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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, February 12, 2012

100th Anniversary of Coastal Wireless in Australia

In view of the fact that tomorrow, Monday, February 13, is a day of emphasis on the international value of radio broadcasting, it is surely appropriate that here in Wavescan, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first government owned and operated wireless communication stations in Australia. This 100th anniversary occurred just a few days ago, last Wednesday, February 8 to be exact. This is how it all happened.

As we note, the famed Marconi had been very active in the experimental development of wireless as a tool for distant communication, beginning in 1894. Ten years later, the Marconi company in Australia established two temporary wireless stations, one in coastal Victoria and the other on the northern edge of Tasmania, as a public demonstration of the usefulness of wireless communication between the Australian mainland and islandic Tasmania.

During the years 1910 and 1911, four temporary interim wireless stations were established in Australia, and these were on the air as ATY and AAA in Sydney, AAM in Melbourne, and VZE on the small King Island close to Tasmania.

However, during this same time period, the government was actively involved in planning and preparing for an extensive network of coastal wireless stations that virtually ringed the entire islandic continent. Each of these stations was designed with a spark gap transmitter and a tall tower, with a simple crystal set as the receiver.

During the year 1912, a total of eight of these new wireless stations were installed; five on the continental mainland, one in Tasmania, and two in distant island territories. The two largest stations, Sydney and Perth, spanned the continent, and the other regional stations were intended for more local coverage.

The two stations in Sydney and Perth were designed and installed by the German company Telefunken using a 25 kW quenched spark transmitter that delivered 8 kW into the antenna system. The other stations at this stage were installed by the Maritime Wireless Company using locally made equipment rated at either 2.5 kW or 5 kW.

The very first of these new wireless stations was officially inaugurated in Melbourne under the callsign POM, on February 8, 1912. Their 100th anniversary took place just last Wednesday, February 8, 2012. This station was located on Kings Domain, adjoining the main surveyed area of Melbourne city, and it gradually replaced the earlier temporary station AAM.

The second station in this new network of coastal wireless stations was inaugurated on April 30 of the same year, 1912, with 5 kW, under the callsign POH. This station was located on Queens Domain, in Hobart, the capital city for the island state of Tasmania, and it was in use for communication with continental Australia, the Antarctic territories, and shipping in coastal waters.

The third station was inaugurated some four months later with the callsign POS, indicating Post Office Sydney. This was the first of the two larger stations and it was officially opened on August 19. The actual location was at Pennant Hills, a dozen miles from downtown Sydney, and the antenna tower stood at 400 feet. The projected callsign for this large new station was actually POP, standing for Post Office Pennant Hills.

New wireless stations were installed at three more state capitals during this same year 1912, and these were:

In addition to communication with shipping in local waters, the Brisbane station was also in use for communication with New Guinea. Thusly, the large station near Perth in Western Australia was also in use for communication with wireless stations in Asia; and interestingly, the smaller station located near Adelaide at the southern edge of the continent was often the first station that was able to communicate with shipping that was nearing the Australian mainland from the north.

The two other wireless stations that were installed during the year 1912 were both located in Antarctic waters. Station MQI on Macquarie (m'-KWOR-ee) Island made its first distant contact on February 13, and station MAL on the Antarctic mainland made its first distant contact on September 25.

Now, that is the story of all of the coastal wireless stations that were established in Australian territories during the year 1912, with the 100th anniversary of the first station taking place just last Wednesday. However, a whole slew of these early coastal wireless stations were subsequently installed in additional localities on the Australian mainland as well as throughout the islands of the South Pacific. In due course, we plan to look at all of these stations, particularly those that were established in the Pacific during those early years.

Now, as was noted above, each of these wireless stations was inaugurated under a three letter callsign beginning with the two letters, PO, which stood for Post Office, and this was the government entity that had the oversight of all of these stations. The third letter in each of these callsigns was the first letter of the city, nearby to each station. In this way, POA was near Adelaide, POB was near Brisbane, POP was near Perth, etc.

However, due to an international radio conference a while before these events, the initial letter V was allocated to all wireless stations located in the countries of the British Empire, and this was in honor of the illustrious Queen Victoria, who had died a few years earlier. Right at the end of the year 1912, the V series of callsigns was implemented in Australia by government action. In this way, station POA in Adelaide was re-designated as VIA, POB became VIB, POH became VIH, right down through the list to the Sydney station POS, which became VIS.

However, all of the subsequent stations, erected from the beginning of the year 1913 onwards, began their existence under the new regulations, and they were all allocated callsigns beginning with the two letters VI, until, in actual reality, the entire alphabetic list was used up, from VIA (Adelaide) to VIZ (Roebourne in coastal Western Australia).