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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 24, 2013

A Wednesday Wireless Event on Thursday

The title of our opening feature here in Wavescan today is: A Wednesday Wireless Event on Thursday. This sounds like an enigma, and truly it is, until you understand what is involved. Keep on listening and it will become clear to you.

To the north of York Peninsula at the top of the Australian mainland in Queensland, there lies a group of more than 100 islands which are identified on the map as the Torres Strait Islands. This cluster of islands provides some sort of a bridge across the nearly 100 miles of ocean that separate Australia and New Guinea. They were discovered in 1605 and named in honor of the Spanish explorer, Luis Vaez de Torres.

The 1st European settlement was established on Albany Island in 1863, though during the next year this small colony was transferred to the Australian mainland at Somerset. Three years later again, the colony was transferred out to the islands once more, this time to Thursday Island.

You will remember that Captain William Bligh on the good ship "Bounty" underwent a mutiny in the South Pacific in 1789. The ship was taken to Pitcairn Island and burned there, but the Captain and some of his crew were put into a 23 ft long rowing boat and they safely made the 4,000 mile journey across open Pacific waters to Jakarta in Indonesia.

On the way, Bligh gave names to many of the islands, including Sunday Island, and Monday Island, and Tuesday Island, right through to the end of the week. He it was who gave the name to Thursday Island, the center of our feature story here in Wavescan today. In the local language, Thursday Island is known as Wai-Ben, which means appropriately, no water, due to the fact that fresh water is in short supply on the island.

Actually, Thursday Island is a quite small island, with a total area of just 1-1/2 square miles, though it is acknowledged as the "capital" of the Torres Strait Islands, with a population of 2.5 thousand. The original islanders were Melanesians & Polynesians & Aborigines; from New Guinea & the Pacific & Australia.

More than 100 years ago, a large number of Japanese pearl divers came to Thursday Island during the era when pearl shells were used commercially for the making of buttons for the clothing industry. During the Pacific War in the middle of last century, the Japanese air force did not bomb Thursday Island due to the colony of Japanese migrants who had settled there, though actually by this time they had all been removed to the Australian mainland for safety.

During the year 1893, a large fort was constructed on Green Hill, Thursday Island, to guard against a feared invasion from Russia. During World War 2, this fort was in use as an army communication station.

Back in the year 1908, an Australian newspaper reported that a wireless station would be installed on Thursday Island as part of the planned network of wireless stations surrounding the Australian continent. Progress was slow, but 4 years later, on November 16, 1912, the 1st test transmissions took place and successful Morse communication was made with 2 sister stations, VIB in Brisbane & VIM in Melbourne.

This new wireless facility was located on a section of the low Green Hill; the transmitter was rated at 5 kW; and the receiver was a simple crystal set receiver. The station was installed on a property that was sold to the Commonwealth government by the government of the state of Queensland. This property was adjacent to the local jail.

This new wireless station on Thursday Island was on the air under the callsign VII and it was taken into service for communication with the Australian mainland, and also to act as an intermediate relay station between other wireless stations in Australia & New Guinea.

The auspicious opening date for this new wireless station VII on Thursday Island was Wednesday February 26, 1913, and on that date, the station was taken into regular service. Hence the rather appropriate title for our topic, "A Wednesday Wireless Event on Thursday". We might also add that the aforementioned sister station VIG in Port Moresby New Guinea was officially taken into service on that same day, February 26, 1913, exactly 100 years ago next Tuesday.

In 1915, along with all of the other Coastal Wireless Stations surrounding the Australian continent, station VII was taken over by the Australian navy for wartime control. Then, in October 1920, the PMG Department took over all of these stations; and 2 years later again, they all reverted back to the control of AWA, the original founder of all of these stations. In the mid-1920s, station VII was upgraded and modernized and the old spark equipment was replaced with electronic valve equipment.

At the beginning of World War 2 in September 1939, the network of AWA coastal wireless stations was taken over again by the Australian navy; and 2 years later, station VII on Thursday Island began participation in the Coastwatching Service. During this wartime era, VII maintained communication with the operators of small transmitters that were used to pass information from within Japanese occupied territories back to the authorities in Australia.

In 1947 station VII, along with all of the other coastal wireless stations, was taken over by OTC, the Overseas telecommunication, and in 1992 OTC became Telstra. Available information would indicate that station VII was finally closed in the early 1990s, at the end of some 80 years of important communication service.

However, as time has gone by, other radio stations have been established on lonely Thursday Island. Somewhere around the 1970s a low powered 20 watt station VL4GA was established for local communication on shortwave; and around the 1980s, an aircraft communication transmitter VZTD was installed, along with a longwave aircraft beacon HID on 356 kHz.

The 1st radio broadcasting station on Thursday Island was the ABC mediumwave station with the appropriate callsign 4TI and this was inaugurated as a slave relay station in October 1979. A community mediumwave station 4MW was launched at the beginning of the new century, and since then, 2 FM stations have taken to the air, as well as 5 repeater TV stations.

And that's the story of "A Wednesday Wireless Event on Thursday," the story of the isolated wireless station VII on Thursday Island, which was officially inaugurated on a Wednesday. If it were still on the air today, historic wireless station VII would celebrate its 100th anniversary next Tuesday.