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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, June 2, 2013

75th Anniversary: Radio Broadcasting in the Troubled Isles

The inhabited & uninhabited islands in the South Atlantic have been in dispute for more than one hundred years. A total of five major island groups make up these troubled isles, and in a semi-circular pattern these disputed island groups are: Falkland Islands, South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands, South Orkney Islands, and South Shetland Islands. They are mostly of volcanic origin, and they are a group of island clusters on uprising mountain ridges.

Politically, all five of these island groups were annexed as territories of Great Britain in the 1800s & 1900s, though Argentina & Chile, and at times other countries also, have laid claims to at least some or all of these island territories. However, currently they are administered by the United Kingdom in three groups as follows:

Falkland Islands As a British Overseas Territory
So. Georgia & So. Sandwich Islands Another British Overseas Territory
So. Orkney & So. Shetland Islands British Antarctic Territory

As far as wireless & radio are concerned, two of these island groups, South Sandwich & South Shetland, have had no real involvement in the significant events of electronic history, apart from the fact that there have been occasional amateur DXpeditions to these isolated islands, and on occasions communication transmitters have been in use by navy vessels, passenger ships, and aircraft on patrol. As far as is known, no wireless or radio station has ever been established on land in these two island groups.

The story of wireless & radio on South Georgia was presented here in Wavescan some three years ago, and just briefly, this is what happened. Coastal wireless station ZBH was established at King Edward Point on South Georgia back in the year 1925 for regular Morse Code communication, locally and further afield.

Then, on Sunday morning May 29, 1938, station ZBH was on the air as the co-ordinating point for the relay to the United States & Europe of programming and news associated with the early morning total solar eclipse. Two small portable transmitters were also in use for on the spot eclipse news, one at a suitable location on South Georgia, and another in the South Orkney Islands.

Back in March 1947, an international radio monitor in the United States reported in the American monthly journal, Radio News, that station ZBH was noted on shortwave with a relay of the BBC News at 6:00 am. This report stated though that the relay schedule was quite irregular.

In 1992, a subsidiary communication station with the callsign ZBH22 was in use on Bird Island, just off South Georgia; and in 2006, a series of postage stamps depicting radio station ZBH was issued on behalf of the South Georgia post office.

That brings us now to the story of wireless & radio in the South Orkney Islands. This island group is in reality the top of an underwater mountain range some 375 miles from Antarctica. There are four main islands, with Laurie Island at the extreme eastern end of this underwater ridge. The prevailing climate is cold, wet and windy.

The South Orkney Islands were discovered by seal expeditioners Nathaniel Palmer & George Powell from Great Britain in 1821, and named Powell's Group. Another seal hunter, James Weddell from Scotland, arrived two years later and he renamed the islands as South Orkney, in honor of the northern Scottish islands with a similar name.

In 1903, another expedition from Scotland visited South Orkney, and this was under William Bruce on the ship "Scotia". He conducted the first geographic survey of the island group, and he also installed a meteorological station on Laurie Island, in a building that he constructed and named Ormond House. Before leaving the area, he sold the weather station and the building to Argentina, and Argentine personnel took over on February 22, 1904.

In 1925, the Argentine government gave approval for the installation of a wireless station on Laurie Island and this was officially inaugurated two years later on March 30, 1927 under the callsign LRT. This radio base, now known as Orcadas Base, communicated with station LIK at Ushuaia in Argentina. In 1949, the functions of the radio station and the already established Post Office were combined into one organizational unit.

Over the years, a few amateur DXpeditions have been conducted on Laurie Island in the South Orkneys, and these have included LU7ET, LU5EAS & AY1ZA from Argentina, and VP8AOB from England. Currently, a 25 watt omni-directional aircraft beacon is operational at the Laurie Island base and this is on the air on 295 kHz longwave under the callsign DNO.

Regarding the 75th anniversary of radio broadcasting from these southern islands, there was a Solar Eclipse in the area in the early hours of Sunday morning May 29, 1938. The British arranged for special broadcasts from these islands for the occasion and two small portable transmitters were stationed at two different locations, one on South Georgia and the other on South Orkney. It is understood that both of these transmitters operated on shortwave in the old Apex Hi-Fidelity Band, 30 - 40 MHz, as remote broadcast units, as was the custom in those days.

It is stated that the live broadcasts from the two small portable transmitters were picked up by communication station ZBH on South Georgia and then relayed to the United States & Europe via a commercial shortwave station located on the South American mainland.

Thus it is that the only known radio broadcast from the South Orkney Islands was heard for just a few minutes as a remote broadcast via a low power shortwave transmitter, and this took place just 75 years ago, on May 29, 1938. This 75th anniversary took place just last Wednesday.