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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, July 10, 2011

Five in a Row: The BBC Relay Stations in Arabian Coastal Areas--The New BBCStation on Coastal Oman

Thus far here in Wavescan, we have presented four topics on the consecutive story of the BBC Eastern Relay Station, at its previous locations; Berbera in Somalia, Perim in the Red Sea, Masirah Mediumwave and then Masirah Shortwave. On this occasion, we present the fifth topic in this brief series, the story of the quite new mediumwave and shortwave station in Oman on the Arabian Peninsula. This is what happened.

But first though, some information regarding the country of Oman itself. Oman is just a small country, located on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. It is 500 miles long and 200 miles wide with a population around three million people. The capital is Muscat, and the largest city is Matrah.

Interestingly, two small territories lie at a distance from the main territory of Oman, and these are Musandam and Madha, both of which are surrounded by the territories of UAE, the United Arab Emirates and nearby waters. The enclave of Musandam lies at the end of the Musandam Peninsula with a population of 30,000; and in between is the small town, mostly empty, called Madha. To make things more complicated, inside little Madha is Nahwa, a settlement belonging to the UAE with just 40 houses, a small clinic and a telephone exchange.

Oman is one of the hottest countries on Earth, with a temperature quite often reaching as high as 130 degrees F, 55 C. Oman consists mainly of desert areas, and in some localities fresh water is available from ancient underground canals. The country's economy is based upon oil production; tourism is a major source of income; and 20% of the world's meteorites are found here.

The country of Oman traces its origins, and its name, back to the first migrants, who were Arab tribes from a location known as Uman in what is now the country of Yemen. In the early 1500s, Portuguese explorers and traders took over some of the Omani coastal areas, and 150 years later, local rebellions ousted the Portuguese. Then in 1798, Omani chieftains made a treaty of friendship with the British, though still retaining their own independence.

In 1996, the BBC in London signed an agreement with the government of Oman for the establishment of a new international radio broadcasting station to be located near Al-Ashkharah, a little more than 100 miles north-north east of their earlier station on the nearby island of Masirah. This new station, it was originally planned, would contain four shortwave transmitters at 300 kW each and two mediumwave transmitters at 600 kW each. Work commenced on the construction of this new station during the following year, 1997.

Three years later, when Merlin came in and took over much of the network facilities of the BBC London, an agreement was signed indicating that Merlin would take over the final design, the construction and the operation of this new relay station, though the BBC would still retain ownership.

In July 2002, the BBC issued an initial schedule showing the usage of this new transmitter facility, together with the schedule for the gradual transfer of programming from the old Masirah stations to the new station, now listed as A'Seela. During the next month, August 2002, the transfer of shortwave programming from Masirah to A'seela began, and the final broadcast from Masirah shortwave ended at 21:59:30 on October 7, on 6030 kHz. However, because all broadcast relay functions on Masirah were controlled from the mediumwave station at the top end of the island, then this unit was not closed down until a little later, the end of the same year 2002.

And once again, the inevitable typhoon came into the picture, and this was Typhoon Gonu, in 2007. The new BBC station survived, and continued in uninterrupted service.

These days, the BBC Eastern Relay Station, located near A'seela in coastal Oman, is on the air with regular program relays by satellite, though the current transmitter configuration is a little different from the original planning. The original specifications were:

The actual installation shows:

Although the BBC in London does not issue specific QSL cards, it is possible to obtain a valid QSL from the station itself in Oman. The address as given in the WRTVHB is: