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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 31, 2011

Canada on Shortwave: VOA and RCI Relays

Back during the 1930s, when shortwave broadcasting was becoming quite popular in many countries throughout the world, it was a common practice for one station in one country to relay the programming from another distant station in another country. Thus for example, the programming from shortwave KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was heard at times on relay via shortwave stations located in England, and Holland, and Germany and Australia.

Conversely, the programming from shortwave VK2ME in Australia was heard at times via shortwave stations in the United States, and Canada, and England. Quite frequently, programming from radio stations in the United States was also heard on relay via radio stations in Canada.

In February 1941, the CBC in Canada inaugurated a low power shortwave station located at Vercheres, along the St. Lawrence estuary on the northern edge of suburban Montreal in Province Quebec. This station contained three shortwave transmitters, two at 7.5 kW and one at 200 watts. The purpose for this station was to provide radio coverage for French speaking people in country areas who were unable to receive the programming from existing mediumwave transmitters.

A report in an Australian radio magazine published in July 1941, just a few months after the station was inaugurated, states that the 7.5 kW transmitter under the callsign CBFY was noted on 11705 kHz with a program of dance music from NBC in New York. Four years later, in October 1945, a report in an American radio magazine states that callsign CBFX on 9630 kHz at the same location was also noted with a regular daily relay of NBC programming from New York.

If all of the details were known, it is probable that Vercheres shortwave in Canada was taking a regular relay from NBC New York throughout all those years. This NBC programming, beginning on February 1, 1942, and extending well beyond the already mentioned 1945, was on the air in the United States under the control of the Voice of America. Thus, it would appear that CBC Vercheres in Canada operated as a part time relay station on behalf of the Voice of America for several years.

Back around the same era, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Montreal took out a relay from an American shortwave station for coverage into islandic and continental Europe. This was before the large Sackville shortwave station was established for Radio Canada International.

Documents in the office of Radio Australia in Melbourne state that the CBC in Canada took out a relay via the American shortwave station, WRUL near Boston in Massachusetts, beginning in March 1941. These shortwave broadcasts were on the air for the benefit of Canadian service personnel on duty in Europe, with messages from family members at home in Canada.

In August of that same year, a new program in the French language was produced in the CBC studios in Montreal, Canada and broadcast over the same 50 kW shortwave station WRUL at Boston in the United States. This programming was in the French language under the title "Canada Speaks to France" and it was beamed towards continental France.

The new RCI shortwave station at Sackville was officially taken into regular service on February 25, 1945. Three months later, in May, this station was heard in New Zealand with a relay of the Voice of America programming in the German language. The broadcast began with the identification announcement in French, "Ici Radio Canada", and then followed the German program from the VOA studios in New York City.

At the time, two programs in the German language were on the air daily from RCI Sackville, corresponding to the two time periods in Germany, breakfast and lunch time. There were just two personnel making up the German Service at Radio Canada International during this early era. It is not known at this stage as to whether the RCI relay of VOA in German was an occasional event, perhaps a fill in when other programming was not available, or whether this was a regular daily relay during this era.

This VOA relay via RCI Sackville was monitored on approximately 11700 kHz. Subsequent monitoring reports show that callsign CKXA on 11705 kHz was often heard in Australia and New Zealand with German programming. Several international radio monitors received QSL cards verifying the reception of CKXA on 11705 kHz, and it is probable that these cards verified the VOA relay via RCI Sackville.

On a more recent occasion, Radio Canada International at Sackville carried another relay on behalf of the Voice of America. On Sunday, November 26 in the year 2000, a planned maintenance of the power systems at the BBC Atlantic Relay Station on Ascension Island took place. During that time period the Voice of America was normally on the air for a half hour via two transmitters at 250 kW each.

As a fill in measure, VOA took out a relay via RCI Sackville, for just a half hour, on the same two channels, 15390 kHz and 17875 kHz, for programming in Spanish to Latin America. The half hour ended with the RCI Identification Signal, made up of the first four notes of their National Anthem, O Canada.

It is understood that the two transmitters in Sackville were also operating at full power, at 250 kW each. The signal was strong as heard in the target areas, and also as heard in many areas in the United States, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

By special arrangement by Dan Ferguson at the VOA headquarters in Washington, DC, all correct reports of the one time VOA transmissions via RCI Sackville were verified with the correct transmitter location, shown as Sackville in Canada, and not Ascension Island on that particular date.

Thus in this feature on "Shortwave in Canada," we see that:

Australian States on Shortwave: 4 - Queensland

A total of six different locations in the Australian state of Queensland have been on the air during the past half century or more with the broadcast of shortwave programming. The first of these stations was located at Pinkenba, an outer suburb on the western edge of Brisbane. The Coastal Station VIB was located here, and they were on the air shortwave with weather forecasts and storm warnings. In 1943, this station took a short relay from the ABC each day with the midday time signals.

The first actual shortwave broadcasting station in the state of Queensland was located at Bald Hills, a little north of the state capital, Brisbane, and it was opened in 1943 for service to the widely unpopulated outback areas of the inland for which no programming was available on mediumwave.

Back in the year 1941, international tensions were mounting in the Pacific and it was considered advisable to remove the tall radio towers of the three city mediumwave stations that were located on the top of downtown buildings. The towers of these three stations, 4QG, 4QR and 4BK, were all visible from the edge of the nearby Pacific Ocean.

In 1941, work commenced at a large new ABC transmitter facility on a property at Bald Hills that was previously in use as a jam factory some 12 miles north of Brisbane. During the following year, the programming of the two ABC mediumwave stations, 4QG and 4QR, was transferred from the city transmitter facilities to the new out of town station.

At the same time, a 10 kW STC shortwave transmitter was installed at Bald Hills and this was officially taken into service for outback areas on February 17, 1943 under the callsign VLQ. A subsidiary shortwave service was inaugurated six years later under the callsign VLM with the usage of a temporary 200 watt transmitter, and later another 10 kW unit.

The ABC shortwave service at Bald Hills in Queensland was in use:

The Bald Hills shortwave service was on the air for a period of a little over 50 years running from 1943 to 1993. During that time, a total of four different transmitters were in use for the VLQ-VLM programming, three at 10 kW and one at 200 watts.

Nearly 1,000 miles further north is another shortwave station, and this is the Radio Australia facility located near Brandon on the Queensland coast. Back in the year 1958, the 50 kW ABC mediumwave station 4QN was transferred from Clevedon and rebuilt near Brandon.

Then 30 years later, three shortwave transmitters at 10 kW were removed from the shortwave station at Lyndhurst in Victoria after it was closed and they were re-installed at the transmitter site near Brandon. Test broadcasts from the new location began on April 3, 1989, but next day, the station was damaged by the invasion of Cyclone Alva. However, the damaged antenna system was repaired quite quickly and ten days later, test broadcasts were re-commenced.

The three transmitters were used alternately to provide two shortwave program channels under the line callsign VLG and VLJ. A third channel was planned under the callsign VLS, but it was never implemented due to the fact that an additional antenna system was never installed.

Originally, it was intended that the low powered 10 kW shortwave facility at Brandon would be a temporary fill in until two additional 100 kW transmitters were installed. However, instead, two DRM capable 20 kW RIZ transmitters from Europe were installed (in 2006) and these now provide a dedicated relay service to various islands in the South Pacific where the programming is received on digital shortwave and rebroadcast live on local FM stations.

And while we are talking about cyclones, we should mention that on at least three occasions, the ABC mediumwave programming from North Queensland has been noted on shortwave from Shepparton in Victoria. These three cyclones, named Larry and Monica in 2006, and Yasi in 2011, pounded the north eastern coast of Australia and penetrated well inland causing horrendous damage.

In order to keep local residents informed, and to serve as a fill-in relay service where damaged local stations were off the air, the cyclone emergency programming from Queensland was beamed to the stricken areas on shortwave over the temporarily diverted 100 kW transmitters located at Radio Australia, Shepparton.

Next, in Queensland on shortwave, we take a look at an American army station. This station was established at Hemmant on the edge of Brisbane in 1943 with two transmitters, a Federal at 10 kW and a Press Wireless at 40 kW. It was on the air under an American callsign WTO with army communications and the transfer of news for the American media for a couple of years, after which it was taken over by the Australian government in 1946 as a communication station.

On previous occasions here in Wavescan, we have presented the story of the Coastal Radio Stations throughout Australia, and also the weather broadcasts from the navy stations AXM in Canberra and AXI in Darwin. It was on June 30, 2002, that all of the Coastal Radio Stations were closed, and also the weather broadcasts from the two navy stations AXM and AXI.

On the very next day, July 1, 2002, two new shortwave stations took over these services. The two new stations are VMC at Charleville in Queensland and VMW at Wiluna in Western Australia, both established well inland at electronically quiet locations.

Station VMC "Weather East" is located near Charleville, apparently a little south of the town. The current scheduling shows that it operates at least 5 transmitters at 1 kW, with fax weather charts, and at set times during the day, with weather bulletins in voice mode.

The scheduling for these two stations VMC and VMW can be obtained from the internet, together with the address for QSL response, at Bom.gov.au.