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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 8, 2012

The Troubled Triad: Titan, Titanic & Titanian

Next Wednesday, April 14, will be the 100th anniversary of one of the world's most spectacular and heart-wrenching tragedies; 100 years to the very day, since the great passenger ship, the Titanic, struck an iceberg, and sank in the Atlantic Ocean south of the island of Newfoundland, with a massive loss of human life. This week here in Wavescan, and next week also, we memorialize this tragic event, particularly from a radio, or wireless point of view.

Let me read to you these several items of interest taken from an early publication, and we suggest that you listen carefully before you make a judgment:

She was the largest craft afloat and the greatest of the works of men. In her construction and maintenance were involved every science, profession and trade known to civilization.

Two brass bands, two orchestras, and a theatrical company entertained the passengers during waking hours; a corps of physicians attended to the temporal, and a corps of chaplains to the spiritual welfare of all on board.

From the bridge, engine-room, and a dozen places on her deck the ninety-two doors of nineteen water-tight compartments could be closed in half a minute by turning a lever. These doors would also close automatically in the presence of water. With nine compartments flooded the ship would still float, and so no known accident of the sea could possibly fill this many, (and thus) the great steamship was considered practically unsinkable.

Built of steel throughout, she was eight hundred feet long, of seventy thousand tons displacement, seventy-five thousand horse-power, and on her trial trip had steamed at a rate of twenty-five knots an hour.

Unsinkable - indestructible, she carried as few life boats as would satisfy the laws.

"Ice," yelled the lookout; "ice ahead. Iceberg."

Seventy-five thousand tons - dead-weight - rushing through the fog at the rate of fifty feet a second, had hurled itself at an iceberg.

And so the story continues, with a huge loss of life during that notable April evening, with the ship sinking quite quickly around midnight in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. It was her first, her maiden voyage, across that vast ocean separating Europe from North America. It sounds like the sinking of the Titanic, doesn't it?

But no, that is not the case. The readings we just presented to you were taken from a novel, written by the American author, Morgan Robertson, in the year 1898, 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The name of the ship in Robertson's novel, believe it or not, was "Titan," almost the same name as the "Titanic" 14 years later. Robertson's novel was named "The Wreck of the Titan."

There is a strange coincidence linking the names of three different ships, each crossing the Atlantic, and each running into trouble in a massive field of icebergs in the North Atlantic during the month of April. You have just heard the story of the first ship, the fictitious "Titan" in the year 1898, at the time when the young Marconi was just developing his experimental wireless equipment.

The second ship in this triad of troubled ships with a similar name is the "Titanic," which ran into the field of icebergs just before midnight exactly one hundred years ago, on Sunday April 14, and sank shortly after midnight, in the early hours of Monday April 15. This ship, the "Titanic," was carrying wireless equipment which was pressed into service in calling other ships to the rescue. We will present the details of that story here in Wavescan next week.

The third ship in this triad of troubled ships with a similar name was the "Titanian," a cargo vessel traveling across the North Atlantic 23 years later, in April 1935. She was carrying coal from Newcastle in England for delivery in Canada.

The story about this ship, the "Titanian" has been embellished a little over the years, but the fact is that she was caught in the iceberg field and stalled, some distance out from Newfoundland. With the stearing gear damaged, she radioed ahead for assistance, and the tug boat "Imogene" was sent to the rescue.

All three ships had a similar name, "Titan," "Titanic" and "Titanian"; and all three were damaged in collisions with icebergs in the North Atlantic; and all three during the month of April. The fictitious story of the "Titan" was during the era when wireless was under experimental development; the "Titanic" carried wireless equipment that was pressed into usage for the occasion; the "Titanian" used its radio equipment in calling for a tug to render assistance.

Quite remarkable. And like we said earlier, the story of the "Titanic" itself will be featured here in Wavescan next week.


The Story of Radio Broadcasting in Sri Lanka - 3: The Large Deutsche Welle Relay Station at Trincomalee

The picturesque and strategic harbor at Trincomalee is situated on the east coast of the island of Sri Lanka, at around 1/3 of the way down the total eastern coastline. The harbor is well attested in ancient times, and it was visited by the famous Italian explorer and traveler, Marco Polo, on his return visit from China in the year 1292.

The harbor was in use by the British Royal Navy as a submarine base during World War 2, acting as a guard point to the wide Bay of Bengal. There was also a British Royal Air Force base nearby.

On August 12, 1980, representatives from Deutsche Welle in Germany and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in Colombo signed a mutual agreement, whereby a large radio broadcasting station, mediumwave and shortwave, would be constructed at the former Royal Navy Base, a dozen miles north of Trincomalee Harbor. This original agreement provided for one mediumwave transmitter at 600 kW, three shortwave transmitters at 250 kW, and one communication transmitter at 10 kW. An additional clause provided for a doubling of the station's broadcasting equipment, if needed.

The Trincomalee site is located in the community of Perkara and it was originally under consideration for use by Trans World Radio TWR, though they subsequently preferred to build their station north of Colombo, near the west coast of the island. The original concept on the part of Deutsche Welle was that the large Trincomalee-Perkara relay station would be a joint project between Deutsche Welle in Germany and Radio Tehran in Iran.

Throughout the development of the station, progress always seemed to be somewhat slow, due to the isolation of the area, and at times also to the incursions of local insurgents. Construction work on the 242 acre site at Perkara began in October 1982. Some of the old colonial buildings from the British days were modified and updated for use by the station, and several buildings were constructed new.

Local wildlife also played its part at various times in causing disruption at the station, with occasional elephant herds breaking through the perimeter fencing and tramping through the property. Then again, there were the occasional fights and adventures on the part of monkeys who enjoyed swinging through the wires in the curtain antenna systems. Crocodiles also ventured onto the station property on occasions.

Test broadcasts from the first shortwave transmitter were noted on December 1, 1984, and also from the second shortwave transmitter a few weeks later, in early January 1985. In April, test broadcasts were noted from the mediumwave transmitter; and in mid year, the third shortwave transmitter became airborne. Electric power was generated at the station itself.

The final configuration of the four broadcast transmitters was a little different from that which was originally envisaged. The 600 kW mediumwave transmitter became two at 300 kW, though the total output on 1548 kHz was dropped to 400 kW. The three shortwave transmitters at 250 kW each became two at 300 kW and one at 250 kW, though all were in use on air at 250 kW each. This electronic equipment was provided by the German electronics giant, Telefunken.

The original program feed was provided via Colombo, with 5 FM transmitters perched on top of Sri Lanka's second highest mountain, at Radella. In due course, the program feed from Germany was taken off satellite at Perkara.

Deutsche Welle Perkara-Trincomalee was ready for full service in October 1988, but this usage was postponed until the middle of the following year, due to a shortage of local trained staff. The three shortwave transmitters were heard at good level throughout Asia, and well beyond also. The mediumwave transmitter was also heard quite widely.

Multitudinous QSL cards have been issued in confirmation of wide coverage areas of Deutsche Welle Sri Lanka. According to one reference, the official Sri Lankan callsign for this mighty station was 4QQ, though no callsign was ever used on air.

There were times when the station was closed, and at times the staff was evacuated to safe locations when insurgents infiltrated the area. On those occasions, DW programming to the Trincomalee coverage areas was carried by Radio Veritas in the Philippines, and also by shortwave stations located in the southern countries of the former Soviet Union.

As is happening these days to so many important shortwave stations throughout the world, downsizing is now part of the picture. Deutsche Welle decided to close two of its major shortwave relay stations, Sines in Portugal and Trincomalee in Sri Lanka. At the end of October last year Deutsche Welle programming from the Trincomalee relay station came to an end, though some client programming remained on the air until the end of the year.

However at this stage, the noted Victor Goonetilleke in Colombo reported that the SLBC carried one program via the Trincomalee station, and this was a three hour broadcast in the Sinhala language beamed to the Middle East on 11750 kHz from 1530 - 1830 UTC.

Then Jose Jacob VU2JOS at Hyderabad in India noted a brief series of test broadcasts from the mediumwave transmitter on 1548 kHz, when a simple station announcement was given in several languages. That was earlier this year.

On January 1 earlier this year, the large international radio broadcasting station located at Perkara-Trincomalee was taken over by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. That was the end of an era; alas DW Sri Lanka is no more!