"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 N333, July 12, 2015
The Radio Scene on the Happy Hula Island
The Hawaiian Islands are a chain of volcanic islands lying in the mid Pacific half way between the United States and Asia. This island chain extends some 1,500 miles from the north west to the south east. It is made up of major islands, minor islands, islets, rocky outcrops and coral atolls, with a complete total of approximately 200 that are listed and named, seven of which support a permanent population.
The island called Molokai is the fifth largest in this chain of islands in the central Pacific, and it lies in the center of the inhabited cluster of major Hawaiian islands. Molokai is 40 miles long and 10 miles wide, and its shape as shown on the map is described as resembling a lady's slipper shoe, or perhaps a fish.
Molokai is a mountainous island made up of two extinct volcanoes. The eastern end and the northern shore of the island are rugged and mountainous, and the majestic sea cliffs at nearly 4,000 feet are the tallest in the world. The high areas receive as much as 80 inches of rain each year.
During the daytime, two nearby islands are visible from the southern shore of Molokai, and at night time, the lights of Honolulu 25 miles distant are visible from the western edge. The main town is Kaunakakai in the center of the south coast, with less than a thousand homes. There is one major roadway running the full length of the island and the top speed limit is 45 miles per hour.
The tourist brochure cites Molokai's pristine, breathtaking tropical landscape, careful consideration of the environment, its rich and deep Hawaiian traditions, and a visitor friendly culture as invitations to come and stay a while. In fact the island of Molokai is sometimes designated as the "Friendly Island."
The earliest inhabitants of Molokai were the Polynesian peoples who began to arrive from other central and south Pacific islands in the initial waves of migration around 2,500 years ago. The first European explorer to sight the island was the famous Captain James Cook from England in 1778; and the first to land on the island was another Englishman, Captain George Dixon, during his exploration of the west coast of North America and Alaska eight years later.
In the early 1800s, Russia gave consideration to colonizing the island of Molokai to produce food for its colonies in Alaska; the first European settlement was established by the Protestant missionary Harvey Hitchcock in 1832; and European Catholics established a leper colony on the isolated northern peninsula in 1866. The population of the island these days is around 7,000, and on any one day, there are around 1,000 tourists on the island.
During the year 1899, Mr. Fred Cross of Buffalo, New York surveyed the Hawaiian Islands with the intent of establishing a cascading network of wireless stations for inter-island communications. He met Marconi in New York on October 31, (1899) and he secured a contract for five wireless stations running from Honolulu to the big island Hawaii. Three Marconi men from the mainland, Trios Bowden, John Pletts and B. E. Hobbs arrived in May of the following year (1900) to begin the installation of the five stations on five different islands.
The first wireless station installed on the island of Molokai was a primitive set of Marconi equipment near the beach at Laau Point on the west coast. Initial test transmissions from all five stations began in August (1900) with very little success. The only stations that could communicate with each other were on two other islands, Lanai and Maui.
The Marconi company on the mainland called their wireless expert, Andrew Gray, who was in Africa at the time, to come to the rescue in the Hawaiian islands. He successfully worked on the first link, from Honolulu to Molokai, by transferring the Honolulu station from the 200 feet high location at Kaimuku down to sea level. This 28 mile link was successfully inaugurated on November 13, 1900.
In addition, the wireless station at the beach at Laau Point on Molokai could also successfully communicate with the station located at the water front on the nearby island of Lanai. The complete five station network from Honolulu to the Big Island was opened for business on March 2 of the following year, 1901.
Then, three years later, the station on Lanai Island was transferred to Kamalo on the edge of Molokai. Thus, at this stage, the inter-island wireless company was temporarily operating two Marconi wireless stations on Molokai; Laau Point on the western edge and Kamalo near the southern most point on the island. However, the original station at Laau Point was closed, and the station near Kamalo Harbor became the only communication station on Molokai.
However, after less than 5 years of attempted service, the entire system was closed due to its inefficiencies and ineffectiveness on January 9, 1906. The whole system was sold off and reorganized as the Wireless Telegraph Co. during the following year.
However, give two more years, and the system was bought by the Mutual Telephone Company and the two systems were amalgamated under the one company name, Mutual. Under the Mutual Telephone Company, the .5 kw Kamalo spark transmitter was activated on January 1, 1909 with the callsign AM.
New equipment was installed at Kaunakakai in the center of the south coast, and this became the location for the wireless station on Molokai. New transmission equipment was installed at all five locations throughout Hawaii, and the government licensing agency inspected them all, but did not write out provisional licenses until three years later, the latter part of the year 1916. The callsign for Molokai at this stage was KHO.
During the year 1930, the entire faulty system of inter-island wireless communication was upgraded and modernized by Mutual with the installation of valve or tube radio equipment. The FCC granted licenses for each of these radio stations, and the Kaunakakai station was officialized with the call KGXN on the high shortwave channel 51600 kHz.
Next in the radio scene on the Hawaiian island of Molokai was the island's only mediumwave broadcasting station, and we plan to take a look at this unique station here in an upcoming edition of Wavescan.