water transmission across the Hooghly River was nearly 3/4 mile.

Back in England again, three years later, Henry Highton began his experiments in the transmission of a telegraph signal through water. His greatest achievements were at the River Thames in London, where he made communication across the river, and also with boats on the river.

Professor John Trowbridge from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, made long distance communication through water in the year 1880. His experiments were conducted with terminated parallel wires at the Fresh Pond Lake across a distance of some twelve miles.

Next on the scene was the well known inventor of telephone fame, Alexander Graham Bell. Using the Trowbridge procedure with terminated parallel wires, he successfully transmitted a signal across the Potomac River at Colonial Beach on the Atlantic Coast of Virginia, a distance of 1-1/2 miles.

The first known usage of the parallel wire system for the transmission of a signal through water at a time of specific need took place over in England. This practical event occurred during the year 1882. At the time, there was a regular submarine cable running between the English mainland and the Isle of Wight in the English Channel.

On an occasion when the cable failed, a parallel system of wires with termination under water was installed, one in England and one on the Isle of Wight. Successful Morse Code communication was made on two separate occasions in this way, through a water distance of some seven miles. These successful and meaningful procedures were carried out by Sir William Preece who was a consulting officer with the British Post Office at the time.

Ten years later, Preece conducted a similar experiment across the Bristol Channel, and also across Lochness in Scotland. As a point of humor, we could ask the question: Did the electrical charges across Lochness have any effect on the Lochness Monster, Nessie!

We should also mention that Emil Rathenau successfully signaled through three miles of water near Berlin in Germany in 1894.

A quite unusual procedure took place in England under Willoughby Smith in July 1895. There was an underwater cable running from the mainland to the Fastnet Lighthouse at the southern tip of Ireland. Because of the rough seas on the edge of the Atlantic, the cable terminal was frequently damaged.

To overcome this problem, Willoughby Smith devised an ingenious plan. The cable from the mainland was terminated underwater near the lighthouse with a large copper plate buried in the sand. Nearby, the cable running up to the lighthouse was terminated at a large underwater rock, with holes drilled in the rock and copper terminals attached. Telegraph signals from the mainland were successfully transmitted in this way, with the usage of 60 fathoms of intervening seawater as part of the connecting system, a distance of more than 100 feet underwater.

During the 80 years of experimentation in the transmission of telegraph signals through water, two different methods were tried, though neither was successful at a very long distance. One procedure was to use the water as a connecting medium, thus taking the place of a connecting wire. The other procedure was to use two parallel wires separated at a distance across the water and terminated at each end in the water.

The most unusual suggestion for signal transmission across the Atlantic was made by the Scotsman, James Bowman Lindsay. He suggested that it was not necessary to lay a submarine cable under the Atlantic to connect Europe with North America. Instead, he said, a series of wireless ships could be stationed across the Atlantic at intervals of twenty miles, and wireless communication could be made between England and North America by transmitting through the water from ship to ship.

However, in reality it was demonstrated during the 1800s, that the usage of neither the earth nor the water as the connecting medium in long distance transmission was really successful. This left only one other alternative, the transmission of wireless signals through the air, and that will be our next story in this series of topics.