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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 N280, July 6, 2014

Historic Note VOA Australia-3: Projected VOA Relay Stations in Australia

On at least three separate occasions, the Voice of America has given serious consideration to the possibility of utilizing shortwave facilities in Australia for the relay of their programming into nearby areas in Asia. Even though a series of test transmissions took place on one notable occasion, yet nothing eventuated from these VOA assessment studies.

During the decisive years of World War 2 in the Pacific arena, 1944 and 1945, VOA was actually on the air with relay programming from two widely different Australian locations. The first was a single 50 kW RCA transmitter VLC in Shepparton, Victoria which carried American programming beamed to the Philippines under the title the Philippine Hour.

Then, during the same era, the American ship "Apache" set sail for the Philippines and it was on the air at times with American VOA and AFRTS programming from two Australian made transmitters, on mediumwave and shortwave, under the American callsign WVLC. Note the similarity of callsigns, VLC Shepparton and WVLC "Apache." After the war, these broadcasts were discontinued.

However, at some time around the year 1961, the Voice of America conducted a series of test broadcasts from sites within Australia and upon an Australian island in the Indian Ocean. The island location was Christmas Island, though the Australian mainland locations are not specified.

There are two islands named Christmas; one is in the Pacific and the other is in the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean Christmas Island was discovered and named by Captain William Mynors aboard the ship "Royal Mary" in 1643 and at that time the island was uninhabited.

Christmas Island is a small island with an irregular shape; it is located between Indonesia and Australia; and the total area is just 52 square miles. The island is the flat top of an underwater mountain, and the highest elevation above the surrounding ocean is just a little over 1,000 feet.

Although no specific details are known regarding the VOA test transmissions from Christmas Island back half a century ago, it is probable that these broadcasts were made in collaboration with the Australian communication station which was on the air under the callsign VLU.

No specific locations are identified as the sites for the VOA test broadcasts from the Australian mainland around that same time, although Darwin in the Northern Territory, Carnarvon, North West Cape and Wanneroo in Western Australia, are all likely possibilities. During World War 2, the Americans operated a navy base near Darwin; and a NASA space station at Carnarvon and the huge American navy station at North West Cape were in the planning stages at the time of the series of test broadcasts. It is probable also that the 50 kW shortwave transmitter VLX-VLW at Wanneroo near Perth was utilized for these test transmissions.

Whatever were the now unknown locations for the 1961 VOA test broadcasts from the Australian mainland, it would seem that they escaped detection by international radio monitors anywhere in the world.

Twenty years later, VOA again demonstrated an interest in establishing a shortwave relay station in Australia, and once again the two possible locations were Darwin and North West Cape. By this time (the 1980s), the cinderella Radio Australia relay station on Cox Peninsula across the bay from Darwin was in regular usage for coverage into Asia. At the time, Radio Australia, Darwin was under rehabilitation after the devastating Cyclone Tracy which had destroyed most of the city of Darwin at Christmas 1974.

There were questions about the wisdom of restoring the station in that location, but eventually it was reactivated by Radio Australia in September 1984, though it never was used by the Voice of America.

The other possibility involved the huge American naval radio station that was located at North West Cape on the Indian Ocean coastline of Western Australia. The navy transmitter station there NWC was in regular use during the 1980s for communication with American submarines and surface vessels, and the Voice of America gave consideration to the possibility of co-siting a shortwave relay station there. However, that was not to be.

Then nearly 20 years later in 1997, Radio Australia ended its usage of the shortwave facility near Darwin due to sever budget cuts. Several international radio broadcasting organizations showed an interest in using it as a part time relay station. Among the organizations that approached the Australian government with this request were the BBC, London and Deutsche Welle, Germany, as well as the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia in Washington, DC.

But that didn't happen either. The Darwin station was never used as a part time relay station by the BBC, nor DW, nor VOA, nor RFE. Instead, it was sold to Christian Voice who operated it for about a decade. Eventually though, there was a decision in the Australian courts that the land on which the station was built had to be returned to Aboriginal groups; so, the CVC usage came to an end in mid 2010, and the station was closed and dismantled.