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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, June 19, 2011

Five in a Row: The BBC Relay Stations in Arabian Coastal Areas - On Shortwave from Tin Can Island, Masirah

On three previous occasions here in Wavescan, we have presented the story of three consecutive BBC relay stations installed in the coastal areas of the Arabian Peninsula, and these were located at Berbera in Somalia, Perim Island in the entrance to the Red Sea, and the mediumwave station on Masirah Island off the edge of the Arabian Peninsula. On this occasion, we present the story of the fourth BBC unit in the area, the shortwave facility on the island of Masirah.

However, before we delve into this interesting information, let us take a look at three other radio facilities on the island of Masirah. In addition to the BBC mediumwave and shortwave stations, the BBC also installed a receiver station nearby with a system of three rhombic antennas. This facility was located in an electrically quiet area, somewhat south of the mediumwave station at the northern edge of the island.

This receiver station on Masirah received BBC programming off air shortwave, from transmitters located in England and Cyprus. During the horrendous cyclone on June 3, 1977, high winds downed one of the rhombic antennas, and badly damaged two that remained standing.

Because of the concentration of British personnel on the island, associated with the BBC facilities and other projects, consideration was given to their entertainment needs. Tentative plans were considered for the installation of a local TV station to broadcast the programming from BBC TV in England. However, ultimately, equipment was flown in for a single channel receiver facility with a downlink from satellite programming. There was never a local BFBS mediumwave or FM station on the island.

However, the Americans did at one stage install their own AFRTS relay station. This facility was a low powered carrier current station, with just 5 watts output on 975 kHz, under an American callsign WIRA. The AFRS station WIRA was on the air during the early American presence on the island, and it was in use from October 1944 to August 1945. With such an extremely low power output, it is probable that no QSLs were ever issued by AFRTS WIRA.

Now we come to the BBC shortwave relay station on Tin Can Island, as Masirah was known colloquially during this era. The mediumwave station was taken into service in 1969, and work commenced on the shortwave unit half a dozen years later.

Initially, plans for this new shortwave station seemed to indicate that transmitters rated at 250 kW were considered, though ultimately four Harris transmitters at 100 kW each were installed. This station was located about five miles south of the mediumwave station on the coast. The shortwave station was controlled remotely from the mediumwave facility.

At the time of the horrendous cyclone on June 13, 1977, work on the shortwave unit was nearing completion. The main transmitter building sustained major damage, though internal roofing remained intact and the transmitters themselves were undamaged. Due to the need for damage repair, the inauguration of this facility was delayed by several months.

The first of the four shortwave transmitters on Masirah was activated on June 25, 1978 with test transmissions of BBC programming. This first transmission was heard by the noted international radio monitor Victor Goonetilleke in Colombo, Sri Lanka and he heard them on 7275 kHz. Five weeks later, on August 1, this transmitter was taken into regular scheduling. By the end of the year, three transmitters were on the air with a regular service, and the 4th was activated early in the new year 1979.

A score of years later, the BBC electronic equipment on Masirah was outdated and inefficient. Plans were laid for an entirely new station at a new location; and ultimately, this new location was at A'Seela on the nearby mainland area of the country of Oman.

In August 2002, the gradual transfer of programming from Masirah shortwave to A'Seela began, and the last broadcast from the BBC station at Masirah took place two months later. Masirah shortwave ended at 21:59:30 UTC on October 7, 2002, on 6030 kHz.

For a period of some 33 years, the BBC operated their broadcasting facilities on the island of Masirah for coverage into Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The BBC Eastern Relay Station on Masirah was described as the smallest overseas BBC relay station.

The BBC facilities on Masirah consisted of three separate units; mediumwave at the top end of the island, shortwave at five miles south, and the receiver station a few miles distant from both. It is true, the BBC looked upon the entire complex as one single unit, though for convenience of description, we have separated their facilities into two units, mediumwave and shortwave.

As mentioned in our program two weeks ago, the northern mediumwave station is now a dedicated bird sanctuary, and the shortwave station is just simply abandoned. In fact you can easily see the two abandoned locations on Google Earth. At the very top end of Masirah, you can see where the old building used to stand, and five miles south and a little east, you can still see the old abandoned buildings.

The station is gone, but its memory lingers on for those who are fortunate enough to hold QSLs verifying the BBC Masirah. QSL cards and QSL sheets and letters were issued by the BBC staff on Masirah, and many of those who were active monitors for the BBC in London were able to obtain regular BBC QSL cards specifically identifying Masirah.

Radio Panorama RP10: Signaling through the Air, Country by Country, Pt. 1

The number of people throughout the world who have been chronicled as successful experimenters in the development of wireless and radio throughout the years is so large that we will just choose a few from different countries, and we will present the information in chronologic order.


Perhaps we could say that the first wireless transmission was made by Gian Domenico Romagnosi in the year 1802, when he discovered that an electrical discharge from a voltaic pile battery induced a deflection in a magnetic compass nearby. A similar observation was made by Francesco Zantedeschi a quarter of a century later.

In 1884, Temistocle Calzecchi-Onesti developed a detector for the reception of electrical signals, which later became known as the coherer. This model was a glass tube filled with copper filings which clumped together when an electrical signal was applied.

Next on the scene in Italy was Augusto Righi, who in 1897 successfully repeated the wireless experiments announced by Heinrich Hertz in Germany nine years earlier. The young Guglielmo Marconi studied under Righi's tutelage before he began his own experiments a few years later.


Hans Christian Orsted of Denmark was another who discovered that a needle is deflected in the presence of a flowing electric current, and that was in the year 1820. Even though Denmark became prominent in international radio broadcasting a century later, no further noteworthy experiments are known in these earlier years.

United States of America

It was Joseph Henry who first discovered in 1830 that an electric current passing through one coil of wire will induce a similar current in another coil of wire. Twelve years later, he successfully demonstrated the transmission of a signal from one parallel wire to another, separated at 100 feet.

Half a century later, in 1882, the young navy officer, Bradley Fiske, successfully transmitted wireless signals from one ship to another. He wound a huge coil of wire around the navy ship USS Atlanta in the New York navy base and another around a smaller tug boat nearby and he successfully transmitted an electrical signal from one to the other.

Others who successfully transmitted a wireless signal from one location to another at a near distance were Thomas Edison in 1885, Amos Dolbear in 1886, John Trowbridge in 1891, and Nikola Tesla in 1893. It should be noted that all of these successful experiments were conducted before the famous Guglielmo Marconi appeared on the scene.


The next country that made its appearance on the scene with the experimental development of wireless was England, and it was in the year 1831 that Michael Faraday discovered the transfer of electrical energy from one circuit to another. In this procedure, he applied an electrical current to a large circle of wire, and by magnetic induction, a current was produced in another nearby ring of wire.

Twelve years later, the Scottish inventor and author, James Bowman Lindsay, postured the astounding suggestion that underwater telegraph cables across the Atlantic Ocean could be replaced by a system of wireless ships 20 miles apart. He suggested that each ship could receive the telegraphic messages and relay them onwards across the ocean by the usage of a system of underwater transmissions.

Six years later, John Wilkins stated his concept that through the air transmission of wireless signals would one day be possible; and 30 years later, David Hughes in London succeeded in transmitting Morse Code signals from one coil of wire to another.

In 1894, Sir Oliver Lodge made a successful wireless transmission during a lecture at Oxford University, using the Hertz system. Just one year later, Henry Jackson began wireless experiments for the British navy. That was in the year 1895, and at that stage, the young Marconi made his first professional visit to England.


Meanwhile, over in Austria, Professor E. Sacher was also engaged in making wireless experiments in Vienna. He placed two parallel wires nearly 400 feet long at a distance of 65 feet part, and transmitted an electrical signal from one wire to the other. That was in December 1877.

And that's as far as we can go on this occasion, and next time, around a month from now, we will present Part 2 in this series of early wireless transmissions, Country by Country.